Earlier this week I opened my garden to a group of master gardeners. Although this wasn’t an official garden tour, there was a still a bit of last-minute fussing, the kind where you look at your own garden with a more critical eye.
That led to pulling out a “more natural” area next to the small path that leads to the vegetable garden. By natural, of course, I mean a hot mess of weeds with, perhaps something resembling the remains of something I planted eons ago. (There is no before picture. When I get myself into these random gardening situations I rarely pause long enough to think it through, much less take a photo.)
A weeded and freshly mulched area was a great improvement, but it was a rather large blank spot in a well-traveled area of the garden. So I did what any sane gardener would do and headed to a garden center.
I didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted to do in this area long term and I’ve gotten so much better about not buying a single plant for a spot until I have a plan. But this garden center had a big sale on all ceramic pots. Which brought to mind one of those moments I loved so much from my trip to Chanticleer Garden in June.
A few hours later a new 21-inch pot landed in that blank spot with a few new annuals planted at its base to help soften the transition to all that mulch. The drainage hole problem (funny how you can’t find a pot with proper drainage when you’re looking for one, but the one time you need one without a hole you can’t find one) was solved with a wine cork. I knew cocktail hour was important in the garden.
A drop of the black pond dye I bought for the stock tank pond made the inside of the pot disappear. And then the fun began.
My first design started with a ‘Breakout’ dahlia flower that was past its peak and needed to be deadheaded. I pulled off the floppy bottom petals but the top still looked great. A few Japanese fern fronds, some Tuff Stuff hydrangea flowers, Aralia ‘Sun King’ leaves and brightly colored Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ blooms finished it off.
I learned that “thinner” foliage works better than thicker foliage—hosta leaves don’t seem to float well—but beyond that there are no rules with this sort of thing. To create a design on a moving surface you have to place them strategically, placing bigger material as a border to keep smaller flowers and leaves from straying. And everything needs to be gently rested on the water’s surface.
In other words, you have to slow down. And here’s where the magic happens. Walking around the garden in search leaves and flowers for the arrangement requires looking at everything differently, Placing plants on the surface of the water requires the kind of concentration that clears your mind. It’s the most zen thing I’ve done in ages.
The result of my first attempt was lovely. I’ve only had my little floating flower arrangement for a few days, but it seems that flowers last a couple days in it, and the birds do a bit of rearranging when I’m not around. Each arrangement is fleeting, which is both fabulous and a little sad. When the flowers look a bit ragged, I just fish them out, toss them away and throw some fresh water in the pot (which manages the mosquito issue that I know you’re thinking about).
You can probably tell that I’ve become quite enamored with my little water pot. Yesterday I had one of those days at work where you aren’t pleasant company when you get home. Rather than subject anyone else to that attitude, I went outside with my pruners and made a new floating arrangement. The process has an almost meditative quality, which is a nice way to say that I was a happier person when I came back inside 15 minutes later.
My original thought wasn’t to leave this container in that spot for the long term, but now I quite like that moment on my way to the vegetable garden. It turns out that garden moments are as good for the gardener as they are for garden visitors.