"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts .... There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace a Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference! There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father died."
Hamlet, Act IV, scene II.Have you ever studied the language of flowers? According to tradition, columbines mean folly, which is surely why distressed, grieving, angry Ophelia mentions them in the passage above. Yet despite negative literary connotations, I was very happy to see that my columbines are flowering and have survived the drought for another year.
Columbines, also known as Aquilegia and Granny's Bonnets -- this last clearly being their most apt title -- are perennials in my southern climate, although elsewhere they are grown as annuals.
They die back over winter only to surprise me each year with their bright faces.In the Victorian era the language of flowers grew in complexity far beyond what Shakespeare could have imagined. As an article from 1882 says:
"Flowers have a language of their own, and it is this bright particular language that we would teach our readers. How charmingly a young gentleman can speak to a young lady, and with what eloquent silence in this delightful language. How delicately she can respond, the beautiful little flowers telling her tale in perfumed words; what a delicate story the myrtle or the rose tells! How unhappy that which basil, or yellow rose reveals, while ivy is the most faithful of all."
This fascinating article lists dozens of flowers and their significance.
It seems appropriate to end this post with a picture of this rose, which currently blooms in my front garden. Why? The rose is William Shakespeare, by David Austin. And in the language of flowers, red rosebuds mean "pure and lovely". Very fitting.