While this week's quote reflects on the skepticism of those who mistrust modern historians, intimate glimpses of bygone figures can be seen in many of their writings.

Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

by John Bagnasco

The mid-century fashionista and author, Fleur Cowles gave us insight into the personalities of over 180 twentieth-century celebrities in her book, The Flower Game.

While meditating on the importance of flowers in her life, Fleur wondered which ten varieties would be “must-haves”, if relegated to being alone on a deserted island. Assuming that all plants could grow there, regardless of climate or soil, she compiled her list. Intrigued by the possibilities, Cowles was inspired to to invite her friends around the world to participate in the game and send her a list of their favorite plants.

The replies varied from straightforward lists to added commentaries that provide insight into the submissions of each contributor. Flowers mentioned most often in the replies and the (votes) they received were: rose(159), lily(96), lily-of-the-valley(58). peony and daisy(56 ea,), lilac(49) jasmine(470 and tulip(44).

Here are several selected comments from players that I found especially interesting:

Princess Grace of Monaco – “zucchini flower; bamboo ( I hope you will accept it although I have never seen it flower); rose; iris; lavender; rosemary; apple blossom, daisy; gladiolus; water lily. I chose zucchini so that I could eat the flower…let the leaves grow over a trellis made of bamboo where I would sit quietly in the shade and contemplate my beautiful roses…”

Sir Laurence Olivier – just wanted roses and mentioned Blue Moon, King’s Ransom, Prima Ballerina Tropicana, Virgo and Queen Elizabeth.

Beverley Nichols – picked Lilium regale first and followed with ‘Souvenir de Louis Spaeth’ doublepurplr lilac ‘Donation’ camellia. While also including the ‘Fragrant Cloud’ rose, he added the comment, “The only thing that may make [the list] unusual is that I do not put roses first. I think that the average garden is greatly ‘over-rosed’.”

The book also contains the top ten flowers from Lauren Bacall, Victor Borge, Candice Bergen, Baron Phillippe de Rothschild, Olivia de Havilland, Jane Goodall, Zubin Mehta and Nancy Reagan. The book includes 79 drawings and eight paintings of the winning favorites from Cowles, herself. Published in 1983, copies are readily available at bargain prices. I am definitely thankful that this book was not lost to history.