HOW TO SPEAK FLORIOGRAP­HY

The Prince George Citizen - - News - JURA KONCIUS

When Lon­don flower de­signer Shane Con­nolly dis­cusses ar­range­ments with his clients, which in­clude mem­bers of the Bri­tish royal fam­ily, he some­times sug­gests us­ing a flower that has a spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance.

“Con­sid­er­ing the mean­ing of flow­ers re­ally adds an ex­tra di­men­sion of thought­ful­ness to an ar­range­ment,” Con­nolly says. It could be send­ing pe­onies, which rep­re­sent de­vo­tion, for Mother's Day or in­clud­ing rose­mary in a sym­pa­thy bou­quet be­cause it sig­ni­fies remembranc­e. In the wed­ding bou­quet Con­nolly cre­ated for Kate Mid­dle­ton's 2011 wed­ding to Prince Wil­liam, some white Sweet Wil­liam blos­soms were mixed in to sym­bol­ize gal­lantry.

“Plus that was a nice pun on the groom,” says Con­nolly, who has writ­ten sev­eral books about the lan­guage of flow­ers.

When you send flow­ers, you are send­ing a mes­sage. It's up to you to de­cide how per­sonal or proper the mes­sage is. Floriograp­hy, the lan­guage of flow­ers, emerged dur­ing the reign of Queen Victoria. It as­signed mean­ings to cer­tain flow­ers so emo­tions and sen­ti­ments could be com­mu­ni­cated. Daf­fodils meant new begin­nings, daisies sig­ni­fied in­no­cence, and for­get-me-nots meant true love and fidelity. Today, there are many ways to send your mes­sage with flow­ers. And many of the strict rules have been re­laxed.

It's no longer ex­pected that you must send an all-white ar­range­ment for a funeral or red roses for Valen­tine's Day. “Times have changed,” says Laura Dowl­ing, former White House chief flo­ral de­signer.

“We are now more open and don't re­ally like a lot of rules. And there are more kinds of flow­ers avail­able through­out the year.” She says pe­onies, which are the quin­tes­sen­tial flower of May, are now avail­able through­out the win­ter shipped from the south­ern hemi­sphere and ro­man­tic gar­den roses are grown year-round in green houses.

Her lat­est book, Bou­quets,”which comes out next year, will touch on how a bou­quet can com­mu­ni­cate a mes­sage or tell a story. Dowl­ing says bou­quets can tell a per­sonal story or evoke a cher­ished place or mem­ory. A Mother's Day bou­quet for a mom who loves pur­ple and adores the Pa­cific North­west could be vi­o­lets in a rus­tic wooden box with wood­land mosses and ferns. A get-well bou­quet could chan­nel a fa­vorite place, pas­time or dream.

Ash­ley Greer, owner of Ate­lier Ash­ley Flow­ers in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, said clients tend to get stressed about their flower choices. “Some peo­ple are very self-con­scious when it comes to flow­ers and their im­pres­sions,” Greer says. “Peo­ple think that the flow­ers they use at an event or that they send are a di­rect re­flec­tion on them. And they want to be care­ful that their ar­range­ment re­flects their taste, their style and the oc­ca­sion.”

Con­do­lence flow­ers may be what peo­ple most ob­sess about. “When you are send­ing some­thing for a funeral you want to be sen­si­tive,” Greer says. “Some­times peo­ple say they don't want to send any­thing that looks fun. They pre­fer some­thing white and green.”

Dowl­ing, whose stu­dio is in Alexan­dria, says con­do­lence flow­ers “don't have to be all white. Hav­ing flow­ers that are soft and com­fort­ing and fo­cus on tex­ture is a good way to go. Make them per­sonal, and pos­si­bly re­flect­ing a cer­tain flower the per­son loved. Then they can re­ally evoke the sense of a warm hug.”

New York flower de­signer and il­lus­tra­tor Cathy Gra­ham says her go-to sym­pa­thy flow­ers in­clude a pa­per­white plant and a white or blue hy­drangea plant that could bloom for a few weeks. “You don't have to do all white, but I would not use bright, fes­tive col­ors.”

Don't over­look house­hold pets when you are cre­at­ing a bou­quet or ar­range­ment to send to some­one, says Gra­ham. “Lilies and other flow­ers are bad for cats,” says Gra­ham, who wor­ries about that with her own two gin­ger cats, Reg­gie and Ched­dar. The Amer­i­can So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to An­i­mals pub­lishes a list of plants that are poi­sonous to pets.

The main thing with flow­ers is don't over­think them. “Peo­ple are so touched by your mak­ing the ef­fort to send flow­ers that pretty much what­ever you send will be ap­pre­ci­ated,” Gra­ham says.

Anne Chertoff, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Beau­mont Eti­quette, a New York con­sult­ing firm, says it's al­ways a good idea to check on re­li­gious prac­tices and cus­toms. “Peo­ple like to know the rules,” she says. “They can think about the mes­sage they want to get across. Then it's up to them if and when they want to use the rules or break with them.”

For in­stance, flow­ers for a funeral of­ten cen­ter on lilies. But she says in­stead of flow­ers, it's cus­tom­ary for Jews to send or bring food to the homes of the fam­ily who aren't sup­posed to cook dur­ing the shiva, which lasts seven days, and also to feed peo­ple who come to pay re­spects to the fam­ily. “I'm Jewish, so I would send an ed­i­ble ar­range­ment,” she says.

Amy Merrick, a flower de­signer who ran her own stu­dio in Brook­lyn and now fo­cuses on events and teach­ing, says she's found that many cus­tomers don't have a very good knowl­edge of the va­ri­eties of flow­ers and place more im­por­tance on the style or mood of their ar­range­ments. “The av­er­age per­son does have an in­ter­est in what flow­ers rep­re­sent, but not in the his­tor­i­cal con­text,” she says. Peo­ple are send­ing their own mes­sages, choos­ing them based on the per­son­al­ity of the re­cip­i­ent and the per­son­al­ity of the flow­ers. “I think buy­ing a bunch of daisies sig­ni­fies this is a sweet, free-spir­ited per­son­al­ity, whereas an orchid has a more el­e­gant feel to it,” Merrick says.

In her new book On Flow­ers: Les­sons From an Ac­ci­den­tal Florist, Merrick ob­serves one of the mys­ter­ies of a florist's life. Though she spends her days ar­rang­ing thought­ful bou­quets and com­po­si­tions for oth­ers, “it is an un­writ­ten law of the uni­verse that no one ever sends a florist flow­ers,” she writes. Are they afraid they would be judged or that their mes­sage would be messed up?

“I would be so thrilled to get any­thing,” Merrick says. “Flow­ers are this ephemeral, beau­ti­ful ex­pres­sion. To re­ceive them is all about sim­ple delight and joy.”

Wash­ing­ton Post photo

Laura Dowl­ing says her “green bean casse­role” bou­quet is good to send to a loved one who lives far away, sig­ni­fy­ing nostal­gia, com­fort and fam­ily.

Wash­ing­ton Post photo

Daisies are good to send to some­one who has a ca­sual, free-spir­ited style, Amy Merrick says in her new book, On Flow­ers: Les­sons From an Ac­ci­den­tal Florist.

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