In the introduction to a new book, Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom, British gardener Anna Pavord says it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when flowers didn’t seduce us.
“Long before the first book was ever printed, monks painted delicate little columbines, fat double daisies and heartsease in the borders of their manuscripts. Before flowers even had official names, people cultivated them in gardens, first because they were useful – most medicines were based on extracts of plants – but also because they were beautiful.”
Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom details flowers as they have been rendered on everything from ancient Egyptian walls to 1960s children’s books and Aboriginal dot paintings. It documents the use of flowers in fashion, photography and furniture. Flowers as they have found their way into 20th-century marketing logos and 17th-century herbals get a look in.
But from a plant perspective, some of the most interesting images of the book reveal the shifting – and sometimes recurring – fashions in floristry, which is a relatively new arrival in the world of flowers. Before there were florists – and flower farmers – there were simply home gardens.