Avon Van Hassel

Building Worlds and Filling Them With Magic

The language of flowers refers to a system of subtle communication by using plants as symbolic images. It combines horticulture, mythology, and and psychology to form a sort of lexicon that can convey messages.

Floriography, or communication through flowers, has its roots in the court of Constantinople, in Ottoman Turkey. From there, it was brought to England by Lady Mary Wortley Montague (one of my history crushes- she’s also responsible for the smallpox inoculation), and it really took off during the Victorian period.

The basics of floriography are to understand what each flower represents, and figure out how to combine them. This can involve planting things together in the garden, arranging cut flowers in a vase, or using symbolic floral motifs in art and literature.

Now, in my books, flowers hold significance, especially in scenes, stories, and settings that are heavily influenced by Johanne. She is a passionate student of the language of flowers, and uses it to send messages to family and outsiders alike.

I actual found these at myself locally grocery store.


Carnations, specifically pink and red striped carnations, are Johanne’s signature flower, at the beginning of Magic Beans. According to thelanguageofflowers.com, carnations signify fascination. Striped carnations mean, ‘I wish I could be with you’; pink means, ‘I’ll never forget you’; and red means, ‘my heart aches for you.’ The official story, to those who can decide the symbolism, is that Johanne never stopped mourning the death of her first husband, Pol. In actuality, Johanne never got over Alois, despite repeatedly pushing him away.

When they finally married, she swapped all the striped carnations for solid white ones, signifying acceptance and true love. A socially appropriate move for a newly remarried woman, which honours her current husband without erasing the previous (at least, in public).


Roses also play an- albeit subtler- role, the most obvious being in the name of the daughter Johanne had by Alois, Rosabel. Rose symbolism is almost universally positive, ranging from the single white bloom which professes love for an innocent, to a bouquet of red roses signifying gratitude for love and respect. Even deep crimson- mourning- could be seen in a positive light, depending on how many there are and how they’re arranged- a garland might mean that the person is mourning the loss of someone who’d lived a distinguished life.


Ivy, at the time of drafting this post, hasn’t come into the story much, yet. This is because we haven’t spent much narrative time at Parry House in any of the places where ivy is significant. Johanne chose ivy for a motif in Alois’ areas of the house, most notably his study. Ivy signifies wedded love, loyalty, and friendship. The symbolism goes a bit deeper, however. Part of the reason old houses are covered in ivy isn’t because people are lazy and let it take over- it’s because it actually serves structural purposes. The tendrils are crazy strong at a certain age, which helps old brick and mortar stand firm, and the scale-like lay of the leaves forms a sort of shingled armour against the elements. So, not only is Johanne happy to have married the loyal friend she had a crush on for years, but she sees in him support and protection, something she had yearned for her whole life.


I also wrote a story called ‘The Language of Flowers’ that will be included in a (con-exclusive) collection of short stories, accompanied by photos by my good friend, Briana Slate. In it, a florist playfully sneaks messages into her arrangements, using this archaic system.

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