Did you know that in the Victorian era, flowers were used as a way to communicate? Every flower has a meaning, and flowers became a means to convey a certain message. I always knew some flowers had meaning, like how different coloured roses meant different thing. You don’t give a yellow rose to a crush as it’s commonly a sign of loss of affection instead (unless you want to be friend-zoned that is! Haha). However, I had never given much thought of the meaning of other flowers. Not until I stumbled upon Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel titled, what other than, “The Language of Flowers”. I had previously obtained this book through a book subscription box two years ago, but only had the time to pick it up and read it recently. I believe the book came to me at the right time, I’m currently obsessed with gardening and flowers has become my favourite object to paint.
Vanessa’s book captivated me from the first chapter. It was one of those books you just can’t put down. If it wasn’t for house chores and my full time work I probably would have finished the entire book in one sitting. Her book is centred around a character named Victoria, who has every reason to hate the world and life itself. Victoria finds herself drawn to the world of botany. She learned the anatomy of flowers, analyse it and learn of its meanings. At the beginning, Victoria is shown to use basil and lavender often – a symbol of hatred and distrust. But as the story progresses we find her emotions are more complex than simply hate. Using this gift she finds herself helping others by choosing flowers to suit their desires. Soon it is revealed that her love for flowers grew at a time where she experienced most loved but also most pain in her life, a time that determined not only her present but also her future. We are taken through the most pivotal moments of Victoria’s life which was unpredictable and suspenseful. I feel that Vanessa succeeded in achieving fragility and strength all in one character. A seemingly complicated young girl who simply wants to be loved and accepted. It’s both complex yet so simple. I guess, this is true with life in general. We all have emotions that can be contradictory, yet if we do not have this, are we even living?
I frequently struggle to find objects to paint because I never much enjoyed painting without a purpose, or a story to tell – that might be one of my weaknesses. I enjoy painting scenes from my travels abroad, or flowers and plants that I took myself. Since I’ve started painting, I’ve been more intentional on my photo taking when I’m on holiday. These places where I’ve been, these flowers that I took photos of always serve as a reminder of how I felt during that trip and so painting these becomes like painting a story and I absolutely love that. So, when I read Vanessa’s book, a stream of inspiration flowed through me. I was ecstatic to learn that flowers were used as a way to communicate, there’s something so romantic and alluring about that. I love the sentiment that we can send a (hidden) message through gifting flowers. After reading “The Language of Flowers” I looked back at photos I took of flowers during my travels and started to seek its meanings. I’m no botanist and only a recent adorer of flowers so I’m not one to recognise flowers and know what they are called. So with help of a free app – PictureThis and Seek (available on the Apple app store), I was able to find the names of the flowers I took and research the meaning behind these flowers. Here I’m sharing some of these flowers and meanings with you :). This is definitely going to be my new hobby – finding flowers and its meanings.
Reading the book also gave me an idea that I wanted to start building my dictionary of flowers, an idea I proudly admit came from the book. I have only started with one painting and by writing this it’s a form of my commitment to this project.
This first painting is of an agrimony. Agrimony signifies thankfulness or gratitude. I thought this was fitting for the first painting as it reflects how I feel. I’m beyond thankful to have this outlet to write and share about my passion – art and nature. I hope you will follow along my journey and be inspired as I have :).