Overcast mornings are a summer gift that seem to happen too infrequently. A gift for any farmer working early in the morning. As an aspiring flower farmer, floral designer & small business owner, overcast mornings prompt occasional pauses where I can enjoy my incredible job under a cool shadow. This week’s harvest was like a fresh breath of air thanks to an overcast morning and an excessive amount of some really special varieties of lisianthus.
There are three different kinds of Lisianthus in your bouquets this week. A miniature white, soft peachy pink, and a brownish/yellowish/rose-ish variety called ‘Roseanne Brown.’ The moody “brown”/”rose” palette is pretty popular with some floral designers and this particular variety of Lisianthus is a challenging and complicated contender. You might be able to tell in your bouquet, that there’s a range of colors in this one variety. It seems that some of the best and most beloved flowers have a wide color range, providing for those few extra special stand-out stems and a handful of less-favored hues. Over the past few weeks, all the Lisianthus has been such a treat, thanks to Chicory! It is a slow-growing cut flower, so a summer-blooming cut like the ones in your bouquets have to be seeded in the winter and transplanted out into the field by April. Once they’re out in the field, there’s a period of weeks where it seems like the little baby plants won’t ever graduate past a few inches. Slow growers. Then with patience, weeding, irrigation, and some hot summer sun- ta da!
The small, soft yellow “xanthos” variety of cosmos came from Cassie at Jig-bee and the pale pink/dark pink ones came from Amanda at Germantown Kitchen Garden, who by the way is growing her first stand of cut flowers this year!
This year is the first year that I’ve seen mountain mint in use as a cut flower. As a member of the mint family, it has a pretty strong minty odor. Its sturdy structure creates dimension in floral arrangements and it’s silvery soft hue adds a nice touch of green to any palette. It’s also known for being a great pollinator plant as it attracts many different insects to its flowers. A nice heat-tolerant cut for mid-summer.
Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’-
Verbascum’s common name is mullein or velvet plant. Mullein is commonly used as an herbal medicine for its many properties. It relieves inflammation, is soothing to the skin, and has astringent properties. It is used for treatment of cough, burns, diarrhea, cramps, earache and respiratory inflammation. (to name a few) The leaves, flowers and roots are all prepared for medicinal use. The whole plant has sedative & slightly narcotic properties. Strangely enough, the seeds have historically been used as fish poison, with its high levels of rotenone, a chemical compound used in many insecticides and pesticides. This is a heartier cut flower than it might seem (as long as it’s always in water), does not interest deer, and is quite tolerant of drought conditions after it’s been established. At the beginning of July, I made an exciting new discovery at the farm in western PA, when I stumbled upon some wild growing verbascum in the field. It’s a magical thing to walk through a field and discover a flower you don’t yet know the name of.
Amidst the flowers and the rain, it’s been hard to not be consumed by the subject of politics lately. During the last week of the DNC coming to town, I found myself watching a lot of critical conversations take place, some pretty heated. I found myself feeling guilty for doing work unaffiliated with helping others achieve basic human rights, especially during a period in our country where the rights of people are still so unequal. I recognize that where I’m at now is not untarnished by the leg up of white privilege. My parents were able to provide me with a lot of luxuries, that most people are not afforded. Those resources gave me freedom to start my own business and take risks on job-to-job freelance work.
However, I’d like to think there was still value in figuring out my skill set, committing to the development of those skills, and turning those skills into meaningful work for myself and hopefully (in the future) more people. Yet there still lives a conflict in me about what that specific work should look like if I am a human who cares about the well-being of other humans. In Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the voice of vocation, she says, “Vocation does not come from willingness. It comes from listening. I must listen to my life and try to understand what it is truly about- quite apart from what I would like it to be about- or my life will never represent anything real in the world, no matter how earnest my intentions.” She seems to talk a lot about finding “true self” and says, “The human self also has a nature, limits as well as potentials. If you seek vocation without understanding the material you are working with, what you build with your life will be ungainly and may well put lives in peril, your own and some of those around you. ‘Faking it’ in the service of high values is no virtue and has nothing to do with vocation. It is an ignorant, sometimes arrogant, attempt to override one’s nature, and it will always fail.” It seems like Palmer’s advice to me would be to continue pursuing the work that I feel I am meant to do and not to do anything I feel like I “should” do out of good intent because doing so may actually cause more harm than good. I mostly agree with her on this, but think there still exists value in exploring participation outside one’s vocation. (Oh, also if vocation is not a familiar word, wikipedia defines it as a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation.)
This week I hope your flowers provide a space in your home that creates warmth and sparks creativity. A friend of mine last week told me that she doesn’t like to rearrange any of the stems in her bouquet and just drops them in a vase when she gets home, but I encourage you to play a little bit with your flowers this week! Put a stem or two in one vase, a few more in another, and experiment with cutting them different lengths so they’ll sit at different heights in your vase. Maybe if arranging them doesn’t interest you, consider taking one of your favorites and tucking it between wax paper in the middle of a heavy book to press it. There’s just so many potential projects with your flowers! Any way you decide to play with them, I wish you good days in the work that you’ve chosen (and that you may even consider your vocation) and peaceful nights at home or with friends enjoying the textures and colors of your bouquet.