I came across this small, almost-square book a couple of years ago courtesy of a table top sale at the local church hall, it was sandwiched amongst pamphlets of train timetables, old ordnance survey maps and yellowing copies of Motorcycle News - when your Dad is a bike and car lover it's easy to recognise the bumpf that goes with them - so it took a little wrestling to pull it free. The spine was so ordinary, I was expecting something similar to a Ladybird book and couldn't have been more surprised when I opened it to find beautiful copies of handwritten pages laid out like a reference book - all explaining the meanings of certain flowers and plants, so sweetly illustrated and painstakingly done. Facsimiles of old books, in lieu of getting my hands on the old editions themselves, are some of my favourite things - I love to see how early copies looked.
I'd swiftly decided I was more than happy to pay the asking price of 20p, no haggling necessary (sorry, Grandad!), but the lady who had, up until then, been watching me excavate the book box had now disappeared and a man wearing a fur coat (in May?!) wanted to know whether the £10 label on the old, open-faced bike helmet was set in stone. I told him I couldn't do better than £10 because it was pristine and I was happy to take it home again if it didn't sell at that; years of car booting were paying off. He grumbled, made half hearted attempts at a grumpy monologue then picked up the helmet and handed over a crisp £10 note. By this time I'd moved myself behind the table to do a more professional job until 'the lady' came back and when she did, bearing tea, she was ecstatic that I'd flogged the helmet in her absence. She was moving to the south of France it turned out, so was getting rid of as much clutter as she could and planned to spend the money growing lavender once she got there. Good plan, I thought. 20p paid and the book was mine, I was off to buy a Dr Pepper and claim a bench in the park to sit and read.
I loved the foreword:
'There is a language, 'little known',
Lovers claim it as their own.
It's symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by natures wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of The Flowers.'
Taking it out to flick through on a blue day always makes me smile, so much care must have gone into producing the original. I wonder whether F.W.H devised the meanings himself, or whether he researched each one and brought them all together. Whoever F.W.H was, he was clearly devoted to his wife - I can't help but feel touched by a love like that!