Real Flowers Die: A Valentine's Gift Guide

Julie Wheat

For centuries, flowers have symbolized fertility, love, marriage, and romance.  The Victorian era ushered in a time of proper etiquette among the upper class in England during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837–1901). Among the many rules and customs, there were expected behaviors that prohibited outright flirtations, questions, or conversations between others. Soon it became popular to use flowers to send secretive messages. Flowers were often utilized to relay positive messages of interest, affection, and love.  Flowers could also send a negative message, and at times, the same flower could have opposite meanings, depending on how it was arranged or delivered. Years ago, it was possible to have an entire conversation using only floral bouquets to pass on nonverbal messages. 

A few years back when I was working on my masters at Canisius, a gentleman and I were just getting to know each other. By Valentine's Day, we had accomplished two successful dates and a number of enjoyable phone conversations. He invited me dinner on Valentine's Day and arrived at the door with a bouquet that was absolutely stunning. Presented with lace ferns were white lilies, asters, gardenias and Shasta daisies, lavender gladiolus and snapdragons, red poppies, light-pink double cabbage roses, and—the clincher—a red trilium. He knew I was raised as a student of both domestic and native Western New York horticulture. Needless to say, I was both speechless and impressed. His sister informed me that he had gone to the library to research and procure an entire bouquet of flowers where each bloom and color had meaning. February in Buffalo, New York rendered the death of these pretties less than two weeks later. Good thing my fella accompanied the bouquet with Turkish delight chocolates (made with rose jelly) and a bottle of Stoli Vanil. "Because chocolate is customary and in case you didn't like chocolate," he said. This guy covered every base, but didn't have to break the bank on a bouquet. I definitely LOVED it, but kind of felt bad. Gladiolus in February for Valentine's Day in Buffalo? I can't imagine what that cost! Even though I know the red trillum came from his grandmother's sun room (making it a possible impossibility and hands-down priceless), lets face it—flowers are tremendously more expensive near Valentine's Day than any other time of the year.

Here are some unique ways to give flowers that won't die:

 Floral Accessories
Vintage 1940s needlepoint  Beth Coiner rose-gold rose thorn earrings. Thai tribal lotus flower bracelet, $42
change purses, $42

Floral Literature/Ephemera

The Old Farmer's Almanac Digital Magazine - February 678960
Farmer's Almanac, $9.99/year        Encyclopedia of Roses, $29.95      Vintage 1909 German Floral Tapestry Design Lithograp, $28

Floral Clothing

Dolce & Gabbana 
Betsey Johnson Rose Dress, $148 Dolce & Gabbana Carnation Dress, $2,454 Vintage 1990s Black Silk Velvet Floral Dress , $88

 Floral Scents

Chelsea Flowers Large  New
Cool Water's Sea Rose, $29     Tom Ford's Violet Blonde, $70 Bond No. 9 Chelsea Flowers, $280