The Undeniable Charm of Pink Flowers

Flowered china, image, © the author

It seldom fails: the unaccountable allure of a few tiny pink roses painted on fine china.

I have walked into many an antique store, vintage shop, resale shop — sometimes with entirely other plans and sometimes merely with an open mind. I have come out carefully hoisting a paper bag full of white china sprinkled with little pink roses. Or perhaps just a single teacup, English bone china with a large spray of pink flowers on the face of said cup, a little sprig on the inside, and one or two on the saucer.

To do the teacups justice, there are a good many of them with other flowers in other colors, in particular the most delightful purple violets. (I love violets.) But the purchase of each of the above are a complete mystery when I honestly believed I was searching for something undeniably modernist or something distinctly folk in style. Or any of my other temporary whims, so easily cast aside in favor of a few roses.

Our kitchen is currently stocked in a selection so well-matched that they might have been curated for the purpose. I assure you they were not. It happens.

On the soup bowls we have managed to find some information. It’s a Haviland pattern, produced from the nineteen-thirties through the fifties. Online they can be purchased for a good deal more than the price we paid at the local antique mall.

they might have been curated for the purpose

The lady at the counter was mildly astonished when my sister showed up from our search of the back shelves, emerging with the set of four bowls stacked cautiously in her hands. Yes, they both checked and rechecked the listed price: two dollars a bowl. Perfect condition, I might add, with lovely raised detailing, crisp from the original mold.

I am not much of a food stylist myself, but even I will admit that soups taste somehow better from pretty bowls.

And pretty they undoubtedly are, whatever your aesthetic, whether you appreciate prettiness or prefer other effects. Their roundel of pink and yellow roses is the essence of prettiness in old china. You may like it or not, but so many have liked it over the past two hundred years. That is why so much was made. That is why so much is still stocking the shelves at myriad little vintage shops all over the land.

Yes, I love the nearly matched look, created thoughtfully from generations of dinner tables resplendent in assorted pink roses.

Then there are our plates, another matching set of four. I believe they are older than the bowls: the pattern is looser with a Nouveau attitude, though probably made in the twenties. Not roses, this time, but carnations and daisies. I love them.

The gold trim is slightly worn on this set but still there. The colors are deep and rich. On the undersides the plates are stamped Limoges, the famous French factory which was the source of the blanks, and Elite Works, the New York company that had them produced for importation to the US. Many years ago, all those wonderful flowers were no doubt part of a full dinner set. Not anything expensive, just something to beautify the table.

All these pieces are originally from larger sets, but we don’t need an eight- or twelve-place matched setting, so why not enjoy them in fours? We are certain now that we can always find another set of four… or even singles.

Yes, I love the nearly matched look, created thoughtfully from generations of dinner tables resplendent in assorted pink bouquets.

I love having something made long ago to charm the eye and adorn the grand old mahogany dinner tables on Thanksgiving afternoons. (A gravy boat is on my list once my budget allows it. Meantime, please pass the mashed potatoes.) I love to live with something made to be pretty so that we humans can enjoy a little beauty together, leisurely eating a dinner crafted in the same spirit of gentle pleasure.

Certainly, in order to last, this gold-trimmed, daintily flowered ware must be washed by hand. But for those of us who haven’t even got a dishwasher, this is no added hardship. I keep reminding myself that I intend to protect them by lining the sink with a dish towel while washing up, in the manner of that goddess of my childhood, Tasha Tudor.

I could continue. Old silverplate utensil sets are equally pretty, as well as being similarly simple (and inexpensive) to come by. This, if you don’t require the latest, brand new stuff. And if you don’t mind doing a little mix and match curating.

They go well with white china decorated in pink roses, I might add.

Then there was the find at a special little shop renovated from an old five and dime. My sister discovered a violet-laden luncheon set, complete with matching teacups. A nearly full set of seven, at about a dollar apiece… Having them encourages us to take the time for a cup of tea at lunchtime. Besides, we enjoy looking at the flowers.

Did I mention that I love violets?

Lyric poet. Blogger. Grower. Maker. I love living things.💗POM-poet💗

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