"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment" Georgia O'Keeffe-American Painter, 1887-1986
This book was not what I originally thought it would be. The setting and storyline were at first glance more suitable for young teens, and while it is a wonderful book for them, it speaks to flower-lovers of every age.
Fourteen year old Laurel enrolls in an historic boarding school after her mother's death and discovers herself an outsider and unprepared for the cliquish society that she finds there. Homesick and missing her mother, she gets little comfort, even from her older cousin, Rose.
She finds a small bouquet of outside her dorm door as she was working on a report on the language of flowers. The scent made her lightheaded and tingly. Things became increasingly complicated as Laurel searched for hidden messages in letters from her mother and as she learned more about hidden meanings in flowers.
By combining flowers and herbs in Victorian ‘tussie-mussies', Laurel helped a teacher find romance. Seeing the result, some of the girls asked for their own flowers to attract the boys at the neighboring boy's academy. Wanting to fit in, Laurel tries to accommodate the requests, often with disastrous results. As these events transpire, Laurel finds that women in her family might have had this gift in common for generations, including her mother and grandmother. She discovers the flowers help heal the grief over her mother's death and finds some unlikely mentors along the way. There's a little magic and a touch of fantasy, but the meanings and attributes associated with certain flowers have been noted for centuries.
Dogwood is for love undiminished by adversity and forsythia is for anticipation. Combine those with Lily-of-the valley (return of happiness) and cedar (strength). The resulting tussie-mussie would mean that even though there have been difficult times, the person is strong and should look forward to happier days.
This is well-crafted and even though it is intended for young teens, I was moved by the story (you may need a tissue or two handy) and thoroughly enjoyed the book. Every flower has a secret and this might be a unique way of generating gardening interest in teens. Even though the magic remains between the pages, Victorian flower language is magical in itself. Here are four tussie-mussies that I created just for this review and their meanings. I hope this inspires you to take a fresh look at the bouquets from your garden. I know that I will!
Gwen Bruno wrote a lovely article about the Victorians and their flower language and you can read it at this link: The Language of Flowers
Lily-of-the Valley and Rosemary:
Lily-of-the-Valley for return of happiness
Rosemary for rememberance
This might be given to someone who has lost a loved one.
Forget-me-Nots and Dogwood:
Forget-me-Nots for true love, or forget me not
Dogwood for love undiminished by adversity
A good gift for a soldier, or from a soldier.
Rose, Forsythia and Ivy:
Rose for love
Forsythia for anticipation
Ivy for matrimony
This could be a wedding bouquet, or something that might accompany a proposal of marriage
Forsythia and Lily-of-the-Valley
Forsythia for anticipation
Lily-of-the Valley for return of happiness
This could be for loved ones who are separated, or possibly given after a house fire.