here’s to useless beauty

July 29. When I started gardening, if I couldn’t eat it I wasn’t interested. The first flowers I grew were edible (Johnny-jump-up, nasturtium), and I was many seasons in before I grew a flower just for beauty’s sake. Even here in Mendocino County, Lin has been the one to buy bulbs in the fall, and 4” perennials from Annie’s, and to add flower seed packets to our winter catalog orders.
It’s not like I’m oblivious to flowers. I’ve spent lots of time with them, listening, writing about them, painting their portraits – in fact I prefer the company of flowers to that of most people. Especially non-hybridized species flowers with their more complex and quirky personalities. But with gardening I think about food first, so this year is a continuing revelation.
It’s a super-abundant flower year anyway due to all that late rain – every native wildflower blooming in stands spread to twice their usual area, garden perennials like the roses solid with flowers – but growing the wedding flowers really puts it over the top. Two weeks away, and half the glads have already bloomed, bronzy red sunflowers just starting, zinnias going strong, stock over, Nicotiana cut back and sending up more spikes. I hear that other wedding gardens are a little behind ours, and that the snapdragons are just beginning, so it may be shaping up to be a 
sunflower/zinnia affair. The glads wanted a July wedding. 
Every other day I harvest a packed bucket of glads, a handful of zinnias, a few more sunflowers than the time before. Can’t keep up with the billowy clouds of ammi, though attempts are made. Lin brings library books about flower arranging and we practice. Flower bouquets have taken on the role zucchini plays for most gardeners –who else can we give one to? – well, they may be zucchini to us, but the recipients seem more pleased than anyone would be with a squash. I spent 2 hours yesterday arranging flowers after an especially thorough harvest– a happy and relaxing activity aside from the stabs of guilt I felt at engaging in such a “useless” pastime while so many real chores called. Amazing how deep the wellsprings of work-ethic severity. Fortunately many more flowers to come. More flower arranging practice. More useless beauty.