In 1917, O’Keefe, a Boston an adman, was having a drink in a bar with Henry Penn, a former president of the Society of American Florists. The two were discussing possible slogans . “There is nothing that you can’t say with flowers – when you send flowers, it says everything,”
Penn’s point referred to Floriography – the language of flowers – which gained popularity during the Victorian era leading to complex coded communications. Using particular blooms, Victorians were able to convey emotions that because of the era were impossible to speak openly. Eg if a man sent the target of his affections a red chrysanthemum (meaning ‘I love you’) he would be hoping to receive in return perhaps a Jerusalem Oak (‘Your love is reciprocated’) and not a striped carnation (a symbol of refusal). It became so complicated that floriography dictionaries were published.