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Chris Melnick: Reads & Watches

May 28, 2023

[Editor's note: Chris Melnick is the Executive Director of Share the Magic Book Program, which is a federally registered charity that distributes books, from books for babies to adults, fiction and non-fiction to underserved communities in Manitoba.  To date, Share the Magic has given away over 630,000 books at an estimated value of over $4.2 million. You can follow Share the Magic on Facebook by searching "Share the Magic Book Program"]



Say it with flowers


        This month’s column will be short and sweet-smelling. 


        For a longtime flowers have been used to convey secret messages from one person to another, creating a language all their own.  Today’s most prominent flower message being red roses symbolizing romantic love from the sender to the receiver.  The Victorians took the floral language to a height not seen since and that is what Floriography: An Illustrated guide to the Victorian language of flowers by Jessica Roux is all about.  Roux presents the meaning of several flowers as single blooms and also as bouquets.  From positive expressions of friendship and hope to more ominous meanings of betrayal and danger.  It was during the Victorian era that several women’s names became very popular and their meanings convey why, for example Dahlia means eternal love, Laurel meaning glory/victory, harping back to the Greek laurel head wreath celebrating a win at the original Olympic games perhaps.  The only male name found in the book was Basil meaning hate – a tough one for sure to name a child.  One wonders why in fact it was popular at all.  Some floral names remain popular today, such as Heather meaning luck/protection, Rosemary meaning remembrance/wisdom and Holly meaning foresight. 


        My only criticism of the book is the dull and often miscoloured paintings of the blooms themselves.  For example, foxglove, which I grew in my backyard in St. John’s Newfoundland, is a vibrant pink with clean white edges.  In Floriography, foxglove is painted a dull orange, robbing the bloom of its natural beauty.  The backgrounds to the paintings are also dark, often black in colour. 


        Many years ago, I purchased a little cutie of a book, 3 inches by 2 inches by about a half inch thick entitled The Language of Flowers (Language) edited by Gregory C. Aaron.  The book contains more flowers than Floriography and the illustrations are happy and correctly colourful.  While many of the meanings of flowers often remained constant between the two books, some held astonishing differences.  Where Floriography says asters mean daintiness, Language shows them meaning variety.  Not a bad comparison.  Bluebell in Floriography means humility/faithfulness, in Language it means constancy, again not too bad a comparison.  Buttercup on the other hand showed serious differences in meaning.  Floriography portrays its meaning as you are radiant but Language claims the meaning is ingratitude.  Chrysanthemum presents another stark contrast meaning condolences in Floriograhy and love in Language.  I am sure you’ll be happy to know that our dear little crocus meant cheerfulness/youthful glee in both books.


        By the way, if you have a special person graduating this spring, you may want to give them a sprig of cherry blossoms, signifying good education!


        Dark pink roses say thanks – so I am sending everyone dark pink roses to thank you for reading this column.


        Floriography: An Illustrated guide to the Victorian language of flowers is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following format:


Book:  302.222 ROUX 2020


        I felt The Brontes of Haworth: The Dramatic lives of the literary legends would be a perfect match to Florigraphy as all three sisters and one brother lived during the time of popular flower messaging.  This is a drama in 5 episodes that takes it time.  No modern day car chases and loud shrieking to be seen or heard.  It is Masterpiece Theatre quality and hits the right tone of respect for this incredible family and the contributions they made to English literature in the few years they had to write.  All three daughters died all too soon, as did their mother and only brother.  One can only imagine the grief their poor father was forced to bare.  I highly recommend this series for a slow summer watch.


        The Brontes of Haworth is available at the Winnipeg Public Library in the following format:




And now for this month’s Yiddish proverb


Oif shainem iz gut tsu kuken;

mit a klugen iz gut tsu leben.


It’s good to behold beauty and to live with wisdom

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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