Decoding Flowers: What Do They All Mean?

This is a guest post from Johnie Gall of

There’s nothing more beautiful and peaceful than a vase of fresh flowers on your desk, but walking into a flower store can be daunting—which color rose do you choose for a friend? What variety stays fresh in your hair? Sydney native Holly Hipwell spent many an afternoon puzzling over flower markets in Australia before she decided to start blogging about her discoveries and tips. Before long her blog, The Flower Drum Girl, led to a dedicated following and new profession in floral design. We caught up with Hipwell to talk flower bombs, the language of plants and how we can all include a few more flowers in our daily routines:

How did you become a floral designer?

I would spend my weekends visiting the flower markets in Sydney and then spend hours creating, smelling, freezing and throwing flowers around. Then I would blog about it and after a couple of months, I realized you could check the stats on a blog, and I was like, Hey, someone in Japan just read my blog. There’s a comment section. People are leaving comments!? Who are these people? Eventually the page views turned into phone calls, and I began to work on events and weddings. Without any experience, I just said yes to everything I could, and learnt a lot along the way. After about two years I decided to commit fully to what I love.

How can we incorporate more flowers into our everyday lives?

Put rosebuds in your bath, have chamomile in your tea, put pansies in your ice cream and cover your bed with petals. Wear one in your hair or in your pocket. Have them everywhere you can!

I usually have a cute little posy sitting on the windowsill by the sink, so that when I am doing the dishes I can gaze away at the little blooms. Have some by your bed so it’s like waking up to a little present. Don’t wait for someone to buy you flowers for your birthday. Buy them for yourself, or make a deal with your bestie that you buy each other a little bunch every week. I think for those that do the nine-to-five jobs, every Monday morning you should walk into work with a little bunch to put on your desk. Everyone will want to come and hang out in your cubicle, guaranteed.

We know there is a color code to roses…

This is my official unofficial colored rose giving guide:

• Red: I love you. I want to make out with you.

• Yellow: I think you’re awesome, lets be friends.

• White: I think you’re amazing, and I’m amazing too, so let’s be amazing together.

• Light pink: I wanted to give you the sun and the clouds in the sky, but I couldn’t, so this will have to do.

• Orange: I’m secretly in love with you and want to smell your hair, but you don’t know that.

Do different flowers have different meanings?

I have a beautiful book called The Language of Flowers. It’s a treasury of traditional meanings. One day, I had a man come into the shop who wanted to buy some flowers for a girl who liked him, but he didn’t quite like her the same way back. So I whipped out the book and we looked up what flowers to use, and a “I think you are great, but I don’t like you like that” posy bouquet was made. Here are a few of my favorite meanings:

• Ranunculus: I am dazzled by your charms.

• Tigerlily: I dare you to love me.

• Forget Me Not: True love.

• Pineapple: You are perfect.

What’s the best flower to give for: a birthday, a baby shower, a get well present, a funeral, Mother’s Day?

For a baby shower I would give Baby’s Breath. Birthday flowers should always be fragrant. Do not ever get your mom flowers from the gas station. Never, never. Get well soon flowers should be bright and cheery. And for a funeral I recommend something simple because people receive so many flowers during the time of a lost one, so many that they don’t know what to do with them!

What are your tips for keeping flowers fresh in vase? What about in your hair?

The most important thing of all is to keep the water clean! Change the water every day if you can, and be sure to remove all of the leaves and foliage that sits below the water line. Give the stems a little snip too (on an angle) when you change the water.  I always wash my vases with bleach to kill any bacteria that may be lurking around. There are so many tips and tricks and urban myths—some people say add some Sprite, add some sugar, hang upside down and cut the stems under running water…but the sad truth is that flowers don’t last forever, so just enjoy them as much as you can! If you plan to wear flowers in your hair, keep them in the fridge or in water until the last minute. My friend Mylee (a fellow flower enthusiast) has even kept her flower crown in the freezer and whipped it out on special occasions!

Is there a downside of being a flower enthusiast?

Everyone is too scared to give me flowers. The other day one of my customers (who is also named Holly) came in with some flowers from her garden for me and it was the best feeling ever!

And the best part about it?

The thing I love most about having a shop is that I get to find out where the flowers are going and why. I always ask. Last week, a man walked in and said, “I want the most beautiful bunch of flowers ever for my wife,” and I replied “What’s the special occasion?” He said, “Just because.”

I love being the maker of the just because. 

Credit: Johnie Gall is the founder of



  1. I like your article…..I too am a flower freak, so much so that I spend my life painting them…pictures of them I should say. When I lived in Sydney I used to barter with my local florist, swapping a painting every now and then for a continuous supply of whatever I needed! I live on the far north coast now where flower shops are very few and far between so have started a small garden growing what I can. My sweet peas and pansies are nearly finished but the first foxgloves and delphiniums are just appearing.
    Good luck to you and your blossoming career!
    [ps. Annie and Ozzie Wright are my niece and nephew and so darling Mylee is part of my family too!]

  2. Well thought out describing each flowers meaning. I always had my own perception for each but I much rather prefer how you depict it!

  3. this is a great insightful post, your downside comment made me laugh, i would understand their sense of pressure, its like cooking for a master chef.


  4. Holly, I love your work- it seems you have found your passion, and what a passion to find! Just exquisite. You get my vote for Most Clickable Woman. Just beautiful. Soulful, creative and exquisitely delicious. x

  5. Love the post and agree could all benefit from incorporating more flowers into our everyday lives. This is especially noted in the dreary fall and early spring when everything feels so gray. I have found subscribing to for regular flower deliveries has brightened the lives of family and co-workers as they always comment when they come in how bright and cheerful the place looks. Now I can explain the meaning of the flowers thanks to your post.

  6. Thanks for putting this blog together. I really love how you use color and texture. Your work is truly inspiring. I have gotten many ideas as I have looked through all the beautiful pictures. Nothing brightens the day more then the gift of flowers.

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