cover image On Flowers

On Flowers

Kathryn Kleinman, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $40 (159pp) ISBN 978-0-87701-557-4

A little book in a large format, this collects bits of folklore, information, and inspiration about flowers, as well as many full-color photographs of flower arrangements. It is organized loosely by theme, including general information, literary lore, types of flowers and their ornamental uses, flower receptacles and recipes. What human hands have wrought on flowers interests the collaborators more than flowers do. As a result, their production is lyrical but mannered, and steeped in Victoriana: in one photograph, an angelic child rapturously clasps a bouquet; in another, a nosegay rests on a prim mound of lacy pillows. Some pictures are immaculately staged, others are mawkish. The text includes a smattering of quotations (Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson); facts (the plan for Marie Antoinette's hoped-for escape from prison was communicated to her in a message sent concealed in a carnation); old wives' tales (to deepen the color of blue hydrangeas, bury nails near them); and flower recipes, such as one for nasturtium pizza. Less a practical guide than an esthetic one, the book will appeal to some tastes and annoy others. (Oct.)