By Sebastián Encina
Each year around May, people in and around Ann Arbor start heading to Nichols Arboretum to see the blooming flowers and trees, the signs of spring returning to our area. This year, Nichols will not be planting their regular peony gardens, but people will still be making their way to the arboretum to see what other colorful flowers are growing.
And as the weather continues getting warmer, more people will venture out to their gardens and start planting their own flowers and plants. Soon our neighborhoods will be full of brilliant, beautiful colors and amazing smells. (Sorry, allergy sufferers!)
Flowers and natural beauty have been a source of joy and happiness for thousands of years. The natural world decorated the walls, pottery, and other items of the ancient world. Stroll through the galleries of the Kelsey Museum and you will see many examples of nature-inspired motifs on a wide range of objects.
So, too, did our predecessors at the University of Michigan appreciate the beauty of flowers. For this month’s “From the Archives,” we bring their flowers to you. Though not as brilliant and vibrant as the flowers you can see and smell in the gardens of Matthaei and Nichols, they evoke the beauty that people share no matter where they are. George R. Swain captured the beauty of flowers in England, France, Greece, Egypt, Belgium, Palestine, and Turkey, in gardens, placed near monuments, growing in the wild, and for sale. In his photographs presented here, we see a funeral procession, a decorated cenotaph, flower vendors in Brussels, someone’s private home garden. Swain was sure to point his camera everywhere while traveling with the U-M teams.
Soon, Ann Arbor will be full of flowers and beauty. We will wander the parks and gardens appreciating what we see, often stopping to snap our own photos to share. We are continuing a practice so many people have enjoyed for so long.
Cairo, Egypt. Flower bed with palm trees beyond, Gezireh island. KS160.10.
Cairo, Egypt. Flower beds and walk at Gezireh island. KS160.12.
Cannes, France. Approach to a villa — palms and flower beds. KS245.02.
London, England. Flowers at the base of the Centotaph, a close up view. KS011.05.
Cairo, Egypt. Flower bed in foreground, looking toward two palms with path and bridge below. KS160.05.
Cannes, France. Approach to a villa — flowers, palms, other trees. KS246.10.
Cairo, Egypt. A funeral procession coming along a main street — note the flowers. KS147.08.
Antioch, Turkey. Aqueduct and its source. Rounded masses of pink flower, up in the hills near the stream. KS281.06.
Cairo, Egypt. View in the park on Gezireh island. Flower beds in blossom at the left, trees (including palms) scattered about. Road down the center passing under bridge of palm logs. Expanse of lawn at the right, with shrubbery beyond. A lovely park. Size, 9 1/2 x 32 1/2 in. Cirkut027P01.
Cairo, Egypt. Flower beds, shrubbery and lawns, Gezireh island. KS160.04.
Athens, Greece. Palace Gardens. Flower beds, two palm trees, other trees and shrubbery beyond. KS210.04.
Jerusalem. Some of the formal flower beds in the garden of Gethsemane. KS129.02.
London, England. Peace centotaph, erected 1919. Many flowers at the base. KS011.01.
Cairo, Egypt. Ezbekieh gardens, flower beds and vista down a walk. KS142.11.
Athens, Greece. Flower stalks of the century plants up on Lycabettus. KS212.06.
Cairo, Egypt. Flower beds, lawns, trees, shrubbery, on Gezireh island. KS159.12.
Brussels, Belgium. Flower vendors in the old Grand Place. KS236.02.
London, England. Cookham and vicinity. Just a flower garden out in front of a house. KS222.10.
Brussels, Belgium. Flower vendors in the old Grand Place. KS236.03.
Paris, France. A flower push cart. KS014.12.
Cairo, Egypt. Close-up view of a flower bed and shrubbery beyond. Gezireh island. KS160.11.
Paris, France. Flower sellers by the Porte Maillot. KS235.06.
Compiegne, France. Statue of Joan of Arc, flower market in front. KS228.11.