"La Vie en Rose"
Say it Carefully with Roses


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Girl with bouquet of pink flowers


The gentleman in front of me in the florist's shop was intensely discussing the composition of the bouquet he was purchasing.  Behind him stood two other men.  As they all seemed to know each other, I wondered whether they were buying  peace offerings to make up for a particularly late "boys night out" . 


The florist reached for a long stemmed red rose which brought an impassioned plea of "Oh no, not that one, I cannot give her that impression"  Then the discussion started.  "Well I am buying a mixed bunch too and I am being very careful of the colours - do not want her to get the wrong idea!",  "Well I am not a faithful man however I might just choose that colour....." 


I must admit I was stunned at how these ordinary working men were so knowledgeable about the significance of flower colours!  Could you imagine British men having this intense understanding! 


Even numbers have significance as we discovered when one of our customers who runs a lovely restaurant in the south of France, telephoned in high indignation when we put a bunch of roses as a link to his St Valentine's menu.  "There was an even number.  That is terrible and worse still it was six".  Oh dear we thought and why ..........


I  suddenly recalled being in a restaurant in St. Malo when a flower seller came in and a lady on the table forcefully remarked  "he had better not buy me a yellow rose!"


Some research was called for and this is the result!


How the Custom Started


Guess what it appears (maybe) that it is actually the British who are really to blame for this! Lady Mary Wortley Montague, the wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople between 1717 and 1719, discovered that the Turks had developed the concept of flower meanings in the 17th century and she wrote to her friends in a series of letters called the Turkish Embassy Letters about the subject.  The Turks really had this off to a fine art and had  also developed a sort of "Rhyming Slang"  - well perhaps not slang - where they chose a fruit or object which rhymed with a romantic word and wrote a rhyme about this.  For instance their word for pear "Armonde"  rhymes among other words with "omonde" meaning "hope" and this  converted into a rhyme meaning "Pear do not let me despair".   Apparently the delivery of roses to a lady in a harem was like a secretly coded letter.


Lady Mary was an intelligent woman and an innovate thinker and when she found out that there was inoculation given against smallpox in the Ottoman Empire had her children vaccinated. This was prior to Jenner's discovery which used cowpox and instead the Turks used some of the smallpox. She herself had had the disease leaving her scarred and her brother had died from it. When back in England she tried to encourage the use of the vaccine but was ignored because she was a woman and also the medical profession were suspicious of oriental medicine. One result was the British Royal family did have their children inoculated.


A Frenchman, Seigneur Aubry de la Mottraye,  and Charles II of Sweden were also reputed as responsible for what was to be a custom and great interest throughout Europe and America in those years. 


The concept having spread around Europe and  in 1819 Cortambert, using the pen name Madame Charlotte de la Tour, wrote Le Language des Fleurs.  In Britain, the Victorians followed the custom with great vigour and even the ribbons and lace on their bouquets held significant meanings. 


Although this article is about roses, all the flowers and plants had and still have meaning such as the Daffodil which signifies hope and the Sweet Pea which signifies departure or "thank you for a nice time". 


However this is hardly an every day subject for the British and I wonder how many English or Channel Island gentlemen consider this fact when buying a floral offering. 


So when buying roses in France, please take note of the meanings which follow.  The list is by no means extensive and there is a lot of ambiguity about this!


Crack the Rose Code!


Significance of Colour


Red Rose


Red indicates mad, passionate love


Pink rose


Pink indicates true and pure love, gentleness and tenderness


Yellow rose


Yellow is the sign of infidelity.  



White rose


White symbolises love, purity, elegance.  The meaning is also “I love you silently”



Orange rose


Orange means "You are my secret love"



Mauve rose


Mauve means " Love at first sight"   You can also give a thornless rose to signify this - presumably mauve?



Red and White together means there is a union between two people - an so on.......


This list is the tip of the iceberg incidentally as even types of roses have meanings.


Significance of Numbers


1 Love at first sight or I love you forever
2 We feel the same about each other
3 I love you
7 I am infatuated with you
9 that we will be together forever
10 You are perfect
11 You have trapped my heart
12 Be mine
13 Friends forever
15 I am really sorry
20 I will always be true to you
21 I am devoted to you
24 Forever yours
25 Congratulations
50 Unconditional love
99 I will love you for ?
108 Will you marry me

999 I will love you until the end of time all the days of my life


As there is so much ambiguity, please do not hold us responsible for any errors in this information!