Backlist Love is an informal series on “older” books that I hope you’ll find interesting. These aren’t so much reviews as quickie recommendations, so check out Goodreads or your favorite book review sources if you want more info.
The Meaning of Flowers: Myth, Language, and Lore by Gretchen Scoble, ill. by Ann Field (Chronicle Books, 1998)
100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names by Diana Wells, ill. by Ippy Patterson (Algonquin, 1997)
From ancient days, long before words complicated what we say to each other, flowers have been our messengers, invested with our most cherished feelings. The Meaning of Flowers celebrates over sixty blossoms with gorgeous collages and thoughtful histories of what each flower has meant through the ages and around the world. Anyone who loves giving and receiving flowers will find much to intrigue in this enchanting look at one of humanity’s most prolific sources of symbolism.
From Baby Blue Eyes to Silver Bells, from Abelia to Zinnia, every flower tells a story. Gardening writer Diana Wells knows them all. Here she presents one hundred well-known garden favorites and the not-so-well-known stories behind their names. Not for gardeners only, this is a book for anyone interested not just in the blossoms, but in the roots, too.
Why I liked them
Well, let’s be honest — these books are just so pretty. I’m no gardener, but I do enjoy the beauty (and sometimes weirdness) of blooms. Also, I think that various human cultures’ use of flowers is incredibly interesting. We as a species like to assign meaning/significance, and sometimes very odd names, to the showiest reproductive parts of plants.
Who I’d recommend them to
Neither of these books are particularly scholarly or in-depth at all. In fact, I’d say the real focus of The Meaning of Flowers in particular is its charming collage-style illustrations. 100 Flowers has a bit more of a narrative structure to it, and the writing is decent — actually, it turns out that the author of this one used to write for a magazine called GreenPrints (linked below), which I haven’t read but must mention because of its delightful tagline: “The Weeder’s Digest”….
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that these might not be engrossing novels, BUT they could be nice gift books for the gardeners in your life, or even for people with a tangential interest in Colonial/Victorian-era botany and social customs.