Valentine’s Day is a time-honored day dedicated to love, one that has been celebrated since medieval times with comfits, poetry and of course, flowers. However, it was not always as easy to procure objects to prove one’s adoration for another as it is now. Today, we have the good fortune to be met with the pink or red cards declaring one’s affection and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate at your local grocer, as well as boutique flower shops that craft the most beautiful bouquets.
Personally, it’s the latter I enjoy most. I’ve always appreciated walking into a florist and breathing in that fresh, clean scent of newly cut flowers, their blossoms of carnation, rose, tulip and so many more, all mingling into a sweet background.
Flowers were not always cultivated as they are now. In medieval days, one used what could be found in their gardens or what grew in the countryside. These would be bound up into a lovely nosegay to be presented to a lady love. In Europe, flowers were popular but not always easy to grow in the cold climate. And so, a hothouse with many glass windows was invented, first by the Dutch and then adopted by the English.
These hothouses weren’t like the greenhouses you might think of today, which are entirely comprised of walls and a roof of either large panes of glass or plastic. These were large buildings with many rows of multi-paned windows along the walls to let in ample sunlight. So even in cooler climates, the inside would remain temperate for plants to flourish.
I can only imagine how glorious it must have been for people to walk into those first hothouses. They would experience the joy of smelling all those flowers at once—heady rose and lavender, the delicate perfume of tulips and carnations, the underlying earthiness of rich soil. All those scents would have been enhanced with the warm, humid air inside. These hothouses were usually made with alcoves and benches built within so the owner could savor the immersion of such floral fragrances at their leisure.
If you’ve ever heard of orangeries, these were hothouses designed specifically for citrus plants, which would otherwise not grow in colder weather. The brisk climates made oranges a delicacy and might do well for a Valentine’s Day treat.
Not only were oranges and perfectly cultivated flowers rare, depending on what was grown in a hothouse, but they were also extraordinarily costly. This was due to the fees incurred in creating the hothouse building itself and caring for the plants. The Window Tax, which was first introduced in 1696, also contributed. A tax was charged annually for each window in a building. Because of these hefty fees, hothouse flowers were generally only available to the very rich.
In addition to being very expensive, one had to be attentive to the type of flower sent, as the meanings behind the bundled bouquets were taken very seriously. For example, you would not want to send a yellow Chrysanthemum, which implied a slighted love, or a purple hyacinth, which meant sorrow. A red rose implied love, but a crimson rose was to be sent for mourning. You see how this could get terribly muddled.
Fortunately, today aesthetics carry more weight with bouquets than their flower meanings, and they are affordable enough to be at your local grocery store. No matter where you purchase them, the best part of a lovely bouquet to declare your love is that wonderful, clean floral perfume.
If you or your loved one enjoy flower shops as much as I do, you can not only grab a fresh bouquet but also bring home the wonderful scent of that shop! The Flower Shop Fragrance from Aroma Retail perfectly blends the gentle notes of tulip and carnation with the sweetness of rose and the cleanness of lavender and eucalyptus for the dewy, refreshing aroma in your own home.
Wishing you all a wonderful Valentine’s Day!