Friday, July 11, 2014

Wallflower the Plant

As we all know, the meaning of words often change over time.
This process--called 'semantic shift' by linguists--
is responsible for the change in meaning of the word "wallflower."
For centuries, the name referred to a fragrant flower
that, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, 
grew wild on walls, stones, and quarries.

Photo credit: Rosier via

The old-fashioned wallflower, cheiranthus cheiri, 
was said to smell like violets
and bloomed in colors that included deep yellow, orange, and brown.

Photo Credit: Lazaregagnidze via

The 1936 publication Old-Fashioned Garden Flowers,
had this to say about the color of wallflower:
Its petals are either a rich sunset yellow veined with brown,
or a soft glowing Rembrandt brown, darker veined.
A happy brown is a rare shade in gardens 
and was rightly prized by our grandmothers.

A beautiful old-fashioned flower colored "happy brown"--
that's an unexpected pleasure.

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