I love flowers. You probably do, too. You may think everyone loves flowers, but not so. My mother disliked flowers and did not want them near her. In the small Southern town where I spent much of my childhood, I learned from my grandmother and my aunt to love flowers. In the spring, daffodils bloomed on the paths that led to their doors, and wisteria veiled my aunt’s porch. In summer, the flowers beside the paths were snapdragons, ragged robins, pinks. Watermelon-pink crepe myrtles lined the street outside my grandmother’s house, and her porch was shaded by a tangle of trumpet vine, where a hummingbird nested.
My favorite spot in my aunt’s yard was a trellised arbor, covered with white roses with yellow centers. I read under that trellis for hours, breathing deeply of their scent. I vowed that when I was grown, I would have such an arbor.
My grandmother and aunt brought flowers from their gardens into their houses year-round—a few roses in a tall vase, a magnolia blossom floating in a glass bowl, and small bunches of old fashioned flowers on every table. At Christmas, narcissi, their heavy scents mingling with that of the Christmas tree, Christmas roses, and camellia blossoms, decorated their houses, along with pine boughs, and beautiful magnolia cones. (My mother had a plastic tree and fake poinsettias.)
My grandmother raised African violets, and often gave a pot to a visitor. My aunt and my grandmother also gave tiny bouquets to friends. Sometimes I was the messenger: I delivered small bunches of lilies of the valley and violets to their neighbors. I vowed that I would have flowers inside and out of my home wherever I lived for all of my life.
Maybe if I’d remained in the South, I’d have had a garden, and kept that vow to fill my house with flowers. But in New York, I never had a garden. I’ve lived in a series of apartments without patios or garden space.
In 1975, my husband and I began to collect black and white prints, mostly scenes of American life. Our collection was fascinating, but I pined for color. In 1984, my husband and I saw and bought Three Red Roses, a dazzling color woodcut, by Luigi Rist (1888-1959), a little-known American artist. Rist florals were hard to find, but we were able to acquire his Magnolia Grandiflora, Dandelions, Rhododendron, Roses 2, and Sunflowers, all in glorious color.
I went on to collect a large collection of colored flower prints by American artists, which became my indoor garden. Our New York living room, dining room and entry glow with prints featuring colorful blossoms, where visitors can see and enjoy them. I illustrate my website with flowers, a way of sharing, and I tuck flowers into my books—not living, breathing flowers, but in scents and art. In Restrike, Dinah buys a Rist flower print, and hosts an exhibition of Rist prints. This is another way I share my flowers with my readers.