By Sally Pearsall Ericson
Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Artist Elmore DeMott, a descendant of the Bellingrath family, will come full circle when she returns to the Gardens on Feb. 27 to present “Flowers for Mom,” her photography series to honor her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey.
DeMott’s mother, Elmore Bartlett Inscoe, 79, is a granddaughter of William Bellingrath, Walter Bellingrath’s older brother. Mrs. Inscoe had many happy memories of her childhood visits to Bellingrath Gardens, her daughter said.
“I remember her walking through the house and pointing out the bedroom where she stayed,” DeMott said. “The bed had a stepstool, and she got one like that for me to have as a little girl. … There was a fondness she always expressed about her time there.”
Mrs. Inscoe’s husband, Jim, said that his wife talked about the gracious traditions of life in the Bellingrath Home. “As a child, her parents would take her down to visit, and she was always so impressed with eating in the dining room and the wait staff they had – it was just always so elegant.”
In 2009, Mrs. Inscoe’s three children organized a surprise 70th birthday party for her on the Riverside Dining Porch of the Bellingrath Home. The family filled a van with friends and drove down from Montgomery for the event. “We had ice cream shaped like flowers,” DeMott said, “and she walked through the Home and shared stories with us.”
The Inscoes have operated Jasmine Hill Gardens and Outdoor Museum in Montgomery since 1971. His wife loved Jasmine Hill Gardens, Jim Inscoe said, “and it is because of Bellingrath that she loved it so. We have tried to preserve it and expand it a little bit and it’s been a long project … but I think, frankly, that having the property is what got our children interested in gardening. They would come up and help us with the work. Jasmine Hill, for our family, has been a very big blessing.”
Mrs. Inscoe continued her family’s legacy by serving as a trustee on the board of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation. “Having the opportunity to serve on the board really meant a lot to her,” DeMott said. “She worked hard to get some things changed to make sure that Mr. Bellingrath’s wishes were properly honored.”
Mrs. Inscoe was diagnosed with a mild cognitive disorder in the spring of 2016. On July 5, 2016, she had a bad fall.
“We had been warned that if she had a major event that it could rapidly take her downhill, and that’s exactly what happened,” DeMott said. “She cracked a femur and had to have surgery, and hasn’t walked since. We basically lost her overnight, because she was pretty high functioning until that happened.” Mrs. Inscoe’s husband, children and a team of partners now care for her at the Inscoes’ home in Montgomery.
DeMott’s “Flowers for Mom” photography series was inspired soon after her mother’s fall, when the family was still struggling to accept the dramatic change in their lives. DeMott recalled the helpless feeling of realizing that she could not help her mother get well. One way that she processes emotions is through photography, she said, and she mentioned to a friend that she had been thinking of taking photos of flowers to honor her mother’s Alzheimer’s journey. Soon after, she saw a beautiful bloom of Queen Anne’s Lace, her mother’s favorite flower, and decided to get started.
“I said, ‘Well, today it is, and this is the flower,’ ” DeMott said. One year later, she considered bringing the project to a close, but fate intervened. “I was traveling with my family and we walked into a hotel, and on the counter was Queen Anne’s Lace,” she said. “I realized that I was supposed to continue doing this series.” She is now in the third year of the project, and has photographed nearly 1,000 blooms. “I haven’t missed a day,” she said.
The series has been a wonderful way to connect with her mother, she said, and flowers were the perfect subject. “My mother has always loved flowers – flowers have just always been a part of my life. For most of my childhood, there were always flowers in the house.”
The photos are displayed as scrolling presentations on television screens set in a metal sculpture built by Gowan Iron in Montgomery. “You can just sit and witness the volume of the photos. It is really something,” DeMott said. “Flowers for Mom” will be on display at Bellingrath Gardens and Home from Feb. 27 to April 30. The series was most recently on exhibit in Tuscaloosa, and after its time at Bellingrath Gardens, it will be back on the museum circuit. In addition, DeMott posts her photos daily on her social media channels, gaining a wide audience.
“The way that this project has grown beyond us is really humbling,” she said. Her social media posts have invited her followers to share meaningful conversations about Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s amazing that it has touched far more lives than just our small family.”
For DeMott, “Flowers for Mom” has nearly endless possibilities. “People have asked me what’s next, but I don’t feel that I have finished this yet. … There is still a lot to explore, and just as no two flowers are alike, no two in this series are alike, so I’m enjoying the process.” The series includes the camellia named in honor of Walter Bellingrath, which DeMott photographed in the yard of her cousin, Suzy Stevenson, another descendant of William Bellingrath.
“Flowers for Mom” has helped her to slow down and appreciate life’s quiet moments, DeMott said. “What I’ve learned through this is that beauty abounds, and we must seek it daily. There is the beauty in happy moments with my mom and seeing the kindnesses that others show to her. … We must find a way to pause and appreciate the beauty of the moment.”
Elmore DeMott will present “Flowers for Mom” at 10:30 a.m. on February 27, 2019, at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. The program is the final session of the 2019 Winter Wednesday series. To register, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 251-459-8727.