Column, Looking Back

The pleasure of flowers

By Mary Ellen Shaw

Flowers give pleasure not only to the one who plants them but also to those who view them.

I learned that firsthand recently on a couple of occasions. A young local artist, Carrie Pill, asked if she could paint one of my gardens. It is near the city sidewalk making it highly visible to anyone passing by. Of course, I said, “Yes”! A few days later Carrie arrived with her easel and paints. She stationed herself near the sidewalk and worked on her creation for about three hours. I got to see the painting as it progressed. The finished product is now hanging in our home as I feel that’s where it belongs!

Carrie thanked me for the inspiration that came to her each time she walked or rode past the garden.

Another experience with a stranger enjoying this same garden came when I was sitting tucked away behind a nearby fence reading my book. I heard some young voices and then that of an adult male telling the children to walk carefully down to the hyacinths, which are just a few feet from the sidewalk, and smell them. My first reaction was one of surprise because most men would have no idea what that flower is. My husband wouldn’t have a clue and he has watched me plant gardens for 45 years! With youngsters being schooled from home these days their experience with my flowers could qualify as a lesson in botany. They learned firsthand the name of the flower and its scent. Maybe some future gardeners were born that day!

I purposely placed the hyacinths close to the sidewalk as they have a lovely fragrance and I wanted passersby to enjoy that experience. Apparently my theory is working!

There have been numerous people who have pulled out their cell phones and snapped pictures of this garden from the sidewalk. My guess is that when they look at their photos they will see a sign of peace and hope in this topsy-turvy world. The garden is about 50 feet long with yellow daffodils and pink, purple and blue hyacinths providing a sea of color. With this spring’s cool weather these flowers lasted longer than usual.

As I age I wonder if it’s worth the effort to plant 100 or more bulbs every fall. I don’t think I will have any doubts this October when I recall the pleasure that the flowers brought to so many people this spring…right when we all needed it!

Just about everyone will soon be thinking of flowers as Memorial Day is right around the corner. That seems to be the official start to the gardening season. This year, in particular, we could use some brightly colored flowers to raise our spirits each day. You can accomplish this in either a small or a large space. Let’s look at some small space options in this column and larger spaces in a future column.

If you want all of the pleasure and practically no work hanging baskets already filled with flowers will provide instant color. Your only chore will be watering and occasional fertilization. If you use a shepherd’s hook to hold the hanging basket it will be easy to change locations if you prefer to have it in different places as the summer progresses.

Decorative pots or planter boxes are also great options when you have limited space. It’s fun to fill them with the plants and colors that work best for you. One of my favorites is calibrachoa. They resemble mini petunias and come in a variety of colors. Angelonia is also a good choice as it is available in darker shades such as blue, purple and red as well as lighter colors like white and pink. If you add a cascading plant to the arrangement it will soften the look. A sweet potato vine is an excellent choice. It comes in bright lime green or if you prefer a darker color it also is available in brown. Mixing the light colors with darker ones serves as a highlight to both.

If you have trouble deciding what plants complement one another, place them beside each other as you browse. Then step back and the decision will get a whole lot easier.

Check the plant labels to see if they do best in sun or shade. Also look at the height of the plant when it has matured as that will guide you with proper placement in the container.

Stay tuned for some ideas for larger garden areas. Meanwhile shop safely as you follow the “social distancing” requirements at local garden centers.  Happy planting!

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