Coco Chanel loved camellias. And, so do I. She favored them in white and turned them into a recognizable branding phenomenon. The white bloom is both simple and elegant and fit her artistic aesthetic perfectly. Certainly, Coco was the ultimate arbiter of good taste, but a girl loves what a girl loves. I must humbly state my case for the pink camellia: everything is pretty in pink!
The camellia plant is an evergreen. It typically flowers late winter into early spring. So, as we approach the end of the season, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite gifts from the garden.
My life is a very good one. My gardener lives with me! Meet the man who brings me flowers. Up to this point, he’s only agreed to have his hand featured on my site.
Tell me, dear reader, do you love the camellia? White or pink?
when you lose someone who means the world to you
your world changes
never returning to its former shape
it appears to others unchanged
so you keep the secret
until you can’t
a place, a flower or a song
suddenly it spills out
you must tell the world
you are not the same
you have not been the same
you will never be the same
the illusion is just that
the pretense grows heavy
it requires too much energy to maintain
so you shed it
and discover others who know your secret
keep it themselves
believing they will not be understood
believing they too are alone
knowing time does not heal
what was already changed
all will be touched
shaped by love
altered by grief
The poem was inspired by thoughts of my brother and by my friends, in and out of the blogging world, who have shared their secrets with me: Franziska, Tamara, Sleepless Dave, Jon, Esmeralda, Jen, Gallivanta and Pam.
‘The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with her* through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards her.”
Tamara Jare, at My Botanical Garden, speaks fluent “flower.” You may remember that her bouquet graces the desk in my pink shed. It’s such a lovely reminder of the beauty found in nature, art and friendship.
Some days, especially when you’re blue, you just need a bit of pink. Today is one of those days and I’m grateful for the escape and comfort Tamara’s art brings to me. You can visit her at Saatchi Art.com. Enjoy!
*I took the liberty of replacing “him” with “her” in the above quote.
Here’s a little something for you, because you deserve it! Honestly, it’s been tough going for a while now. Sometimes we must turn off the noise and let Mother Nature soothe our souls. I pushed the thought of Anthony Kennedy’s resignation from my mind yesterday and enjoyed the sights and smells of lavender at Carmel Valley Ranch.
Even a brief visit to a museum tells the story of the close relationship between artists and flowers. In fact, the memory of some painters has become entwined with the blooms they admired. We will forever associate Vincent Van Gogh with the sunflower, Georgia O’Keeffe with the poppy and Claude Monet with the water-lily.
But, painters are not the only creative people to draw inspiration from the garden. French designer and business woman, Gabrielle Chanel, loved the beautiful, short-blooming camellia or Chinese rose. Nearly 50 years after her death, it is still one of the most instantly recognizable emblems in all of Chanel’s accessories, clothing and jewelry.
How did the camellia become such an integral part of one of the most successful fashion houses in the world? It is thought that the Madame became entranced with the flower after reading Alexandre Dumas’ ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ (The Lady with the Camellias) as a young girl. The heroine of the story always wore a camellia. The flower’s symbolic value was also important to the designer. In Eastern culture, the white camellia represents purity and longevity. Coco also appreciated the fact that the camellia is without scent, and, as such, didn’t interfere with the perfection of her signature scent, and my favorite perfume, Chanel No 5.
I’ve always loved fashion and recognized designers as the artists they are. I do not live a haute couture lifestyle, but my admiration for Chanel’s style aesthetic has influenced my fashion and style choices throughout my life. She believed in simplicity, elegance and comfort. She was the first designer to suggest that women dress with their daily routines in mind. She radically promoted the notion that woman should, first and foremost, dress to please themselves.
Chanel loved the ease of black and white punctuated with stripes and loads of faux pearls. With the stroke of her pen and the scissors that famously dangled around her neck, she transformed men’s wear into elegant, feminine clothes for the modern woman. She also gave us the little black dress (LBD) back in 1926.
If you too love Chanel’s aesthetic, but not the price tag, I recommend these classic Coco inspired pieces at Target (TGFT!):
You might enjoy a fun little book celebrating the best of Coco. And, last bust not least, if you’re not lucky enough to have a garden of camellias like me, don’t worry, you can order a bouquet of artificial camellias.
I cannot deny the beauty of the white camellia, but I reserve my greatest affection for pink roses. And in the spirit of Coco Chanel, my favorite flower inspired me to create a pink shed and then a blog…from the pink shed.
“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower — suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in the memory of something that has died.”
Katherine Hepburn spoke that line in The Lake, a long-forgotten play. I adore listening to her let the words roll off her tongue in her stylistic Mid-Atlantic accent, and, indeed, the line’s iambic pentameter sounds wonderful spoken in my California accent, too.
