The Victorian Language of Flowers: envy

By ReconditeRodent via Wikimedia Commons
By ReconditeRodent via Wikimedia Commons

The cranesbill geranium seems able to grow anywhere. The cheerful flowers fill gaps between other plants in my garden with great style, beating the weeds every time. They appear in early May and just keep on going until the autumn.

Usually at the end of May, I cut down the early fading flowers to encourage even more later in the year (this is the famed Chelsea chop, at the time of the Chelsea flower show) but everything in my garden is a little late this year so I’ve left it alone. I suspect it will manage perfectly well without my help.

It’s easy to transplant. I just dig up a clump and put it somewhere else. This technique has killed many other plants over the years, but the cranesbill seems able to withstand any amount of harsh treatment.

What a shame that such a wonderful plant means envy in the Victorian language of flowers.


The Victorian Language of Flowers: I have a message for you

Victorian ladies and gentlemen knew that the iris meant “I have a message for you,” in the language of flowers.

Yellow_flag_iris Photo by Tfitzp  via Wikimedia Commons
Yellow_flag_iris Photo by Tfitzp via Wikimedia Commons

The yellow flag iris, or iris pseudocorus, decorates pond margins and poorly-drained clay soils, so it loves our Somerset garden.
The Royal Horticultural Society lists several coloquial names for this common but delightful plant including:

Jacob’s sword
Water flag
Water skegs
Yellow flag
Yellow fleur-de-lis.

It grows to 3-4 feet in height and flowers in the spring. You are, however, advised not to eat it. As the Society charmingly puts it, “Ingestion may cause severe discomfort,” and the underground rhizomes are deadly. You have been warned.

This is one of a series of posts about the Victorian language of flowers and other assorted items of interest from the fascinating Victorian era visited in my 19th century novel An Independent Woman.


The Victorian Language of Flowers: apples and apple blossom

Victorians used the language of flowers to pass messages without words.

Photo R J Higginson via Wikimedia
Photo R J Higginson via Wikimedia

Myth and legend surround the simple apple, the malus domestica, the earliest cultivated tree in Europe.

Early in history, the power of healing and magical rebirth was attributed to the apple, but more sinister myths abound. After all, Eve tempted Adam with an apple.  The wicked queen used a poisoned apple to send Snow White to sleep until wakened by a kiss.

For Victorians, then, the apple represented temptation, although apple blossom was considered altogether more positive and used to mean ‘preference.’
via wikimedia

via wikimedia

Mrs Beeton, in her 1861 Book of Household Management, describes no fewer than 43 different recipes using apples, although she has little time for the fruit as nutrition, because “more than half of it consists of water.”



Storytelling for Toddlers: Help Your Child Talk With His Own Stories

Twitter buddies have been tweeting about bedtime stories. Most toddlers seem to like the made up ones best. 

Sometimes,  mums and dads worry about whether they can make up ‘good enough’ stories. So to prove how easy it is, here’s one I prepared earlier.

Kids love repetition and it helps them learn language skills. This story is as simple as can be. Start it off, and your toddler will soon join in.

Go ahead and add your own variations, using your own child’s name. 

You’ll soon find your own stories are better!

Aunt Jemima’s Cakes

Nick woke up one morning feeling excited. His Aunt Jemima was coming to tea. 

“She likes cakes” he thought. “We’ll have cakes for tea.” Nick liked cakes, too! “I’ll go to the shops straight away.” 

And he ran off, forgetting to make a list of the things he would need. 

He ran as fast as he could, and bought some flour. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

“Oh dear,” he said. “I bought the flour but I forgot the chocolate.”

He ran back to the shop and bought some chocolate. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl. 

“Oh dear, ” he said. “I bought the flour and the chocolate but I forgot the butter.”

He ran back to the shop and bought some butter. He ran home again and put it in his mixing bowl.

“Oh dear,” he said. “I bought the flour and the chocolate and the butter but I forgot the eggs.”

He ran back to the shop and bought the eggs… and so on. You get the picture!

Keep going, adding new items for the cakes and repeating them all in a list each time.

Finally, go for a big finish.

At last Nick was very hot and tired, but he had all the things he needed for Aunt Jemima’s cakes. He had the flour, the chocolate, the eggs, the milk, the sugar ….etc.

He made the cakes, then looked at the calendar.

“Oh bother” he said. “Aunt Jemima isn’t coming today at all – she’s coming next week.”

“Never mind, I’ll just have to eat all the cakes myself.”

And so he did. 


What stories do your toddlers like? I’d love to know. Use the contact me button to get in touch or just leave a comment on the blog.

How to Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: Your Baby’s Understanding

Here’s extract number 12 from How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter: your chance to learn more about the way your child learns to talk.

The third key that unlocks the mysteries of language for your child, is understanding. In previous extracts, we’ve looked at how he learns to notice and pay careful attention to the world around him, and how he learns to listen to noises.

This extract explains how your baby starts to understand the significance of words, and looks at the importance of gesture.

If you’re a new reader, CLICK HERE to read How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter from the very beginning.This link takes you to the first post, so you can read the extracts in sequence. At the end of each week’s post you’ll see a link to take you on to the next extract. I try to post every Friday, by noon GMT.

is a two-way process. You talk, while I listen and decode your words in order to understand what you mean. Then I reply, while you listen, decode and understand, according to research undertaken in 1948 by Shannon and Weaver. If this process is going to work when you talk to your child, he needs to understand the words you use, and the grammatical structures you use to assemble them together into meaningful sentences.

Without that understanding, your communication is less effective and the message is lost or scrambled. Your child needs to understand the meaning of the words, phrases and sentences of language, so he can follow verbal instructions, ask for things, or pass on information.

Understanding: infants
At birth, your baby does not understand any words, although he can hear your voice and enjoy its sound, finding it soothing. At this time, his concern is to make sure you respond to his demands for food, warmth and comfort, to keep him alive. All his brainpower focuses on fulfilling his immediate needs.

As he grows, and his billion brain cells start to build connective pathways to each other, he begins to recognize that your voice sounds different at certain times and in certain circumstances. Sometimes you speak quietly, but sometimes you sound agitated or urgent.

He starts to notice the differences and he turns to look at the person speaking, interested in the noise their speech makes. He gets excited when he hears your voice approaching, associating it with the good things about a parent: food, comfort, warmth and safety.

Understanding: six months
At around 6 months, he turns to the sound of doorbells or dogs barking, hearing the difference between those noises and speech. Now he realizes that your speech is more than simple noise. He hears some sound combinations repeated. He hears you say “no” or “bye-bye” many times, and the link between meaning and sound grows in his brain.

He starts to recognize his own name, probably the word he hears most often. He also begins to understand the language of gesture, including waving.

Understanding: gesture
He needs to hear words and see gestures in context, to work out what they mean. This is a good time to start introducing simple signing. Signing allows him to associate gestures with words and their meaning.

Gestures are easier for him to understand and copy than words. They’re bigger, which makes them easier to see and the movements are less complicated. A wave is one simple movement, easy to decode and understand, while the word “bye-bye” is a string of small sounds put together in a special pattern.

Signs are easier for him to make, as they need fewer fine motor skills: and his motor skills are still developing alongside his language.

Come back next week for another extract. A link will appear HERE.

If you’re finding these extracts useful, and can’t wait to read the rest of the ebook, you can BUY NOW. Download How To Help Your Child Talk and Grow Smarter to your Kindle in seconds for only £3.53 ($5.73).