To see wonders

Thanks to Denise, I discovered these lovely flowers to bring home. January 2019

Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear…

…The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.
— Patrick Kavanagh

This post is for Denise, who inspired me to challenge myself this past week. The goal was for each of us to buy fresh flowers for ourselves. Denise had achieved this almost immediately, but I took a few days longer. However, with her example to encourage me, I ended up with the lovely primroses pictured above.

Earlier, in a discussion in the comments section, I had written that cut flowers are a good investment despite their short lives. I mentioned that it was easier for me to buy myself a potted plant I could eventually transplant outdoors, hoping that it might last a bit longer, but almost never bought myself freshly cut flowers. Denise said she had a similar reluctance to treat herself to a bouquet, so we agreed we’d bring home some botanical joy as soon as possible.

So my original plan was to buy cut flowers, not something potted. The interesting thing was that, had I not gone into Kroger’s in search fresh cut flowers to follow Denise’s example, I would never have found these adorable primroses, which are among my all time favorite flowers. Like the beloved daffodils that always top my list, primroses bloom very early, before winter is past. Is there a pattern here, with my preferences? I think so!

Every year, I search (usually in vain) for potted primroses to enjoy. I love their vibrant colors and deep green foliage. But they are hard to find; maybe I just don’t know where to look. Even when I see them advertised, the stores are always sold out by the time I get there. The few I have bought over the years have transplanted beautifully, sometimes coming back again the following year. Our Alexandria townhome that I sold last year had a lovely yellow primrose I had planted beside the patio. It returned annually, blooming in the still-cold weather, reminding me that spring had almost arrived.

Anyway, after I read about Denise having bought herself some flowers, I went into my local Kroger’s, which boasts a wonderful floral department. Despite how beautiful their displays are, I almost never take time to wander and buy; I’m always in a rush to get the practical groceries and get home with them. But I was determined to find some cut flowers to live up to my own words.

Imagine my delight when I saw these lovely primroses! At only $1.50 per plant, I could afford all five of the colors on display. Now I will have the double pleasure of flowers to enjoy indoors, and flowers to plant in a few weeks in the new planting beds adjacent to my just-finished patio. I was so excited to bring them home.

The next morning, I was having my usual cold-weather reluctance to leave the snug and cozy cocoon of my bed. All the usual cares and worries came flooding into my mind, setting me up for the gloomy mood with which I begin far too many days. Then suddenly I remembered my new flowers, and immediately, it was as if a light was switched on inside my brain. Just the thought of seeing them when I went downstairs made starting the day an easier task for me.

Thank you, Denise, for helping me to see wonders! It does often seem that the years “pass like tired soldiers” but as the poet has written, there are wonders woven throughout, truths that are better than wealth.

A postscript: readers who enjoy Christian reflections might appreciate the full poem from which the quote above is drawn.


  1. Julia, I love flowers too. So happy your primroses brightened your day and remember you are loved!❤🌟❤

    • Thank you, Cherie! I’m always so happy to hear form you. ❤

  2. Ann

    I don’t know that I have ever seen potted primroses before. I thought the photo was of African violets. You & Denise are inspiring me, think I’ll head to Trader Joe’s floral dept.

    • Hi Ann, I do think they are similar to African violets, although I have no idea whether they are related. The primrose foliage isn’t fuzzy as the African violets are, and of course the flowers have a bigger variety of colors, but otherwise they are very similar in appearance. I’ve never heard of an African violet surviving outdoors and returning yearly, though. I think primroses might not consistently do that. I may have just been lucky with my little yellow primrose at the Alexandria home. Yes, Trader Joe’s is a great place for flowers! Do you have Lidl where you are? They too have nice flowers at reasonable prices, when you can catch them in stock. They sell out quickly. Wishing you bountiful blooms to get through the remainder of winter!

  3. Jack

    I have a reasonably green thumb and an inexhaustible amount of energy with annuals, perennials, vegetables, fruit trees, bulbs and most anything that grows outdoors, but am a serial killer of indoor potted plants. No Primrose, African Violet, Cyclamen, Orchid has a chance of surviving through the blooming cycle upon purchase, and my cheapness precludes a regular restocking of indoor plants. Ever since my mom sent me off to college with the first of many unkillable ficus trees that died of either too much or too little love, I still hold fast to the illusion that one day I’ll acquire that skill. Shoemaker, stick to thy last!

