Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Garden Graphemes: The Language of Flowers

I am a writer. I love words. I love art and garden art. I am a gardener and a garden designer.  I love flowers.

So when one of my favorite garden design clients gave me a 1978 copy of the 1885 Kate Greenway's "Language of Flowers," I swooned.

I adore the book.

With two garden maidens -- garden baskets dripping with roses -- and draped hypnotically across the title "fence" on the book's cover jacket where it says Kate's artwork "in illustrated books, greeting cards, and paintings" are charming. A "fantasy of simpler times" and it noted her drawing of flowers have been compared to Botticelli."

Rather than keep it to myself, I thought gardeners love to share.
The "'Language of Flowers' recreates for the modern reader a Victorian tradition when the use of flowers and plants was used to express feelings in a ... subtle manner. "
"Each flower represents a specific mood or emotion."

Victorians had their nuanced Twitter code of communicating... They called it Floriographies - or the language of flowers.
Wouldn't you love to be a linguist or translator of this special language?

So I will attempt to share some of the Flower meanings here - gulp- every day!  Hopefully, the flower's messages will bring joy and peace -- and more than a little romance...
How about the flirty Lemon Geranium that means Unexpected Meeting?
Or the White Dittany of Crete that says Passion?!
Or the Heliotrope that conveys Devotion and Faithfulness.
ahhh, I love this language... I have great curiosity and love of learning so I thought this will be fun and enriching...

The more than 500 entries are served up in alphabetical order.
Kate got off to a rather bad start I'm afraid.  Abecedary is the first listing and it means Volubility.

However, when I researched the abecedary flower because I never heard of it.  The web site Library ad Infinitum said the "non-floral use of the word abecedary in connection with alphabets written out or printed and illustrated for children, a usage which dates back to the Middle Ages.  The floral meaning of abecedary isn't documented by the Oxford English dictionary... and Kate Greenway didn't illustrate the flower."
They speculate, and I think accurately, that the fullest explanation "appears in the The Language of Flowers (1835): Volubility, Abecedary. This plant is a native of the island of Fernalus; when you chew its head, or roots, the tongue feels a stimulating sensastion, that gives it a singular fluency. This plant is employed in looseing children's tongues, (WHY oh Why would anyone need to do that?!) "whence comes its name abecedary, or children's grass."

Yet, I think the publisher may have started the book as an abecedary and the printer thought it was the first flower.  Ah, the mysteries of circumstance make for fascinating pursuits.

Technically, the First Garden Grapheme is Abecedary.
But the controversy about that entry compels me to skip to the second entry: Abatina and its message of Fickleness.
As it turns out, research indicates Abatina may or not be a flower either!

(I wish my editor and publisher were so forgiving....)

Next up is Acacia. At this rate we'll be through to the C's in no time!
I KNOW this flower, Acacia.  And it means Friendship. And that's as good a place as any to start.
The image is from World Wide Wattle.  And I learned from them that the acacia pycnantha was officially proclaimed as Australia's National Floral Emblem in 1988.
Good choice, Mates!  We can enjoy our Aussie Friends all the more.

And here is the inspiring, delightful Kate Greenway book:

1 comment:

  1. Everyone loves to receive flowers. Give loved ones the gift that will last forever and not wilt away in a matter of weeks.