Count on flowers

Seasons come and go, but beauty remains. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, May 2018

“No matter how uncertain our world sometimes seems, we can count on flowers to appear each spring.”Barbara Milo Ohrbach

Longtime members of the Defeat Despair community will be familiar with Susan, whom I first met here and whose previous visits have inspired earlier posts. She spent some time with Matt and me this past week, and though I’ve now met many of you face to face, Susan is the first person I met on the blog who has visited our Yorktown home.

Staying several days in the “Historic Triangle” meant we spent a lot of time in the early history of our country, at least in our imaginations. We learned that those 18th century fashions aren’t nearly as uncomfortable as they look (at least, not according to those who were wearing and creating them); we served on the jury at the piracy trial of Blackbeard’s first mate (the unanimous verdict was GUILTY!) and we spent a delightful afternoon listening to the incomparable Thomas Jefferson, whose hair has gone completely white since the last time I saw him in person over a dozen years ago, but who can still captivate an audience with wit, style and eloquence.

Thomas Jefferson spoke of education, politics and his hopes for ALL Americans.
Colonial Williamsburg, May, 2018

But with all the dramatic appeal of the “living history” presentations, one of my favorite pastimes during the days at Colonial Williamsburg was strolling through the gardens, swapping information or sharing questions about various plants, playing “name that flower” (and initially confusing foxglove with larkspur), and taking endless photographs.

One of the earliest posts on this blog featured a 2009 snapshot of the lovely home and garden pictured above, and as you will see if you compare the photos, it has held up well. If you look closely, you will see the tips of the foxgloves that dominate the 2009 photo, peeking over the picket fence in the background of the photo above. I don’t remember whether there were poppies and violas behind me in 2009 when I took the closer shot of the cottage, but they were impossible to miss this time, so I went for the long view.

Even a re-created tableau of colonial American history does not remain static. There were many new activities and sights to see on this visit, and also quite a few attractions that are no longer available, which I really missed. But the flowers did not disappoint me. Ohrbach is right; we can count on them to appear each spring, reminding us of beauty that has been bringing people joy for centuries. Despite competing with patriots, pirates and petticoats, flowers hold their own, inspiring every bit as much curiosity, and triggering more photographs. I hope your springtime is full of their colorful company.


  1. Renee

    So glad you had a good visit with your friend. Been sending emails. Love you so!

    • Renee, thanks for letting me know about the emails…somehow I must be missing them. I’ll check my spam filter. No worries though, we are always together in spirit even when the emails go astray. I so enjoyed the concert last Friday, and especially getting to sit next to Romona between sets. WOW what a gifted singer she is! And her story gave me courage. She was able to understand where my heart is right now.

  2. Sheila

    Good Monday morning, Julia. Spring and flowers, so delightful! 🌼🌺🌸 Bill just heard a dreaded term, deadheading. It’s the labor intensive part that no one enjoys but makes for prettier flowers. These gardens look amazing and I’m sure made for beautiful backdrops for time shared with Susan. The weekend was quite rainy here and probably there, as well. ☔️That made for some rest and relaxation here at 428. Hope all is well with you and Matt! Can’t believe it’s almost time to enjoy a new Verandah! Meet you there with sweet iced tea! 💛

    • Sheila, funny you should mention deadheading. I was doing that yesterday and the day before. I love Petunias but they are the worst in terms of having to keep deadheading. I normally don’t mind it– listening to a book on tape as I work– but yesterday, on the tail of several days of thunderstorms, the spent blooms were very squishy and just mashed between my fingertips– YUK. Yes, I am looking forward to a new Verandah. In fact, as I write this, I am looking at April’s page, where I turned the calendar back. Between the dreary weather and the flower-free, almost monochromatic May Verandah, I had to get back to the April scene. I can’t help thinking that a man must have chosen the May photograph. Oops, was that politically incorrect? Well bless my little heart. 😉

      • Sheila

        Of course, we’re meeting here at the same time! Great minds! 💛♥️

        • Sorry I’m just now seeing this. I guess I signed off before you posted it. Great minds do think alike, but sometimes we don’t sign off “in sync.” 🙂

  3. Good morning, Julia!
    Now, if I have it right at last, the foxglove appear to be the perfect shape to serve as little fox booties (or “gloves” on their forepaws?).
    The little foxes that we saw playing on Saturday would certainly knock off their booties, though, the way that they scuffled in the brush! Foxgloves must be meant for more refined and sophisticated foxes. Perhaps some more genteel foxes will join you and Sheila on the veranda, and drink tea, wearing their little gloves! 🙂

    • Susan, I hope you will upload that film so I can watch it. Maybe even post a link to it here, if you can figure out how to do that. I was so excited to learn there are critters in my new neighborhood, and such cute ones!! Right behind my house!! Maybe I should plant some foxgloves so that they will be available when these little rascals grow up enough to learn sophistication. If they don’t turn out to be the genteel type, at least I’ll have some nice colors in the yard. 😀

      • That’s a great idea, Julia, planting Foxgloves!
        They will probably bloom before I learn to upload or share anything, but I can send an SD card related to our various adventures!