    Maybe I should just get some pictures?

    PS; But goodness, you should see the profusion of cut zinnias that grace our home from about June to November. Zinnias I can grow!

    • Jack, I wonder why your green thumb does not operate indoors…could you be watering too often? Jeff was phenomenal at keeping indoor plants alive, and I always thought that it was because he had a clock-like regularity in his habits, never forgetting to water but never over-doing it either. He kept a poinsettia alive for years– something that I’ve seldom seen– and though it did not “bloom” (meaning the leaves did not change color, except rarely) it was pretty just staying green. I was able to keep that same plant alive until this past summer, when I forgot to water it before I left York for two weeks, and when I returned, it had died. 😦 So my skills at indoor plants are iffy. Let’s just say I have to have hardy varieties. I love cyclamen but have never tried to keep any. They used to be all over San Francisco in the winter and it was a joy to see their bright colors. Re: indoor plants, have you tried schefflera, peace lily or philodendron? Those are some I’ve been able to keep fairly well, and they are easy to propagate if you want to have lots of separate potted plants, as in a sunroom. I LOVE zinnias and yes, they make great cut flowers! I grew some gorgeous ones during our California years, but haven’t had much luck with them in Virginia. Maybe I should try again. I really like the bright colors.

  4. Dorothy

    Hullo Juia and Matt, I love these potted flowers too. Here they are called polyanthus andI have some planted in two pots near the front door. As they are dormant now I’ve planted impatiens amongst them for summer colour. Meant to comment on your blog about trees but time got away as my family from India were still here with my very active two year old grandson! In ourfront yard we have an enormous gum tree which is so beautiful. It has to be checked every year if it fell on the house it would cause considerable damage but so far it is fine. When in flower, very small pale cream flower heads , the rosellas, cockatoos and King parrots love it but do make a mess. Not sure what I’d do without the trees as they provide much needed shade in the summer. Enjoy your primroses with their bright happy faces.

    • Dorothy, is that gum tree you describe the same one in the Kookaburra song we used to sing? I just love that song! It sounds as if it might be the same one, since you say the birds do love it. Do you ever get visits from the “merry merry king of the bush?” 😀 WOW, do you really have King parrots and cockatoos and rosellas flying about freely? That must be fabulous. I had never heard of a rosella but I looked it up and it’s a stunner! Maybe I should move to Australia for the birds alone. If there’s anything better than brightly colored flowers, it’s brightly colored birds! When your polyanthus go dormant inside, do they keep their foliage? I wonder if I could find some of that variety over here. Impatiens would be a good companion flower for the primroses – thanks for the idea. I may put that combination into the smaller planting bed on my new patio.

      • Dorothy

        I grow my polyanthus outside and even though at present they still have leaves they will most likely will lose their foliage. There are many types of gum trees in Australia. The kookaburras do come by and magpies with their lovely song. There are many other native birds that are in the garden year round, even, though not native, the English blackbird. My sister lives on a farm in South WestNew South Wales and she keeps geese, chickens (for eggs), Guinea fowls and peacocks. Since they are still in drought kangaroos and other wildlife come close to the home for water.

        • Dorothy, all that sounds wonderful. What a delight to live near so many lovely “critters.” Thank you for sharing them with us!

  5. We did it!!! Yay! I love those primroses!
    Sadly, my bouquet is totally wilted, but I enjoyed it for almost a week.
    a PS on the challenge…I texted my daughter’s neighbor down in Oregon and asked if he would pick up a bouquet for her tomorrow and deliver them from me as a surprise. ❤
    Look how this is spreading!

    • Denise, that is wonderful news about your daughter’s flowers. Yes, let’s spread the philosophy of “flower power” that some of us remember from our youth! 🙂 The nice thing about cut flowers is that they totally evade the illusion of permanence that accompanies other types of possessions. There’s no way to hoard cut flowers and we know we have to enjoy them while we have them, rather than putting it off. Not a bad lesson to learn, in these times of abundance.

