Decrypting the Secret Flower Messages of Enola Holmes

Enola Holmes is the new movie imagining a feminist, charming, brilliant younger sister to famous detective Sherlock.

One of the critical moments early on is a gift of the Victorian book Language of Flowers, which turns out to be a clue in the bigger mystery. But this movie also leaves floral clues strewn throughout the movie. They are very clever and subtle; I thought I’d decode them.

[Spoilers for the movie follow!]

The first flower we see is when Enola is unwrapping the gift of the Language of Flowers. It’s a pink tulip on a card that says “use these gifts wisely.” Pink tulips stand for caring.

Sherlock reviews the flowers in mother’s room: Chrysanthemums, and Queen Anne’s Lace, symbolizing a steady familial attachment and truth, and sanctuary, respectively. Of course, Chrysanthemums are also called “mums,” a little play on the British term for mother.

Enola finds another card, this one decorated with delicate blue flowers and the words “our future is up to us.” They are only on the screen for a moment, but these seem to be forget-me-nots. In flashbacks of Enola’s mother, she is wearing a blue flower pin: no surprise, this is also a forget-me-not, very suitable for memory, and the very plea that forms the name: please, don’t forget me.

Her mother’s middle name is “Violet,” which means devotion or faithfulness. Even when absent, her mother is devoted to Enola.

When Enola buys a dress, she wears a necklace that seems to have a flower on it. Unfortunately, I can’t see what flower that is, so this one will have to go unsolved! Since the dress is red, perhaps we can assume it is a sweet pea, the symbol of delicate femininity, which is, of course, a joke.

The dress is covered all over in a flower brocade. Perhaps roses? Burgundy roses symbolize unconscious beauty, meaning Enola doesn’t realize how attractive she really is.

While investigating a mystery, Enola takes on the surname “Posey.” This is a play on words as well; she is “posing” as someone else at the time. But a “posey,” to Victorians, was a small collection of flowers, often the means by which these flower messages were transmitted.

The lady of the house wears a blue dress with faded yellow brocade flowers. Unfortunately, I can’t tell what kind, but I’m certain the costume designer has left a reference here, too.

Enola, while on a search for clues on a side mystery, discovers a pressed flower. It looks to me like a cornflower, also known as a “bachelor’s button.” The Victorian book of flowers I cross-referenced here also indicates it stands for hope in love. Because the boy ends up being Enola’s beau, of course!

When she surprises the boy in a flower market, he offers her a white rose tinged with red; innocence and, of course, love. It’s very sweet.

Tellingly, there are no flowers at all in the finishing school. Ms. Harrison’s strict school is unyielding, but also lacks depth. No secret messages here.

Toward the end, Enola’s mother is seen wearing a dress covered in flowers. They are pansies, which can be said to symbolize long-standing love and thinking. Appropriate for the Holmesian mother.

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