All posts filed under: this week in flowers

Foxgloves – Heart Stopping Magic

  Here we are at the solstice, climbing the big hill of the calendar like kids in the first car of a roller coaster. We could try to savor the moment but summer is off on a roaring start. Hang on tight! Shooting up like rocket and lasting only as long as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone, is Foxglove, Digitalis purpea, a giant poisonous beauty used to make digitalin, a common heart-disease medication. Could it be a coincidence that it’s so stunning it makes your heart skip a beat just to look at it? I doubt it. Foxglove grows like weeds in England which is why it has become visual short hand for the quintessential cottage garden. In typical Brit fashion it is also the stuff of elfin legends; covered in freckles, aka “elf fingerprints,” they are also known by the names “Dead Man’s Thimbles” and “Witches Fingers,” no doubt because its poisonous sap keeps insects away. But not Fairies. The plant is, so they say, lousy with fairies; sleeping in the blooms, making a living …

Preserving the peony dreams

Ah! that smell. Fresh and green – a little like a rose, a little like broccoli. Not to everyone’s liking, I understand, but nothing will transport you faster to your Grandmother’s backyard faster than a face plant in a big fluffy peony pillow and a big long whiff. It is fitting that Memorial Day is the traditional start of peony season. Everyone’s Grandma grew peonies it seems, so it’s not surprising that our olfactory senses team up with the neighboring hippocamthus to bind that peony smell with memories of childhood and all the other happy May events: prom, graduations, weddings, the unbearably close last day of school. I hold on tight to memories of my Grandma Frances, whose peonies I dug out of her Ohio backyard and took home with me after she went off to that Great Garden in the Sky. Wet bare feet covered in grass clippings and huffing away at a big white Festiva Maxima peony – I am no longer here in Maryland but back on rain soaked cement steps, leaning against the back …

Dogwood

Just at the height of a dreamy spring opener, a sobering hail storm came through last night, blasting tender little buds off branches and making a mess of the containers I naively filled with summer flowers and herbs. In southeastern US, such spring cold snaps are called “Dogwood Winters,” as farmers have learned to keep their eye on the lovely and native Cornus Florida trees and plant crops only after they flower.  And so before I go out to clean up the mess (“buh-bye, tomato seedlings, my bad…”), I’m going to take a moment to celebrate that gorgeous know-it-all, currently in flower and reminding us all that it’s still her time to shine. Luckily I know other talented designers capable of giving Dogwood it’s due. The branches really excel in either in full length frothy form, filling design space with a effortless, almost anti-gravity kind of feel or cut short or floating, all the better to appreciate the 4 flawless white or pink bracts (leaves, actually) that surround the inner chartreuse flower cluster. I am also a …