Chrysanthemum Perspective

Our long, hot summer here in central Italy has come to an end. The leaves have begun to change color, the morning air is crisp and the potted flowers on our terrace (mainly geraniums and petunias) have grown tired.

So I ventured out recently to the local vivaio – plant nursery – to replace some of my dying, summer flowers with those that are suited to cooler, autumn temperatures.

The big greenhouse at the vivaio was filled with pansies – blues, purples and yellows everywhere. I’ve always loved pansies. My mom grew pansies in her flower garden when I was little and, to me, their little, perky faces represent happiness. So, naturally, I loaded up on pansies.

Then off in a corner I spotted 5 chrysanthemums. Only 5? I bought 3 of them – red, orange and yellow – and planted them in pots as soon as I got home. Such gorgeous colors for fall!

Che bello,” remarked one of my neighbors. “I never thought of planting chrysanthemums in vases like that,” she said.

“Where do you usually plant them?” I asked her.

“Well, of course I take them to the cimitero – cemetery,” she answered.

Cemetery? Oh, of course. My memory was jogged. In Italy, chrysanthemums are a flower that one places on graves or headstones of loved ones – they’re not often found in terrace pots or flower gardens. In fact, the day following All Saints Eve on November 1st, people throughout Italy will stop by flower stores on their way to the cimitero for the annual honoring of the dead – and a common flower of choice will be the chrysanthemum.

Mi piace così,” continued my neighbor, smiling at my potted chrysanthemums. “It’s a pleasure to look at this flower in such a different way!”

Nothing like a change in perspective – just a bit – to turn something mundane, even morose, into something beautiful. What a wonderful lesson my neighbor unknowingly taught me – chrysanthemum perspective. Che bello.

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