The Joy of Flowers

#552 in a series of true experiences in real estate
September 2006, Hills Newspapers

We have been the lucky recipients of the most marvelous flower bouquets lately. A delivery is made every two weeks to us and the flowers last for many days. Some parts of the bouquets keep well even longer.

Clients whose house we sold arranged with Freshly Cut in Berkeley, the florist across from Monterey Market, to provide us these treats. I have thanked our very generous clients several times now, saying that cut flowers are, especially for a flower gardener like me, the finest possible gift.

What we receive from Freshly Cut is unlike anything I’ve seen done by any florist; the flowers and foliage largely surprising in type, colors and variety.

Each time the flowers arrive we immediately examine every leaf and blossom close up. I try to identify what is in the bouquet and, failing that, proffer guesses as to what items might be.

In the most recent bouquet, for instance, are small orchid-look flowers with purple, squiggly spotting on them. But they can’t be orchids, I thought, because the stems are all wrong.

These stems are kind of fuzzy; also, the shape of the unopened blooms doesn’t look like orchids to me. Suddenly, I burst, “There’s a plant called toad lily. I’ll bet that’s it!” I have never encountered toad lily in person but I remember seeing photos, and I think I’m right.

In this same bouquet are rudbeckia seed “pods” the cone-shaped center remaining when the petals have fallen; purple-red smoke tree; deepest burgundy dahlias; pinky-limey hellebore; Star of Bethlehem with only a few of the cream-colored flowerets open so far, black bead eyes shining.

And stems of acorns! This last inclusion is the best delight of all. Who would think to find, cut and use in a bouquet acorn branches? The acorns are large and perfectly shaped and still somewhat unripe and green. Lastly, in this bouquet, is something I cannot identify; don’t even have a good guess. Light violet-colored flowers, ruffly-edged and folded inward. Almost like abutilon flowers but smaller, the closed buds are purple and chartreusey-green, squarish, pointed-bottom lanterns.

Maybe they are related to the sharp orange Chinese Lanterns? I later learn by calling Freshly Cut that this is Apple of Peru, which, when I do some research, is described as a rather rank-growing, tall and weedy plant that I probably don’t want to grow in my garden.

But I might have. This is not the first time I’ve called to ask Freshly Cut what the name of something is. I then proceeded along on a plant hunt of my own.

One week it was some sort of tree fern that got me going. I found a fern nursery site on the Web, looked at a hundred photos of ferns, and placed my order for four. I didn’t get the one that was in our bouquet but I now have new ferns planted along a path in my garden.

Which is the other thing that has happened since we began to get these gifts: I see my own garden and everything growing in it in a completely new way. I walk through the garden looking at every leaf and branch, flowers I planted and weeds I didn’t, considering them as potential bouquet contents.

And I make bouquets. Far more often than I’m sure I would have, I’ve gathered whatever strikes my eye in the waning late-summer, early-fall garden. Without the education and example of the gift bouquets, I would have thought there wasn’t much to find in this season’s garden. But now I see all sorts of possibilities, and I bring them inside and put them together in groupings that please me.

I made a tiny bouquet, only a few inches tall, of a few cream scabiosa plus white lantana and short, cerise-colored globe amaranth. I walked around and looked until I decided lambs ears and parsley gone-to-seed would look good with these flowers.

On another day I stood in a large vase in my living room golden-reddish amaranth plumes. I’d found the amaranth fallen almost to the ground, the branches so heavy that they had split and ripped from their stalks. To lighten them up, I added the yellow leaves of kerria and, as the centerpiece, one large, peachy rose.

I’m also supplying gatherings from my garden to my daughter Annie who recently said she would like to have flowers for her kitchen table. Annie has lately been surging with domesticity, painting walls and roasting chickens in the apartment she shares with her boyfriend.

It happens that the florist flowers are delivered in nice vases, clear glass, which are nestled in punch-in cardboard box stands for level transport. I’ve been doing bouquets for Annie using these vases, placing them in the boxes so she can get them home.

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