A florist’s daughter, she reminds us that, although we buy big, showy bouquets, it’s the humblest flowers that move us most.
Her chapter on daisies is a delight. Did you know they take their name from ‘day’s eye’ — the sun? And, although gardeners battle to keep them from their smooth, green grass, Stafford says they’ve been around longer than lawns. For Geoffrey Chaucer, the daisy was filled with ‘vertu and of alle honour’, always ‘fayr and fresh of hewe’.
Despite its pictorial restraint the book glows with colour and it is all in the language, whether Stafford’s own or that of the many poets and writers she quotes. They range from the farm-labourer poet John Clare observing primroses like “patches of flame” in a dark wood, to the modern American poet Mary Oliver glorying in the “dampness and recklessness” of peonies. The Brief Life of Flowers has come out at stocking-filler time, but it is something far rarer: a book to reread and treasure.