A surprising language all their own


During the Victorian era, it became especially popular to attach significant meanings
to flowers and plants.
Also known as floriography, the language of flowers
was a very useful means of relaying important messages ...

Pine Cone (Pinus)  . . .  Conviviality, Life

Mullein (Verbascum)  . . .  Take courage

Poppy (Papaver)  . . .   Fantastic extravagance

Often, the meanings were positive and affirming,
but some were not - quite to the contrary, in fact.

Clematis (Clematis)  . . .  Poverty

Pansy (Viola)  . . .  Think of me

Lavender (Lavandula) . . .   Mistrust

The next time I assemble a bouquet I certainly won't be viewing the arrangement
in quite the same way as I did before reading this book  ...

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, had been on my library "To Read" list
for so long I'd almost given up hope of getting my hands on it [perpetually checked out]
so I was ecstatic when I found a used copy at the thrift store.
It has been much loved with many dog-ears & now I can understand why.

Every now and again a book crosses my path which feels like its my
destiny to read.  The best writers can make their readers feel this way, I think.
Without giving too much away, the heroine of this story is Victoria, a young woman
who's been in and out of foster care her entire life but has one all-embracing solace ...
a deep love of plants.
As a child she learned this Victorian language of flowers -  an era when every blossom was
assigned a deeper meaning, then used as a way to express sentiment and romantic emotions
since more outward signs were restricted - and since Victoria can't [or won't]
express her emotions either, flowers become her vehicle.

That's only a tiny nutshell of a description ... the story is beautifully complicated.
Filled with symbolism and filled with historical references,
I've barely been able to put this one down.

Amaranth (Amaranthus)  . . .  Immortality

Victoria decides at one point to assemble her own reference collection,
 so she carefully & methodically teaches herself the parameters of photography [film, not digital]
and sets out to capture her subjects with great dedication & perseverence.
The book is set in the San Francisco Bay area of California
and she visits many spots familiar to me
such as the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park,
along with other locales I know and love oh so well [and miss to this day].
At the back of the book the author has included
Victoria's Dictionary of Flowers
and as I was perusing the list, recognizing many names of plants I've grown in my own garden
at one time or another,  I got the crazy idea to take a backwards gander at my own photo files
to see if I could find some items from Victoria's list.
If nothing else it would be a fun exercise in learning those elusive floriography terms.
I soon discovered flowers that one might expect to have, well, a more "positive"
emotion attached to them, 
but do not at all ...

like these two.

Currant (Ribes)  . . .  Thy frown will kill me

Rose, yellow (Rosa)  . . .   Infidelity

I just love books like this
where I'm introduced to a whole new way of looking and thinking
about something otherwise so familiar.

Rose, purple (Rosa)  . . .  Enchantment

Rose, pale peach (Rosa)  . . .   Modesty

Scabiosa (Scabiosa)  . . .  Unfortunate love

Dog (Canis lupus)  . . .  Undying devotion [my floriography]

oh hi.  how'd you get in here?

Just making sure you folks haven't fallen asleep in the petals yet ...
[chuckling happily]

Cherry blossoms (Prunus cerasus)  . . .   Impermanence

Of course, I'm a tad partial to the next one

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odorata)  . . .  Delicate pleasures

and as it happens, I have quite a lot of this next one in my garden.

Yarrow (Achillea)  . . .  Cure for a broken heart

Hmmm, what can it all mean?
I'm looking forward to spring and making that next bouquet ...

: : :

Wishing all of you who stop by here a most lovely season
of joy and beauty

P.S.   WAIT!  Have I got the holiday gift for you!   Just as I was finishing this book-related post, 
my masterful dye friend, India Flint, announced that she has put together a NEW BOOK ... 
In her words:
"it contains a technique you can do even in the smallest of apartments
and that I think you will want to do over and over again."

Go see ~ there's a preview & you can buy it now ...  over HERE on Blurb.
I treated myself to the hardback  ;>]


  1. Thy frown will kill me .... I'm mystified. I would love to know why they came up with this name. Hope you're having a good Christmas. Off to check out India's book.

