Friday, August 15, 2008


Flowers are one of the first things children draw. The simplistic symmetry of a daisy appeals to their happy budding minds. I shocked my sister, while she was visiting the farm last week when she saw our long row of “ Becky” shasta daisies.
“ You’re growing daisies? “ she asked with quizzical doubt.
“ I love daisies,” was my simple response.
I guess her memories of our parents hayfields full of weedy ox-eye daisies ( Leucanthemum vulgare) are different than mine. I know they’re noxious weeds, and degrade hay. But e when the fields are blistered from head to toe with sunny-side-up flowers, who could not be childishly happy. The unsophisticated beauty cheers the dullest heart.
I have one client who requested daisies for her cutting garden. After years i notice they were never cut. When i asked he she said she didn’t like the way they smelled. They have a bitter funk in Michael’s estimation. This same client has me make centerpieces every year for her summer party. It is always a challenge because I am not a florist. I did work as an assistant florist to one of the best floral designers in Germany, Heiko Kalitowitsch [ link in sidebar]. I learned a lot form him over those 2 years when I was living in Cologne. But mostly what I learned was I didn’t want to be a florist. I fear flowers too much.
Not the cutting edge “ fear of flowers’ that drove the foliage /texture revolution in gardening in the 90’s. But the fear of the unholdable, the wilting, the unpropable nature of flowers when they are removed from the plant.
I once was a man of nary an empty vase. Every possible thing was plucked, positioned and posed. That fascination is fading, though I admire the art. Now I rescue what is broken or fallen. I appreciate the single flowers more than the melange. Like Katsuo Okakura in his classic “ The Book of Tea” who laments man’s, especially european and american man’s brutish cutting and disposal of flowers. I hope to develop not just an aesthetic but a disposition that requires less of the flowers by which I’ll get more joy from them in situ.
A few months ago I ran into an on acquaintance from my artsy-fartsy days in Milwaukee. Michael Gafney had gone on to start a floral design school in Chicago [see link to left]. When I told him I was a gardener/ garden designer, he said with pride, almost like a trade mark, “I can’t even grow a tulip” . I guess seamstresses don’t weave,or bakers grow wheat, but when I decided to be a gardener I studied botany, I wanted to know how plants work, what made them grow. Maybe a florist is one step beyond the life processes of plants, maybe that’s why I won’t be a florist. I guess of all the materials an artist can use flowers are probably the most renewable. And I do know florists who garden. Maybe I’m not “evolving”, but just becoming a curmudgeon.
I still pick flowers and arrange them. It’s a simple act that brings joy to me and the people who w see my arrangements. I find I'm also simplifying that act. A single flower in a bottle seems enough.

Centerpieces for a Carnival themed party.