Friday Favorites 5/9/2014
I think that some people would say that, for a man, I love flowers just a little too much. For some reason our society does not regard liking flowers as an especially masculine trait. If you listen to the local sports talk weenies, you’ll hear them urging you to call 1-800-FLOWERS to send Mom a bouquet for Mother’s Day but for Father’s Day it’s tool or a fancy camera. Of course, once Dad has that fancy camera, you may catch him in the garden, taking pictures of (gasp) flowers, since their colors often make for stunning close-ups. And, of course, artists like Monet and Van Gogh painted flower for that very reason. True, the same weenies who think that a man shouldn’t love flowers often see art as not very manly either. If I listened to those guys, I’d be a dull man indeed.
When we moved in 1953 from a city apartment complex to a small ranch house in suburban East Haven, I suddenly found myself with miles of woods at my disposal. The woods had trails and puddles we called ponds and caves and climbing rocks, but it also had a stream with violets and lily-of-the-valley growing along its banks. It had fields with crowds of black-eyed susans, daisies and tiger-lilies. Sometimes, I’d pick small bouquets and bring them home to Mom … ten year old boys didn’t pick flowers for themselves, after all. I’m not sure if my friends thought I was weird or not … I apparently didn’t care. At 11 days from seventy, I have a gardener to take care of our yard but I still grow color bowls full of the flowers I love to accent the landscaping. There is usually a bouquet from Trader Joe’s on the living room table that I buy on my weekly trip there. As an adult, I frequently photograph or paint flowers.
For me, what makes flowers so fascinating is the splash of crayon-box color they provide against the mostly green background of the plant world, that and the intricate detail of the blooms close-up. This is especially true of plants in the Violaceae family, which most of us know by common names like violet, pansy and viola. Generally small and featuring violet, indigo, white and yellow, these blossoms usually have bilateral (side-to-side) symmetry and five petals, four arranged in a fan above and one broad petal facing downward. The petals are often decorated with contrasting colors in intricate patterns, including the faces of the pansies, which is what makes them such perfect subjects for close up photography and a gardener’s delight.
Interestingly, the blossoms of plants in the violet family are edible, and are used to decorate salads or in stuffings. Violets are also candied and used to make violet syrup, used in baking. Nope, I haven’t eaten any but they are my Friday Favorite.