The Language of Flowers -- What Your Garden Means

Do you ever think about what your favorite flowers or even your garden itself means? Last fall I began thinking about how different my new garden was from my garden in Cleveland. I dubbed last summer the Year of the Nasturtium.

orange nasturtiums, nasturtium flowers, nasturtium plants, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

In Cleveland it was always roses.

Sharifa Asma Rose, Garden Roses, David Austin Roses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

So what does it say about me to go from being a girl of roses to a girl of nasturtiums? Well, let's first look to the Language of Flowers, most well known in the 19th century as a means to convey messages with the exchange of floral arrangements. There isn't, in fact, one definitive Language of Flowers and most flowers have many different meanings, sometimes very different or even opposing.

After a little research I found that the nasturtium could mean, patriotism, victory, conquest, loyalty, abundance. In Vanessa Diffenbaugh's book the meaning is given as "impetuous love". My favorite color rose, pink, can mean: perfect happiness, secret love, grace and sweetness, grace and joy, indecision. And according to Vanessa Diffenbaugh, "grace". Given that the meaning of my name is "grace" it seems fitting that my favorite flower have the same meaning.

I began to wonder, apart from the coincidence of my name, what flower I would be if I were a flower. Have you taken any of those online quizzes? What kind of flower are you? A long time ago I had followed a link on someone's blog and taken such a quiz, but the answer was not to my liking and I promptly forgot what it was. Out of curiosity I did a search for that sort of quiz and found quite a few. I took every one I could find (even the very stupid ones). Not one single result was the same as any of the others. Apparently I am a: tulip, daffodil, daisy, sunflower, wisteria, forget-me-not, carnation and rose.

That sounds like a garden to me.

Going back to my Year of the Nasturtium, I'd have to say it's not an entirely accurate title.

garden, gardens, flowers, raised beds, container gardening, summer, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I grew many things in my garden last year. More sweet peas than ever before. More scarlet runner beans than ever before. More tomatoes than ever before (and it ended up still being not enough). I grew corn for the first time and my first ever peanut plant. I painted a lot of nasturtiums (more than any other flower or plant),

nasturtiums, paint palette, paint swatches, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

but my garden was filled with many things.

In truth, I'm not always very good at choosing just one thing as my favorite. Are you? Can you say, with confidence, what your one favorite flower is (or your favorite color, food, book)? I always want to name a few and that makes me think my perfect answer for that question would have to be: a garden. I don't want just one flower. I want a garden full of flowers.

"I must have flowers, always, and always."
                              --Claude Monet

Flowers acquire meanings for many reasons. When I look at a nasturtium I don't see patriotism. Maybe abundance, but the other meanings don't seem to fit. We associate meanings with flowers because of our experiences and relationships. Lily of the valley make me think of my grandmother. Personal meanings also come from our preferences, society or lifestyle. To a child a dandelion is a beautiful flower. To an herbalists it's medicine. To a chef, possibly, an ingredient. To others, a weed. More than anything else, to me flowers mean joy. Although Emerson's quote has become a bit cliched (and taken in context of its poem it certainly has a darker edge than when written on coffee mugs or etched onto garden plaques), the "earth laughs in flowers" epitomizes flowers as joy.

And so, this year as I plan and plant my garden, joy is at the forefront of my mind. Joy in flowers. Joy in herbs. Joy in vegetables and fruits (which might make me, if forced to choose, declare this:

tomatoes, tomato flowers, garden, summer, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

my favorite flower). In the end it doesn't matter if my garden is filled with roses or with nasturtiums. The meaning will be the same.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite flower? Is your garden filled with more of one thing than any other? If you were to describe yourself as a flower, what would you be?


  1. The real question is do you know how many copies of The Language of Flowers I have?

    1. I have no idea, but I'm guessing it's quite a lot!

  2. I touched on this a few posts back with the meaning of the Lily-of -Valley in my garden. I have a lovely book called the Language of Flowers by Penhaligon's and it is scented with Violetta! If was a flower I would probably be a Dandelion for many reasons although in truth I would like to be a flower that is deep, rich and with intoxicating fragrance!!! :-) I am with you though Anne. There are too many flowers to choose from to just have one favourite.

    1. I've been spending my free days outside, away from the computer and I missed your lily of the valley blog post. I'm looking forward to catching up, though.

      In truth, a dandelion would be a good sort of plant to be! Tough. Tenacious. Adaptable. Able to thrive just about anywhere. Useful in many ways. And a cheerful, bright, beautiful announcement of spring! Plus the seed heads are delightful.

      Your Language of Flowers book sounds lovely. What fun!

  3. What a fun post. :-) I just enjoy growing things, flowers, veggies, herbs and even my trees!
    I think I might be a daffodil. :-))

    1. Thank you, Carla! Daffodils are such happy flowers.

      I'm with you on enjoying growing things. If I can eat it or if it's pretty or smells good, I want to plant it!

  4. Favorite flower: pink roses. Followed by...lavender, sweet peas, irises, clematis, dianthus, peonies, violas, forget-me-nots, narcissus, larkspur, snaps, oh gosh I could go on. :) To me, flowers mean HOME. Learning that more than ever now!

    1. I love that, Laurie... "flowers mean HOME". So perfect and so true!

  5. I love your garden, Anne! Language of flowers sounds beautiful. Have a lovely and creative week, dear friend!

    1. Thank you, Aga! I love it, too! Hope your week is lovely and creative as well, dear Aga!

  6. Thanks for your wonderful article . I LIKE IT


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