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. 








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