Summer’s flowers and fruit

When your own garden cannot produce enough flowers for a truly stupendous partywithout itself being too much diminished, how nice it is to turn to the farmers’ marketsfor an extra bunch of this or that, or to find a type of flower that is pleasantly earlyor late for its season, making an unexpected appearance. Thanks to farmers’ markets,beautiful arrangements are assured with flowers picked at the perfect time that havenot been stressed by being shipped great distances.Summer is when the annual plants step to the forefront of our gardens. Whetheryou grow them in rows in a cutting garden, sprinkled throughout perennial bordersto invigorate the summer doldrums, or in mixed containers as color spots on terracesand patios, many annuals yield excellent cut flowers. The stalwarts of the basicsummer planter—marigolds, petunias, lobelia, alyssum, coleus, creeping zinnias—allmake reasonably good cut flowers, although not phenomenally long lasting.In mid-to-late summer we start to see the beginning of the harvest from thoseplants that provide berries and fruit for cutting. This group includes the berried St.John’s worts, such as Hypericum ×inodorum ‘Elstead’, and the first clusters of grapeson Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea’. Branches of apples or pears carrying immature fruit arewonderful in summer bouquets. Even the vegetable garden can be utilized, includingleaves of Swiss chard (excellent in water but not long lasting in foam) and the flowersand ripening pods of scarlet runner beans. The seedpods of the wild perennial sweetpea (Lathyrus latifolius) are in several ways more appealing to cut than the short-livedflowers—you keep this determined weed from spreading by seed, and the attractiveslender pods have a much longer vase life than the flowers do. I also suggest growingthe hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) both in the vegetable garden and as a decorativeelement in a mixed perennial border.The hyacinth bean is named for its large flowers, but these are rarely harvested touse fresh because the following bean pod, which is shiny and dark purple, is so veryshowy. When growing this plant from seed, be aware that not all of the plants will beequally decorative, due to natural genetic variation. The seedlings that will producethe most prolific purple pods will often show purple coloration on their stems andpurple veining on their leaves. These are the plants to keep. Thin out those youngplants that are all green, as their eventual pods will be dull in color (sometimes noteven purple at all). The cut pod stems will last more than two weeks in fresh water anddo not like cold storage. The pods develop at the height of summer’s sun and heat,and if held in a cooler will quickly mildew.Summer is the main wedding season, so it follows that it is also the season of anniversarycelebrations. Summer parties are often held outdoors either at homes or atcommercial spaces featuring well-tended gardens. Some think that special occasionsheld in gorgeous gardens do not need the further adornment of floral arrangements,but why should this be? Why not add to the opulence and festivity of an event byhaving floral bouquets at key locations—a nosegay in the powder room, a bombasticbouquet on a buffet table, a standing champagne cooler bursting with flowers markingthe entrance to a pathway, or a welcoming display on a guest book table.Not every garden has an adorable handcrafted chapel on the premises, but at KinzyFaire, the garden of Penny Vogel and Millie Kiggins, Millie has built a memorial chapelhonoring her grandparents, who were the original homesteaders of the propertyoutside of Estacada, Oregon. When the garden has guests the chapel doors are open,and the tiny church (seating fifty if all are good friends) houses the garden’s guestbook, which you are expected to sign if you want to be invited back. The Victoriantable is an ideal spot for a summer bouquet, arranged in colors that are enhanced bythe warm tones of the wooden walls. All of the flowers and foliage can come right infrom the surrounding garden (after proper conditioning, of course).

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