The temperamental weather at this time of year leaves us chilly one day and sweltering the next. In the garden the rhododendrons glow bright, and the roses send up tightly furled buds which will soon morph into fragrant velvet. Amongst this largesse my pansies, hard workers that have withstood frost, hail, snow and freezing rain, are withering need to be replaced.
Their demise means that the really cold days have gone, but I whisper apologies as I uproot the pansies and refill the pots with summer flowers. It is what my mother would have done.
Easy to think of her when I am close to flowers that she loved. She was always happiest in her garden, as every season offered something beautiful. In winter there were the hardy red camellias, nandina berries and pine branches with which to make stately flower arrangements for the New Year. In earliest spring came, Japanese quince and apricots blooming white and pale pink, and the sweet pea shoots pushing bravely out of the ground. In summer, her garden rioted with color as roses and sunflowers, lilies and hydrangea vied for her attention, and the autumn brought chrysanthemums of every shape and hue.
From all of these my mother would choose blossoms for her arrangements—whispering apologies as she cut. “This flower took all year to bloom,” she would explain somewhat wistfully, “and I’m taking it indoors, away from the sun.”
while I cut a small bouquet
of the white roses.
My mother was a fair-minded woman who never played favorites, but she couldn’t help having a preference for the humblest flowers in her domain. Pansies, small primroses, forget-me-nots, sprays of cosmos and ox-eye daisies were closest to her heart. She even liked the gold of early dandelions and would arrange them in small, elegant vases which she tucked into unexpected places. Pansies, especially the ones with ‘faces’ would find their way onto her dresser. A single daisy might decorate the bathroom sink. “They all have stories,” she would say. “We just can’t hear them.”
I have a flower story, too.
On my eleventh birthday I woke up to a delicate, sweet fragrance. When I opened my eyes, there was a cut glass vase by my bed filled with a huge bouquet of sweet peas. Pink, white, peach, soft lavender…these flowers were for me, alone! I remember catching my breath at their beauty and the perfection of the gift.
I have long since forgotten the presents I was given that day, but the sweet peas – and my mother’s smile when she saw my pleasure— remains alive and beautiful in my memory.
In sun-splashed garden,
Feeling a remembered warmth,
The touch of her hand.