The lotus, lily, sunflower, opium poppy, rose, tulip and orchid. Seven flowers: seven stories full of surprise and secrets. Where and when did these flowers originate? What is the nature of their power and how was it acquired? What use has been made of them in gardens, literature and art? These are both histories and detective stories, full of incident, unexpected revelations, and irony. The opium poppy, for example, returned to haunt its progenitors in the West; and while Confucius saw virtue and modesty in his native orchids, the ancient Greeks saw only sex. These are flowers of life and death; of purity and passion; of greed, envy and virtue; of hope and consolation; of the beauty that drives men wild. All seven demonstrate the enduring ability of flowers to speak metaphorically - if we could only decode what they have to say.