Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Books + Flowers = All the Good Things

Guys! I've been meaning to talk about this book for ages, ever since I won a copy of it (squeee!) from Linnae's giveaway back in March (Linnae is an inspiration to me, and along with her excellent book reviews, she blogs all about her impressive gardening efforts, she's amazing). But with the move and all, it got packed up before I had a chance to really dig into it. When I unpacked it last month, I swooned all over again at what a gorgeous book this is. Cut Flower Garden is by Erin Benzakein, who owns a small but extremely productive professional flower farm in Washington, and contains all her best advice for how to "grow, harvest, and arrange stunning seasonal blooms" (subtitle).

Okay, I love flowers. I love gardens. And I love books. And bookstagram has shown all of us how wonderful it is when you combine books and flowers. Right? Match made in heaven.

So a beautiful (and I mean, BEAUTIFUL, the photographs are stunning) book about growing said flowers? It's got me all heart eyes and becoming really aspirational. Now that I've got a yard with room for a garden, I have every intention of growing me some beautiful flowers (for photographing with my beautiful books, natch).

But here's the thing. I'm like, super, super novice level when it comes to gardening. I grew up in St. George, Utah (red sand + hot hot hot = no garden) and then lived in a series of apartments (no yards), and so this is the first time in my life where I feasibly can grow a garden, but I have no idea what to do or how to start or anything. Like, I am completely clueless.

Enter, this book into my life! Such providential timing I must say. While Erin Benzakein is obviously a professional and some of her expertise/advice is way beyond my level, in this book she really breaks things down to the very basics so that even novices can find a place to start. I'm sure more experience gardeners can skip over her first section on the basics and get to the fun parts of all the pretty flowers, but I've been pouring over that section recently trying to figure out just where I need to start when it comes to growing my own garden (hint, apparently it's the soil).

Now, this book is obviously all about flowers, and there isn't much in the way of advice for planting food. My husband and I have often talked about growing a salsa garden someday, and I still want to plant some food varieties, but one of the awesome things about our move here is that we live really close to my in-laws who happen to have this amazing food garden, and we have been reaping the delicious rewards of that garden all summer long (tomatoes! cucumbers! lettuce! kale! beets! blackberries! I don't even know what else!). So, with the bounty from their garden, I'm feeling a little less motivated to pursue vegetables in our own, smaller space, and a lot more motivated to plant flowers. So although this book is pretty enough to sit on a coffee table and just be looked at, I'm planning on using it heavily as my how-to manual for the next few years.

It's August right now, and with the move and starting school, I'm just not going to get around to any heavy gardening this summer. But this book is giving me all sorts of ideas, and I'm making big plans for what I want to do over the winter and especially next spring (and by big plans, I mean, making any plans at all). In an attempt to keep myself somewhat focused and motivated on my gardening goals, I've decided to post pictures here and give occasional updates (yay for you!) Our "garden" as it stands right now is rather... suburban. Our home was very nicely landscaped, there are good trees, a nice-sized lawns in fairly good condition, and beds full of plants that seem designed for minimal upkeep. There is also one garden box bed on our side yard. I am so clueless that I'm not actually sure exactly what's even growing in our yard. I've got a lot of figuring out to do. But here are a few pictures of some of what's going on in my yard.

First, we have our little garden box. Guys, I have no clue what these plants are growing here. When my husband and I got around to clearing out the weeds in this box after we moved in, these plants were taller and evenly spaced, and looked like they had been intentionally planted, so we left them in and tended to the them hoping we'd be able to figure out what they were (my husband guessed they might be a variety of sunflower).

They are not sunflowers. They have produced these pathetic little yellow flowers (you can see some starting to bud), and these giant seed pods, but so far nothing else. It's entirely possible that we have been carefully tending nothing but giant weeds this whole summer. I'm still not sure. Anyway, I am sure that these are going to be ripped out this fall to make room for something much prettier next year.

Ah, here on the other side of our little garden box, we have the two small but still fighting for life tomato plants we planted early last month. My in-laws gave us a box of tomato plants they had seeded, but considering how we didn't even get into our house until the end of June (and didn't get these planted until July), it was a long shot of getting any fruit out of them. Most of the plants died during a hot spell a few weeks ago, but these two little troopers are still alive (barely). Needless to say, we will not be enjoying any fruit from them (doesn't matter, we've had more than enough tomatoes from my in-law's garden).

You guys! I have a hydrangea bush! When we moved in this was just an unassuming little plant in the corner of the back yard, but then a few weeks ago it suddenly started blooming and I realized they were hydrangeas! This is so, so, so happy. I love hydrangeas so much. So far there is only the one bush, but if I get my way, more will be joining in the future.

Aren't they the prettiest?

Here, we have straggly looking rose bush of some kind (at least, the tag on the plant says it's a rose variety, it has not produced any flowers) and some variety of lily that is past it's prime (they looked lovely in June). The rose bush was nearly dead when we moved in, but with some watering has seemed to find the will to live. Whether it will ever produce flowers remains to be seen. I'll have to do some research on how to care for it.

And this overgrown monstrosity of a bush actually has me the most excited, because there was a tag on it that identified it as a Jane Magnolia, so I'm hoping for some pretty pink flowers next spring (we shall see, I'm hoping the tag really belonged to this plant). I'm trying to decide if we need to prune this at all, I've no idea. Lots to learn! This was just one corner of the backyard flower beds, but all the other beds contain filler bushes, not flowers (which is something I'd like to remedy). Anyway, not much right now, but hopefully I'll be able to get something going for next spring.

One of my cute little garden helpers inspecting the blooms. So grateful to finally have a yard these boys can play in!

If you've any advice or expertise, I'd love to hear it! Any other books worth looking in to?


  1. Suzanne, thank you for your kind words! This post just made me so happy! I had to laugh at your decision to possibly forego vegetables in lieu of flowers. I am always finding a way to add more flowers to my garden beds. :) After all, potatoes and carrots are THAT expensive to buy, right? Hee hee. More flowers = more happiness! :)
    Wish I lived closer--I would totally come help you if you wanted me too.

    1. Thanks Linnae, I wish you lived closer too just so I could ask you all my questions in person! Hope your own garden is doing well!