The Language of Flowers

Odessa Begay

(HarperDesign, £25)

THE use of flowers and floral arrangements to send coded messages is a practice dating back thousands of years and across civilisations, found within literature, the decorative arts, religion and economics.

Floriography, or the language of flowers, became hugely popular in the Victorian era as a covert way to convey emotions. This fascinating subject matter is explored by artist and author Odessa Begay in her beautifully illustrated and newly published compendium.

If you're a fan of adult colouring books, you may be familiar with Begay's past titles such as Little Birds, Edgar Allan Poe and Jingle Bells Christmas Carol. Or perhaps you have her work hanging in your home: the Kansas City-based illustrator also designs eye-catching wallpaper.

Covering 50 of the world's most popular flowers, each entry is accompanied with a mixture of botanical lore, literary excerpts and anecdotal gems.

We learn that a rose-coloured acacia represents friendship, while the white variety is a nod to elegance and in yellow means a concealed or secret love.

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A lotus denotes silence, lavender equates to distrust and hydrangea suggests boastfulness. Magnolia is synonymous with perseverance, honeysuckle that of devoted love and oleander warns beware.

Scotland's national flower, the thistle, has its own section where Begay talks about how it came to earn a potent symbolism: intrusion.

This is one that pre-dates Victorian times considerably, attributed by the author to a popular Scottish legend from the 15th century where the Danes, attempting to attack these shores under the cloak of darkness, moved barefoot to muffle their advance.

A cluster of thistles caused the unshod soldiers to cry out in surprise and pain, alerting the sleeping Scottish forces. The thistle was adopted as the national insignia, representing protection and bravery. In 1470, King James III of Scotland decreed it should be engraved on coins.

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According to Begay: "Like sunflowers and artichokes, thistles are entirely edible, however, depending on the state of growth, they may not be very palatable."

Nature on TV

Scottish Vets Down Under, BBC Scotland, Monday, 8pm

The looming threat of bushfires and a newborn foal diagnosed with colic are among the challenges faced by Scottish vets Chris Allison and Mike Whiteford as they work in rural Australia.