Wednesday 19 September 2012 by Dianne Rutherford. 3 comments
Collection, First World War, Flowers, Floriade

“Say it with flowers” is a well known advertising slogan but these days the language of flowers is not as well known as it was almost 100 years ago. During the First World War Australians serving overseas, many away from their families for years, sent floral tributes to their loved ones in the form of embroidered postcards, handkerchiefs, cushion covers and other souvenir items.

Patriotic Australian postcard Patriotic Australian postcard RC04121

While flowers were selected for their beauty, some also had special meanings of a personal nature that were well known from the Victorian period. These could help express the feelings of those separated for long periods, without always needing to use words.

Embroidered handkerchief Embroidered handkerchief REL

The most popular design appears to have been the pansy, which means loving thoughts. Roses were also popular, often in pink thread (friendship) or sometimes in red (passionate love). The pretty little blue  forget-me- not was an obvious choice to send to those at home.

Silk postcard embroidered with forget me nots Silk postcard embroidered with forget me nots RC06231

Some other flowers and their meanings are listed below.

Violets –faithfulness

Daisies - gentleness, innocence, loyal love

Embroidered postcard Embroidered postcard RC06585

Iris - inspiration

Ivy - fidelity

Embroidered postcard with the message 'Where I cling I die', presumably reinforcing the idea of Ivy meaning fidelity. Embroidered postcard with the message 'Where I cling I die', presumably reinforcing the idea of Ivy meaning fidelity. RC06362

Poppy - imagination, dreaminess or eternal sleep. Depending on the context, they could also just represent the fields of France.

Patriotic sentiments were also displayed through flowers. Either through national emblems, such as Australian wattle, Scottish thistles or Irish clover or through bunches of flowers coloured red, white and blue. This can be seen in the item below which, in addition to the colours of the flowers has added meaning through representing flowers (and plants) of the French fields with the poppies, cornflowers, daisies and wheat.

Embroidered French souvenir Embroidered French souvenir REL

Finally, for special occasions, such as Christmas, holly (foresight) and mistletoe (love and affection) were popular flowers.

Comments

Wendy Altieri

I believe people still say it with flowers, only in a different way.

Maureen

I found this very interesting

James

Really interesting blog on embroidered postcards - aren't they lovely? I think that while people 'say it with flowers' still, they're not really aware of the meaning behind the flowers. If somebody sent me ivy, for instance, I'd think they were a little strange.