Every season has its perks, but I’m a sucker for spring. What can I say—fair weather, baby animals, and pastels are a perfect combination. My favorite aspect of spring, though, has to be the flowers. Even if L.A. weren’t in the throes of #superbloom, it would be difficult to walk down a city street and not catch a whiff of jasmine or orange blossom. And while I don’t have a green thumb, I do have a perfume obsession and, subsequently, a veritable garden of seasonal scents.
I was shocked when I recently learned that my favorite fragrance might reflect more than just my fondness for florals. According to floriography, the centuries-old study of the “language of flowers,” each blossom has its own distinct meaning. Combining flowers in bouquets—or eau de toilette—was a way for Victorian lovers to clandestinely convey secret messages to one another; basically, it was an old-timey way to slide into someone’s DMs.
While I don’t plan on conveying my relationship status with a nosegay anytime soon, I had to know what my favorite scents were saying about me. After all, choosing a fragrance based on its mystical messages seems like a very chic way to set intentions for the day. To get the scoop on what messages I might be unintentionally sending into the universe every time I spritz, I went straight to the source and consulted a Victorian flower dictionary. (If you, like me, suspect that you would have aced herbology at Hogwarts, then this will be a fascinating read.) Of course, I’m a modern girl, and I know times change— to explore the contemporary ways we express ourselves through our choice in blooms, I spoke with Heather Williams, designer and owner of Los Angeles–based florist Twig & Twine. “Nowadays, flowers seem to be much more about look than hidden meanings,” notes Williams. “[In addition to their meanings] I’m intrigued with their color, shape, and texture.” Keep scrolling to discover the hidden meanings behind some of our favorite spring fragrances.
No surprises here: Rose is the universal symbol for love. That being said, there are as many rose colors as there are types of relationship, and there’s a different meaning to correspond to each: deep crimson blooms signify unconscious beauty, for example, while coral petals translated to modesty. There’s more to roses—and romance— than Bachelor-style long-stemmed reds for contemporary florists, too. “The more traditional rose tends to get a bad rap,” says Williams “I have a lot of clients say they ‘hate’ them. But garden roses are a different story, with their soft feel and fragrant smell. They’re a good option for lovers.” Whether it’s a first date or an anniversary celebration, Chloé’s namesake Eau de Parfum offers plenty of robust, rose-forward romance, with musky cedarwood to keep the scent from feeling too powdery.
Evoking hot nights in exotic locales, Jasmine’s scent is almost obscene when unexpected; more than once, I’ve been mindlessly walking my dog when I suddenly find myself in a cloud of sultry daydreams, thanks to my neighbors’ gardens. Part of the flower’s appeal, Williams explains, is in its short lifespan: “Jasmine is a very seasonal thing. For a few weeks, L.A. is full of its fragrant smell each spring. It’s quite a feminine smell.” According to the Victorian language of flowers, jasmine can mean both “separation” and “attachment.” Basically, jasmine is a commitment-phobe’s dream bloom, and it’s the perfect spirit scent (is that a thing?), as spring romance melts into flirty summer flings. Aerin’s take on the must-have fragrance is updated with distinctly modern infusions of sandalwood and tuberose.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love that smell,” Williams says of orange blossoms, and we heartily agree. These dainty white blossoms are bright and sweet without smelling cloying. She adds of the scent, “it’s sweet and seems a bit more friendly in nature, while jasmine is more romantic.” While orange blossoms were traditionally worn by Victorian brides, and thus signify purity, commitment, and marriage, the twenty-first century take on these pungent spring buds is decidedly more casual. Jo Malone’s heady Orange Blossom Cologne is basically summer in a bottle; consider spritzing it on before brunch with pals, or use a few dabs as a mood-booster when you’re working inside on a beautiful day.
One of spring’s greatest gifts, fresh sweet peas are basically candy that’s good for you. What you might not know is that pea tendrils are also having a moment in florist shops. “Soft, aromatic, fluffy, and feminine, I love them in a hand-tied bouquet,” says Williams. “Offer sweet pea as a sweet gift to a new lover, or they are perfect to celebrate the arrival of a newborn.” According to my flower dictionary, sweet peas connote “delicate pleasure”—today, that translates to leisurely weekend afternoons of window-shopping, naps on the beach, and ample glasses of rosé. (I haven’t personally experienced that level of R&R since the winter holidays, but I can dream, right?) Burberry’s My Burberry Perfume complements kittenish sweet pea with notes of geranium and bergamot, for a scent that’s fresh and effortless.
Classic but in no way cut-and-paste, orchids are grown-up enough for work without feeling stodgy. For arrangements, Williams notes that “classic moth orchids feel right for an older clientele, while some of the younger folks may like the more colorful cattleya orchids. There are so many different types, it’s hard to name one [favorite].” In Victorian times, when orchids had recently come to Europe via Eastern trade, having these blooms in your home signified “refined beauty” and “unparalleled elegance.” Williams adds that orchids’ timeless appeal may have to do with the blooms’ longevity: “Orchids tend to last a long time whether in plant form or cut, so there must be something to be said about that.” Tom Ford is the king of all that is sexy but sophisticated, and his classic Black Orchid Eau de Parfum has earned nearly 800 positive reviews on Sephora for its upscale bouquet.
According to Williams, peony is a great way to express your inner #girlboss. “Peony is a bit of the queen of flowers,” she explains. She adds that the pink plants are “royal and regal. [Peonies have a] limited season, so they are quite special.” They’re also majorly trending for single ladies: When I asked Williams which flowers women tended to buy for themselves, she noted, “Just a single bloom of peony will do the trick. [They’re] on trend and very popular in modern florists. Treat yourself is a great mantra.” Floriographers may disagree: Peonies traditionally conveyed anger, and they were used in break-up bouquets. (Yes, those were a thing.) Of course, it’s a lot more fun to be an independent woman nowadays, but if you’re worried your fragrance might bring you bad relationship juju, pair your peony with captivating muguet, like in Elizabeth and James Nirvana White.