Violet was shy. She spent her days tending her garden, her nights reading garden books and watching TV. One day the new man on the block passed her on the street and, because he had no hat to tip, instead handed Violet a sprig of lilac which he had absently picked from a shrub while strolling.
From all her reading, and the floral industry's insistence that people "Say it With Flowers" Violet was thrilled to the bottom of her shy little soul. Lilacs, as she knew, express the first emotions of love.
Too timid to reply, she instead went home and planted a thornless rose - a symbol of early attachment - and underplanted it with ferns to show her fascination. A planting of moss rosebuds and myrtle declared to the world (and supposedly to the young man) a confession of love. And so that no one would mistake the intended recipient of the message, Violet planted clusters of Sweet William around the doorstep, for the young man's name was William.
The meddling and jealous spinster next door deciphered the message, and began to plot. First she moseyed on over to William's house in her tightest jeans and sexiest sweater and advised him to add a little curb appeal to his house. White candytuft, she told him, would show off beautifully against the red brick of his home.
Violet saw this, and was crushed, for she knew all too well that candytuft signified indifference. Sadly she cut back the roses, and in their place planted deep red carnations, which meant "Alas for my poor heart!"
Meanwhile Jezebel, the jealous spinster was sending another message, mainly for Violet's benefit. The meddling woman planted a Spanish jasmine to imply sensuality, and a drift of yellow iris to signify passion. For color contrast, and as a direct message to Violet she planted purple columbine - determination to win.
While Violet shrank, William was fascinated by the loveliness of the gardens the two women had created, and took a trip to the nursery. Worrying strictly about color and form, he came home with pots of ferns and lily of the valley. Little did he know that this particular combination meant, to Violet, "Your unconscious sweetness has fascinated me."
Overjoyed, she rushed out to plant a dog rose to express the combination of pleasure and pain that their floral conversation had so far afforded her, and a white rose, which was supposed to say to William "I am worthy of you."
Poor William only saw how well the white rose would look in his own all white garden, and added one of his own. While this thrilled Violet, it sent Jezebel rushing out to plant again. Soon her yard bristled with yellow roses, to show her jealousy, and a small stand of hellebores which begged William to "relieve my anxiety."
Oblivious, William went out and added a small new bed of flowers to the side of the house: columbine, daylilies, witch hazel and colored daisies. Little did he know that what he was telling his passionate neighbor was "your folly and coquetry have broken the spell of your beauty."
Violet, afraid that the message was meant for her, planted daisies, to proclaim her innocence. When William, who had been spending an amazing amount of time at the nursery, next planted a filbert tree, to Violet it signaled reconciliation, and a sign that all was well. She planted drifts of heliotrope to signify devotion, while Jezebel, unsure of what went wrong, planted nightshade, to chide William for what she perceived as his falseness, and white carnations to show her disdain for his seeming perfidy.
William, still oblivious, neglected the lawn in his new fascination with flowers and so it sprouted a fine crop of white clover. To Violet, this said "Be Mine!" and she rushed right out to buy a Spirea prunifolia, known as bridal bush.
This proved to be her undoing. The next day William actually crossed the street, and for the first time spoke to Violet in words.
"What a lovely shrub," he commented, and Violet, her heart all aflutter could only respond by handing him a sprig of myrtle, which signified love. But William wanted to cut some of the spirea instead, since the local nursery that he spent so much time at didn't carry that particular kind.
"It will be lovely as a wedding flower," commented William, and Violet, totally overcome, could only respond by planting a Provence rose to show that her heart was in flames.
The next day, William married the lady at the local nursery, who, rather than sending symbolic messages had shown him how to plant a lovely garden, and shown him a good time, as well.
Jasmine ripped out her garden and planted grass. Violet replanted her yard in bleeding hearts, knowing full well that even one so dense as William couldn't miss the implication. And William's house, thanks to its lovely landscaping, netted him a profit of nearly $20,000.
The moral? Gardens should be a topic of conversation, not the conversation itself. And be careful when you plant of the messages you may inadvertently be sending.
About the Author
Carol Wallace writes the column Virtually Gardening at Suite 101