        • Doesn’t your phone automatically send videos to some sort of cloud drive? If so, you can send a link to it.

  4. Harry Sims

    A long time ago in the early 30s a shave tail tyke who was little more than a toddler trailed along on his grandmother’s, who he called Jammie’s skirt tail as she tended her flower garden in the front yard of a rural home in the crossroads community of Penton Alabama.
    Of course he didn’t know it but a seed was planted which gestated and occasionally erupted into growth and he learned he dearly loved anything to do with flowers.
    He went on into advanced education and the practice of medicine with these early childhood principles which I’m sure most of time he was unaware of being firm guidance towards health, healing and wholeness.
    For better than three decades he has been wholeheartedly dedicated to an even higher purpose of practicing the Twelve Steps which includes of course Step Twelve which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as result of these steps he tried to practice these principles in all his affairs and to carry this message to others”.

    Thank you Jammie.

    If anyone wants to join the nature of Defeating Despair they are cordially invited to join Julia and others on this website:

    Harry S.

    • Harry, thanks for the recommendation. I know that your Jammie would be proud of you. She probably hoped you would one day grow up to love flowers. Jeff’s Aunt Gloria, who is also my dear friend (she is only 8 years older than me) lives in Phenix City AL which is not too far from that little town where your Jammie lived. Though many things have changed in the past decades, I feel sure that there still are grandmothers, there in Penton and all over the world, introducing young ones to the magical world of the garden. I’m grateful for that!

  5. Good morning, Julia! I had to let you know that there are several youtube videos starring our own Thomas Jefferson!
    This one made me giggle:

    • Susan, this made my day! Mr. Jefferson is a delight, and I was quite interested in his take on “Hamilton” — the musical. As you know, the man who killed Hamilton (in the musical and in real life) was Jefferson’s vice president, but not a man Jefferson was proud to claim. BTW — I wish I’d heard his thoughts about the man who played him in the musical! 😀 Thanks for sharing this. I told you that we were spending the afternoon with a celebrity!

  6. Spring is always so beautiful and to spend the day outside is even better. I have things coming up that I don’t even recognize but it’s beautiful so I leave it. 🙂 Historical reenactments must be fun to watch. I’m sure the are more prevalent in your part of the country than mine. Thanks for sharing the photo. Have a wonderfilled Memorial weekend.

    • Marlene, actually I saw some of the first “living history” I can remember seeing as an adult, on the West Coast (specifically, at the Renaissance Faire during its early years in Agoura Hills, CA, and later when it moved to NorCal near where we lived. There is so much theater involved in reenactments that I seemed to see more of them in California than anywhere else until we moved to the “historic triangle” where the USA was born. They are great fun, especially for nerdy types such as I. Hope you have a lovely weekend with great weather and spring surprises.

      • Harry Sims

        “Nerdy” :
        Term used for people or persons who are into books, computers, ect. and are unbelievably attractive.

        • Harry, what an interesting link! I knew the first part, but I didn’t know the “attractive” part…my how times change 😀 or could it be that a nerdy person wrote the urban dictionary? 😀

        • Harry Sims

          .Urban dictionary motto:
          “Define Your World”.

          • That’s a pretty appropriate motto for them. They are recording what people are already doing, using words creatively according to context.

      • I do remember going to to Renaissance Faire’s with my daughter in California. and it could quite possibly have been in Agoura Hills. She is quite nerdy too. Apples don’t fall far from our trees . All four of us in were nerdy, 🙂 Bookish types. 🙂 Have a wonderfilled Memorial Weekend. Hugs.

        • Marlene, thanks to Harry’s link, I now know that nerdy people are “unbelievably attractive.” And a nerd didn’t write that, either, because whoever wrote it misspelled “unbelievably.” So if your family is full of nerds, you are a smokin’ hot bunch!! 😀 Well I always knew being nerdy might become fashionable. It just takes a few people such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Malcolm Gladwell etc. to make nerdy cool. But I can say in all honesty I was “nerdy before nerdy was cool.” Just ask any of the popular but decidedly UN-academic kids who used to make fun of me in high school…

          • I don’t think anyone even knew I was in our school. Totally invisible. 🙂 Worked for me.

