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Victorian Gardeners Spoke the Language of Flowers

Nineteenth century Victorians had a connection with flowers unlike any period before them.  Some referred to this phenomenon as an expression of sentimentalism.  American gardeners of that time shared the same passion for flowers.

In her new book A Victorian Flower Dictionary Mandy Kirkby gives us a list of familiar flowers with a short history of each while noting the characteristic Victorians attributed to a particular flower.

For example, the Dahlia’s meaning is that of dignity.  It became a coveted flower for Victorians, especially in its now familiar ball shape.  Kirby writes that “an upright bloom with a tightly packed sphere of petals, sitting straight and composed on its sturdy stem-the perfect flower representation of dignity.”

Each discussion of the book’s fifty flowers begins with a drawing of the flower in bright colors and perfect form.

Kirby is careful to present the historical context for each flower, highlighting when it first arrived in England from Asia, Africa, or South America.

The few pages devoted to each flower read  in an easy style that captures the importance of a particular flower for the nineteenth century Victorian period.  Kirby includes verses of poetry and song of that time that only strengthen the flower’s cultural importance.

A bonus to the book is the Foreword by Vanessa Diffenbaugh whose debut novel The Language of Flowers has now appeared in over thirty countries.

We still love flowers today of course for special occasions, holidays, and celebrations. Kirby presents a book that  enlightens this ongoing fascination with flowers.

Read this book. You are sure to find your favorite flower.


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