The nostalgia in a burst of flowers

A burst of flowers evoke memories of a loved one lost…

Painting flowers always reminds me of my nonna (Nonni we all called her). The first time I visited her native Italy, I realised why she loved flowers so much. Italians, like many other Europeans, will plant flowers in pots lining the balcony many floors above ground or surrounding the family’s vegetable garden. In short, anywhere there is space, there will be flowers!

This Throwback Thursday, I look back to March 2016, when I painted flowers in my gratitude journal. Memories flooded back once again, of Nonni’s dahlias, her lillies, and other flowers she loved so much.

Since then, I have been given her aprons that she made with remnants of dresses sewn for herself, or for my mother or for me.  As an example, the lacy pocket on the pink apron below is a remnant from my First Communion dress.  It was by far, the itchiest dress I have ever owned!

I treasure her cards and letters and her embroidered linens. I also have her crystal glasses stored in the hutch that belonged to her all her life in Canada.

Finally, her prized possession, the Singer sewing machine, is also in my home. It allowed her to survive when her husband suddenly died, and she was left with three girls to raise.

Nonni's handmade aprons, made with love and remnants of dresses.

mixed media flowers in journal

Gratitude Journal Prompt: Sketch or illustrate your appreciation for spring flowers.

There are always flowers for those who wish to see them. ~ Henri Matisse

While I should have been painting daffodils, tulips, lilacs, and various spring flowers, I could only think of the flowers that were meaningful to me.

The dahlia in the left-hand corner has a place of prominence because my Nonna (she was Nonni to us) loved dahlias.

Each summer we would marvel at the profusion of dahlias growing along her front porch. On warm summer evenings, friends and strangers would stop and comment on her flowers.  She would smile and chat in English or in Italian about the varieties she had planted.

Invariably, this could lead to rather long discussions and even a tour of her vegetable garden. It might even mean  company for an hour or two for my grandmother who lived alone a good part of her life.

Come fall, Nonni would dig up the bulbs and spread them out on newspapers on her basement floor.  They would remain in relative darkness and warmth until the next spring.

Nonni continued this ritual into her later years.

For some time, my mother also grew dahlias, but tired of all the work involved in digging up the bulbs and protecting them over winter. She planted petunias and impatiens, and other annuals that were less labour intensive.

A few years ago, I attempted to grow dahlias without saving the bulbs. For some reason, I only had a few blooms here and there and decided this disappointing result was not worth the effort after all. Neither my mother nor I have the fortitude for dahlias it seems.

We often took photos with Nonni in front of her house. She loved having her flowers in pictures.

nonna's flowers
nonna's dahlias

In her grasp photo as modelThe other flowers I doodled for this entry include blue delphiniums. I love their tall spires rising above all the other common flowers. Their stalks had to be staked otherwise a good wind was likely to knock them down. I grew delphiniums for several years, and made old-fashioned pressed flower cards with them.

The three orange flowers on the right are an Italian variety of ranunculus called Clementine. The pop of colour, and all the delicate layers in the varieties of Clementine make them a suitable addition to any bouquet. Again, these remind me of Nonni. She loved all the warm, bright colours which surely must have reminded her of Italy.

"A good grasp of the situation", acrylic in Strathmore Visual Mixed Media journalAt the very top I painted a type of anemone that I find intriguing because so few flowers are green and blue.

So while the ground is still partially covered in snow, I can dream of flowers that have added a splash of colour to my world in the past.

On the left, photo and art work from A good grasp of the situation.

Below, one of the last letters I have from my grandmother. She always worried about all of us.  In this letter, she worried about her first great-grandchild.

letter from nonna
One of the last letters on stationery I had bought my grandmother.

What objects or memorabilia evoke pleasant memories of loved ones for you?

6 Responses

  • How lovely to have all those special possessions of your nonna’s! I have some linens and doilies that my grandma embroidered, and a little vase and a coffee cannister of hers that I use all the time and think of her when I use them. She loved her garden, too, so flowers always evoke memories of the lovely gardens she made over the years, and of spending time with her in her garden. Your painted flowers are lovely! I have dahlias in my garden that come up every summer. They are such a lovely old-fashioned flower.

    • Christine, it seems to me that our grandmothers were very much alike. I love dahlias but our winters are so cold that the bulbs must be brought indoors and I don’t have a cold room, nor do I have an unfinished basement as my grandmother had so I think I shall never have dahlias again in my garden. I hope your winter is not too harsh?

      Cheers!

    • Sally…nothing surprises me anymore! We have so much in common. Looking forward to meeting you in person one day, sooner than later hopefully!

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