Cut Flowers


photo by Paul Mayer


Cut flowers. You see them at the market, the farmer’s market, and flower stalls. They are given and received as gifts, and they are, of course, lovely. Fresh. Ephemeral. I’m OK with the whole thing now, but for the longest time—nearly all my life–I thought it wrong to cut off a flower in bud or bloom.

My mother wanted a debutante and what she got was a hippie. A naturalist from the get-go. Truth be told, I always preferred the wildflowers. The Queen Anne’s lace that seeded itself aside the highway to the heirloom rose. And to my mind, planted or wild, all flowers deserved to grow.

Pity the date who came to my door with a bouquet in hand. One look at the stemmed beauties wrapped in cellophane and I’d think, the poor things… When a relationship was lasting, I clarified my preference for potted plants. As it happened, my husband hung in the longest and our lives have been full of plants I have tended for months, years, and occasionally transplanted outdoors.

I was this way about cut flowers right up through becoming a Master Gardener. Now any gardener worth her salt will know that plants benefit from pruning, and cutting may keep some plants vigorously in flower. It just wasn’t in my nature.

I never knew where this came from until my mother lay dying last week. She was 89 years young and suffered a stroke in the hospital following a surgical operation. The stroke evolved, and there was nothing to do but keep vigil. And that is what we did for days.

I read to her from the book I had on hand, Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren. Chapter after chapter of this horticultural memoir became intensely personal. I read how Hope’s strongest memory of her childhood garden was not how it smelled or looked, but how it sounded. “It might strike you as fantastic, but you really can hear plants growing in the Midwest,” she wrote.

When we came to the part about her mother’s peonies the size of cabbages, I put down the book and spoke of my own mother’s peony garden of many years ago. Closing my eyes I could see her on hands and knees tending her border alone.

“I’m sorry, mom, I never got down to help you,” I cried. “I was always running by, not interested in gardening yet. But I want you to know that I noticed how beautiful…”

And she nodded; she understood.

Suddenly I realized, right there by her hospital bedside, that in all those years of magnificent summer blooming peonies, we never had an arrangement in the house that I can recall. That’s where I got it, I thought! From my mother, who never cut the flowers she tended so lovingly.


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22 responses to “Cut Flowers

  1. Craig Kelly

    Oh man… tears at work. What a lovely remembrance. It is always a small moment, thought meaningless at the time, to resonate so strong within us years and years later.


    Thank you for sharing.

  2. Alice B. Acheson


    Oh, Kim, I am so very sorry!  I don’t know you well, and I surely never knew your mother, but I do know how wrenching such an event is in your life.

    I also never helped my mother in the garden, but she did “share” some of the blooms for the house.  Even the 30 years I lived in Manhattan, I always had a “$7.00” bouquet in my apartment from the local green grocer.

    I have cut some of the marvelous red/yellow peony (leaf) stems for my bouquet of red alstroemeria and yellow yarrow.  I’ll think of your mother tending her peonies.

    All best, Alice

    ========== Alice B. Acheson, Book Marketing/Publishing Consultant P. O. Box 735 Friday Harbor, WA 98250 360/378-2815 a little elbow room wrote on 10/23/2017 2:02 PM: > > a little elbow room posted: ” photo by Paul Mayer BY KIMBERLY MAYER > Cut flowers. You see them at the market, the farmer’s market, and > flower stalls. They are given and received as gifts, and they are, of > course, lovely. Fresh. Ephemeral. I’m OK with the whole thing now, but > for t” >

  3. With you, Kim. Sending love. And what a lovely and meditative tribute to your mom and to the love of growing things that the two of you had in common–even if not always at the same time in life.

  4. What a thing of beauty you wrote. Lovely. Your mother is so proud and pleased of who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

    I’m so glad you got to spend some time with her. And so sorry I couldn’t make it to her service.

    Peace, Gil

    ______________________________ Gil Ahrens 415-710-2366

  5. Beautiful post, sorry for your loss. Fondly, Concha

  6. Deb

    How beautiful, Kim! I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sending you love from the Atacama Desert, where even in the world’s most arid environment, spiked with salt crystals, brine shrimp flourish and nourish pink flamingos! Deb

  7. Ahhh, Kim, that’s a gorgeous piece. So sweet of you to share your revelation with us all. And your mother…how good that you could tell her, and that she understood. Lovely. Love, Katie

  8. SJC121

    Kim … so sorry for your loss. My own mother passed away in 1991 and I still think of her everyday. The power of memories like the one you have of your mother and peonies will see you the dark moments of sorrow to come. I wish you, and your family, well.

  9. Beautiful, soulful words, and heartfelt rememberances. Flower bud, blossom, and bloom, just like humans. Then we, like flowers 🌺 become detached from our stems and leaves and branches, and depart from this earth quietly. Our loved ones miss us, but fond memories remain and they are cherished.

    Sincere condolences to yourself and family.

    – Yasmin Amico, Goddard Alumna,
    MFAW ’12 & MAEd ’09

  10. Kim — this was beautiful — and wonderful. To find the peace you found with your mom was truly a gift– Love you much

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