Blossom as Blossom

With frosty temperatures down to minus four, forecast tonight, I’ll be protecting my container olive tree and dwarf cherries with horticultural fleece. In the picture here, from Les Fleures Animée, 1847, Grandville personifies the peach tree as a shivering young woman espaliered against a wall. She’s dressed for a ball, not for the weather. In the moralistic Victorian Language of Flowers, blossom on leafless (for leafless read unclothed) branches, was code for precociousness. Early spring blossoms were likened to the temptress seductively baring her flesh. Writing of Daphne mezereum, the flirt in the Language of Flowers, one writer of Victorian flower books commented: “as it begins to flower amid the snows of January, it seems the fitting representative of an imprudent coquette who, in the dead of winter, decks herself in Spring attire.” Spring blossoms are more often associated with rebirth, fertility and resilience, returning after the trials of winter. But viewed through the lens of Victorian morals, some early flowering trees and shrubs were frowned upon. They also associated the almond tree with precocity (rather than strength in adversity) because when almond trees flower too early, frost can wipe out the entire crop. The same with peach, hence Grandville’s caricature. Thankfully we’ve moved on from moralistic botany…. A blossom is a blossom is a blossom! Hooray!

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