MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — There has been a lot of talk about growing your own food lately and for good reason. When you grow your own food, you can cultivate your crops however you would like, knowing what you put in your family’s mouths was cared for with your own hands. Also, you can cut down on spending, going out in public and the uncertainty of what will or will not be available at the store. How rewarding is that? But we are all more than mouths to feed right? Hans Christian Andersen had a point when he said, “Just living is not enough, one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” Surely there is some room in your garden, near your house or in your yard for “a little flower”?
Flowers speak to us in ways that a homegrown cabbage simply cannot. Why neglect beauties such as roses, lupine, nasturtiums, and the ever-charming foxglove when they awaken more than the mouth and stomach? You will find, as I have, that it is very simple to tuck a rose bush here, a columbine there and a patch of bearded irises on that small rocky rise that is a terrible trouble to mow. Flowers take us back in time to Grandma’s garden scented with lilacs and overflowing with bleeding hearts. They keep us from forgetting why we grow things. Flowers remind us to (sorry) “stop and smell the roses”. And aren’t they right in this? Aren’t we hurtling along most days at a speed that keeps us from enjoying the verdant hills of our area, not to mention the pink ragged robin, marsh marigolds and blue-flag irises blooming on our roadsides?
Take a moment and think about that spot in your garden where nothing will grow. Is it under a tree? A bit dry? Partly sunny? Find yourself some Baptisia australis (Blue wild indigo or False indigo) to plant there. Baptisia is a tough, pea family member with purple spikes of flowers and somewhat tall, sturdy stems. Native to a large area of the Eastern states, the Midwest and into Canada, Baptisia is loved by hummingbirds, not by deer and its deep taproot helps it to survive in dry soil.
And please do give roses a chance. I know, I know ‘they are too fickle’ you say, and ‘I don’t know how to prune, or when, or why’ you say. I had a friend that grew over 300 roses in his front and back yard. He had had cancer and a stroke that had rendered one arm useless. He could barely walk and rode around on a Rascal scooter pruning, watering, propagating, and tending his roses. If he can do it, that’s right, so can you. If you need a little encouragement, contact me. I was lucky enough to be tutored under this man. Roses are only slightly more time consuming than your average perennial but the bragging rights, the beauty and the pride from growing your own is worth those few extra minutes. Take a look at the British rose breeder David Austin’s website for inspiration and ideas at https://www.davidaustinroses.com/us/.
Flowers are not a means to an end; they will never satisfy our physical hunger. Flowers satisfy a different sort of hunger: they open our eyes to the unseen mystery of growth. Flowers go through the same life cycle that all plants go through with one astounding moment of beauty that feeds pollinators, lifts our hearts and reminds us that life is not really a journey with a material destination but a series of moments that should be lived playfully, aesthetically, and with great joy. Don’t forget flowers this year! And as my rose-growing friend always said, with a twinkle in his eye, “Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.”
For a list of nurseries in and near Madison County, please visit: http://madisoncountycce.org/gardening/local-nurseries-greenhouses
–Patty Catalano, CCE Madison County