When our Victorian ancestors wanted to say it with flowers, they did it very deliberately. In those days certain blooms were sent not only for their beauty but because they were associated with specific meanings.

If a young maid unfairly suspected her beloved of having affections for another, for example, he might send her a bouquet of daises and chrysanthemums to say, "I am innocent and telling the truth." If she did not believe him, she might in turn send a striped carnation to imply refusal of his message; or, if she were really angry, a yellow carnation to convey her disdain.However, if a Victorian gentleman were impressed with the purity and loveliness of his beloved, he might convey the message with a red rose bud. And someone interested in marriage would be certain to include ivy in the bouquet.

But nowadays we let our flowers do the talking in less complicated ways. Instead of worrying too much about secret messages, we let flowers simply say "thinking of you" or "have a nice day."

But whatever the language of flowers, it seems, they are doing their talking more often these days. According to a recent survey of florists commissioned by the American Floral Marketing Council, the industry has seen a 30 percent increase in business in the last few years.

Flowers are an $8 billion industry in this country. In recent years there have been changes not only in volume but in flower-giving occasions.

"In the past, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries have been the times when most people have purchased flowers," says Joan Watson, chairman of the AFMC, who was in Salt Lake recently to talk about today's flower power.

These occasions are still important, she says. "But our surveys show that 72 percent of the florists across the country are reporting an increase in the purchase of flowers for non-holiday reasons. It it evident that, increasingly, more and more people believe that anytime is the right time to give flowers."

Another significant trend, she says, is that more women are buying flowers for men. "And we find that men enjoy receiving flowers just as much as women do."

Flowers are an appropriate gift for any occasion, she says. They can have business overtones, friendship overtones or something more romantic.

Seven out of 10 of the florists surveyed said that compared to a few years ago, more women are buying flowers for men. More than half - 56 percent - also say that men are buying more flowers as well.

Among other trends:

- Customers are buying more exotic flowers (noted by 57 percent of the florists surveyed).

- Customers are buying more arrangements and fewer bunches (45 percent).

"There is so much more available now than a few years ago. Roses, carnations and chrysanthemum have always been popular," says Watson. "But now we're seeing more of the exotics - the tropical flowers and flowers from Europe."

Colors, too, have changed to fit today's decorating trends. "Reds and yellows and pinks are still popular, but now you'll find grays and peaches and mauves and even silvers."

When it comes to occasions for giving, 92 percent of the florists said their customers are buying more flowers for friends and family, 86 percent are selling more flowers for traditional occasions, 80 percent said more customers are buying flowers for themselves, and 68 percent said more customers are buying flowers for business purposes.

Saturday is by far the most popular day for purchasing flowers; Monday comes in second.

The average price spent for loose flowers is between $5 and $10; the average price for a flower arrangement is between $20 and $30.

Prices have held consistent in recent years, says Watson. "Where prices have gone up, it's mostly been on the service side - charging for delivery, for example."

One way to save a bit, she noted, is when you are getting an arrangement for your house for the holidays or a party, take one of your favorite containers to your florist and have them do the arrangement. "Be sure to give them two or three days, but you'll save the cost of a new container."

If you ever receive flowers as a gift that are not quite what they should be, she advises you to contact the florist immediately. "Florists rely on repeat business, and most will be happy to exchange or fix what's wrong."