“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.” — Claude Monet

What is there to say about flowers that hasn’t already been said? That they are beautiful and dazzling and provide the perfect accent in an otherwise dull space? That they fill the world with fragrance, or that their colors mesmerize and defy characterization? Flowers are all of the above, and then some. What sort of nature writer would I be if I were to forget that they are the end result of the process millions of plants undertake to produce them?

Before fruit, there must necessarily be a flower, and before the light fades, their is often the last color we see amidst the interminable green of summer. It is the first color in spring and the last in fall as the year creeps again toward winter, dwarfed only by the changing of the leaves and defying the mornings when frost has claimed the less stalwart among them.

They drape our vales and hillsides, brighten our small hollows and ditches, and pop up in our lawns and along our woodland edges. They cascade from window boxes and baskets, paint bold swatches across fields, drip from rock walls and arbors and imbue the ocean air with a fragrance that can only be described as heaven-sent. On a more practical note, they provide us with a tangible means of celebrating certain traditions and, ideally, they make more glorious the last journey we all take from this world to the next. What else can I add that will give flowers their just due, to assign them, once and for all, the status they deserve as one of the most joyfully indispensable blessings that nature has bestowed upon us?

Like so much else, flowers came into this world, to this Earth, slowly and deliberately. Their purpose was to add a final and glorious touch to the vegetation that predated much of what we know today as annuals and perennials, as vines and shrubs, as weed and wanted plant, displaying an intricacy of color and texture not seen in other living things. They loom large or small in the landscape, from the enormous blooms of tropical flowers to the tiny blossoms of ground-cover plants so small that they escape our notice and are often trampled underfoot in our rush to get on with the processes of living.

Yet who among us does not love flowers? Who among us could find anything negative to say once we know of the miraculous journey they undertake to get here and, in some instances, such as the daylily’s brief stint, to grace our lives for but a day? A morning glory opens at the first touch of sunlight then fades with the light, while a moonflower blossoms at day’s end and fades with the dawn. Lady slippers appear in shady wet places in late spring and Johnny jump-ups live up to their names by producing more of their own kind each year without any effort on anyone’s part. Jonquils, crocuses, hyacinths and tulips usher in spring while brown-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s lace save their graces for later when the summer’s heat distracts and dismays. As fall extends the year’s bridge toward winter, chrysanthemums, both domesticated and wild, share their own late glory with us in field and garden when the rest have called it good for another year.

What would our lives be without flowers? Our tables, nightstands and sideboards would be bare, our yards and lawns one endless, unbroken ribbon of green. Our winter holidays would be devoid of the reds and greens of poinsettias and amaryllis, while our spring festivities would take place without the lily’s pure and gentle touch. From the bouquets of carnations and freesias in supermarket garden shops to the goldenrod and forget-me-nots along roadsides, flowers persist as an easily accessible source of beauty and comfort. They are small, quiet blessings, appearing often in our lives when we least expect them and when we need them most.

— Rachel Lovejoy, a freelance writer living in Lyman, who enjoys exploring the woods of southern Maine, can be reached via email at [email protected].

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