WHISPER OF A WINDFLOWER
The Floriography of Valentina Fielder
One night in early summer of 1822, Valentina Fielder, a young botanist of extensive training, could not sleep. Images of roots, seeds, bulbs, pods and pistils crowded in her mind. She stepped out into the bright...
The Magnificent Floriography of Valentina Fielder
One night in early summer of 1822, Valentina Fielder, a young botanist of extensive training, could not sleep. Images of roots, seeds, bulbs, pods and pistils crowded in her mind. She stepped out into the bright moonlight and, laying herself down beside her calla lilies, she breathed in the night air. Her body softened into the earth. She began to feel herself drawn to one flower, which stood out from all others… what she experienced then, as she placed her hand lightly over the blossom would inspire her life’s work. An excerpt from her notebook describes the event:
“June 9, 1822— …the full moon had set the garden aglow…. as I placed my hand faintly around the blossom just so, I could rightly get a ‘sense’ of it, its message and purpose… my calla lily revealed to me my own hidden, still vibrant forces.”
A wooden cabinet was recently unearthed containing over 127 of Valentina Fielder’s notebooks and loose sketches. Buried behind an abandoned shed in southern Indiana for 150 years, each notebook contained hundreds of Fielder’s blossom-in-hand drawings detailing specific approaches for communications with various plant species. So profound was her understanding of flowers that it is easily identifiable as the precursor to the later widespread practice of the Victorian floriography– in fact, her notebooks are remarkably consistent with the well-known Victorian Language of Flowers.
It would appear that the meaning of a flower was not at all an arbitrary sentiment assigned by humans in Victorian times but rather, it was the flowers themselves that revealed their essence to receptive individuals.
The Society for Nebulous Knowledge is pleased to preserve Valentina Fielder’s communicative exchanges with various flowers and plants. The techniques depicted in her delicate sketches have been carefully studied, enacted in the same full moonlight conditions Fielder describes, and reproduced in illustrative photographs, a selection of which is presented here for the first time.