How Flower-Obsessed Victorians Encoded Messages in Bouquets

To assemble a floral message yourself, you needed easy access to hundreds of flowers. England is often called ‘a nation of gardeners,’ but it’s hard to believe anyone would go to the trouble of cultivating the incredibly toxic manchineel tree to someday convey the sentiment ‘falsehood.’ Moonwort, a type of fern which means ‘forgetfulness,’ can go dormant for years at a time, making for a very belated ‘sorry I missed your birthday.’ Kennedia (mental beauty) is endemic to Australia, houstonia (content) is North American, and the bearded crespis (protection) is a Mediterranean wildflower easily mistaken for a dandelion (rustic oracle)—which means an off-the-cuff and easily-misinterpreted compliment could require several steamship journeys and a remarkably flexible greenhouse.

The latter would have been impossible in most eras, but aristocratic Victorians benefited from an unusual confluence of concentrated wealth and new industrial processes.
— Romie Stott