If you are a close reader, you are wondering how I’m able to hear her words. Let me tell you the story; it’s a great one! You see Katherine, it seems, was as tough as the characters she became famous for playing in her films.
The Lake was both a critical and popular flop. The same critics who had lauded Hepburn’s work in films wrote that the stage had exposed her to be lacking in great talent. Dorothy Parker famously said that her performance “ran the gamut of human emotion from A to B.” On top of that, the play was directed by Jed Harris, who was an infamous “big bad wolf” of American theatre. He was known for his abusive behavior to actresses (sound familiar?!). Harris intended to take the show on the road as he had sunk all his money into it. Hepburn, who was desperate to leave the play, wrote him a check for her life savings (around 14,000 dollars) and was released from her contract. She later said the experience was an important lesson in accepting responsibility for her own career.
Four years later, Hepburn was cast in Stage Door, a film about several aspiring actresses living together in a boardinghouse and competing for the same role in a play. The fictional play within the film prominently features the calla-lily- line. The director, Gregory La Cava, lifted it from The Lake. Hepburn’s character practices it in rehearsal over and over, always without much feeling. But in the movie’s tragic climax, she memorably delivers the line with great emotion. Following the success of Stage Door, that line became one of Hepburn’s signature catchphrases. She had turned her famous flop into a testament to tenacity. Now, that’s a strong woman.
They say that every person has a story to tell. It seems to me that every flower has something to say, as well!
P.S. Unfortunately, the elegant calla lily is poisonous; I do not let the puppy roam the hill as she is still in the “everything and anything goes in my mouth stage.”
“…a cyclamen that looks like a flight of butterflies, frozen for a single, exquisite moment in the white heart of time…”
― Beverley Nichols, Down the Garden Path
Tis the season for cyclamens! These wonderful flowers look good in my garden in white, in my home in red and in my shed in pink, of course!
I’ve read that on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus they grow in great drifts of thousands of plants and fill the air with fragrance. Perhaps, someday I’ll see that, but for now they have arrived in great quantity at my local nursery.
I came to associate the flowers with Christmas when I began dating my husband in high school. His mother, Mary, has a bright green thumb and she has always decorated her world with growing things. At the holidays, the entrance to her home was filled with white cyclamen. They sat in a long line on a console table underneath a large mirror. It was a simply elegant way to greet visitors, and it remains a beautiful memory for me.
Mary will spend Christmas at our home this year, and there will be white, red and pink cyclamens to greet her!
Just as the Christmas decorations are going up inside my home, the camellias are beginning to bloom in my garden! If you are not familiar with this wonderful shade loving plant, allow me to introduce you. It’s an evergreen with wonderful glossy green leaves and it blooms in the late fall and throughout the winter. The flowers range in color from white to red with every shade of pink in between! It’s a beautiful thing for a woman who believes in pink.
I wore my first sweater of the season last week; it was a chilly 68 degrees. It’s fall in California, but I have a summer bouquet to enjoy every day.! It was created by my blogging friend, Tamara Jare at My Botanical Garden. It was spring when I selected the lovely watercolor and I was anticipating summertime as I always do. I framed the small piece and it sits on my desk in the pink shed. I can almost smell the peonies, roses, grasses and spirea in full bloom.
As Tamara said, “It’s a special arrangement in the same way that each summer is special.” It’s particularly meaningful to me because it’s a reminder of one of the first friends that I made after creating my blog. I have a friend in Slovenia! I never thought I’d be able to say that!
Tamara found my site just two days after I established it and became one of my first followers. I was glad, not only to have her as a reader, but also to discover the beauty on her site. We developed a connection over the past months and have continued to communicate through e-mail.It was fun to discover how much Tamara and I have in common. We are about the same age and happily married with grown children. After she read my post about aging, she shared that Oil of Olay (tanti anni fa) was the secret to her youthful good looks, too! We agreed that they must have a good advertising company!
We are both creative women who feel happy and complete in our lives. Tamara began her blog when her mother was terminally ill and the artistic expression helped her through that very difficult time. I started my blog when my one -and -only left me to go to college. If one could bottle creative expression, it would be truthful to state that it is a potent remedy in times of loss or change.
I’m sure that I will sound my age when I say that I am amazed to find women who are so seemingly like me in all parts of the world. I’m an “old dog” who learned a “new trick” and I’m grateful to be part of a blogging community with no boundaries.
I am hopeful that someday I’ll meet my friend in Slovenia, but, until then, her art keeps me company while I pursue my creative side.