Friday, April 16, 2010

Are Peonies Preppier than Petunias?

Picture perfect... peonies as the focus of a pink and green oil painting by German artist Carl Schuch

This afternoon and early evening found me happily gardening-away. Except for some heavier projects around the island grounds here, I rarely call on our yard man since I prefer to be outside gardening myself. For me, gardening and lawn mowing is a combination of de-stressing, peaceful solitude, enjoyable zen-like moments of "just being" and a deliberate fostering towards a more integral connection with the natural world that I can all too easily overlook within busy day-to-day goings on. Every place we've lived, I've found time and spots of space, however small and however large, to garden within.

Try as I might however, I simply can not get my very favorite flower, the peony, to grow out here on this lowcountry island. This is such a disappointment but "it's life" and so I saunter forth with other flowers as well as the herb and vegetable small raised kitchen garden beds. I am also keeping up my late mother's rose bed that sits at the front of the double stairs leading up to our second-story front porch and door. This is a small space crammed-in with various rose bushes, a layering of lantana below them and vines spreading out behind with a concrete birdbath stuck in the middle. At times I think that I'd really like to switch-out the birdbath for a bubbling fountain: maybe a traditionally-styled one that's two or three basins high topped by a classical finial. Maybe one day... and maybe another place n'time, I'll actually have peonies in my garden.

Already we have the first blushing of roses showing forth and I'm happily anticipating filling up our various sterling and crystal bud vases here in the house as well as my rose bowl with fresh-cut roses all summer long. This is such a simple thing but such a great joy to me. Reminders of my mother all around as well as natural beauty gracing our home's interior.

Flowers like roses, lilacs, hydrangeas, camellias, gardenias, magnolias and such are what I'd call the stalwart symbols of what-are Southern Lowcountry Preppy Flowers. They grace our gardens, dining room sideboards, church alters, offices, are plunked into bud vases on vanities and bedside tables and of course are part and parcel' of bridal bouquets and hostess gifts. As well, they inspire the pretty prints of summer frocks, paper picnic napkins, thank you note stationary, bed linens and so on. As well, their lovely scents are found in our perfumes, candles, lingerie drawer sachets and the like. Southern ladies just love their favorite home-grown florals...however they are to be found!

Orchids potted in porcelain cachepots are the elegant stand-a-lones within a Preppy's environment. Found anywhere from the front hallway's entrance table to the dining room's sideboard to a bedside table, these beautiful floral statements are Preppy perennials when it comes to adding flowers within the household decor' statement.

Sweet cottage flowers that can also be found within the Preppy environ are ones like cosmos, primroses, delphinium, ranunculus, lilly of the valley, violets and hollyhocks. Tucked by a garden gate or tucked into little windowsill pots alongside herbs, these flowers are casual-elegant. Floris, Penhaligons and Crabtree & Evelyn utilize the scents of cottage flowers in a very English Country House style that is oh so Preppy both in the States and over in the UK. I have a collection of Floris perfume scents that I've gathered for myself during various trips to England that I have enjoyed so much over the years now.

The next grouping of flowers would be ones such as daffodils, pansies, tulips, lillies of all kinds and so forth which are best found (or tended) in large groupings out of doors near a wood's fringe or alongside small streams but can provide cheap n' cheerful casual floral arrangements inside the house especially when its most appreciated in the earlier days of spring. White tulips especially can be wonderful for early spring brides, such as I was, when there are few flowers available at that time of the year en-mass' for a wedding's needs. We combined white tulips, white roses, lillies and ivy for my April 6th wedding's flowers all those years ago. The aim was for classic, elegant, timeless yet very spring-fresh and 19 years later, I still remain pleased with this floral grouping even though I'm not a big tulip or lilly fan overall.

Less-Preppy perhaps but quite fun n' festive to grow in a cutting garden or basic terracotta pots are flowers like zinnias, sunflowers, daisies, poppies, purple coneflowers, nasturtiums, vinca, geraniums and yes, petunias. More "country" than "town and country" but definitely offering up a delightful splash of bright colors which certainly comes in handy for deck and dock parties, picnics, tailgating and Fourth of July celebrations.

Some people may disagree with me as to the next flower listing since I see these particular flowers as un-Preppy: carnations, chrysanthemums, gladiolus, dahlias and marigolds (unless the marigolds are used as practical deer-resistant borders in kitchen gardens such as I utilize them for within my floral cutting kitchen garden bed here). For some reason or another, big mums just give me the creeps. They make me think of 1950's poodle-skirted homecoming football game corsages and funeral homes, hmm. A style-decade I'm glad I didn't grow up within and a place I know I'll end up passing through but I won't realize it by then... so er, I'll "pass" on those big ole' mums please.

But please feel free to pass me a bouquet of peonies anytime....

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