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An Ode to May Flowers

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 19, 2021

Springtime here in Seattle is fragrant, frothy, and floral. As blooms burst forth all around us and petals rain like confetti from the cherry trees, it is hard not to feel a sense of hope and celebration. Many of us are thinking about how to encourage maximum bloomage in our gardens or how to best utilize the plethora of floral goodness that surrounds us. Here we feature a variety of books celebrating May flowers.

Growing and Decorating

Florist farmer and leader in the farm-to-centerpiece movement Erin Benzakein's Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden serves a beautiful all-around guide to growing, harvesting, and arranging gorgeous blooms year-round. Her farm in Washington State's lush Skagit Valley.

For a flower-specific focus, British author Jane Eastoe has created Vintage Roses, celebrating all varieties of roses with helpful tips for growing your own. She also wrote this one about Peonies.

If you're more interested in learning how to arrange your blooms, Color Me Floral by Kiana Underwood will teach you how to create dazzling, contemporary, monochromatic bouquets all year long.

Jill Rizzo and Alethea Harampolis are the women behind one of the hottest floral design studios in the country. Their The Flower Recipe Book is a flower-arranging bible filled with an array of stunning, easy-to-find flowers. Arrangements run the gamut of styles and techniques: from wild to structured and from expert to beginner-level simple.

A leader in the sustainable floral design movement, Brooklyn-based Ingrid Carozzi offers Handpicked with detailed instructions for making more than 35 arrangements that are modern, original, and organic. And Foraged Flora by Sarah Lonsdale and Louesa Roebuck is a gorgeously photographed take on flower arranging using local and foraged plants and flowers to create beautiful arrangements, with year-round ideas and inspiration.

Floral Crafts and Miscellany

Of course, decorating with flowers doesn't just mean making bouquets. Featuring a stunning collection of flower- and plant-based designs from renowned floral artist Susan McLeary, The Art of Wearable Flowers provides how-tos for 40 floral accessories from earrings and necklaces to corsages and headpieces.

Ray Marshall's Paper Blossoms and Paper Blossoms for All Seasons help you bring floral cheer to any room in any season. Create and display garlands, bouquets, and more as artistic centerpieces or room accents. Or create your own floral artworks with Everyday Watercolor Flowers. Artist Jenna Rainey shares easy-to-follow methods for painting a wide range of botanicals, all in her fresh, modern style.

For a truly immersive garden party, serve beautiful, fresh drinks from Floral Libations by Cassie Winslow. The book includes practical tips on where to buy edible flowers, whether to choose fresh or dried flowers, how to grow edible flowers at home, and how to use florals in other recipes.

If you'd just like to learn more about the subject, The Complete Language of Flowers by S. Theresa Dietz offers a comprehensive dictionary for over 1,001 flower species. Along with a visual depiction, each entry provides the flower's name, characteristics, and historic meanings from mythology, Medieval legends, folklore, and flower poetry.

Floral Fiction

Of course, reading about a subject is an easy way to experience it without all the work (or allergies) of the real thing. If you'd rather just experience your perennials in prose, we have some seasonal suggestions for you here:

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
This mesmerizing novel, from NYT's 10 Best Books of 2020, draws from scant facts known about Shakespeare's life, to paint a richly imagined landscape. His spirited, ethereal wife Agnes is a gifted healer, using medicinal flowers and herbs to heal the sick, yet she is unable to save her own son when he takes ill.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fifteen-year-old Kambili is growing up in a religious and restrictive home surrounded by lush frangipani trees. When she and her brother are sent away to live with a boisterous aunt, she discovers a bright new world.

Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
This historical novel imagines the fascinating story of a young concubine who becomes China's Empress Dowager Cixi. The beautiful Tzu Hsi, known as Orchid, is a country girl who seizes power through seduction, murder, and endless intrigue.

The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Eva returns to her hometown to scatter the ashes of her sister. Along with confronting ghosts from her own past, Eva finds herself stumbling hundreds of years into the past. This romance is perfect for fans of Outlander.

A Memory of Violets: A Novel of London's Flower Sellers by Hazel Gaynor
In 1912, twenty-year-old Tilly Harper leaves her rural childhood behind for work at a home for orphaned and crippled children who survive by selling posies of violets and watercress on the dirty streets of London.

Baby Blossoms

And finally, here are a few of our favorite flower-power volumes for younger readers.

The Big Book of Blooms by Yuval Zommer
With charming illustrations of some of the most colorful, flamboyant, and unusual flowers from across the globe, readers learn all about botany, including how to recognize different types of flowers, and the various floral habitats.

Flora: A Botanical Pop-Up Book by Yoojin Kim
Discover how blooms are more than just beautiful; they are critical components of the natural world. Bees buzz, hummingbirds sip, and bats flit amongst the brilliant petals. Each page reveals captivating facts about flowers.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
This educational and enjoyable book helps children understand how to plant bulbs, seeds, and seedlings, and nurture their growth. Ehlert's distinctive collage illustrations presents flowers from all the colors of the rainbow.

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting
With rhyming prose and lush illustrations, this story follows a city-dwelling girl as she and her father buy plants, soil, and a window box at the supermarket. Then they ride the bus to their apartment, and plant a colorful gift for mom.

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Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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