If I Had a Single Flower for Every Time I Think of You, I Could Walk Forever in My Garden

Alfred Lord Tennyson? Claudia Adrienne Grandi? Claudia Ghandi? Anonymous?

tennyson05Dear Quote Investigator: The website of a major international news organization has an article titled “Tennyson: 10 Essential Quotes” with the following item listed third: 1

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.

Strangely, I have not been able to locate this expression in the oeuvre of Alfred Lord Tennyson. According to the commentary in the article this quote has become quite popular:

This romantic sentiment may sound like the message on a greeting card, but it now makes its way into wedding speeches and toasts.

Would you please trace the provenance of this popular sentiment?

Quote Investigator: QI has located no substantive support for crediting the famous poet Alfred Lord Tennyson with this expression.

The earliest evidence of a close match found by QI was printed in an advertising section of a Santa Ana, California newspaper on Valentine’s Day in 1985. The section contained messages expressing love, and one item was addressed to Theresa from Steve: 2

IF I HAD A SINGLE FLOWER FOR EVERYTIME I THINK ABOUT YOU I WOULD WALK FOREVER IN MY GARDEN.

The phrasing of this instance differed somewhat from the most common modern version. For example, this poem referred to “a single flower” instead of “a flower”; also, the position of the word “forever” was shifted. No attribution was listed.

In subsequent years, instances of the poem appeared as a Valentine’s Day message in other newspapers. For example, in 1989 the European edition of “The Stars and Stripes” for the U.S. Armed Forces included an item with slightly different phrasing compared to 1985. The word “about” was replaced by “of” and “would” was changed to “could”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 3

It is my greatest wish to give you all the love you could ever need. If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden. Happy Valentine’s Day!

In 1990 a Valentine’s note was printed in “The Post Standard” of Syracuse, New York. Once again no attribution was provided: 4

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden. My teepee is empty when you are gone

In May 1992 an illuminating instance was printed in a Rockmart, Georgia newspaper. The paper described the contents of an annual publication called “The Sting” which was created by the local Middle School. A section of memories included the verse and identified the author as Claudia Adrienne Grandi. This was the earliest ascription known to QI: 5

A special remembrance was given to Joey Watts with a poem which read: “If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden” written by Claudia Adrienne Grandi.

The evocative poems of Grandi have appeared in several collections published by “Blue Mountain Arts” which is a popular greeting card company. QI believes Grandi is the most likely originator of this verse, and Tennyson should not be credited.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

According to a document with the date range January-June 1975 published by the United States Copyright Office, the name Claudia Adrienne Grandi was used as a pseudonym for Claudia Adrienne Demilia. The authorship of a book released in 1974 was credited to the pen name Grandi: 6

Riding on gardenias embracing rainbows. By Claudia Adrienne Demilia a.k.a. Claudia Adrienne Grandi. 47 p. Claudia Adrienne Grandi (pseud. of Claudia Adrienne Demilia); 25Nov74; A603899.

To maintain simplicity QI shall continue to refer to the author as Grandi throughout this article.

A 1988 article in a New London, Connecticut newspaper presented a biographical detail about Grandi. The news item described a poetry reading with five student participants, and indicated that Grandi was attending a school in Connecticut and crafting poetry by 1988: 7

Five student poets from area colleges and universities will read selections of their work Tuesday at Connecticut College…
Claudia Adrienne Grandi, a sophomore at Manchester Community College.

In May 1993 an instance of the poem was printed in the “Cleveland Plain Dealer” of Cleveland, Ohio, but no ascription was given. The phrasing referred to “a flower” instead of “a single flower”: 8

The simple gravestone will be engraved with words from a poem a friend sent the family –“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I’d walk in my garden forever.”

In March 1994 an Akron, Ohio newspaper printed a funeral notice that included the poem as an epigraph. This instance used “a single flower”, but the phrasing continued to evolve: 9

If I had a single flower for each time I think of you, I could walk in my garden forever.

