Last week, you may have seen on my Instagram Story that I had the pleasure of attending the book launch for Shane Connolly’s new book, ‘Discovering the Meaning of Flowers’. Well, today I’m delighted to feature an exclusive interview with Shane, where he shares his inspiration behind the book.
Could you tell us what inspired you to write about The Language of Flowers, floriography?
I wrote it for two reasons: Firstly because I do genuinely find florigraphy, or The Language of Flowers, utterly fascinating. The individual meanings were never allocated randomly, but came from the role each plant played in ancient mythology, religious symbolism or medicine. So it helps us realise the huge importance of plants and flowers in the lives of our ancestors.
This leads to the second reason: I feel we all urgently need to reconnect with nature and to be acutely aware of our environmental responsibility. We all need to do our bit. And this ancient way of looking at flowers certainly makes me appreciate them more and then use them more thoughtfully.
So my hope is that this book will inspire people who love flowers and plants to be more aware of their individual qualities and source and use them with thoughtfulness, in every sense of that word. The book is certainly designed to be all about the flowers themselves and not just about designing with them. They are the stars, not me!
Why is the main focus love?
I thought it should be about love as that seemed like the universal theme to attract a new audience to florigraphy. And it was certainly very much used in courtship in its heyday. I also think it would enhance any romantic occasion to have flowers so thoughtfully chosen.
How did floriography come into existence?
Floral symbolism was always around…from Ancient Egypt via ancient Rome and Greece, as well as in the East. But using flowers as a way to communicate really started in the harems of Turkey in the seventeenth and eighteenth century.
An English aristocrat came across it there around 1718 and took the idea back with her as a souvenir of sorts. And it quickly became popular. In fact, it became the obsession of the Victorian age as it complemented their interest in botany and gave people a way to communicate about matters of the heart, at a time when such things were completely suppressed.
Does the language have relevance for gardening as well as floristry?
I feel it does. Especially when things are being planted to commemorate events like a marriage or even a death. Again, it helps us choose plants more thoughtfully and meaningfully.
In what way has floriography influenced your floral designs?
As a floral designer, my client has to be interested in the Language of Flowers for the meaningful approach to work well. The most amazing example of that for me was when I designed the flowers for the marriage of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011. The Duchess was keen on the Language of Flowers from the start, and so we made every leaf and flower relevant and meaningful. And that in turn meant they were totally seasonal and locally sourced.
This isn’t possible for every event of course, but it was life-changing for me and has made me much more appreciative of flowers and their seasons. And made me even more passionate about using British grown things where I can.
Would you like to share with us your favourite flower meaning from your book?
That’s easy……Lily of the Valley never flower before the last frost, so they have been used as a natural barometer through the centuries. They became the symbol of “The Return of Happiness” as they did naturally signify that the darkness of winter was over. I love them anyway, but this beautiful, hopeful meaning makes me love them even more!
What are your thoughts on floriography making a comeback?
Floriography won’t appeal to everyone….in a way it is like some higher level of flower appreciation! But it will appeal to anyone who is passionate about flowers for the right reason…that they are beautiful and natural, rather than a way to show off one’s wealth or design!
What I really hope is that the book will help thoughtfulness make a comeback. I want the flower world to catch up with the food world and think where their produce comes from. Can you imagine any good restaurant menu in the UK boasting about fish flown in from Japan? Yet we do that with flowers.
So anything that makes people more conscious and aware of the flowers themselves, rather than the way they are designed, is a good thing. And I think The Language of Flowers could be one way to make that happen.
Published by Clearview Books, ‘Discovering the Meaning of Flowers’ is available online from Amazon. For more information about Shane’s beautiful floral creations, please visit the Shane Connolly & Co website.
P.S. By the way, if you’d like to meet Shane, he is holding floral demonstrations at Highgrove on the February 22nd and March 14th. Please click here for details.
(Images : Jan Baldwin)