Have you seen the garden at the Civic Garden Center along Reading Road with the tall sunflowers? Below the sunflowers is a cutting garden, but not the usual kind. Most cutting gardens these days are patches of long-stemmed annuals in stair-stepped rows, tall in back, medium in the middle, short in the front, that all get to looking a little spindly once the cutting begins. Or the garden is an attempt at a Victorian cutting garden using today’s plants that just don’t behave in a Victorian fashion, so disappoint. Not this one. This one is magic.
The brilliance is in the plant placement. The taller, cut-me-please kinds of flowers rise above a carpet of shorter, continuously blooming annuals, so for all the world, the taller plants look like they are taking a stroll through a garden of bloom. It is so simple. Cut some flowers from the long-stem, repeat bloomers and you still have a carpet of beautiful color as the tall plants send up new stems. It works because the longer stemmed flowers don’t have much in the way of leaf growth to compete with the short, carpet-making plants. Genius. And the garden is a visual treat before any flower goes in a vase because it makes the floral display so spacious and three-dimensional. Double Genius.
In Eudora Welty’s short story, “Kin,” the character Kate points out that “Aunt Beck-she never let us leave without picking us our own nosegay on the way down the walk, every little thing she grew that smelled nice, pinks, four-o-clock’s, verbena, heliotrope, bits of nicotiana-she grew all such little things, just for that. And she wound their stems, round and round and round, with a black or white thread she would take from a needle in her collar, and set it all inside a rose-geranium leaf and presented it to you at the gate-right here. That was Aunt Beck.”
After reading the story and seeing the Double Genius cutting garden at the CGC, still looking quite wonderful as August approaches, I am going to give it a go next year at our house.