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Bunch of flowers

To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower.

William Blake, in Presages d’innocence,1789

Having flowers around gives me great pleasure. They are like waves of colored light that fill me with joy. The flowers are on the desk, at the entrance to the house, in the living room, in the kitchen, in the beach hut, in the countryside, in the hotel room, wherever I am. It is a way of snuggling up and feeling good. Being close to the flowers of a place gives me a feeling of intimacy with the land where we first set foot, or of a pleasant complicity in the routine of places we always return to.

My mother had a great passion for flowers and plants, and this was my first connection to this fascinating universe. When I was a little girl, we sometimes used to go to a small flower shop near the São Paulo cemetery, where we could eventually find ervilha de cheiro (Lathyrus odoratus), a fragrant flower with silk petals, roses and lilacs, which I later began to sow next to the house's border wall. On special occasions we would go together to a wet and dark earth floor farm on a lane on Avenida Santo Amaro, where today the buildings of Vila Olímpia are spread out, to buy flowers that were presented to us in beds planted by a lady, who cut them on the spot and he wrapped them in a newspaper. There were esporinhas (Consolida ajacis), mosquitinhos (Gipsofila Paniculata), roses, fragrant lupines, what they had at the season. On the way home the matter was to choose the pot that would best receive the pick. And then I had the delicious mission of arranging them for the party.

I remembered these moments, when traveling along the roads near Vila Angostura in the north of Patagonia, enjoying the profusion of lupines of all colors invading the banks in shades of rose to purple and blue. Despite coming to know that they are intrusive in that region, I could not help admiring the explosion of colors that flooded us. Our hotel room, on the Correntoso River, transparent green, was decorated during our stay with an arrangement of dried flowers that we chose in a shed by the lake Nauel Huapi, where they were processed. They were naturally colored and flooded us with joy.

African violet (Saintpaulia) was a novelty around my 10 years of age, and exchanging leaves that became seedlings of different species with Sister Consuelo, at Pio XII school where I studied, made me feel like a naturalist, whatever the name would be to this activity at that time. When we got a species with flowers folded, or two colors in one, it was a great achievement.

In my plant farm, many years later, in the early eighties, recently graduated in architecture, in the company of my mother for a long time, we still lived with the difficulty of finding flowers. Ceasa was already our source, but it was a real battle to get a beautiful box of hydrangeas, a beautiful poinsettia for Christmas. Cyclamem was a rarity and good primroses, gloxinias and orchids were not easy prey. But it was a thought-provoking adventure to create beautiful arrangements with the flowers we could manage, plant them and pack them in bamboo baskets of all sizes that we ordered at Martim Francisco, from basket makers who made baskets for the tomato harvest. We mixed hydrangeas with maidenhair fern, Cassia ferruginea with Davallia fejeensis, wrapped them in colorful tissue paper in the colors of the flowers, satin ribbons of the same hue, and delivered the beautiful gifts, sometimes myself, my father or with the help of my brother, medical student at that time. The flower baskets were a big hit and the fashion of colored papers spread throughout the city. There were few florists around here, few flowers, new territory to be explored.

For a time I had a very special place, which I received as a gift from my husband when he lived in the interior of São Paulo. What a lovely game: five hundred square meters to receive whatever I wanted to plant. The weekends were spent with a hoe in hand, planting everything and mixed, with the right to have all the flowers I wanted, wait for them to bloom and harvest to make the vase that on those precious two days of the weekend would decorate our terrace. Pure fascination and fun.

I arrange bouquets like small gardens. Each flower, each branch, leaf, color, is placed in harmony, elements that are always unique and ephemeral.

In the gardens I design I like to plant shrubs and foliage that give flowers to be celebrated and harvested.

Matisse said that when he looked for flowers to paint them, he would pick them in the garden, placing them on the curve of his arm, one after another at random. Then, when he arranged them in a vase his way in his studio, he was disappointed. The bouquet had lost its charm when it was replaced by a plastered arrangement. I allow myself to disagree with him, both because of the beautiful paintings he made, having those flowers as living models, and because in the whole process of planting, or choosing the native ones in the field, picking the flowers, choosing the vase with size, color and shape, transparent or opaque, arrange them and put all that in the place where it was thought to be, I experience a ceremonial that gives me enormous pleasure, in which I appreciate each moment with its particular charm.

It is fascinating to see how each painter paints his flowering still life...

On the way to the hut we had in Bahia, it was part of the celebration of the arrival to stop on the sandy road and pick some very beautiful and brave flowers that were offered in the entrails of the hard and dry soil on top of the cliffs. Upon arriving, after taking the blessing of coconut water, already with the foot in the sand, the preparation of the vase began, with the soundtrack of sea water licking the corals in the background. Over time, Glorinha, a lovely woman who took care of our home, surprised us with the arrangements she made to receive us, mixing the native ones with colorful hibiscus flowers, giving signs that she was enjoying it.

In recent years, in our field, far from here, I have experienced the instigating and punctuated differences of the seasons, repeating the roadside harvest of flowers of countless yellow, small ones and not so much, whites and blues, grasses with inflorescences and shapes in all shades, beiges to burgundy, always leaving many on the plant for their seeds to spread, and what a delightful surprise to find them in the same place the following year. Great pleasure also gives me the harvest of the roses, from the rose garden that we created near the stone house, and put them together, colored or of a single color. Why only some of them are scented? The bouquet on the large wooden table, in the shade of the vine waiting to be transformed, and the purpose of being there with this sweet task ahead, are processes that I always want to cultivate for the good of my soul and the people beside me.

Makoto Mazuma in his beautiful encyclopedia of flowers ends his acknowledgments by paying a tribute, which I will endorse here:

to all the flowers that are in bloom in this book,

and all the withered plants that are not included too,

we express our great respect

Writing and photography Isabel Duprat

Spring, 2019


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