Anna Naeser: Anna’s Garden
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
If you have a garden, or if you view every piece of disturbed ground, vacant lot, and roadside as a garden in the rough, keeping your house in bouquets is the easiest thing in the world. A traditional cutting garden was long on my garden dream list.
Although various parts of the garden have been set aside for me over the years, and I always had the firmest of intentions, the cutting garden was always a failure. Either flowers refused to bloom or they looked too beautiful to pick or plants I somehow acquired but had no place for, ended up taking over. I have decided a cutting garden is superfluous for me: multi-use is more my style.
Before company arrived last week, I wandered the garden: picking a yellow coneflower here, a sprig of Russian sage there, pulling up a wild sunflower scratching the car, adding prunings of crossed twigs complete with berries from the red chokecherry, pulling the seedheads from weed grass invading a flowerbed and more. In no time, I had a lush bouquet. Today, I threw most of it out, but not before I culled the handful of flowers and scented geranium leaves with some life left in them. I filled a bud vase and two small, recycled, blue-glass bottles to replace the flowering garlic and tall red and yellow orach seed heads from the vegetable garden I am getting tired of. Pretty and easy.
Everything is grist for the mill. Sometimes people are nonplussed when an ingredient in a fabulous bouquet turns out to be nothing more than a wretched weed. Years ago, when I lived in a trailer in Woody Creek (call it a mobile home if you insist but it sure wasn’t mobile, though it was definitely home) I discovered some patches of what I later learned were musk thistles. I gathered armloads of them for immense spectacular bouquets with a stature and presence to rival any of those artificial looking (maybe they actually are artificial) arrangements in tony hotel lobbies, restaurants and second houses (and I refuse to call them homes). I was so outraged when the weed police ruthlessly eliminated my beautiful thistles with poison sprays.
For weeks my living room has been decorated with the airy, see-through dried skeleton of a single tumble lettuce, kept upright in an old brown pottery jug with the help of a piece of cork wedged into the opening. I’ve pretty much routed tumbleweed except for strays but if you are not so lucky, try a whole one, an almost perfect sphere, cut at the base while still supple and blue-green, but right after the buds show reddish, and stick it in a basket with a concealed jam jar to hold water. Or let it dry.
Use any container you fancy. This is the only way to appreciate the beauty and intricacy of a weed so troublesome.
When I promised to do the flowers for Miranda’s graduation from the Aspen Community School, I confidently expected to pick loads of flowers from my garden. As graduation day approached and my garden turned out to be in the unanticipated doldrums between flowering bulbs and early blooming perennials, I panicked. Then I grabbed my clippers and went for a walk around the Highway Department barn parking area. Without thinking about how I would arrange them, I picked one or two of every weed, “wildflower,” branch, and grass that looked interesting or fresh and added them to my garden gleanings. At home, I stuck them in a big bucket of water and sorted them out. I had enough sizeable stems, including a number of enormous and impressive burdock leaves, for two large bouquets for the stage, but for the tables I collected all the small clear glass bottles and jars I could find, distributed the stems among them, and set them together in clusters. I thought my textured posies were charming and rustic and perfectly suited to the school. (If anyone out there remembers, and thinks my bouquets were more untidy than rustic, more shabby than charming, and more cheap than chic, please don’t disabuse me.) I actually saw my idea later in some home decorating magazine (so there) and got all puffed up about it.
Now I wonder: if I were diligent enough about cutting weeds for bouquets, I might need few further means of keeping them under control. And if we all did it, the weed police might be out of a job.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused untold amounts of suffering and disruption, and we’ll probably tell those stories for the rest of our lives.