I grow & tend flowers on one tiny acre, which in the spring comes alive with rows of sweet peas, dahlias, heirloom roses, cosmos, and a kitchen garden. There’s a leaning redbud tree, right in the heart of everything– an inconvenience I have to work around, and a quirk I love. This space, it’s something between a very large cutting garden and a very small flower farm. I’m still learning it; I feel that it will take years for everything– the science, the physical effort, the routine, and the beauty of growing– to come together in my mind. So I fumble and read and research and try, and some days I get a little flicker of hope. In those moments, I feel that my garden is so storybook– a place of innocence, calm, color, and great refuge. It could easily work as the setting in a lushly illustrated children’s book, with its riot of both weeds and blooms, its leaning pink tree, and the golden retriever that’s always there to pace the flowerbeds.
That said, it wouldn’t be right to overly romanticize this space or the work it requires. There is nothing beautiful about flower farming, at least not initially– it’s all relentlessly practical work. I have had to learn more about construction, troubleshooting, and mechanics than I’d ever thought possible (if you can’t already tell, I’m a poetry and artistry kind of girl; I don’t really walk around with a tool belt). But there’s always this moment, at the end of a long planting day. I’ll walk the garden row by row, and feel a kind of evening peace settle over everything. As I take it all in– pink sky, mounds of dirt, and flowers in every stage of emergence– I understand. I understand why I would undertake this. I understand, intuitively, that gardening is soul work. No wonder the garden is so often depicted as a place of prayer– a place of divine encounter. To tend something as small and seemingly trivial as a flower, with such great persistence and love– is this not the very mirror of God’s relationship to His created, to us?
This year, I’m striving for organization. I’m ordering seeds only after calculating dimensions, pre-scheduling succession plantings, and amending and studying the soil. I want to do things well, and consistently, and according to schedule. But of course I want more than orderliness. I, like all flower-lovers, am after the magic– the painterly colors, the blousey blooms, the feeling of freedom. All beauty emerges from a sound structure, and I want that structure in place so that I can struggle less, and my garden can flourish more. I want this space to become more of an artistic undertaking. It would be an honor if someone were to visit this garden and feel as though I had been there– as though this space were infused with my creativity, my touch, my work, and (hopefully) my gentle and persistent love.
Here is a tiny glimpse of my garden and the dreams I have for it:
1. Climbing roses by David Austin, to be added to my home, along with shrub roses for the garden.
2. My centerpiece work, full of last year’s garden cuttings.
3. Floret‘s dahlia tubers; this golden beauty is Dahlia Blyton Softer Gleam.
4. The most inspiring and beautifully photographed book I’ve read this year; Foraged Flora by Louesa Roebuck. Whether or not you have a flower garden, this book will challenge your approach to flowers, nature, and flower arranging. A tribute to this delicate, living art form we love so much.
5. A sweet reminder.
6. My favorite Hunter Boots, a special collection with the Royal Horticulture Society.
7. My beloved ikebana shears. For design work only, after I’ve harvested my flowers. Find similar styles here.