During the journey to Turkey, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, English poet, and aristocrat noticed that local women played a friendly game. They gave each other presents — things that rhyme with each other. The British aristocrat romanticized the game. She wrote to her friends that in this game, there lies an opportunity to convey love messages and go unnoticed.
The Victorian aristocrats needed such a language! In their time, talking about your feelings was considered vulgar and unacceptable. You really started to get acquainted with a person only after marriage (what?). So they took flowers as a basis for the new “present language,” which was named selam.
Such a choice was made due to a number of reasons.
1. Floral compositions are beautiful.
2. It is easy to say that it's just a bouquet and no symbols are hidden in it.
3. It is sexy: the message is visible but still secret at the same time.
And it's not just about bouquets, but also about jewelry, clothes, and anything with a floral print.
The popularity of selam spread around Europe. Thousands of books with the code of the language of flowers were printed everywhere. And often, they had the opposite meanings! LOL. Just imagine: you send your crush a tulip to make a compliment, and they translate it as "I don't take you seriously."
Rutledge's "Language of Flowers" (1884) became the leading book after all. And it is still being republished and widely popular.