Tag Archive | flowers

Oh foolish heart


This is my favorite painting, White & Pink Mallows in a Vase, by Henri Fantin-Latour.  It’s not far away at the Norton Simon Museum.  In 1967 Mr Simon traded a five-story Upper East Side mansion on  East 79th for this painting.

The deal was actually for two paintings. But he only wanted the Latour and sold Renoir’s Woman with a Rose.  I love that he did that. A man unafraid to ditch a celebrated artist’s work because he didn’t like it is a man after my own heart.

But back to the mallows. Mallows are the last flowers of summer. If you cut the down, they reflower in the fall. I think Mr Simon must have known this and that knowing this made this painting even more precious to him in the years immediately following its acquisition.

In 1969, Mr Simon’s only child, Robert, committed suicide. The loss was devastating and he retired from active business. The following year, 1970, Norton decide to throw himself into politics, but lost his bid for state senator (running as a Republican tend to do that).  After the loss, Lucille divorced him.

I imagine Mr Simon looking at this painting, during those two years of loss after loss. I imagine him thinking, beauty endures. Yes, I was cut down in summer, but like the mallows I can flower again in the autumn of life. And so he did.

Mr Simon followed the light of his heart, art. He found restoration, love, and purpose, through the beauty of art. In 1971, Mr Simon married actress Jennifer Jones. And in 1972, he began to acquire a museum that would, eventually, by 1974, bear his name and pass on his collection to the world.

We’re kindred spirits, Mr Simon and I.  We love what we love.  We follow our heart. We don’t care about critics. And when we spot “the one,” we aren’t afraid to trade our mansion for it.

I keep a print of this painting in a place where I’ll see it first thing every morning and last thing every evening. Just to remind me, foolishly following one’s heart is often the wisest move of all.

Seven Years and Two Transplants Later . . . .

The duchess with her friend Queen Victoria.

The duchess with her cousin, Queen Victoria.

Some of my friends believe I have a low-level sanity problem. They are probably right.   Truth to tell, it’s probably worse than they imagine.

Seven years ago, I was given five Duchesse de Nemours peonies as a Christmas gift. I  kept them in pots on a patio. They greened up, but didn’t bloom.

The second year, I moved them all to semi-shaded spot in the back garden. But one died of pot to garden transplanting.  The third year all four sprouted. But as mine is not a peony friendly climate; two died off of heat prostration and the other two greened but never flowered.

The fourth year, the two came up again. But again they did not flower. The fifth year only one came up. I tented it, to keep it from the extreme heat, I watered religiously, and though it survived got a bit bushy, it didn’t bloom.

The sixth year, I discovered peonies did not like afternoon sun (thank you, P Allen Smith!), and as I was moving anyway, I dug up my last precious plant and took it with me.

(Anyone who tells you bloom where you’re planted is a complete moron. You bloom where conditions are right or you never do. So if conditions are not right, you must transplant yourself! Duh.)

This time I placed it in the morning sun, with perfect peony conditions. It survived the very late season transplanting, doubled in size, but eventually died back without flowering.

And now it is year seven. I have just discovered my duchess sprouting up again. And I am hopeful for a blossom this year, perhaps in May or June.

I know not many people would wait seven years (or more) for a single blossom. But that’s who I am. I don’t give up on things I love. Not ever. I have infinite faith, infinite patience, infinite endurance.

I suppose it does sound odd, especially coming from me. But if you’d ever seen the Duchesse or even caught a whiff of her scent in passing, you’d understand. Some things are worth all the bother . . . now that sounds like me!