  6. Dear Julia, You inspired me to search primroses and African violets; I don’t think I knew the difference, previously. Thanks! I may have to pick some primroses up, too!

    • Susan, now that you know the difference, maybe you can enlighten us. Do African violets ever grow outdoors, as primroses can? I have thought of you each time I’ve heard the amazingly low wind chills you are getting up there in Minnesota right now. Stay warm and keep dreaming of springtime!

      • LOL
        Julia, when I said “I know the difference,” I mainly meant that:
        1. African violets have fuzzy leaves while primroses don’t, and
        2. They have quite different scientific classifications.
        Neither piece of information really helps me understand how or where to grow them, but, if it helps you or your readers:
        Both plants are of the Clade: Asterids
        Primroses are of the
        Order: Ericales
        Family: Primulaceae
        Genus: Primula
        African Violets are of the
        Order: Lamiales
        Family: Gesneriaceae
        Genus: Saintpaulia
        So, according to Wikipedia and scientific classifications, African violets would be more closely related to lavender, lilac, olive, jasmine, the ash tree, teak, snapdragon, sesame, psyllium, garden sage, mint, basil, and rosemary, while Primroses are in the same order as tea, persimmon, blueberry, Brazil nut, pitcher plants and azalea.
        Isn’t that just wild?? I’d never have guessed that they were so different!

        • Susan, I totally enjoyed reading this (remember our earlier discussion about liking to have questions answered?) and WOW, thanks for taking the time to explain all this – I’m sure I won’t be the only one who finds it interesting. I am amazed, not only that they are so different despite looking so alike, but also at the plants they are related to. The azalea is not so surprising (I guess) but the blueberry and Brazil nut? Astonishing. And with the African violets, the lavender might not surprise me but mint and basil do. Great botanical detective work — and thanks again for sharing this. 😀

          • I am with you, in surprise! I guess I don’t know enough about classification to understand how these things are sorted … so I’m not surprised that I’m surprised! 😉

            • Yes, it’s a mystery to me too. Biology was my favorite of the sciences, but I’ve forgotten most of what I ever knew.

  7. I’ve always enjoyed flowering plants as well as fresh cut flowers in the home. I’m looking forward to sweet pea season, when I can cut flowers daily for at least eight weeks. I hope sweet peas make it into your garden, too, Julia.

    • Alys, I tried growing sweet peas from seeds a few years back, but had no luck. I don’t remember seeing them in plant or even seedling form at any nurseries, but I’ll look extra hard this year. I would be quite happy to have some in my garden! When we lived on the central coast, near Lompoc, I used to love seeing the flower fields in bloom. Amy told me those were mostly sweet peas. They are beautiful.

      • Hi Julia, I looked up your zone and if you are on the eastern side of Virginia then you are zone 8a. Here’s what the Farmer’s Almanac has to say:

        Kelly sent me a few packets of sweet peas several years ago. I naively planted them in the spring and the amounted to a sad little crop. The following year, lo and behold, I had a prolific, self-seeded crop. They needed a long season to germinate. They pop up in January, and will grow throughout the spring and very early summer. Then when our first heat wave hits they are toast. I love them! They attract friendly neighbors, bees and folks who remember longingly a grandmother’s garden.

        • Alys, this is very encouraging! I’ll try extra-hard to find some sweet peas this year, and then if they don’t appear to do very well, I’ll just wait for the next year and hope. 🙂 I’ll also get some seeds to plant. I love reading about your sweet peas and their many benefits. I can’t hope to have the same results as are possible in that lovely northern California climate, but perhaps I’ll be luckier this time around. Spring can’t be far off! I’m amazed we are already in February.

  8. Harry Sims

    This — The flowers and your beautiful thoughts are so Beautiful..

    • Thank you, Harry. I’m so happy you enjoyed them.

