Flowers from an old country garden.

As often happens when I paint, long forgotten memories resurface.

Moments, feelings, colours, smells, and sometimes, snippets of songs come to mind.

While painting the country garden below, I remembered a song my mother would sing that was popular in the 1960’s. Mom loved to sing and she would sing us a song or read a poem or short story for us at bedtime. The radio was always on in our house and she knew the lyrics to many popular songs of the time. Sometimes, she would stop working and dance to the music. I can still see her with a baby in her arms, singing and dancing. On Sundays, she would play records and we would hear her beloved Strauss waltzes or Mario Lanza or Caruso belting out songs in Italian.

I didn’t remember the lyrics, but I never forgot the tune about an English Country Garden. As it happens, I was humming it as I painted. It didn't take me long to find the lyrics.

Hollyhock Heaven by Louise Primeau, Ontario artist.
Hollyhock Heaven. Mixed media on 9 x 12 watercolour paper.


How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden
I'll tell you now of some that I know
And those that I miss you'll surely pardon
Daffodils, hearts ease and flox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian lupine and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget me nots
In an English country garden. (acoustic music archive)

The details of Hollyhocks Heaven.

Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the brad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. (Henry Ward Beecher).

Did you know that Hollyhocks can grow up to 9 feet? I don't think I have ever known anyone to grow these flowers. Maybe they are too fussy for Canadian gardens.

As you can see in my painting, one of the Hollyhocks is seemingly reaching for the sky. It is surely one of those 9 footers.

This is a mixed media painting with the first layers done in acrylics. I added soft pastels and marker at the very end.

I had so much fun with this impressionistic painting that I think I will be painting Hollyhocks again, on canvas or an a wood panel.


4 Responses

    • Dahlias were my Italian grandmother’s favourite flowers. She had huge ones in her front yard and people walking by would stop and comment. I remember sitting on the front porch with her and the stories she would tell me about each person after they had continued on their walk. Thanks Vivienne for the lovely comment and for bringing more memories to mind!

  • Love it Louise. I grew Hollyhocks once in our garden at Rhyll, they need plenty of space which we had. The old fashioned flowers like Hollyhocks, Larkspur, Canterbury Bells, Phlox and Love in the Mist plus Kiss Me quick, both of which self sow everywhere, are rarely seen in gardens these days. But as like you, they do bring back fond memories of times past.

    • Dahlias are probably the flowers that bring back most memories because my grandmother grew the big dinner plate sized dahlias in her front yard. But when I was a child I remember other flowers in her garden like lilies. She may have had some of the flowers you mention above but I can’t recall. Thanks Sally.

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