Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Flowers and Memories

I grow sweet peas in my garden every year.   Their casual, blowsy elegance and bright colours are everything I love in a flower, and the added benefit is that if you want them to keep blooming, you have to pick them.  If even one sweet pea on a plant goes to seed, that’s it, the whole thing stops blooming.  Unless you pick them regularly, they are not around for very long.  If you do, however, you will be rewarded with copious amounts of flowers. - and I love copious amounts of flowers.  
Even when I couldn’t really afford to do it, I have almost always made sure there were fresh flowers in our home.  I have a serious weakness for roses, and you don’t want to get me started on how much I love peonies.  In fact, I can’t think of a flower I don’t like.  Another thing I like about flowers is the vases that you put them in.  
I use all sorts of things as vases - from interesting looking jam jars to my Mom’s best crystal vase.  I love creative flower arranging and one of the prettiest examples of this I ever saw was at an outdoor wedding.  Armfuls of wildflowers were simply but beautifully displayed in galvanised steel buckets.  It was a wedding on a budget, but the sheer abundance of those flower filled buckets made it utterly opulent.  
Having said all this, I’m not terribly good at arranging flowers.  I use lots of the same kind of flower and rely on clever and beautiful containers if I am doing them myself.  My Mom left me many of her treasured pieces, and I love the history and memories they have attached to them.  Take the ‘vase’ in the photograph above.  It’s actually a small jug and it is well over a hundred years old, although it looks brand new.  It belonged to my maternal great grandmother, Altha Ann van Deusen.  Altha had a real talent for sewing - in fact she would defy Victorian convention and have her own tailor shop for many years before she married.  She made her first hand stitched suit for her father when she was thirteen years old.  He gave her this jug as a thank you present.   
This little vase is another one of my favourites.  

You can’t see the writing on it, but it says “Shrewsbury Abbey”.  Shrewsbury is a town in Shropshire in England and it is where my maternal grandmother lived when she was a little girl.  My mom told me that when a friend came to visit my Grandma from England in the early 1940’s, they brought this little vase as a present.  It only stands about three inches high, so it is perfect for short-stemmed flower babies.  When I was a little girl we had wild violets growing in our garden and if I picked a few Mom would let me put them in this vase.  It was the beginning of my love affair with flowers.  
This next vase is really special to me too.

She’s got a tiny chip in her eyelashes which has been there ever since I can remember, but I think she is beautiful nonetheless.  This vase was my Mom’s, given to her by someone special.  (Mom told me who but I never wrote it down and now I cannot ask!)  Part of the reason they chose it for her was because stamped on the bottom is the name ‘Barbara’, my mother’s first name.  I don’t remember Mom actually using the vase much, but it would sit in the china cupboard and I was fascinated by it. When had a home of my own, Mom gave it to me.  I think the lady looks gorgeous with her beautiful flower hat, evoking a by-gone era of Easter bonnets and crisp ribbon.    
I get so much pleasure from using these lovely things.  Even though some of the people associated with them are gone and that makes me sad, as long as I remember them somehow they are here with me.  Flowers and happy memories are wonderful things.

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