I almost missed the daffodils. Sure, I saw the yellow splashes of color around Richmond, sometimes bravely defiant against a late snow, sometimes urging endurance: keep the faith, Spring is coming. But my own daffodils almost came and went without my noticing. Shame on me.

Sure, I’ve been really busy. Richmond In Sight presentations and book signings, my “real” job as a real estate broker, an aunt with progressing Alzheimer’s, my ‘baby’s’ wedding preparations…but how could I have missed these glorious bursts of yellow around my yard?

Both sides of my family have always considered flowers essential to happiness. My maternal grandmother, Sue Sneed Fleming (Momee), cherished her flowers and taught me everything I know. Her English boxwoods, rooted and given as gifts, are everywhere from Reveille United Methodist Church to the time capsule in Bon Air. She gave each of her 24 grandchildren English boxwoods and we treasure them.

I shared her old Bon Air Garden Club notebooks with the Midlothian Garden Club house tour in December and of course, people recognized her name and told stories about Momee. Her silver-plated bowl, purchased with Green Stamps, still has a taped label on the bottom, “Sue Sneed Bon Air 1945”, and I’ve filled it with arrangements ever since she died and I claimed the bowl for my own.

My cousin Bob Sneed continues the family tradition with Sneed’s Garden Center, located where my grandmother’s first “garden shop” was part of Sneed’s Store in Bon Air. I worked there with my grandmother and Momee “paid” me in vases from the Williamsburg Pottery. The Pottery in those days was one small building nearly as tiny as Momee’s garden shop. I treasure those pottery pieces.

The Stilson/Lynch side of the family was just as obsessive about flowers. I displayed my great-grandmother’s 1939 garden club brochure during the Midlothian Garden Club tour but I also have old catalogs, even seeds from the 1960s… and I have Harry Stilson’s pictures. He was so proud of his dahlias that he even took movies of his flower beds. I’m not sure what he thought would be moving in those “moving pictures” but he took them. His movies, donated to VCU Libraries, include Maymont’s Italian gardens and others.

 

Grayland Avenue climbing roses

Rose hand-painted by Mary Stilson

Rose hand-painted by Mary Stilson

 

 

Harry Stilson in his flower beds

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Garden shows at the “Old Coliseum” on Broad near Lombardy, now lofts, showed displays and were noted “Mary with Harvard in far end of room in chairs” on the back of one picture so I assume that my great-grandmother had an entry that year.

Coliseum flower show

Coliseum flower show entries

Coliseum “yard” display including awning and seating from Stilson home

Mary Stilson also grew a night-blooming cereus, which blooms one night a year and Harry captured it on film. Family lore claims he stayed up two nights waiting for the momentous event. He declared it was worth the missed sleep as the blooms literally burst open before your eyes, flooding the room with fragrance.

Night-blooming cerius at 3021 Grayland Avenue

Richmond is blessed with glorious gardens, private and public. Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens are a real treasure. It’s worth the membership fee to be able to stop in when you need a ‘flower fix’. Even in the dead of winter, the conservatory offers fragrance and color. And the gardens in spring and summer are beyond words. Rich colors,heady perfumes, lavish displays of everything from orchids to zinneas. The extravagant rose gardens alone are worth a visit.

Richmond’s azaleas steal the show in early spring with a blaze of color, overwhelming whole yards with their massive blooms. Dogwoods decorate the woods and tulips and other spring bulbs splash vivid reds and yellows through green grass. Richmond in the spring is exuberant and wild.

Forget the adage to stop and smell the roses. Stop and revel in the glorious hope of spring in our own back yards, hope as near as that sassy yellow jonquil nodding as you pass. What a gift we are given in the glory of flowers. Indulge and be thankful.

Howard Lynch on Grayland porch

Howard Lynch on Grayland porch

Howard’s picture hand-painted by his grandmother, Mary Stilson

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