    1. Me too, Robyn, some of the labels are almost mind boggling. And, since many flower dictionaries have now been produced, they don't even match. Would take a good deal of further study to sort it all out ...

      Happy Holidays to you and all best in the new year!

  2. Hard to believe that a flower as marvelous and useful as lavender would connote mistrust! I wonder who came up with these meanings originally. Hope you've had a lovely Christmas day -- and hope there was a new frisbee under the tree! xo

    1. Lavender [since its one of my faves] bums me out, no doubt about it, and has made me very curious to explore a bit deeper to find out why this interpretation came about - part of the fascination for me.

      Hope you've had a lovely Christmas as well, Connie, and yes, there's a very fine bright orange frisbee at play in the back garden!

  3. I was wondering about the lavender too...perhaps it was to be Miss Trust, or maybe to be puzzling as encouragement for deeper inquiry, or maybe to heal mistrust. Poses lots of questions, that's for sure...happy Christmas to you, Christi!

    1. ooooh, I like all your guesses, Suzanna ... I wonder ....
      Best Wishes of the Season to you!

  4. I loved that book. It was great.

    1. Coming up on the last pages now, Hilary, can't wait to find out what happens ....
      All the best of the season to you & yours.

  5. Interesting. I found several of the flowers meanings very appropriate ie: the Purple Rose. I never thought anyone would gather a bouquet of flowers based on the message they wanted to send. I better be more careful ~lol~

    Merry Christmas. BTW, I love the pic of your pooch that you slipped in. I miss my Border Collie.
    xx, Carol

    1. Yes, me too, will be a mite more careful whilst gathering petals from now on. Leave it to the Victorians to find another way of expressing emotions ;>]]
      Happy New Year, Carol, and Woof Woof!

  6. What a fascinating post, certainly some surprises in there. Just off to check out India's book, thanks for the link.

    1. Thanks & you're very welcome, Maggi.
      [can't wait till mine arrives ;>]

  7. I've always thought it a very interesting idea, to send a message that way. Makes me sad though that that there would be flowers with negative meanings. No bouquets of yellow roses, scabiosa, and lavender! :) All the best to you!

    1. ... and all the best to you, too, Deb.
      May we learn in the new year how to [re]arrange a bouquet, HA!

  8. i love the way her fluffiness pops up. so beautiful.
    and thank you for the kind mention.
    and wondering if i might swing by and read that flower book next year :)

    1. You're most welcome, India, but it is you who should be thanked for sharing all this knowledge.
      As for the swing by, the porch light is always on for you ;>]

  9. lovely photos as always Christi!

    1. aww, thanks so much, Mo.
      A very Happy New Year to you.

  10. Happy Holidays Christi, and all the best for a creative 2014 !

    Thanks for the lovely bouquet !

  11. That is such a lovely book, I read it a while back, beautiful pictures.

    1. This book has really kept me intrigued ... have had a very hard time setting it down to carry on with normal life. Am on the last pages right now and then I think I'm going to do a bit more research into some of the more *curious* meanings. Stay tuned.
      Best wishes for a splendid new year, Debbie.

  12. Oh dear, I'm so disappointed in the 'lavendar' meaning - it and its scent is one of my very favorites. At your suggestion I'm now reading "World Enough and Time" -- very slowly. I'm savoring every sentence - its lovely and echoes so many of my own thoughts these days.

    1. Oh, my fave too, Penny ... and considering at last count I had somewhere 'round 15 varieties of lavs here, a serious bouquet rethinking might be in order. Very glad you're enjoying World Enough [that recommendation originally came from India Flint, who expressed a desire that all her workshop students read it], as am I. The author has a wonderful way of pulling in ideas from diverse sources and somehow making sense of them for our time.

  13. Happy holidays to you my friend, out there on the wet coast!!! I love this post and feel that now I need to find the book.