DIY: Speak the Language of Flowers with Potpourri

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Desiree Bell is inspired by botanicals and natural materials. She is a vegetarian who has a certificate in herbal studies and a certificate from Australasian College of Health Sciences in Aromatherapy. When she isn’t in her suburban garden, hiking or crafting, she is teaching pre-k with an emphasis on nature and gardening. For more ideas on Simple Living With Nature you can visit her blogs at and

Conveying specific messages through the giving of herbs, flowers, and plants is known as The Language of Flowers or Florigraphy. In the 19th century, people spoke or communicated with flowers instead of words, which was influenced by Queen Victoria (1839-1901).

Authors gathered plant symbolisms from every possible source. Besides previous dictionaries, they used Egyptian hieroglyphics, Greek and Roman mythology, the Bible, religious beliefs, natural myths, classical poetry and literature. They also used flower colors and fragrances.

The rose was considered “the queen of flowers,” which many phrases came from. For example: rosy complexion, everything’s rosy, lovely as a rose.

Each variety and color had a different meaning, for example: coral (glory), lavender (pure love), pink (grace), red (love), and white (warmth of love, regard or friendship).

The shape of violet’s leaves and flowers resemble that of the human heart. A syrup was made from the flower, which was used in treating heart disease. It was given the meaning “happiness,” which was thought to originate in the heart.

The same plant was often called different names by different authors, depending on locality and conversational style. There were so many dictionaries with so many different meanings that the sender and receiver of the flower would have had to use the same one in order to interpret the message correctly. Flora’s Dictionary, written by Mrs. E.W. Wirt in 1829, was the first floral dictionary. 

Today we can make tussie-mussies, nosegays, cards pressed with flowers and potpourri to send a silent message, but be sure to include a explanation note.

Photo by Carolina Gonzalez/Courtesy Flickr

Meaningful Potpourri Mix

This is a simple blend of dried herbs from my home garden that I use to create a meaningful potpourri. (Flora’s Dictionary: The Victorian Language of Herbs and Flowers, by Kathleen Gips).

• Lavender flowers (devotion)
• Orange mint leaves (wisdom)
• Rose petals (love)
• Rosemary leaves (remembrance)
• Sunflower petals (pride)

Sweetheart PotpourriMix

I created this recipe for a herbal valentine’s class I taught

• 1 tablespoon iris-florentine root, or orris root (I have a message for you) 
• 1 tablespoon myrrh gum resin (gladness)    
• Essential oils of jasmine and rose
• ½ cup jasmine flowers (I attached myself to you.)   
• ½ cup lemon verbena leaves (delicacy of feeling)    
• ½ cup rose buds and petals (I love you)   
• ¼ cup hibiscus flowers (consumed by love)
• 2 tablespoon allspice berries (compassion) 
• 2 tablespoon rosemary leaves (remembrance)     
• ½ tablespoon nutmeg seed (your love is addicting.)   

1. Put the fixatives (orris root and myrrh resin) in a bowl.

2. Add 1 to 3 drops of each essential oil or, due to cost, fragrance oil. Mix well.

3. Add the rest of the potpourri ingredients and mix well.

4. Cover and let meld for 1 to 2 weeks, stirring periodically.

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