  9. Sheila

    Good Sunday morning, Julia. I can only refer to my 428 surroundings as gray, as the sky, the ocean, even the morning light doesn’t have even a glimmer of brightness! I suppose it’s up to me to create my own and the primroses are a great start, along with your note that I’ve read again this morning. Thank you so much for staying in touch in such a personal way! My plan on Monday morning (upon reading “Defeat Despair”) was to rush to Kroger and buy more than one primroses. I never made it! Bill had a surgical procedure for some sinus issues so that’s been most consuming. He’s doing well, recovering at home, and we’re still speaking. Haha. I must add that I have my beautiful red poinsettia to brighten these winter days and I enjoyed your comment about Jeff keeping one for years. I water it as needed and let it enjoy the afternoon sunbeams. I love the poinsettia history, of its arrival in the United States as cuttings from Mexico, sent by Dr. Joel Poinsette to his family in South Carolina in 1828. In the time spent with you here, I might be seeing some sunbeams trying hard to make an appearance. Our Verandah is always a bright spot to every day‼️💛🙏🏻

    • Hi Sheila! I wish I could have sent you some sunshine this morning. Ours arrived bright and early, streaming around my blackout blinds at around 7:45 or so. My first thought was that the days are indeed getting longer– hooray! Hey, I never heard the origin of the Poinsettia’s name. That’s interesting. I think I had heard that they came from Mexico, but never have heard much else about them. I hope you can keep yours alive. They are pretty even in the “off season.” Speaking of which, I love the hydrangeas and candles on our Verandah this month. Such a nice combination! Sending our best “get well soon” wishes to Bill. I have heard sinus surgery can be really painful. I was at Kroger’s tonight and didn’t see any primroses, but there were lots of cymbidium orchids which were beautiful. Wishing you a lovely week ahead, with warming temperatures and lots of sunshine! ❤

  10. Mike

    I saw these yesterday also at Kroger for the same reasonable price. I will go back and get some todau. From our place here on Sixes road we can walk to the Kroger about 1/2 a block away. You probably know Know Kroger is linked with the Fred Meyer stores out in Oregon where my aunts lived very close to the first one in Portland in the Woodstock neighborhood. So— our Fred Meyer’s care also works here.

    • WOW, I am green with envy at the idea of being so close to a Kroger’s. I really miss the 1-mile walk to so much shopping near our town home at Kingstowne, but of course there is no Kroger anywhere in northern Virginia. I have to go to the one in York County or stop at the one near Richmond on my way down. Supposedly a Town Center is going to be built here near my new home so I can walk to things then, but it seems to be slow getting started, mostly due to delays with building the VRE station. I think I knew Kroger was linked to Fred Meyer but since they don’t have that store anywhere I’ve ever lived, I’m not familiar with it at all.

  11. Michael

    First time ever in walking distance to many small restaurant some six or seven, a great clips, gas at Kroger. We could retire here.

    • Mike, I like Kroger so much I bought some stock in the company. It hasn’t made any money to speak of, but I love that grocery store. One reason I don’t want to sell the York home is that they don’t have Kroger here in northern Virginia. I buy all my gas at Kroger with my gas points, and I eat plenty of Kroger brand food too. I thought you had already decided to retire in Georgia? It’s a great place to retire in my opinion.

  12. Mike

    Reading article on 23 places seniors can retire for 1500 a month including rent. This is on yahoo. One of the places is Lynlchburg, Va, Most places are in Texas- Abilene and or Oklahoma. Do you think this is actually possible?? Lynchburg that is, This includes rent, groceries, medical and miscellaneioius. Assuming 1500/mo. on SS.
    Snowmageddon in Seattle. We missed it by one week. Thankyou Jesus,.

    • Mike, in all fairness I know next to nothing about Lynchburg, but having spent one day and night there, I think there are better places where one could retire on 1500 per month. At least a cheap frugal person could. Lynchburg feels so far away from everything. I like living near the coast and I like to have a good-sized city nearby. But some people prefer rural areas. I guess it would depend on what you were looking for. The Blue Ridge Mountains are gorgeous and you might prefer to be close to the mountains rather than the city or the coast.

  13. Mike Bertoglio

    Did you ever go to Pikes nursery in greater Atlanta area? Went to one yesterday and got some on sale Violas. The paper Bush are a little pricey-70 dollars for a one gallon plant,but they are in bloom. I saw several beautiful specimens at Gibbs, and one was about 8ft. by 6.

