Most people probably have some general awareness of the language of flowers even if they’ve never heard the term; at minimum I’d wager most anyone you ask would know that a rose usually symbolizes love, and if you were lucky you might even get someone whose knows some of the color distinctions (white = innocence or purity, yellow for jealousy, etc). Flowers and Their Meanings goes beyond that; in addition to reviewing the origins and general history of the use of flower symbolism in England, the meanings of various flowers beyond the basics are included, some 600 of them.
I admit I have a passing interest in the Victorian age when this kind of thing was especially trendy in the UK, and history and symbolism in general. I found it interesting that even some of the most common flowers are included here. For example, my late father every year would fill the flower box at the front of my childhood home with impatiens (which I only learned a few years ago were not in fact ‘impatients’); turns out, those represent ‘impatience’ in general, but also “touch me not” when red. They are also used in Korea to ward off evil and disease, as well as being used for cosmetic dye (as in finger nail polish), and if any trace of color remained at the first snowfall of the year, you’ll marry your true love. That same house had a garden at the back, which included rhubarb. Turns out rhubarb flowers represent “advice”, has medical uses that go way back, and may have been brought to this country by none other than Ben Franklin. There was also a bleeding heart bush there, and again at the back of an apartment building I lived in when I was out of the house but still in school; apparently those flowers mean “fly with me” and crushing the flowers and seeing what color you get is a version of “s/he loves me, s/he loves me not”. Even though I live in a different climate than what I grew up and went to school in, I struggled a bit (irrelevant story there) but now have one in a bucket on the back patio area.
There’s even common wildflowers in here; I only remember birdsfoot trefoil because of a year-long challenge in 9th grade biology; basically, you had to keep a pressed flower of that plant in your textbook all year, and you won something if you still had it when you turned in your textbook at the end of the year. I just remember not having my book the day the teacher decided to check, although I did still have the pressed flower. Not that I’m still a bit salty about that, nope, not at all. Kind of ironically, these mean “revenge”, are symbols of radiation and biohazard, and are apparently also known as ‘eggs and bacon’.
I could keep going, but for geeks like me who like random quasi-useless-for-practical-purposes knowledge, this is a great reference book. If for no other reason, I now know that to call someone as ‘ass tulip’ is the Turkish equivalent of calling someone a ‘douchebag’; tulips were already one of my favorite flowers, and adding this makes them even better. Even funnier with a general symbolism of ‘declaration of love’.