I do not pick flowers. Unless they are downed by storm or ordinary garden maintenance, not ever. In those infrequent times they will be snipped from stem or branch and floated in a suitable bowl, a most delicate way to admire a bloom or two, a display the Orient arrived at many centuries ago.
Even a peony mired in the mud after a drenching will be lightly hosed clean and allowed free to remain heavy suspended from its stem. A flower picked and displayed is mortality brought indoors and, whether in a water and sugar solution or one of water and aspirin its fate is assured, to die without making seed for future generations. I find no vase as suitable as the whole plant it came from and picking it a form of trophy hunting without even the benefit of taxidermy.
I have painted many flowers in many vases but most were freshly picked paper ones. As well, I can always look out of a window. There they are as they were meant to be, contributing to the garden’s various overall seductions.
Of course you may care to have a cutting garden, which is a factory for flowers, treating blooms as if they were crops.
Somehow, I don’t really know why, an image comes to me of a Late Victorian lady of the house getting accoutered for flower gathering which was, for her, at the time, a tremendous affair and called “gardening.” Hat and veil and long gloves, after dew has gone, the lawn clipped, the paths swept and she, with a suitable basket, pointing out stalks to her gardener, who then had them stripped of thorn and most leaf and then deposited in her basket. In, at last, from contact with weather and all of its possible assailments to face a table with filled vases waiting to be arranged. Propped on pillows, she well might rest the rest of the morning from her gathering of trophies.
There are so many instructors, so many ways, so many styles and schools and fashions in the act of arrangement, Oriental and Western, profuse and singular, wild-seeming and formal, color-keyed and dazzling, exotic and plain, hothouse and seasonal. What will you, none of these exercises in taste addresses the death of the bloom as it gets pitched like misbehavior itself to some dark delegated grave and not the compost pile, for it may have arrived too chemically compromised for recycling.
A picked flower is a lost bloom, an act that is imperious, unfeeling, and destructive, although I have friends who do so and I was quite grateful to get bouquets when I was ill.
Yet, dark thoughts inform the bouquet. Lethal in a closed bedroom.
There the body lay, just this side of the library and there on the rug a most remarkable lily.