Blooming Flowers A Seasonal History of Plants and People Kasia Boddy

Publication date:
28 Apr 2020
Yale University Press
256 pages: 235 x 156mm
84 color illus.
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An evocative and richly illustrated exploration of flowers and how, over the centuries, they have given us so much sustenance, meaning, and pleasure

The bright yellow of a marigold and the cheerful red of a geranium, the evocative fragrance of a lotus or a saffron-infused paella—there is no end of reasons to love flowers. Ranging through the centuries and across the globe, Kasia Boddy looks at the wealth of floral associations that has been passed down in perfumes, poems, and paintings; in the design of buildings, clothes, and jewelry; in songs, TV shows, and children’s names; and in nearly every religious, social, and political ritual.

Exploring the first daffodils of spring and the last chrysanthemums of autumn, this is also a book about seasons. In vibrant detail and drawing on a rich array of illustrations, Boddy considers how the sunflower, poppy, rose, lily—and many others—have given rise to meaning, value, and inspiration throughout history, and why they are integral to so many different cultures.

Kasia Boddy teaches American literature at the University of Cambridge. Her books include Boxing: A Cultural History, The American Short Story Since 1950, and Geranium. She lives in Cambridge, UK.

“It’s not about gardening, nor is it about the structure or origins of plants, but a sort of engaging miscellany…There is much to be learnt on almost every page.”—Richard Eyre, The Sunday Times

[T]his lively and well-researched book is a garland of delights…Even among familiar flowers Boddy finds unexpected stories and connections.”—Peter Parker, Spectator

“This illustrated guide unearths the history and influence of iconic flowers from across the globe, from Spring daffodils to autumn chrysanthemums.”—Sophie Hannam and Caroline Wheater, Homes & Antiques

“A book to dip into little and often, which serves up a year’s worth of intellectual stimulation [and] sensual pleasure…the breadth of references is quite simply breathtaking”—Jodie Jones, Garden Illustrated

“This joyful, elegant study of how poets, philosophers and politicians have seen meaning in various types of flowers – from the Cold War symbol of “Daisy Girl” to D H Lawrence’s verdict on the daffodil (“ruffled birds on their perches”) – is a tour-de-force.”—Iona McLaren, The Daily Telegraph

“There is something of interest for everyone, and it is charmingly illustrated too…[I]t gives joy to be ‘locked down’ with this book.”—Margaret Barrie, Flora Magazine

“From the meaning of carnations in Sex and the City to the use of sunflowers in the cleanup of Chernobyl, from Henry VIII’s ban on saffron dye in Ireland to the modernist reinventions of roses, this is no ordinary flower book, and Kasia Boddy is no ordinary writer.”—Ali Smith, author of Spring

“Unlike any book I have read on flowers. We get a superb range of cultural information and imagery from ancient times right through to the very modern, and from all parts of the world. Fascinating.”—Margaret Willes, author of The Gardens of the British Working Class

“There is no doubt that anyone perusing the pages will view afresh the blooming flowers in their garden … A compelling, contextualising tapestry written with both vivacity and analytical rigour.”—Chris Beardshaw, Garden Designer and Broadcaster

"Blooming Flowers is a gorgeously lush evocation of twelve different flowers, each one steeped in its own stories, cultural associations and botanical wonder. It is not just a sunny celebration of everything floral – we learn how intimately flowers are entwined with global warming, transatlantic slavery, US imperialism and nuclear radioactivity – but this is a beautifully written book, full of exquisite detail, startling facts and laced with just the right amount of poetry."—Peter Fiennes, author of Oak and Ash and Thorn