During the Victorian Era, flowers and plants were used to communicate during a time when expected conventions restricted conversations for a variety of reasons. Flowers allowed secretive messages to be sent. As the long list of flowers and their meanings grew, books containing the meanings of various plants and flowers (floriography dictionaries) were published.
Floriography became commonly used to express secreted messages that Victorian etiquette deems unacceptable to share openly. The language of flowers involved more than the simple meaning given to a flower. It also referred to the combining, presenting, and even the receiving of flowers. Victorian-Era Etiquette Much of Victorian etiquette was dictated by who was around to observe the behaviors and manners of others. There was a clear distinction between upper class, middle-class, and the poor. Proper etiquette often limited communications based on people of another social status, of a different gender, or within social situations.
Even within the same social class, many topics were taboo and it was impolite or downright rude to ask openly about relationships. Flirtations did take place, but often secretly and with attention to discretion. By today’s standards, much of Victorian etiquette seems overly complicated or foolish, when in fact; much of it was based on simple good manners. Some customs have been passed along and continued to be followed today such as men removing their hats when indoors, showing respect to women by opening doors for them or bringing a hostess gift to parties or when staying with someone. The gifts most exchanged during social engagements in the Victorian Era were flowers and careful consideration was given to be certain the flowers sent the message intended.