In 1994 the verse was printed in the upper-left corner of a page listing meeting times for houses of worship in an Aberdeen, South Dakota newspaper. The words were ascribed to Grandi and differed from the earliest 1992 instance by only a single word. The phrase “think about you” was used instead of “think of you”: 10

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden.
Claudia Grandi

In 2001 “The Everything Wedding Vows Book” included an instance of the poem credited to Grandi. The word “beautiful” was inserted before “garden”: 11

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk forever in my beautiful garden.
— Claudia Grandi

Also in 2001 a different work by Grandi was printed in a poetry book titled “Thoughts of Love: A Blue Mountain Arts Collection”. 12 The company Blue Mountain Arts is known for publishing greeting cards, poetry, and illustrations.

In 2002 a South Carolina newspaper printed an article “Good pick-up lines could lead to romance” that included an unattributed instance employed as a pick-up line. The flowers were identified as roses: 13

Here are a few lines that may or may not work. Try them at your own risk.
“If I had a rose for everytime I thought of you, I’d be walking in my garden forever.”

In 2004 “Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul” was released as part of the very popular series “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. A chapter titled “A Good Connection” by Anne Merle used the verse as an epigraph and credited Grandi. The text precisely matched the 1992 version: 14

If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden.
Claudia Grandi

In 2005 a craft resource book for cardmakers included an instance of the saying and attributed the words to acclaimed poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and this was the first published linkage to Tennyson seen by QI: 15

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sometimes the name Grandi has appeared with a different spelling as “Ghandi”. Here is an example in a 2008 collection titled “You Are in My Thoughts”: 16

If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in my garden. – Claudia Ghandi

In 2009 a death notice appeared in the classified section of “The Deseret News” of Salt Lake City, Utah. The verse was ascribed to Tennyson: 17

A viewing will be held one hour prior to services.
“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

In 2011 “BBC News Magazine” posted an article titled “Tennyson: 10 Essential Quotes”, and the third quotation attributed to the master wordsmith was the following: 18

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you… I could walk through my garden forever.”

In 2012 the book “Health for the Whole Self: Daily Tips for the Body, Mind and Spirit” printed an interesting variant about smiling with an anonymous ascription: 19

“If I had a flower for every time you made me smile and laugh, I’d have a garden to walk in forever.”
Author Unknown.

In conclusion, a version of this poem without attribution was in circulation by 1985. Based on current evidence QI believes that Claudia Adrienne Grandi should receive credit. QI is not certain of the precise phrasing because he has not found the poem directly in a volume written by Grandi. Also, the early instances differ in word choice.

Also note that the Grandi name may be a pseudonym for Claudia Adrienne Demilia. The ascription to Alfred Lord Tennyson has no substantive support.

Image Notes: Spring flowers by Shirley at Pixabay. Image has been cropped and the name Claudia Adrienne Grandi in script has been added. Alfred Lord Tennyson public domain portrait via Wikimedia Commons.

Update History: On April 8, 2014 information about the 1975 copyright entry was added. Also, on April 8, 2014 citations dated 2001, 2005, and 2012 were added. On May 23, 2014 citations dated 1985, 1989, and 1990 were added and the entry was partially rewritten. Also on May 23, 2014 the name Claudia Ghandi was added to the keywords, and the 2008 citation was added.

(Great thanks to Laurelyn Collins @laurelyn_rva who found this quote attributed to Alfred Lord Tennyson in an image at Pinterest. Her inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Special thanks also to Kat Caverly ‏@KatCaverly for her valuable comments. Many thanks to Terri Guillemets who located the 1975 copyright entry for Grandi. Guillemets operates The Quote Garden website with its wonderfully advantageous system for categorizing quotations. Additional thanks to correspondent Andrew Steinberg who located the 1990 citation.)

