The list of favourite flowers has remained remarkably constant over the centuries. From late-sixteenth, early seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish flower-pieces we can see what were considered desirable at that time: the rose, iris, carnation and lily, old favourites redolent of the Middle Ages and religious symbolism; the snowdrop, violet and fritillary, 'natural' flowers of the meadow and woodland; and the tulip and hyacinth, fashionable bulbs that could command huge sums. A reader poll conducted a few years ago by the BBC found that the rose is the all-time favourite flower, followed by the lily, the primrose, the iris and the daffodil.
In Pick of the Bunch, Margaret Willes takes twelve of these enduringly popular flowers and looks at their social history, how they got their names, how they arrived in our gardens, how they were bought, acquired and displayed, and who were their devotees. She delves into their symbolic associations in classical and Christian traditions, and the complex language of flowers compiled by the Victorians. She also suggests where they can be seen in all their particular glory today, from the spring-time display of fritillaries in Magdalen College Meadows to the late summer fireworks of the Dahlia Walk at Biddulph Grange.
Margaret Willes read Modern History and Architectural History at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, then was editor in three London publishing houses before becoming the Publisher at the National Trust where she began the Trust's own book imprint. Since her retirement, she has taken up writing full-time. Her first book, Reading Matters: Five Centuries of Discovering Books was published by Yale University Press (2008).
- 168 pages, 194 x 194 mm
- 87 colour illustrations
- ISBN: 9781851243037
- Publication October 2009