Archive January 2014

The Language of Flowers: Book Review

Posted by on Jan 23, 2014 in My Blog | Leave a comment

The Language of Flowers



Acacia for ‘secret love’, daffodil for ‘new beginnings’, wisteria for ‘welcome’, and camellia for ‘my destiny is in your hands’.

I didn’t know anything about this book when I picked it up and was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful story and at the central role flowers play in the unfolding drama.

Victoria Jones is an unusual young woman who has just been emancipated from the foster care system.  She never fit into ‘the system’ and has wanted to be free of it more than anything.  The reality of this emancipation is a little harsh as she finds herself living in a park with no money.

It eventually occurs to her that she does have experience with flowers that might be of value, and this opens up a new world to her. Flowers become the means by which Victoria begins to connect to and communicate with the people that matter to her.

It was through this book, I discovered that different flowers have different meanings, which has made me look at flowers differently:

“I’m talking about the language of flowers,” Elizabeth said.  “It’s from the Victorian era, like your name.  If a man gave a young lady a bouquet of flowers, she would race home and try to decode it like a secret message.  Red roses mean love; yellow roses infidelity.  So a man would have to choose his flowers carefully.”  

This victorian-era practice of using flowers to communicate feels magical as well as romantic to me.  It infuses the flowers with meaning and thrusts them into a more central role.  It makes me look at flowers in a different way and it makes me wonder if they are indeed trying to communicate with us, showing us the beauty and splendor of nature.

Even though the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, does a wonderful job of weaving flowers into the story, it’s not just a story about flowers.  It’s also a story about beginning when you don’t really now how to begin.  It’s about following your heart and seeing where it leads.  It’s about finding connections to people that once seemed impossible.

The book also features Victoria’s Dictionary of Flowers.  If you start to investigate the meanings of flowers, you will find that nearly every flower has multiple meanings.  For that reason Ms. Diffenbaugh created her own dictionary, which can be found at the back of the novel as well as on her website:

The dictionary was created in the manner in which Victoria compiled the contents of her boxes. Lining up dictionaries on my dining room table—The Flower Vase by Miss S. C. Edgarton, Language of Flowers by Kate Greenaway, The Language and Sentiment of Flowers by James D. McCabe, and Flora’s Lexicon by Catharine H. Waterman—I scanned the meanings, selecting the definition that best fit the science of each flower, just as Victoria would have done. Other times, when I could find no scientific reason for a definition, I chose the meaning that occurred most often or, occasionally, simply the one I liked best.

If you love flowers, I highly recommend this book.  Check out Goodreads for more reader reviews.  

P.S.  The screen rights to this book have apparently been acquired, though there’s not much information available.  So, stay tuned for a possible movie in the not too distant future. 









Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in My Blog | Leave a comment


Hydrangea is another flowering plant that has a kazillion different species.  But the one that we see most is from the Hydrangea Macrophylia (Big Leaf, Mophead or Lacecap).

Hydrangeas in Vase


Hydrangeas are beautiful bushy plants that brighten up any yard.  A single plant or an entire hedge of Hydrangeas provide spectacular colour and greenery.  The flowers bloom from early spring to late autumn and thrive in shady areas.  Besides a good dosing of water once a week (depending on the temperature), they don’t need much care if they’re thriving.




Blue Hydrangia


Want to Change the Colour of Your Hydrangea?

The colour of the flowers is determined by the acidity of the soil in which they are planted: blue in acidic soil; pink in alkaline soil.  So, if you planted a Hydrangea plant with pink flowers in acidic soil, they will turn blue.



What If Your Hydrangea Won’t Bloom?

It’s worth visiting your local nursery and checking the acidity of your soil.  Check out this Serenity Now blog for tips and photos on this.



(Note:  This advice is just for the Mophead variety, which is the classic Hydrangea plant that you see most often.)

There’s a lot of conflicting advice about pruning, but this is what I have gathered from research and experience. Hydrangeas can be fickle, so do your due diligence before extensive pruning.

During late fall and winter, Hydrangeas look quite dead, so it’s tempting to prune them then; however, like many flowering plants, they set their bloom-buds during late summer or early fall.  That means if you prune them when they look dead, you could risk cutting back live growth and have no blooms the following spring.

In the spring, wait for your Hydrangea plant to come back – they come back slowly, so be patient.  Green leaves and buds will appear on the new growth, and the old dead growth becomes obvious and you can cut it back.

If you want to prune more, you should do it by mid-summer.  You can cut back to the next node in the stem.  This removes the old bloom, but doesn’t damage the next spring’s blooms.

If your Hydrangea is out of control, or if its flower production is way down, you may want to cut away the oldest stems.  Do this in late winter.  You can prune up to a third of the plant this way.  Late winter is key.  If you’re uncertain, do a little one year, observe the results and then, if the plant responds the way you want it to, do more the next year.  Patience!

If you want to remove the old flower heads, do it right after your first flowers fade.  Don’t do it in fall or you risk losing your spring blooms and exposing your plant to winter injury.

SourceYou Bet Your Garden/Gardens Alive 


Pink Hydrangea Buds


Purple Hydrangea Buds



Cut Flower Tip: 

I bought some Hydrangeas on Sunday so I could photograph them this week.  On Tuesday, I hadn’t photographed them yet, and I noticed that they had drooped and were wilting.  Oh no!  I searched the internet to see if there was a way to revive them.  There were a bunch of recommendations including using bleach, vinegar, or floral preservatives.

