Thursday, February 12, 2009

Lovely Things Day 4: Flowers

Sho-yu: "The Most Beautiful" (Chinese for 'Peony')

A male very close to me once admitted, upon recalling his regrets about a love lost, "I should have bought her flowers more often. I never showed up on her doorstep with flowers."

Lucky for me, he didn't, which is why he's my husband now. And why Armageddon hasn'
t occurred, the stars are aligned, and the universe is as it should be. It is also, incidentally, why he buys me flowers all the time. :)

Not that not getting flowers is a deal-breaker, but it sure can turn into a deal-maker fast when the gift is accompanied by the requisite thoughtful sincerity. Thoughts for the new year?

Lovely Thing #4 is *fiendish bugle ditty* FLOWERS.

* * *

I love roses. Who doesn't love roses - the quintessentially romantic, passionate, luscious,
mother-of-all-flowers flower? Once again I have to invoke the old "chip on your shoulder" mantra here about anyone who pretends to dislike roses. Even if you forget the hype surrounding them, it's easy to fall in love with their intrinsic beauty and complexity as a creation.

But despite my great aesthetic appreciation of roses, there are a couple of flowers I'd much rather get as a Valentine's Day gift. They're not necessarily rare, and are, in fact, usually less expensive than their rosey cousins, but they sure are unique in their beauty. And best of all, they are (mostly) in season in February!

Flowers I love and You Should Love Too
the quirky reasons why

4. Ranunculus - my 'little frog' of a flower
I found out about Ranunculus (the turban buttercup) too late. Having agonized over not being
able to have Peonies as my wedding bouquet flowers (because August is too freaking hot for them to grow), I settled on a truly beautiful mix of, mainly roses and hydrangeas (a highly underrated flower in and of itself). But about a week before my bridal pictures in Central Park, I passed a local bodega where I saw the most lovely pale pinky-greeny bouquet of the little Middle Eastern creation we humans call Ranunculus. Too early to buy them then for my home-made bridal picture posey, I vowed to return. One week later, they were gone - out of season, out of sight. Since then, I've been irreparably in love.

What a funny flower! - small and impish, seriously beautiful and yet playful in its rustic appearance - just like it's name: Latin for "little frog." And if you knew that when Matt and I met in Rome he told me I looked like a 'little frog,' as a term of endearment (I know, typical male, right?), you'd know that this name only gives me even more reason to love these flowers. :)

3. Narcissus
- beauty in ubiquity

Immediately the name of this lovely little flower, with which you
actually are, I guarantee, very familiar conjures images of wild exotic jungles or desperately hopeless love affairs in Greek mythology. It is, consequently, highly disappointing to some when they find the name Narcissus actually refers to the painfully ubiquitous Daffodil.

Admittedly, Daffodils are common, but really, they get a bad rap as far as modern romanticism goes. They seem painfully
platonic, and lack, through their common use in flower beds, a certain je ne sais quoi that all other romantic flowers seem to have. Well, I am here to fight the good fight on their behalf, because, as far as I'm concerned, it is their availability and exposure that makes Daffodils so darn pretty.

For years, Daffodils were the sign to me that spring was upon us. A flower of March and April,
it was a matter of excitement to watch the bulbs slowly but surely peak their little stems out on the Quads at university, in the flower boxes of New York City, and now, in the parks of London. A little known fact, though, is that there are hundreds of species of Narcissus (yes, ubiquitous in this too) and that some of them are far more exotic than the pleasantly sunny yellow variety we've grown desensitized to.

Enter: White (heavenly scented) Jonquils.
Exit: Prejudicial consumerism.

2. Amarylis - the gift that keeps on giving

The Amaraylis can be appealing to receive based almost solely on its Victorian meaning: splendid beauty.
Whether you mean to say the receiver inspires such or exudes it, this rather large flower overwhelms. I first received it as a gift from you-know-who and even without knowing the meaning behind it, I was entranced.

It is rarely sold as a cut stem because it grows from giant bulbs and each stem can produce three
or four giant blossoms which are so heavy and lustrous they weigh down even the stem that feeds them. The colors are varied and eye-catching. The whites take on a hue that can only be described as caelestis, the reds invoke the God Aries in their intensity, and the pinks and oranges seem almost ethereal. They're worth sitting and staring at, which, let's face it, is a big plus when it comes to flowers.

An Amarylis looks delicate and beautiful, but lasts through cold weather and continues to bloom and blossom for almost as long as you'll care for it. I don't know about you, but a little piece of me always withers a bit when I discover my flowers are dead after just a few days. It seems such a marked waste of beauty and life. So sometimes I do prefer getting a little pot of planted bulbs, because it's the gift that keeps on giving. Replant these guys in your garden - you might be surprised what pops up the next year.

1. Peony - Aesthetic Perfection
Everything, everything, is beauteous about a Peony. I can find nothing I dis
like about the idolized Chinese bloom, besides their short season of availability and the speed with which they disappear from every florist's shop or stand I've ever frequented. They are not, as I've previously lamented, available in February. But I'm going to mention them anyway here for two reasons:
1. Because I love them too much not to.

2. Because if you can find me a bouquet of Peonies in February I will love you forever too.

For those of you who don't know, the title picture on my blog is of the perfect peonies I bought for myself last late spring in a fit of aesthetic ecstasy. The lighting in my living room was just perfect for displaying them in such a state of blossom and every time I see that photograph I do get a small taste of the pleasure it gave me to have them.

To purchase a bouquet of Peonies is to willingly engage in a precise game of timing and delight. I always buy them when they are shut in their large and perfectly spherical buds - really
pleasant in and of themselves - and then I wait. It could be days, it could be hours, but with the right amount of water and light, they will open into the most achingly perfect of seemingly random bursts of manifest life (intense, I know).

They look fragile, the way a flower should. They also
smell like flowers should - intangibly earthy and strangely sweet. They are, in short, the best kind of flower: the kind that overwhelms you with its beauty while simultaneously inspiring an irresistible desire to bury your face deep in its petals with complete disregard for anything else going on in your immediate surroundings.

Warning: This has been known to happen not only to highly sensible females but also to their otherwise ostensibly masculine better-halves. A true testament to the power of the
peony, if you ask little old me.

* * *

A Short Flower Show to My Liking

my little frogs: Ranunculus

white jonquils - anything but 'plain old daffodils'

the overwhelming amarylis


Opening Peony

White Jonquils

White Amarylis

Peony Buds

* * *

Today's lovely thing is brought to you by
Louis Armstrong's rendition of "La Vie En Rose." Sure, maybe he's not referring to a flower, but it sure seems to fit the feeling you get when someone hands you a lovely bouquet, non?

And if that's too cheesy for you, rock out to the synthesizer in "I Touch Roses" by Book of Love, a 90s band that never got the acclaim it should have, IMHO, and that actually does talk about flowers.
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