Notes:

  1. Website: BBC News Magazine, Article title: “Tennyson: 10 essential quotes”, Date on website: March 7, 2011, Website description: British Broadcasting Corporation, public service broadcaster of news and entertainment in the United Kingdom. (Accessed bbc.co.uk on April 7, 2014) link
  2. 1985 February 14, The Register (Santa Ana Orange County Register), Section: Heart to Heart, (Valentine message advertisement from Steve to Theresa), Quote Page F6, Column 6, Santa Ana, California. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1989 February 14, European Stars and Stripes, Section: Stripes Valentines, (Valentine message advertisement to Sweetie from Sherry), Quote Page 11, Darmstadt, Hesse. (NewspaperArchive)
  4. 1990 February 14, The Post Standard (Syracuse Post Standard), Section: Valentine’s Day Greetings, (Valentine message advertisement), Quote Page E4, Column 6, Syracuse, New York. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1992 May 27, The Rockmart Journal, Annual received at Elm Street, Quote Page 10A, Column 4, Rockmart, Georgia. (Google News Archive)
  6. 1976, Catalog of Copyright Entries: Third Series, Volume 29, Part 1, Number 1, Section 3, Books and Pamphlets: Including Serials and Contributions to Periodicals: Current and Renewal Registrations, (January to June 1975), Quote Page 1833, Column 2, Published by Copyright Office: Library of Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. (HathiTrust Full View) link link
  7. 1988 February 3, The Day, Poets to read selections at Connecticut College, Quote Page C5, Column 1, New London, Connecticut. (Google News Archive)
  8. 1993 May 27, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Tricia’s Parents Buy Gravesite, Marker – But Pray She’s Alive by Michael Sangiacomo (Plain Dealer Reporter), Quote Page 1A, Cleveland, Ohio. (NewsBank Access World News)
  9. 1994 March 7, Akron Beacon Journal, “Death Notice / Classified”: Fannie L. (Sami) Stapleton, Quote Page C4, Akron, Ohio. (NewsBank Access World News)
  10. 1994 September 10, Aberdeen Daily News, (Page epigraph in upper-left corner; page title: Let Us Rejoice), Quote Page 7A, Aberdeen, South Dakota. (GenealogyBank)
  11. 2001, The Everything Wedding Vows Book (Revised and Expanded Second Edition) by Janet Anastasio and Michelle Bevilacqua, Quote Page 133, Published by Adams Media: An F+W Publications Company, Avon, Massachusetts. (Google Books Preview)
  12. 2001, Thoughts of Love: A Blue Mountain Arts Collection, Edited by Gary Morris, “If I had to spend my life without you…” by Claudia Adrienne Grandi, Quote Page 33, SPS Studios, Inc., Boulder, Colorado. (Verified with Amazon Look Inside for Third Printing 2003)
  13. 2002 August 11, Anderson Independent-Mail, Good pick-up lines could lead to romance by Jake Grove, Unnumbered Page, Anderson, South Carolina. (NewsBank Access World News)
  14. 2004, Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend’s Soul: Celebrating the Friends Who Cheer Us Up, Cheer Us On and Make Our Lives Complete, Compiled and edited by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Mark & Chrissy Donnelly and Stefanie Adrian, Series: Chicken Soup for the Soul, Chapter: A Good Connection by Anne Merle, Start Page 77, Quote Page 77, Published by Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida. (Amazon Look Inside)
  15. 2005, The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Card (Second Edition) by Linda LaTourelle, Quote Page 246, Bluegrass Publishing Inc., Mayfield, Kentucky. (Google Books Preview)
  16. 2008, You Are in My Thoughts by Reinata Thirion, Quote on unnumbered page and on back cover, Published by Struik Christian Media, Cape Town, South Africa. (Google Books Preview)
  17. 2009 March 4, The Deseret News, Section: Death Notice – Classified, Bonje Hinderkein Van Komen Kroon Bonnie, Page number unspecified, Salt Lake City, Utah. (NewsBank Access World News)
  18. Website: BBC News Magazine, Article title: “Tennyson: 10 essential quotes”, Date on website: March 7, 2011, Website description: British Broadcasting Corporation, public service broadcaster of news and entertainment in the United Kingdom. (Accessed bbc.co.uk on April 7, 2014) link
  19. 2012, Health for the Whole Self: Daily Tips for the Body, Mind and Spirit by Cathy Duesterhoeft, March 9 (Epigraph), Quote Page 80, Tate Publishing & Enterprises, Mustang, Oklahoma. (Google Books Full View)