In the end, I tried the putting the flowers in boiling (yes, boiling!) water and it worked beautifully.  My wilted Hydrangea came back and are still looking great 72 hours later:

  • Boil some water
  • Cut the stems about an inch, or take off what appears to be dead
  • Wrap the blooms loosely with paper towel so steam doesn’t damage the blooms
  • Pour 3” to 4” of the boiling water into a heat-resilient cup or vase
  • Put the stems into the boiling water and wait

I had two stems that were wilting and one that looked like it was done.  The two not-so-bad stems revived within a couple of hours.  When I got up the following morning, I was shocked to see that the completely wilted stem had revived as well.

It’s worth a try!






Hello January.

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in My Blog | Leave a comment


After years of disliking January, I have finally come to embrace it.  It isn’t a bear hug; it’s more of a quick hug with my butt sticking out and a pat on the back.  But, it’s definitely a hug.  This year, the hug has been slower in coming because, so far, January hasn’t been very huggable, with its polar vortex, ice storms, wind and ubiquitous darkness.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I need something to remind me of why I now (cough) like January.  To that end, instead of a flower blog, this is more of a winter blog because the only way forward is through, and I don’t know about you, but I need some help getting through January, not to mention the rest of winter.  Here are some tricks I’ve been using.


Read a Poem … Like a Woman In Love With Winter …

Last winter, I heard a beautiful line from a poem:

“Outside my window, a maple has been dropping  colored silks, stepping from her leaves like a woman in love with winter.”

I’m not sure who wrote this or if I got it right, but isn’t it beautiful?  It’s amazing how a single line of poetry can create a visual and make us think in a different way.  

This reminds me that nature does not balk at the changes in the season.  The trees expect and prepare for the cold by sending their resources to their roots deep in the ground, so that they are prepared for the colder months.  They notice the signals of the seasons changing and expect to slow down, to go dormant, to be in the dark most of the time.  They accept it; they’re ready for it; they embrace it.  


Try ‘The Beauty Way’ Prayer

One way to be ready is to look for the beauty in changing seasons.  To do this, I’ve been using the Navajo Beauty Way prayer. There are a bunch of versions of this on the web, but I learned this from Martha Beck last winter in her Wild New You ecourse.  It’s a way to connect to what’s around you and to yourself.  Here’s how it works:  

Where ever you are:

  • Beauty before you.  Look for something beautiful in front of you.  In the room you’re in right now, look in front of you and instead of hunting something down, let beauty find you.  Notice it.  It could be a splash of red, or something you love, or even the colour of your walls.  If you look for it, it will find you.  (What you are seeking is already seeking you.)
  • Beauty behind you.  Turn behind you and do the same thing.  Notice the beauty that is calling you to notice it.

Continue to do this in all directions, taking a moment, not rushing.

  • Beauty to the right of you.
  • Beauty to the left of you.
  • Beauty above you.
  • Beauty below you.

Finally, look within yourself, your heart, your soul.

  • Beauty within you.

When you take a few minutes to do this, it has the power to calm you.  It brings you out of your head and into your body, so become aware of what surrounds you.  


Using the Beauty Way Prayer to Help You Through Winter.

How does this relate to winter?  I’ve been doing this on my walks around the neighbourhood.  Magically, trees that I’d never paid attention to in winter came alive with beauty.  Now, I’m the crazy lady walking down the street saying “Wow!  Wooooh!” as I gaze skyward to marvel at how tree branches reach for each other.  Now I know where the term ‘tree hugger’ came from … a bunch of people doing the Beauty Way prayer.

Winter Trees




Where I would once I have ignored a bare tree, now I marvel at the simple beauty of its structure.



Remember That Nature Doesn’t Mind Winter. 

Nature doesn’t mind winter.  If we could be more like nature, maybe we wouldn’t mind as much either.  The next time you’re outside, and you’re cold, and not really enjoying anything about winter, take a moment and do the Beauty Way Prayer.  It might change your perspective.  




The High-Tech Approach to Managing Winter Works Too.

The other way to manage it is to forget all that mumbo jumbo and stay inside!  In movies and on television, winter is so romantic.  Coats remain unzipped and hats and gloves are accessories, not necessities.  No one trudges through slush, slips on ice, or freezes their fingers.  Snow dances and floats, rather than driving into your face.   To that end,  I have a winter ritual of things I like to watch in the winter, in front of a fire with a hot cup of tea.  

The first is Sex and the City, Season 6, Part 2.  It’s the only part of Sex and the City that didn’t take place in summer.  It’s the season where Carrie meets The Russian and they hang out in his incredible New York City apartment.

Here Aleksandr Petrovski romances Carrie with poetry in front of the fire.  And see, Carrie’s not cold at all.



 John Snow, Winter is coming.  No one does Winter better than Game of Thrones. Snow floats.  No hats required.  I think I need one of those cloaks.


Winter is the best time to cozy up and watch all the Harry Potter movies back-to-back.  While Harry and his friends plot to save the world, they’re usually inside, wearing wooly sweaters, sitting beside humungous fireplaces.  Outside storms are brewing, but inside it’s so cozy. (Note: Sorry about the Christmas carol in the video, but you get the idea.)


Any tricks you’d like to share about surviving winter?


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