No one has an exact date for when people started giving floral bouquets as gifts however remnants of flowers have been found in graves that date back to prehistoric times.
Flowers given as gifts have also been found in ancient Chinese writings, Roman & Greek mythology and Egyptian hieroglyphics. In fact the ancient Greeks held flowers in such high regard they were given as gifts to the gods & only the most noble of Greeks were presented with crowns made from flowers, twigs and leaves. It is a common belief that ancient Greeks were the first to associate a meaning with a specific flower.
People from biblical times were associated with flowers also. Did you know that the virgin Mary was associated with the Lily, this flower represents chastity!
It soon became incredibly popular and many books were published to explain the meanings of the flowers. Unfortunately all the books were different so a persons interpretation of a floral gift depended on which book they owned and may or may not have been the message that the giver intended!
The language of Floriography is much more complicated than a simple association of one meaning to one flower. Colour, size and even placement of the flowers in an arrangement could change the meaning of the message.
Floriography was at its most popular during the Victorian Era. Strict social and church rules frowned upon public displays of affection and showing of emotions so flowers and their arrangements were used as a method of communication. Over the years Floriography dropped in popularity as a means of communication. However even today certain flowers & colours still have special meanings. (See this post for specific Rose color meanings)
It’s easy to see how Flowers have played an important role throughout history even when traditions changed. In today’s world they hold as much importance as they did when they were offered to the gods, after all there’s nothing that will put a smile on your face and make you feel special like a surprise gift of flowers!