The New Year floral calendar: Flower meanings

In locations where the time-honored new year’s call has gone out, the florist’s trade has perceptibly increased. It is the fashion to send a bouquet with New Year wishes instead of going to make a call. It is easier to write, “I wish you a happy New Year and all good things for ’98” than it is to say it. And that is no doubt the reason for the decrease in calling and the consequent increase in the florist’s bills.

Flowers are, however, not sent at haphazard. The stationers say there has never been such a call for floral albums as during the present month, which means that young men and old men are studying the floral album to get an appropriate floral message for their New Year gift.

Flower meanings - Antique floral botanical prints

Flower meanings from days of old

A big bunch of violets tied with purple ribbon means, “I wish you many happy returns of the new year.” But if the violets are tied with white ribbon, the significance changes to, “I wish you a happier New Year than the last.” If tied with a changeable ribbon, or sent in a basket, the meaning becomes “Happy New Year for all the family.”

The floral guides differ slightly, but from a careful study of them all the following correct sentiments are obtained:

Callas sent to a young woman mean, “You are the most magnificently beautiful girl I know.” Callas to a married woman — for men make calls with the utmost freedom and pay out sentimental thoughts with the utmost liberality then — denote: “It is dangerous for me to gaze upon your beauty — so discontented do I become!”

But if the callas are laid in a box with pansies around their stems, they read: “Although I admire your beauty, I can only rejoice that you have so happy a home and so delightful a family.”

Antique floral botanical prints - flower meanings

A guide to plants and flower meanings

A bunch of straw, or a sheaf of wheat, or any grain, bunched and delivered to a young lady, says: “You have forced upon me a state of platonic affection which is much against my wishes.” Grain sent loose with a few flowers laid on top speaks thus: “My affection for you is as strong and as sincerely platonic as yours for me.”

The gentleman who is going away upon a journey and must bid farewell to a family which he is the habit of visiting, sends green things — mosses, ferns, smilax, holly and mistletoe.

To the young lady whom he much admires, he sends a box of pure holly. If he is very desirous of kissing her goodbye before he departs upon the journey, he sends her a box of mistletoe. She — if she be a wise girl — ties a little to the chandelier.

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The man who feels that he has been, or is being, jilted sends cold white flowers to the girl for a New Year gift. He selects snowballs, little white flowers, camellias and white pinks. The same flowers sent to a matron mean, “I wish to be very friendly to your family during the coming year.”

The realm of love is reached with the red double pinks. These denote love, pure and simple. The girl who gets a box of vivid carnations without green or another color can read, “I love you so dearly that I can never be happy without you for my wife.”

The same carnations addressed to a matron say, “I have received so many favors from you and yours that I offer you my devoted service upon the threshold of a new year. You can command me until death.”

Antique flowers - flower meanings

Jonquils mean, “I hope that you will return my friendliness for you this year.”

The chrysanthemum falls from its high estate into the commonplace as a New Year greeting. It means “Think of me.” A single big chrysanthemum says: “I have a happy New Year thought for you.” And chrysanthemums enough for a tall vase as much as say, “I have a friendly feeling for all your family.”

Pansies, too, mean “Think of me.” But they are deeper. The heart in affliction sends them to the bereaved heart. The thoughtful person sends them to the studious girl. The sentimental poet chooses them for the woman who has suggested a stanza to him. They mean intellectual thought, and are the ideal gift for a student. You cannot wish happy New Year in any better way.

The red rose means, “My heart is breaking for you.” The girl who receives a box of red roses can understand that she is very cruel to a faithful heart who wishes she would reform from her cruel ways.

A bunch of mixed roses mean affection. “I might love you more if you were not so cruel to me.” To a hostess they mean, “I hope you will often give me the opportunity of being with you and your family this year.”

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“I appreciate your past hospitality,” is told by a pot of growing green. A rubber plant or any variety of palm tells this nicely.

The white jasmine says, “Allow me to wish a happy new year to the cleverest and most amiable young woman I know.” The same is told by the white lilac, by the white primrose or the tiny white rose.

The passion flower reads, “I believe in you, and will make you my star the coming year. You are true.”

The scarlet geranium growing in a pot means, “You have my sympathy in your bereavement.”

The primrose growing in a pot is the proper New Year gift for a growing girl. It says: “You give promise of much beauty of character.”

The growing ivy means, “Pray tell me how I can please you this year?”

A growing box of pansies reads: “I wish you the best of health.”

A combination of sentiments can be expressed by uniting the flowers.


When the ’98 girl receives the flowers, she selects the lot she likes best and places it on the parlor window, or sets it on the bay window of her boudoir or…

But you select the flowers, and the girl will do the rest.

– Harry Germaine

Antique floral botanical prints - flower meanings


About this story

Source publication: The Herald (Los Angeles, Calif.) - Flower images/botanical prints from the The Florist and Horticultural Journal (1850s)

Source publication date: December 26, 1897

Filed under: 1850s, 1890s, Culture & lifestyle, Love & marriage, New Year, Newspapers

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