THE LORE AND LEGENDS OF FLOWERS by Robert L. Crowell

THE LORE AND LEGENDS OF FLOWERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Like other Dowden-illustrated flower books, this features her full-page and occasional double-page watercolors with a text that flows gently from legend to nomenclature to history, culinary uses, and botanical snippets. Covering only ten major flowers, Crowell leaves himself room for relatively leisurely discourse. Readers learn that the tulip was brought to Vienna from Turkey in the 1500s and that the Dutch stole their first bulbs from a botanist teaching in the Netherlands. By 1634, ""Tulipomania had Holland in its grip."" As for jonquils, like the daffodil a narcissus strain, ""Each spring the children of Lozere, a tiny mountain hamlet [on the remote French island of Reunion], go out to gather the yellow-and-white flowers, which are used in the manufacture of fine perfumes."" The saffron crocus is prized for its orange-yellow stigmas; when dried, the stigmas from about 4400 flowers make an ounce of saffron --a spice that functioned in the Middle Ages as ""a kind of culinary fig leaf"" to disguise ""turned"" food. It was also used in England as a hair dye and a supposed antiseptic until Henry VIII outlawed its use outside the kitchen. The pollination machinery of the common bearded iris ""leaves one full of wonder for its design,"" and dandelions have ""a marvelous seed-distribution system,"" duly described here. Though our word for dandelion might come from the French dent de lion, the current French name for that flower is pissenlit--wet-the-bed. The word for the color pink comes from a name for the carnation, not vice-versa; and the Catholic rosary is so named because it originated by threading rose hips on a string like beads. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C, as are nasturtium leaves (for which an enticing 17th-century ""sailer"" recipe is here reproduced), and dandelion leaves are loaded with vitamin A. We haven't mentioned the folk beliefs, the hybridizers' triumphs, the traveling Daffodil King, or the significance of flowers to real kings in the course of battles and conquest--all of which seems to fit together as naturally as the flowers in a respectfully tended garden. Graceful and precise in word and pictures, with the perennial delight of those qualities in combination.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1982
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell