( Not) in a Vase on Monday. Armistice Day.

Today is the anniversary of Cathy’s meme, In a Vase on Monday. To celebrate she invites us to bring flowers into the house and display them in a different sort of container, so it is actually Not in a Vase on Monday’. Last year I chose a Victorian potty. Somebody else went a step further and arranged their flowers in the lavatory.

But yesterday was the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day so I thought something more sombre is called for. I used my grandmother’s gas mask tin. Although this tin is from the Second World War, mustard gas was first used in the First World War and this is a grim reminder.

My grandmother used this tin for storing a muddle of needles, pins, thimbles, threads, knicker elastic and goodness knows what else. Like all her generation she always sewed; I suppose living through the war made everyone make do and mend. But she hated sewing and whenever you saw the gas mask tin brought out you knew that grandmother would be in a really bad mood. Eventually I inherited the tin and its jumble of contents along with my grandmother’s distaste for anything to do with sewing.  A couple of years ago I discarded the contents and decided to use the tin to store seeds in. Today, it seems a fitting receptacle for flowers to pay tribute to the millions of men who were maimed or who died horribly in an obscenely pointless war.

Chrysanthemums have traditionally been associated with death. Christina at My Hesperides Garden says no one has them in the house in Italy. But I love them and I am always glad to have a cheery vase full of them on a gloomy November day. I am not too keen on the mopheads which look like over-lacquered hair styles and need to be fussed over with hairnets and disbudding. But I love the bright daisy or pompom types. Many of them start blooming in October but as the garden is full of so much else at this time I don’t take any notice of them until November. It’s one of my rules, like doing the garden tour in a certain order after a holiday, instead of rushing straight over to look at something eagerly awaited, or refusing to notice plump spring bulbs appearing until after Christmas.

Blooms are getting scarce in November so we need chrysanthemums not as memento mori, but as little patches of sunshine in the garden. My collection is growing but next year I hope to have even more.

Here are some of the ones I put in my tin. Pretty in pink we have the lovely, old,  double, dusty pink Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’. This blooms late  and its leaves turn red  too.

Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ centre. ‘Mei Kyo’ right.

Another double pink is the cute little ‘Mei Kyo’ which is a pompom rather than quilled like the Emperor.

Chrysanthemum ”Mei Kyo’

The peachy pompom is ‘Picasso’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Picasso’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mei Kyo’ right corner. ‘Picasso’ centre.

I have several single pinks, this one is called ‘Stratford Pink’, I like it because it has a white halo in the centre.

Chrysanthemum ‘Stratford Pink’

I have to have ‘Suffolk Pink’ of course because it is local and I am also very fond of this shaggy pink which a neighbour gave me.

The most vivid pink is ‘Mrs. Jessie Cooper’.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs’Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mrs Jessie Cooper’

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’ is a lovely peachy colour and blooms for ages.

Chrysanthemum ‘Mary Stoker’

Dazzling white ‘Edelweiss’ is quite rare.

Chrysanthemum ‘Edelweiss’

Other rare ones include gorgeous ‘Chelsea Physic Garden’ which is late blooming and one of my favourites. It is double and deep orange with bronze on the backs of the petals.

Chrysanthemum‘ Chelsea Physic’ Garden’

‘Chelsea Physic Garden ‘ centre

‘Margery Fish’ is lemony yellow.

Chrysanthemum ‘Margery Fish’

This next one has a red label which means it is on the Plant Heritage Red List for Endangered Plants. I can’t remember its name so I am going to have to do some research. It’s possibly ‘Cottage Lemon’ It has terracotta buds opening to deep yellow flowers, so not really lemony. But it’s gorgeous.

I love this one which is called ‘Cottage Apricot’. It becomes deeper apricot with age and it has a lovely honey scent.

Chrysanthemum ‘Cottage Apricot’

The rest of the ones in the tin are nameless passalongs. Now I have complied with Cathy’s rules I think I will put them into a vase. I don’t want to look at a gas mask tin all week.

The BBC’s Antiques Road Show did a wonderful programme to mark Armistice Day. It was very moving as people brought in artifacts and told heart-breaking stories about family members who had lost their lives and shown great courage and fortitude. A friend of mine was amongst those with a tale to tell.

I don’t have any stories to tell or medals to show, but after my grandparents passed away I inherited a beautiful gold hunter watch and chain. My son has it now. Inside the case, carefully preserved, was a white feather. I know that white feathers were sent to many of the 16,000 Conscientious Objectors who were vilified and treated incredibly harshly during the First World War. Some of them were sentenced to prison or hard labour. People who  refused to be complicit in killing their fellow men were mocked at and ostracised. My ancestor was clearly not ashamed of his white feather and he carefully preserved it so it would tell its own tale today.










I have to admit to getting angry when we are told that millions of young men ‘gave’ their lives for their country. In fact they had their lives cynically stolen; a whole generation died, were maimed, or had their lives blighted. And all because as Wilfred Own said, they were told and believed: ‘… The old lie, ‘Dulce et decorum est
Pro Patria mori

But as well as marking Remembrance Day, this  is a celebration  of the fifth year of Cathy’s enormously popular meme, In a Vase on Monday. So  thank you Cathy for bringing us all together and encouraging us to enjoy flowers in the house all year round. Do pop over to Rambling in the Garden to see how Cathy and all her followers are celebrating the occasion.

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53 Responses to ( Not) in a Vase on Monday. Armistice Day.

  1. restlessjo says:

    Lovely to bring so much colour to such a sombre occasion. 🙂

  2. Heyjude says:

    Lovely flowers, I’m afraid I always associate poor Chrysanths with those horrible bunches you used to find (still do?) at petrol stations. I’m afraid I get a little angry at all the pomp and ceremony on Armistice Day, yes it is good for us to remember these lost lives, but we should also remember who sent these men and boys to their deaths. Politicians seem to be able to easily forget.

    Did you see the Carol Duffy poem? “The Wound in Time”.

    • Chloris says:

      I never used to like chrysanths. Like you I associated them with garage flowers or boring pot plants. I love them now, they lighten up my November.
      I love the poem. I don’t know much about miltary history but it seems General ‘Butcher’ Haigh has a lot to answer for.

  3. pbmgarden says:

    Chloris, I love this post on so many levels. Your chrysanthemum collection is amazing. They’re often underrated flowers but bide their time and become treasures this time of year. The “sewing box” is poignant. How fitting you brought it out to share. I think I’d have liked your grandfather with his white feather.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Susie. I have searched for your gorgeous ‘Sheffield Pink’ but it doesn’t seem to be available here. Your lovely arrangement a week or two ago, using this with fabulous Camellia ‘Haba-Jiman’ made such an impression on me.
      My Grandfather was special and a man of stern principles. His sister married a German and they had to go and live in Australia. Apart from being morally opposed to killing people in any circumstances, he was appalled at the idea of being obliged to kill his sister’s relatives.

  4. Cathy says:

    A lovely and very fitting post, Chloris, on different levels – and what a great collection of chrysanthemums you have. It has only taken the few blooms on the Mary Stoker cutting you gave me for me to want more and I was already eyeing up varieties in the Halls of Heddon catalogue that I had some of my newer dahlias from this year – but if you felt you could spare some more cuttings I especially like Mei Kyo and Emperor of China…is that being cheeky? What I found especially sad whilst thinking about all the Remembrance stuff was that those on the ground had to keep on fighting literally up to the 11th hour, even though they knew the end point had been decided – I am sure it wasn’t their choice. Thanks for everything Chloris, and your support for IAVOM over the years

  5. Chloris says:

    Thank you Cathy. I will certainly send you some more Chrysanthemums. I shall divide them in early spring so I will send you some pieces then. I’ll tie a knot in my hankie so I won’t forget.

  6. tonytomeo says:

    Not much of the tin is visible below all those chrysanthemums. Some look like really big asters.

    • Chloris says:

      No, I tried to hide the tin, I only used it to conform with the rules of the meme and because it seemed appropriate on Armistice Day. I love the variety of shapes and colour you get with chrysanthemums.

  7. What a perfect combination of sentiments, objects and flowers to mark these two special days. And what a treasure to have that watch with the white feather. One would like to think we have come a long way but the rampant nationalism on the rise suggests otherwise. My husband was a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam War and did two years of alternative service in a hospital in Cleveland.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Linda. You are right nationalism is on the increase worldwise, it is worrying. As for your Orange Man, he terrifies me. Your husband is a hero, that is good to hear that he refused to fight.

  8. A beautiful tribute, Chloris. Very imaginative, yet touching.

  9. Christina says:

    A moving post with just the right touch of humour. I always love reading your posts. I love all your chrysanthemums; I don’t have any names for mine as they were all bought as pot plants!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Christina. I know how you acquire your chrysanthemums and they are all pretty even if they are not named vareties. It is not so easy for you to get named varieties living in Italy. I belong to Plant Heritage and we aim to save and preserve old garden plants that might otherwise be lost. I love plants with a bit of history.

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    You have an impressive collection of Chrysanthemums! Every autumn I say I need to plant some hardy ones (the farm stand ones never last), but somehow I never do. ‘Empress of China’ is my favorite.
    Both arrangements are striking and your NOT vase is the prettiest pot I’ve ever seen. 😉

  11. Alison C says:

    An inventive container for a beautiful collection. Oh ‘Picasso’ , my favourite.

  12. Peter Herpst says:

    Wonderful thoughts to commemorate both occasions. How sad that our species continues to kill one another. “Fighting for peace is like having sex for virginity.”

  13. Kris P says:

    I can always count on your posts to include something extra, and this one is no exception. Tying together the IAVOM anniversary and the Armistice observance was a nice touch but adding in a little family history, as well as a survey of your beautiful Chrysanthemums, puts it over the top. I love the flowers of the mums, if not the plant’s foliage, but both are immaterial as the plants really don’t care much for my climate.

  14. Chloris says:

    Thank you Kris. Some of the chrysanthemums have foliage that goes bright red in autumn. I suppose they need cooler days to get going. You can’t grow chrysanthemums but on the other hand you have 23 leucadendrons. I wish I could grow them.

  15. Elizabeth W says:

    Thank you for a thought provoking post. The story of your grandmother’s gas mask tin made me chuckle. I love sewing but I can understand her hatred of it as, for her, it would have been a necessity of making do and mending – just a chore. Your chrysanthemums are gorgeous. I did make a start on growing them, planting a lovely little orange one, but the puppy scraped at it and it hasn’t made a return this year. I was fascinated to read the story of the white feather. – conscientious objectors were treated abominably that’s for sure. I wrote about my experiences as a member of the WRAC of a particular Remembrance Day Parade for my blog yesterday – you might like to read my post too.

  16. Cathy says:

    The gas mask tin is rather sombre, but the bright flowers compensate somewhat for its grimness! Still, I am glad you swapped it for a vase later. 🙂 I do like the daisy type of Chrysanthemums. What a great assortment you have! I wholeheartedly agree with you on the first (and second) world war being so pointless. I did feel it strange yesterday as I watched the world leaders all looking sombre at various memorial services while bombs are being dropped at their command in illegal wars even today.

  17. Wonderful remembrances on this solemn day and I love the way you marked it with the gas mask tin and all the mums…you have quite a collection.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Donna, yes I have become very keen on chrysanthemums. I never used to like them much, but now I really value their contribution to the late autumn garden.

  18. Lovely collection of mums, hard to pick favorites though I do love the old fashioned single ones. I am not sure which war to be disgusted about at this point. All of them. The tin is good reminder of what can happen.

  19. snowbird says:

    I always pity the German army, an honorable bunch before Hitler took command, the vast majority of them opposed him, I know this as I had a German friend who lived across the road, she was a source of knowledge for sure. She survived the war, her parents died in the Russian zone, afterwards, her father opposed Hitler and feared his sudden rise to power. What annoys me is that people are still being sent to war…..we never seem to learn from our mistakes. My grandfather was horribly injured in WW1, yet had to fight in WW2 as well, along with my father. How I admire yout Grandfather, good on him keeping that white feather, I know I couldn’t kill a person in cold blood either. Rant over!
    Of course you use your Grandmother’s gas-mask tin for storing seeds….I laughed reading that! A lovely vase and wonderful post.xxx

    • Chloris says:

      My ex was German and his family suffered dreadfully during the war. His uncle was killed on the very last day. Horrible business. If everybody concentrated on their gardens how much better off we would be.

  20. Ali says:

    I completely agree, Chloris, watching the BBC documentary (They Shall Never Grow Old) and hearing the boys’ trust and subsequent disillusion and horror, I just felt sick that a state could do use them. I think I would have deserted or shot myself.
    Whatever light setting you are using on your phone/camera it is working for me! I love the darker background to really set off the flower form, texture and colour. Beautiful.

    • Ali says:

      Sorry – ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ and typo – that a state should so use them.

      • Chloris says:

        I don’t usually watch tv, but we went round to a friend’s to see this. It was amazing how the colour brought the old footage to life and thanks to lip readers we could hear what was said. It was so terrifyingly vivid.
        Thanks for your kind comment, I am afraid my photos are a bit hit and miss, unlike your beauties.

  21. What a beautiful selection of ‘mums and a lovely story about your grandmother’s gas mask tin. Very fitting that you now use it to store seeds.

  22. Sam says:

    I found the BBC documentary quite shocking and was further saddened to hear how those who survived were treated when they returned from the trenches. Lovely flowers and great use of your ancestor’s tin. I don’t grow any chrysanthemums but I can see the appeal here 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I agree, it was compulsive viewing and very disturbing. I never used to grow chrysanthemums but I can’t get enough of them now, specially the single ones.

  23. Annette says:

    A most beautiful bouquet to celebrate this anniversary, bravo! All wars are obscene and usually triggered off by men who have no problem sacrifying the young. I do sincerely hope that we don’t have to fear anything like this anymore in Europe at least. My grandmother lived through two wars and was destroyed by it. I feel privileged never to have experienced it but the world is a crazy place and sometimes I wonder…we are not really progressing, are we, rather ‘regressing’…thankfully we have people like Cathy to remind us of what’s important.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Annette. I find the rise of nationalism so disturbing, it makes wars so much more likely. And this whole Brexit business is deeply depressing, I like being a European.

      • Annette says:

        yes, I know, me too and I feel sorry for you guys, it’s a crazy situation and I think life will get very difficult after Brexit especially for young people but nobody seems to think of the consequences…to think we’re in the 21st century…and very often it feels like we’re not truly ‘progressing’ at all, at least not where it matters! enjoy your sunday anyway xx

  24. A most thoughtful and poignant post Chloris. You have made such positive and imaginative use of that tin that was once used to store a piece of equipment that people should never have had to contemplate wearing 😦 Your chrysanthemums make for a lovely splash of late autumnal colour. My mum was Italian and would never have chrysanthemums in the house insisting that they were for funeral vases only. Funnily enough though she always had a few growing in the garden. Yours are beauties.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Anna. It is funny these superstitions about bringing flowers into the house. I can understand it about chrysanthemums which are associated with death but I have heard people say they won’t have snowdrops in the house, now that’s a weird thing.

  25. A poignant post. The flowers are beautiful, and this is a fitting tribute to all those lives lost.

  26. It’s good that you have some physical mementos of the world wars. These were such catastrophic events for two generations around the world, and yet they seem to be fading from memory. I think that the resurgence of nationalism is due in part to our forgetting all the suffering that was caused by those ideas.

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