Womanly Pursuits

The Flower Arrangement by Otto Scholderer
Lilacs, Peonies, Roses, and Freesias feature in this painting.

In the restricted world of the Victorians, woman had a clearly outlined mode of proper avocations and duties. Thankfully, flowers featured in many of them.

Home decoration and Floral Arranging

Simple daisies in a vase.

Cutting gardens or forays into nature both yielded plenty of floral and foliage material for brightening interiors and giving outlet for creative urges. Magazines of the day provided guidance and inspiration.

Bouquets of Coded Messages

George Elgar Hicks [Public domain]
Gathering a nosegay bouquet

Tussies Mussies, artwork, and bouquets relay messages in the wildly popular Language of Flowers that permeated the society of Victorian ladies.

Tussie Mussies and Nosegays

From the great to the small of the highly structured society of the Victorian Era, personalized bouquets in the form of a nosegay or a tussie mussie were a common accoutrement of all sorts of social occasions.

Using the wildly popular “Language of Flowers”, girls of school age to grand ladies of society took pleasure in creating mysterious messages to their closest bosom buddies. Today, we still have remnants of that language when sending red roses for romance, or including certain flowers in our wedding bouquets.

Flower Gardens

Many Flower favorites are revealed in this painting of a Victorian Cottage garden

So embedded was the appreciation of creating gardens that even ladies of such station as the aristocracy engaged in making gardens. The middle classes followed suit and women of the Victorian Age could find a vocation in flower garden design and advice, even in these restricted times.

Which Blooms Were Victorian Favorite Flowers?

Violets

Victorian Blooms for Bouquets

  • Roses, of course.
  • Carnations
  • Daisies
  • Tulips
  • Lilies
  • Dahlias
  • Gaillardias
  • Violets
  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophilia)
  • Pinks
  • Peonies
  • Phlox
  • Freesias
  • Ferns
  • Ivies

Grow a Victorian Favorites Flower Garden

Whether a cutting garden, cottage border, or front yard parterre, there are styles from this era that may be used more or less in modern circumstances. It may be a matter of matching your house architecture or hiding away a secret indulgence of garden Victoriana.

This was a time of the obsessed plant collectors and the explorers who were bankrolled by them. Some bankrupted by the extent of their passion, like Miss Ellen Wilmott. So it is no wonder the gardens were jam packed with all sorts of exotic flowers. Their gardens, like their drawing rooms were filled in every nook and cranny with something of interest or color.

For this reason few modern tastes are drawn to a truly Victorian style landscape. Edited to include some fine features in the mode of the era comprises today’s Victorian style gardens.

Naturalistic gorge created by Miss Ellen Willmott

Victorian ladies often had gardeners who did the work in their gardens, while they planned and enjoyed the walks within. When it came to interest in flowers, the majority of women were involved primarily with the arrangements for the home and as personal enjoyment, rather than the sweat equity required for creating today’s borders or cutting gardens.

Those who lived in economically strained circumstances undoubtedly grew their own food and herbs, but time for flowers and making arrangements took a back seat. Still, the human heart has always been cheered by a few flowers on the table, no matter how humble the circumstances.

Victorian stories are full of just such touches that their plants and blossoms brought them.

Jane Loudon Botanical Art

Many women enjoyed combining flowers and painting, with numerous pastimes exhibiting both interests: from china painting to watercolor studies. When scientific curiosity was added to the mix some of the finest botanical art was created, as well.

The book written by Jane Loudon was a necessary companion to ladies studying floral art as one of their accomplishments. For an in depth look at Mrs. Loudon and the Victorian Garden visit the link on the Victoria and Albert Museum site.

Love of Floristry, Nature, and Beauty Intertwined

The world of Queen Victoria’s era was a complex one with many changes for all of society, but it had idiosyncrasies that made the loves and pastimes of their daily lives memorable for us. Whether we are fascinated by Emily Dickinson in her restricted world or by world traveler Marianne North, the abiding love and interest in the plant world provides us today with a rich legacy.