Flowers make you smile

Flowers make you smile


Life & Style
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Fiona Ogilvie talks about the benefits of giving flowers as presents. What flowers have you received recently?

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Detail from A Vase of Flowers by Dutch artist Margareta Haverman (d. during or after 1722), from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2018 Desk Diary.

Detail from A Vase of Flowers by Dutch artist Margareta Haverman (d. during or after 1722), from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2018 Desk Diary.

Have you noticed how everyone smiles when you give them flowers? Apparently their sight and smell release chemicals in the body that make us feel happy. So I’ve been looking for flowery Christmas gifts, which is a double whammy – the pleasure of looking at flowers is enhanced when combined with the pleasure of buying someone a present. 

A flowering plant lasts much longer than cut flowers. A friend recently gave me a miniature Phalaenopsis orchid and it has sat on my desk for the last three weeks, looking quietly beautiful and asking only for an occasional drink, the perfect guest you might say.

Scarlet, double flowering Poinsettias are Christmas classics, as are mop head hydrangeas and colourful arums (Zantedeschia hybrids) with spotted leaves, all in nurseries in December. You can up the status of your gift if necessary by including a flowery china pot, or ‘cache pot’ as Great Aunt Ethel called it, to put the plant in.

The pleasure of looking at flowers is enhanced when combined with the pleasure of buying someone a present.

Illustrations of flowers can be almost as good as the real thing. There are two paintings of flowers at the end of ‘Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age’ currently exhibiting at the Art Gallery of NSW and the exhibition is almost worth visiting for them alone. The display of 76 masterpieces from Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum includes wonderful pictures by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch, among other famous Dutch artists. Yet a small painting that I loved of flowers in a vase, by the lesser known still-life painter Jan Davidsz de Heem, was chosen for the catalogue cover, and features prominently in the exhibition advertising and decorates the merchandise carrier bags, a stunning testament to universal appeal of flowers.

A ticket to the exhibition ($25, www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ closes February 18 2018) would make a lovely Christmas gift. Better still, an annual subscription for country members ($90) allows free entry to exhibitions (and access to the Member’s Lounge which is a lot quieter than the public cafe). If you can’t get to Sydney in the near future, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Australian online store (www.themetstore.com.au/) has a 2018 Desk Diary that contains 56 gorgeous reproductions of flowers paintings including, coincidentally, several gems by early Dutch artists.

The 2018 Art of Flowers Engagement Calendar  has a week at a glance and costs $29.95 plus postage. Closer to home, Victorian artist Chris Canning has two top quality calendars out for 2018, portrait shape, each illustrated with 12 of her distinctive paintings of native and exotic flowers. Small calendar, 32 x 23 cm, $29.95, large 45 x 32 cm, $44.95, printed on archival paper suitable for framing (www.lambley.com.au/). Christmas isn’t complete without a gardening book from Florilegium’s Summer Catalogue (www.florilegium.com.au). Michael Morrison and Lisa Clausen’s Cruden Farm Garden Diaries is a moving personal account from the diary kept since 1984 by Michael Morrison, Dame Elisabeth Murdoch’s gardener from 1971 until her death in 2012 ($37.99 plus postage). It’s an enlightening insight into the work of planning, planting and looking after one of Australia’s most famous gardens. Best of all, Simon Griffiths’ splendid photography includes plenty of flowers.

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