            • Marlene, except for this blog, I’m invisible myself now. I agree that it has advantages. 😉

  7. How fun to be on a jury ! I love learning about history and would love to visit here again. Jim and I did in 2000, but that days activities have escaped my brain (along with so much else, ha). Do you think the cottage sported such a fantastic garden in the day? It’s just gorgeous but I wonder if flowers would have given way to practical items like potatoe, carrot, cabbage and the like. I don’t suppose you made a trip to the market to plan dinner. Foxglove has always been a bee in my bonnet 😀 I really love how they look in the garden but have very little luck with them here. Basically, a very expensive annual because they’re sold as bi-annuals but never come back (for me anyways). xo K

    • Good point, I’ll bet they grew mostly food in those days, when pretty much everything people ate had to be grown locally. Colonial Williamsburg does have some of those gardens as well, but they’re not nearly as fun to photograph :-). Didn’t you tell me that you had gone to Monticello? Those vegetable gardens are truly impressive and to their credit, the docents there do emphasize that the brilliance of the gardens in Jefferson’s day was largely the result of the diligence and expertise of Wormley Hughes, the enslaved foreman of the farm. Hughes worked alongside Jefferson for years, and dug Jefferson’s grave. Happily, Hughes died a free man. Back to CW — maybe next time you come, we can make time for staying at the York home and we can go to some of those productions. You would really enjoy them, I think, and they’ve all changed in the past 18 years. Although I miss some of the ones that are no longer around, especially the 18th century plays– what a riotously funny way to spend an evening!

      • OMgosh! That sound like fun! Let’s plan on it xo I bought seeds at Monticello with a beautiful emblem on the packaging. Happily, I didn’t use them at the lake as the new owners eliminated the entire perennial garden to make 5th-wheel parking 😦 Heartbreaking really. I’m sure the seeds are no longer viable but I do love having them and may plant one or two sometimes just to see what happens. xo K

        • Oh, no! “Pave paradise and put up a parking lot” as Joni Mitchell sang so long ago. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. You never know — plant one of those seeds and see what happens! Jefferson would be proud.

  8. Mike

    This blog reminds of something I read about Fukushima survivors shortly after the Tsunami. When faced with such utter devastation someone remarked on a row of Flowering cherries in early bloom and said something like, “if the cherry trees can continue then so can we.” There is supposedly a short film about this which I have not fouind.”

    • Lovely quote. Life does go on, even when we think we can’t bear it. It reminds me of a quote I saw online recently (no attribution): “Sometimes when you are in a dark place, you think you have been buried, but you have actually been planted.” Let’s hope so. If you find the film about the cherry trees, please send me the link. The cherry trees are a lovely symbol, among other things, of the survival of friendship between Japan and the USA.

  9. Mike

    Right now the Hydrangaes are spectacular in my son’s yard. It seems the high humidity here agrees with these lovelies.
    We went out to the Etowah mounds on Saturday in Cartersville. Very different culture from our Northwest indigenous peoples, Salish ,Chinook and Muckleshoot. To think the De soto was here in the mid 1500’s seems quite incredible. The Spanish did not play nice with the n native peoples here.

    • Yes, the Spaniards were ahead of both the Jamestown and Plymouth arrivals, and Saint Augustine, Florida, is a fascinating place to explore that history. Closer to your new home, one of the main drags in Atlanta is good old Ponce de Leon Avenue, which you will have noticed is pronounced with a distinctly Southern twang. Lately I’ve heard people just shortening it to “Ponce” and letting it go at that. But as the Etowah lands attest, all of the Europeans were relative latecomers. Isn’t it fun to know that, even before all the other people got here, the South was STILL way different from the Northwest? 🙂

  10. Mike

    “The America I love still exists, not in the White house, the media. the supreme court or the legistlature, but at the front desks of our public Libraries.”

    Kurt Vonnegut.
    I have started to reread some of his stuff.i.e “Cats Cradle,” which I first read in college at the age of 20.

    • Love that quote. Would you believe I have never read anything by Kurt Vonnegut? Not sure I would enjoy him, but perhaps I should give him a try.

  11. Mike

    Though I am not enjoying this book as much as I did back in my college-“Hippie” days it is still fun to read though a little disjointed. Very short chapters. Now on chapter 78 and am about half way through if you can imagine. I think Cats Cradle ” is one of the better ones and based in part on true characters.” His brother worked for G.M. as a research scientist and Vonnegut was concerned about the military applications of so called, “Pure science” and the lack of moral responsibility among those scientists who were just doing.=”Pure research regardless of any kind of subsequental negative consequence.
    I guess I kind of outgrew him like Saturday Night live and National Lampoon magazine. It was just a stage, but he can be funny. The ficitonal religion he created in “Cat’s Cradle” -Bokononism -still has practioners in real life who meet yearly at the annual “Burning Man” event in Montana.

    • Mike, it sounds interesting. If I ever get around to reading Vonnegut, I’ll start with that one.

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