Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Outdoor Bouquets

Crystal vases brimming with long-stemmed roses never did much for me.  Tall, Dark, and Handsome figured that out in the early years of our marriage, tucked his wallet back in his pocket, and saved a bundle at florists.
Mom's Springtime Farm Snippings

I grew up around Mason jars chock full of hand-snipped blossoms, fresh from my mother’s extensive garden.  From the glass rim, a riot of colors burst forth, celebrating nature with carnival flair, Daylilies and Beebalm hawking for attention in all directions.  4-H offered a floral design course, and I spent summer afternoons in Marilyn Tanner’s basement, learning the ins and outs of floral foam and frogs.  She taught a handful of girls to create line and mass designs with accessible plants such as Hosta, Chives, Iris and Peonies, arranging them into fleeting objets d’ art.  We soaked our creations in homemade floral preservative, a solution of hot water, sugar and a splash of Clorox. 

A few years later, as a cash-strapped college student, I gladly took a job in the U of I floral design lab.  I prepped gallons of floral preservative, cleaned and trimmed thousands of mums from South America and picked bushels of Alstroemeria in the university green house. 

After years of picking and snipping, prepping and arranging, I haven’t a single bouquet in my house.   Our sweet daisy of a daughter is allergic to nearly all things bearing pollen, a twist of irony for her horticulturist mama.  So, for now, the bouquets lie on the other side of the window, dancing in the breeze and soaking up the sun. 

Container plantings, with their artistic bones, are the perfect candidate for outdoor bouquets.  Each May, I make my annual hunting expedition to Sunrise Nursery in Grant Park.  I wander for hours through the greenhouses, tracking container companions with just the right marriage of color and texture.  This year, shortly after arriving, a cloud of blue and purple caught my eye.  An ethereal mix of petunias and lobelia had been artfully arranged in a hanging basket.  My frugal nerve twitched.  Pre-planted containers are pricier than building your own.  I mentally added up all the Andrew Jackson’s my husband had saved at florists and justified this as a reasonable expense.  It was, after all, a long-lasting bouquet I would enjoy for months, rather than weeks. 

I hung my cloud of glory just outside our dining room window, and sighed with delight at each glimpse, as the purple and blue blossoms mingled together and drifted down from the basket.  Within a couple of weeks, however, I noticed my cloud evaporating a smidge.  I pulled it off the hook and set it on my porch table.  It cheered a bit, and I concluded the wind had been too harsh on the hook.  But over the next month, the basket continued to dwindle.  I watered it more.  Then I watered it less.  I fertilized.  I moved it to different locations.  Nothing helped.  By July, the ragged remnant was clearly on life support.  I bumped it as I moved it to yet another location and got a shock.  A small army of earwigs dropped like paratroopers from a helicopter.  My Earwig Assault Training kicked into action and I immediately began performing a robust tap dance on the fleeing pincher bugs.  (Don’t you wish you were my neighbor?)  Public humiliation be damned, this was war.  I bumped it again, and the 2nd Armed Division of Pincher bugs erupted.  A third bump, and I was beginning to wonder if there was an earwig factory inside my fading cloud of glory.  Good thing Tall, Dark and Handsome built a sturdy porch for his family, because I stomped up a storm all over it.  Sammy Davis Jr. would’ve been impressed. 

No bouquets inside.  Buggy bouquets outside.  What’s a gardener to do?  I can rationalize that I enjoyed my hanging basket longer than a typical bouquet, but I still feel the inclination to pout.  After a little pity party, I’ll pick myself up, brush the earwigs off, and go plant some fall pea seeds.   I’ve got to keep my little bug buddies well fed!

1 comment:

Casa Mariposa said...

I don't really like florist bouquets, either. They're just too fussy and overpriced. My garden is my bouquet. To bad there wasn't music playing while you were doing the Earwig Stomp. You could have sold tickets. :o)

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