Although British Dame Frances Trollope did not have much good to say about her travels in America in the nineteenth century, and her adventures might be a caution to anyone thinking about relocating to Cincinnati – she did praise one of my favorite places…
“…Maryland (1830) was delightful…Strawberries of the richest flavor sprung beneath our feet; and when these past away, every grove, every lane, every field looked like a cherry orchard, offering an inexhaustible profusion of fruit to all who would take the trouble to gather it…It was the flowers, and the flowering shrubs that, beyond all else, rendered this region the most beautiful I had ever seen. No description can give an idea of the variety, the profusion, the luxuriance of them…I have gathered a branch less than a foot long, and counted twelve full bunches of flowers on it…The dogwood is another of the splendid white blossoms…”
Periwinkle to inspire tender recollections, lilies of the valley to bring a return to happiness – with the hidden meaning of flowers to sooth a troubled soul, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers is as full of enchantment as it is about foster care. Victoria, an orphan since she was abandoned as a baby, has been defiantly in and out of foster homes. At eighteen, she is “emancipated” from her last group home and sent out into the world – homeless, without an education or any prospects. Flowers are her only salvation.
Diffenbaugh alternates chapters from Victoria’s memories of her only loving temporary home with Elizabeth, who patiently taught her about flowers and nurtured a connection that becomes her safety line – to Victoria as she tries to forge a life as an itinerate worker with a local florist.
As she struggles to overcome her past as an unwanted child, shuffled through the social services system, Victoria’s sense of self is cautious, with low expectations that are repeatedly met by everyone in her life. She carries her scars into adulthood, mistrusting the possibility of friendship or love. Living one step above homelessness, Victoria manages to create a career with her knowledge of flowers; her talent for using flowers to solve problems brings her success and a new life.
Diffenbaugh includes an index of flowers with an interpretation of their application; if you enjoy books that use flowers or herbs for creative therapeutic solutions, add this one to your list.
Another book with flowers that can change your life:
A day to celebrate Spring and flowers – whatever you call it. Jeffrey Kent’s book with illustrations by Minako Ishii is a flip picture book that can be read front to back or back to front. With beautiful pictures and explanations, Kent connects the Hawaiian celebration to the British May Day, and includes instructions for making a lei.
Beth Greenway’s A Lei for Every Day is a board book, teaching days of the week with tutu (Hawaiian word for grandmother).