Language of Flowers :: February's Violet
Have always been rather enchanted by the Victorian custom of flower communication, or floriography,
happening upon a book, when I was a teenager, by Kate Greenaway
entitled The Language of Flowers.
The book was first published in 1884, and although my copy was a 1980s reprint,
it has been a much loved edition.
(Now, if only I could find it amongst the 50 odd book cartons yet to be unpacked,
I would take a photo of the sweet cover for you to see.)
And while the Victorians were quite besotted with their cleverness
in using flowers to convey their secret language,
(most often used to convey complicated love messages),
it didn't seem terribly secret to me,
as the meanings of flowers were quite well known.
Sort of like sending an invisible message with the lemon juice in the same parcel.
Because using flowers to represent a month is actually a much older custom,
dating back to the Ancient Romans and their love of all things botanical & symbolic.
It is to them we owe the quaint custom of Birth Flowers.
(Now having exhausted all the Birth Stones in what has become an incredibly popular series,
I figured this could be a rather beautiful extension of the notion of celebration.)
February's flower is a Violet, belonging not just to those born in February,
but also to the month itself.
Meaning, we can all celebrate this delightfully dainty little flower and the many shades of mauve,
blue and purple in which it appears.
(This is the fabulous Viola Hederacea, often simply referred to as "Native Violet" in Australia,
which of course is a silly name because "native" means wherever one currently is,
so it isn't a very global sort of a solution for a name.
Regardless, it is one of my favouritist plants in the whole world,
and I think there is nary a garden where I haven't tucked a cutting or two into a little shady spot,
from which it wanders its sweet little unassuming self into the most delicious ground cover.
With heart shaped leaves and luscious perfumed tiny flowers,
it is a humble plant totally perfect for February, the month of love, being Valentine and all that.The Violet comes from the Viola group, which also includes that gorgeous little English violet, Viola Odorata, (of the dark purple tonings and intense scent) + the pansy family.
The tones of Violet are to many people ones of gentleness and calm, especially in its paler forms.
But in the darker tones, heading towards purple, it can be quite a dramatic, almost melancholic, colour.
Technically, Violet is plonked between blue and purple on the colour wheel,
making it a tertiary colour.
As an edible flower, the Violet makes a dainty addition to desserts, especially chocolates.
(Which reminds me, it has been far too long since I have eaten Haigh's Violet Creams,
a situation which I better remedy this weekend I think.)
It's quite easy to make sugared violets,
by simply brushing the fresh flowers with a little beaten eggwhite,
then dusting with caster sugar,
and allowing to dry.
Packed carefully into jars, they keep their flavour for a month or so,
and can be used to decorate ice cream, panna cotta and little vanilla cakes.
Oh, and in the Victorian custom,
if you were to give (or receive) a bunch of tightly packed sweet purple Violets,
just as Eliza Doolittle sold in the flower market in My Fair Lady,
the message would simply be:
"I'll always be true."
Isn't that lovely?