Posies of Memories

Endless rain and grey skies had me scurrying outside a few days ago during a rare lull in the storms to see if I even had a garden left or if it had all washed away! As it turned out I discovered far more than just flowers.

Not only were the hellebores in full bloom (as expected), but lungwort (Pulmonaria saccharata) was also flowering in the woodland – that will make the hummingbirds happy for sure! I was also delighted to notice the first buttercup-yellow winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) blooms emerging together with some early windflower (Anemone blanda), deer-resistant bulbs I planted by the hundred in the fall of 2018.

English primroses are a soft buttery yellow and grow in lovely mounding hummocks. Mercifully they seem to be ignored by both deer and rabbits.

What really stopped me in my tracks though were my primroses, the traditional English woodland primrose (Primula vulgaris). Certainly the petals were waterlogged and baby slugs had been chomping a few of the flowers into lace, but as I knelt down to get closer to these old fashioned perennials I was flooded with memories.

Suddenly I was a child again, gathering these beauties in the woods not far from where I grew up (it was acceptable back then – I would never dream of doing this today!) I recalled the hosta-sized clumps that Mum grew in her garden and the generous divisions she shared with neighbors, friends, and the many passers-by who stopped to chat as she worked outside.

My daughter Katie discovering primroses aged approx 8 months

Our daughter Katie was still a babe in arms when I introduced her to primroses, and as she got older she was tasked with carefully cutting tiny posies for the table, often displayed in petite glass salt shakers or diminutive vases found in thrift stores.

When we moved to the United States in 1996 I grew these understated wildflowers from seed so as to still be able to enjoy them each spring, preferring them to the psychedelic primroses that were apparently favored by American stores and nurseries.

A posie of memories

I picked a few blooms and brought them inside to look for a suitable vase, eventually settling on this pretty cobalt blue jug that Mum used to display in her "special" cabinet. The "crackle glass" is so pretty and like Mum, blue is my favorite color. She would have approved.

Love this photo of my Mum peering through her neighbors flowering Amelanchier. Sums her up perfectly! Photo credit: Sylvia Ann Ramsay

As I tucked the short stems into the vase I confess to shedding a tear or two as I remembered Mum. Its hard to believe she has been gone for over four years now.  I'm so thankful not only for all the love that she showered on me every single day, but also for her legacy of teaching me to appreciate the little things. To look for the good. And to pass that on to others – including you.

Do you have a special "legacy flower"? Tell me about it. Big group hug x

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  1. Patricia Mickelson on February 18, 2020 at 9:58 am

    Hi Karen: This has nothing to do with gardening but I wanted to make the comment that it looks to me like that little vase you have is by Fenton. He or they made glass for many years that had a distinctive look to it. Not sure if they are still in business or not. I have a vase almost exactly like it but it is for left handed people so the handle is on the left. I also inherited the vase from my mother.

    • Karen Chapman on February 18, 2020 at 3:58 pm

      Thanks Patricia! I must look to see if there are any identifying marks on the base. As I recall it was a gift from someone who frequently traveled to America, so that may well be where it was purchased!

  2. Joan Brasier on February 18, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Karen: As a fellow English woman… I remember primroses so well. We used to go annually to gather them from woods to decorate church. It was probably a girl guide thing. The Gardner in my family was my dad… and he died this past July. This combination of thoughts that obviously touched you also took me backward… and forward to this April when I will visit my mother and likely for the first time there will be no sign of a vegetable garden on the way. Thank you.

    • Karen Chapman on February 18, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      Hi Joan, I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. It's tough. Maybe you can start a new tradition with your mum? Maybe help her plant up a small container with a few herbs and violas – something she ca manage and would connect you both to the past in a meaningful way?

  3. Ceaig on February 18, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Or a flower per se, but when my great aunt passed in 2018, gathered some moss from her Vermont yard where I would spend a week or two during the summers wandering around the pastures and wild lands, picking blue berries and enjoying her many acres of land.

    I started a moss garden years ago and adding some from her land helps me remember all of the good times I spent with her. With all of the rain here is Pennsylvania, the moss is quite happy.

    • Karen Chapman on February 18, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      That's a lovely idea – and moss is so tactile. Perfect for a special memory garden. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Joan Martin on February 18, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    My mother was an avid gardener and she passed away last April. What a wonderful gift she gave my sisters and I…the joy of gardening. As I walked through the garden today, there are reminders of her—daphne, bergenia, clematis armandii, and primroses, with so much more waiting to emerge. Last summer I purchased a large blue pot (she had beautiful blue eyes) and planted her favorite annuals from way back when…marigolds, dahlias, and lobelia. Each year I plan on a new display, selecting flowers from her many decades of gardening. Thank you for letting me share.