DISCOVERING THE MEANING OF FLOWERS - A new book by master floral designer Shane Connolly
Shane Connolly achieved global prominence when he designed the flowers for the 2011 wedding of TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Living in both Herefordshire and London, he has built up an enviable reputation as a floral designer with a small, dedicated and talented team of florists, artists and craftsmen working a large light-filled studio in North Kensington. As his country home is nearby, Shane is a frequent visitor to Holloways and has previously held one of his renowned master classes here.
In his new book, published this month, he introduces the lost art of Floriography to a modern audience. Using love as his starting point, he explains the historical meanings of over fifty plants and flowers. He shows that, while we know sending a red rose means I Love You, we are less aware that returning a single rose leaf means There’s Hope. As for handing back the withered original, that’s a definite Slap in the Face. So, in spite of the advantages of social media and emojis to convey our feelings, Shane shows us that traditional methods can be a more subtle and original way to communicate.
With gorgeous arrangements and a variety of practical projects, like wild strawberry buttonholes, lily of the valley wreaths and romantic table settings, he shows us how to articulate our feelings and to say what we find difficult, gracefully and with style.
The language of flowers was invented to help lovers communicate in code, without words. “Spring is apparently the season when a young man’s thoughts turn to fancies of love… What I find most intriguing are the stories behind those meanings.” Shane explains to introduce the first part of his book, Love Found.
“The red rose is not the only rose in the language of love. Here’s a summer seduction with just a handful of garden roses, a few beech stems and three tropical gardenia flowers. The combined scent is almost as ravishing as their hidden message: beech for a Lover’s Tryst; hairy little moss roses for Voluptuousness; a moss rose bud for Whispered Love; single roses say I Will Always Love You and then the gardenias with their naughty promise of a Transport to Ecstasy. Who needs red roses?”
However, as is often quoted, the course of true love never did run smooth, so in the next chapter of his book Shane considers flowers that symbolise the more tortured aspects of love. “You’ll find that every destructive thought is catered for and every pang of heartache has its floral namesake, “ he says.
Be careful not to give someone yellow roses instead of red. Their meanings in the Language of Flowers range from Infidelity, to Jealousy to the Decline of Love.
This extraordinary bowl arrangement contains a complex message of sympathy, but also ‘take care’. The begonia plant says Beware, the flytrap represents Deceit and Duplicity and the brambles symbolize Trouble and Difficulty. “I like using plants decoratively like this and the sprays of fruiting brambles in little tubes of water add an interesting, and appropriately barbed, twist,” Shane comments.
All is never lost and love may be restored again. In the last chapter Shane looks at flowers with specific links to a loving, contented life. Flowers to select when you’ve found love, gone through its initial trials and tribulations, and have finally decided to settle down to secure, domestic bliss.
As Shane says “Currants convey a lovely message in the language of flowers: You Please Everyone. Probably because they traditionally had great medicinal value and were especially used to treat infections. Combined here with dahlias, for Taste and Elegance, they certainly do please the eye. I love using fruit decoratively and though dahlias and currants might have first met on a vegetable patch, I’ve put them in these posh glass vessels and enjoy this juxtaposition enormously for a romantic dinner table.”
The book is a fabulous, stunning coffee table book, but much more than that – it will inspire you to combine flowers in new ways, it will start conversations. You will never be caught out with a confusing message in a vase again!
All has been beautifully photographed by Jan Baldwin, stylishly designed by Charlotte Heal and published by Catharine Snow at Clearview Books.
DISCOVERING THE MEANING OF FLOWERS Love Found, Love Lost, Love Restored by Shane Connolly. Published in hardback on 1st February 2017 by Clearview Books, priced £20