Outdoors Recreation

The Observant Gardener: Enjoy What You Grow

“I enjoy what I grow most when I can place it in a vase or prepare it in the kitchen. No flower arranger or cook could ask for a better source of material.” — Carolyne Roehm, At Home in the Garden

By Judith Canty Graves

One of the most uplifting things gardeners can do is display what they have grown in the garden. Author David Culp writes that bringing flower arrangements into his home is one of the easiest ways to bring the outdoors inside, “…as vital to our way of living as food—food for the body, plants for the soul.”

Flower arranging is a creative activity for me. It is the culmination of planning a garden, preparing the soil, planting seeds, recording notes and watching plants grow.

Hydrangea macrophylla. Photo by Judith Canty Graves

At some point, I step back and observe how the plants mature, ripen and reach their pinnacle of growth. Once the blooms are at their peak, I create flower arrangements for my home and share extra bouquets with friends.

Over the years I have collected a variety of vases in which to arrange flowers. I have many glass and pottery vases to accommodate a wide variety of blooms. Once I decide on the flowers I want to arrange, then the experimentation and fun begins. I enjoy finding the best vase and putting the right arrangement in a prominent spot in my house.

I like photographing my arrangements to keep a record of how they looked and which flowers produced the best results. For example, Hydrangea macrophylla produces a range of colors from pink to blue to deep purple. The arrangements are always satisfying to me, even in photographs, long after the flowers have faded.

When my garden harvest is plentiful, I share with friends and neighbors. Squashes, tomatoes, okra and herbs are fun to harvest and add to meals. The kitchen garden outside my door always produces a great supply of food, inspiring me to study recipes for delicious dinners on the patio.

The vegetable harvest begins in May with sweet Sugar Snap peas. Once the peas finish in June, other vegetables and herbs begin to mature, such as tomatoes and sweet basil. By July, the harvest bounty begins, and continues through September.

Flowers, vegetables and their foliage are uplifting both in the yard and inside the home. With areas of both full sun and partial shade, I can grow a variety of both sun-tolerant and shade-loving plants. Over the years, many of my shrubs, such as the hydrangeas, have matured and now produce more blooms than ever.

On my kitchen counter I have a large bowl for displaying the current crops. In the summer, it holds a variety of tomatoes, okra pods and squashes, ready for meals. The visual display of floral arrangements and colorful vegetables is a rejuvenating and creative activity for me.
I hope that you will enjoy the bounty of your garden this summer!

Judith Canty Graves is an Asheville gardener with a background in photojournalism. Follow @TheObservantGardener on Instagram.

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