    • Never did go to Pikes. I love going to nurseries, though, especially when the colors go wild and everything is in bloom. I’m not familiar with paperbush but anything that blooms at this time of year is appealing to me. If they have a good guarantee maybe the 70 bucks would be worth it, but on the other hand, you could get several 3 gallon bloom-again azaleas for that. So it’s a tough call.

  14. Mike Bertoglio

    Not for me- in an apartment,but for my son’s place in Macedonia. Tomorrow I journey to Rome and hope to get a pict of the Remus-Romulus sculpture there. Named after the Euro site as it also has seven hills.
    We are doing a couple hanging baskets, but that is about it this little townhouse.

    • Hanging baskets are great! I love their portability. Hope you enjoy Rome. Macedonia — as in eastern Europe? is your son there? I must be missing something.

  15. Mike Bertoglio

    OK. Macedonia is the little area East of Canton,Ga. where my son lives. Between Canton and Cumming. I have not discovered the etymology of this name-but when I say my son lives in Macedonia the locals seem to know it. It is close to Lamton??
    The Romulus -REmus statue in Rome is interesting, To see Benito Mussolin’s name on the statue is also a little unsettling as he is the reason my paternal grandfather left Italy, with the rise of Fascism also. Rome,Ga. also was the site of the Olympic torch start in 96″ for Atlanta, Olympics.
    I read some about the Romuls /Remus myth.Apparently some scholars do believe that they were real characters raised in part by a she wolf- a Lupa. Romulus the name sake of Rome who lived on the Capitoline Hill of Rome.
    Rome .Ga. also has three rivers and seven hills- as it’s namesake. I only had an hour to sightsee- so I hope to get back. The Major Ridge home- Chieftans site- is also there and I got there just at closing time. He was a famous Cherokee chief who signed the treaty of Ochota leading to his murder by his own people.

    • Mike, I don’t think I ever knew there was a Macedonia in Georgia. Rome…Athens…Canton…do we see a pattern here? Lots of international inspiration with those city names. I never realized it before. The Cherokee were the indigenous residents of what later became north Georgia and North Carolina. It’s so tragic that they were driven out of their native lands. I think that their influence remains strong, though, and not just in the form of untold numbers of modern Caucasians trying to claim Cherokee ancestry. There are some intangible traces that can never be driven out of the land, no matter who or what tries to control it. I really believe that. There are places in this world where the aura of the past is so thick you can almost cut it with a knife. BTW you really must make time for a trip to Cherokee, NC to see Unto These Hills. I saw it only once, as a young girl, but I have never forgotten it and have despised Andrew Jackson to this day.

  16. Mike Bertoglio

    Yea-he was such a work of art and I think I mentioned to you the chapter in Sarah Vowells book “Assassination Vacation? called “Why I hate the 20 dollar bill.” Sarah has a sardonic and biting wit about her. She also share Cherokee ancestry.
    I am not sure I will make it to Cherokee NC but hope to check out the New Echota site and I did see briefly the Chieftan’s house outside of Rome where Chief Ridge resided for many years-a 200 acre plantation right at the river’s conjunction-Etowah, I don’t know if I mentioned we made it to the Etowah mounds site which was also fascinating. Did I mention the plaque in Rome devotied to Hernan De soto who was there in 1540 along with 55o of his mem. Georgia has such a rich history compared to Washington- founded in 1862 or something like that.

    • Mike, one of the first things I loved about being back to the east coast states was the history that goes back so far. When you enter York County the signs read “America’s future since 1634.” And of course, the indigenous people of the Powhatan Confederacy were here long before that, and the next-door Jamestown colony was settled in 1607. So yes, much more (recorded) history on this side of the country, including the lead-up to the revolutionary war, in which Williamsburg played an important role. Northern Virginia is full of similarly significant historical sites. The southeastern USA is full of battle fields from both the revolutionary and civil wars. I’m sure Brits would scoff at my calling the 1600’s ancient history but it’s all relative I guess.

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