Can We Speak in English Flowers – Old (1760s) and New (2017)
London to Missouri and Back

 

 

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This poem by Nayyirah Waheed* pretty much says it all for me.

 

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Not only do I wish for others of my human kind to speak in flowers, I want to speak with flowers, any flower.

 

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All flowers speak to me, new ones that are blooming at the moment we come face to face,  and those that dance off the page of beautifully illustrated botanical drawings.

 

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My heart sings when I see them all.

 

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A recent discovery of a 1760s London flower coloring book and a trip a few weeks ago to England both let me speak in the language of flowers.

 

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At the St. Louis Missouri Botanical Garden’s archive of botanical books an old coloring book printed  257 years ago was discovered earlier this year. It may be the earliest coloring book created. Printed in London and titled “The Florist”, there are engravings of sixty flowers blooming throughout the year along with instructions about what colors to use and what to color with: gall-stone, gamboge, india ink among other colorants.

 

 

 

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A few weeks ago I was embraced by the wonder and language of English gardens. I could feel the calling of the beautiful flowers.

 

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The gardens I visited with my husband and dear English friend Sharon are south of London:  Sissinghurst Castle (home of Vita Sackville-West, garden writer/designer and one time lover of Virginia Woolf), Hever Castle (childhood home of Anne Boleyn), Great Dixter (home of famed garden designer /writer Christopher Lloyd) and Charleston Farmhouse (home of Vanessa Bell, Virginia Woolf’s sister, and other members of the Bloomsbury Group).

 

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Flowers speak with living colors as they eat the sun and dance in their form and shape. They sing to those who listen. Quietly.

 

 

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Here are some of the English flowers from The Florist coloring book of  long ago, along with some of my photos of English flowers from a little over a week ago.

 

 

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I will share more of both the old and new flowers in upcoming blogs.  I have many garden photos to look through and I am creating coloring pages with white backgrounds of the some of the engravings  so they can be colored with modern colors, no need for gamboge.

 

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Enjoy and Create.
Take this advice from the Tate in London.

 

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*Nayyirah Waheed publishes her poems on Instagram. She has several books of poetry. Her words ring so true.

 

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