Sunday, July 20, 2008
Memories of Childhood
I was asked recently to paint a yellow chrysanthemum for a woman whose aunt used to grow them. She had such fond memories of her aunt and of her aunt's garden that it had contributed to her choice of career as a professional gardener. While I was uneasy about the subject (too many petals and an difficult colour on a gold ground) I loved the idea of painting something for sentimental reasons, so I accepted the challenge. It turned out to be a wonderful flower to paint with its swirling ball of petals and the Renaissance flourish of its awkward little leaves. I am very happy with it and hope that my client is too.
A few years ago my Mum wrote a book called "The Real Garden Road Trip" in which she and a friend drove across Canada interviewing gardeners whose gardens they found along the way. One of the things she learned was how common it is for people to choose garden plants that remind them of their childhoods. Many people were even unaware of their reason for choosing these plants until they were interviewed.
In my own garden I grow phlox because their musty, lovely smell takes me back to the Maritime gardens of eastern Canada where I was a child. I grow roses partly because their smell transports me instantly to the English gardens of my grandparents in Lancashire. I even found a David Austen rose called "Ambridge" which is named after a fictional village from the radio series "The Archers". I planted it for my wonderful grandmother who was a painter and who listened every day to "The Archers" after lunch.
Proust wrote about the visceral memories evoked by the smell of madeleine cakes and this kind of memory has become known as a madeleine. I'll bet that many, maybe most gardeners choose to include madeline memories and nostalgic plants in their gardens, maybe without even realizing why they do it.
What plants have you planted in your garden because they take you back to your childhood in a visceral or even unconscious way? What plant would you choose to commemorate in a painting if you were to honour some aspect of your past? These are two different things, arent they? The first subconscious. The second more cerebral.
Posted by Safi Crafts at 6:28 AM