March 17, 2012

Book review: flower talk

If you discovered one of your favorite plants was associated with a negative emotion, would you avoid planting it or presenting it in a bouquet to a friend? If you knew that certain flowers convey particular meanings, would this make a difference in the flowers you use in floral arrangements?

Whether you answered “yes” or “no” to these questions, you’ll probably enjoy the book “The Language of Flowers,” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, published by Random House. I’m linking this book review to Holley’s garden book review meme at Roses and Other Gardening Joys.

My book club read this book, and we all enjoyed it, which doesn’t happen very often. The main character, Victoria, has a lot of personal and emotional problems, but she’s a talented floral designer. She becomes a successful businesswoman by creating floral arrangements using the language of flowers to meet clients’ unique needs.

During Victorian times, the language of flowers was a critical tool in determining the appropriate plants and blooms to use when displaying and presenting floral arrangements. For example, Amaranth signified immortality; Witch Hazel, a spell; and Magnolia, dignity. The character Victoria consults with brides, lovelorn individuals, and other clients to provide the perfect  blooms to convey specific meanings.

While I enjoyed the fictional story in the book, I decided the language of flowers will not rule my selection of plants for my garden or my floral arrangements. For example, Mock Orange, which means “counterfeit” is a lovely trailing bough, perfect for the edges of a graceful bouquet.

Hydrangea means “dispassion,” yet it’s a lovely, lush bloom whether displayed fresh or dried.


And Redbud means “betrayal,” yet it’s one of the most glorious native blooming trees in my garden.


While it’s fun to know the Victorian meanings of flowers, I will still include Sunflowers (“false riches”) in late summer and autumn arrangements.

Read “The Language of Flowers” for the good story and great descriptions of plants and floral arrangements. It even includes a dictionary of flower meanings. But the premise of choosing or rejecting plants based on their meanings…well, there are just too many favorite plants with “negative” meanings for me to reject them based on Victorian definitions.

With that said, I’ve always favored Victorian-style d├ęcor, especially in the powder room—where I tend to decorate with flowers in vases, pretty soaps, and ribbon trim. With this post, I’m debuting a new “page” on PlantPostings which will be all about products I recommend. Some might be sponsored, some will not. All will have some connection to plants or gardening.


The first entry is a non-sponsored review of some exceptionally designed, high-quality towels. Read more…

16 comments:

  1. Beth I absolutely adore the language of flowers and have several books and online sources. I would love to discover the history behind the meanings someday. This book sounds like a fascinating read. I like you new page and will be checking it out...you are a busy woman.

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    1. Thanks, Donna! I think it's fun to learn the meanings and the history of it all is fascinating. I think you'd enjoy the book. Let me know if you read it. :)

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  2. This is a wonderful book, and I do say yes to the question. I often note the meanings of flowers in design, so the clients can have some association and memories with them. But, I don't mention the ones that have negative meanings though! LOL.

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    1. That is funny, Donna. I'm thinking maybe if you include enough positive ones, it's OK to slip in some beautiful "negative" or "questionable" flowers--especially if they're beautiful and enhance the bouquet. Life is complicated, afterall. Glad to hear you liked the book, too.

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  3. For those that want to know the history behind the language of flowers I recommend Beverly Seaton's book The Language of Flowers, a History by University Press of Virginia. In the front jacket cover Beverly writes, "[language of flowers in Victorian times]...none is more misunderstood. The purpose of this study is to explain the language of flowers, recount its history, and discuss its relationship to other aspects of Victorian popular culture."

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    1. Thanks for mentioning that, Patty! I think that's one of the other books someone brought to our meeting. The language of flowers is fascinating, and I'd love to learn more about the history and science behind the development of the meanings.

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  4. It's always fun to learn the meanings assigned to various objects, and the significance of flowers would be especially interesting. But I agree, I certainly wouldn't refrain from planting something because of its supposed symbolism, especially a hydrangea--one of my favorites! And who isn't delighted by the redbuds beginning to bloom? Mine are just starting to bloom, by the way--at least a month early!

    Those towels do look soft...I purchased some bed sheets a few years ago made out of bamboo. I didn't realize at the time how practical they were.

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    1. Hi Rose: Our Redbud is breaking bud, too! And the Magnolias are blooming today--about a month early as well. A week of 80+ temps (I think we broke 5 record highs this week) is speeding everything. I think you'd like the book, though, if you like fiction and stories about plants.

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  5. Nice Share,,very helpful to me personally,,thank's

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    1. You're so welcome. Thanks for stopping by. It's a great book--especially for people who enjoy fiction and plants.

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  6. This is so interesting! Who could have imagined that hydrangea would have the meaning, dispassionate....for a flower that evokes such passion. Great review, great read!

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it's fun to scan the Victorian dictionary of flowers to see what your favorites mean. But I think I'll have to put it out of my mind when I arrange flowers.

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  7. I would probably have to say no, unless the bouquet was meant for someone that knew the language of flowers, too. I wouldn't want to offend them! This must be a great book, for your entire book club to unanimously agree they liked it. Thanks for joining in, and for bringing this book to my attention. It sounds like a fun and interesting read.

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    1. Thanks for hosting the meme, Holley! It was a very good book--not an all-time favorite, but the fact that all of us liked it makes it easy to recommend.

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  8. Another book for me to put on my "to read" list! Thank you for the review and for posting the pretty pictures. I love hydrangeas. I obtained some Dwarf myrtle (myrtus communis compacta) plants last year at a plant sale. Later I learned that it was considered the sacred herb of Aphrodite and that all of the royal brides carry a sprig of myrtle in their bridal bouquets, a tradition dating back to Queen Victoria.

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    1. Thanks, Dorothy. Yes, it's a good read. How interesting about the Dwarf Myrtle! Learning the history about the meanings is fascinating, even if it doesn't change my mind about my "bad" favorites. ;-)

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