Sunday, July 31, 2011

in clover: the fairly odd summer and zinnias

If I had a name for this summer, I would call it The Fairly Odd Summer.  It has definitely not gone as expected or planned.  The first half was pretty uncomfortable.  The second half is feeling pretty darn good.  I would like to  explain it to you but I find my experience difficult to put into words and I think I am still processing it. 

In fact, for the past few weeks,  I've been pondering the profound and  insightful post I was sure I should be writing. I've had several false starts involving me sitting and staring at a blank computer screen,  eventually wandering off in search of something "more productive" to do.   A few days ago I was absolutely determined to write something meaningful...inspiring...spiritual.  I had lots of ideas but they just weren't coming together. 

Couldn't get going so I decided to do "something productive" and read my horoscope instead...

"Instead of talking about yourself today, process your emotions on your own and then share your inner journey once you've had time to think about it for a while."

Good enough.  Thought to myself, "Just share some shots of your zinnias." But as I began to write just a bit of narrative to tie the photos together, I realized a story was emerging and it wasn't just about zinnias...I realized that The Fairly Odd Summer has a bit of a theme. 

The first thing that I noticed about The Fairly Odd Summer was the return of color in my life.  Mike and I have lived in exactly two houses together.  The first was a post WWII Cape Cod.  Quite small and cozy and pretty darn cute. Despite the small size, we threw lots of big parties there.  That house was a bit kitschy.  And full of color. Inside and out.  I had a ball decorating it.  I remember thinking of it as a "doll house." 

When we moved to our current home, we toned down the kitsch a bit and we definitely toned down our wall colors but there was still some color.  And then, a few years back, I don't know exactly why, but color left the building.  We moved our collection of Fiesta pottery to the basement and bought solid white for every day use.  I remember the year I began limiting the garden palette to pinks and white.  Bath linens were replaced with solid white, shower curtain and all. We bought a brown couch. It wasn't a conscious thing. It just was.

But The Fairly Odd Summer has harkened the return of color.  Starting with the garden.  The riotous colors of zinnias reappeared in our garden this year. I never actually thought, "I'm going to bring color back to the garden."  It was more like, "I should plant some zinnias.  Why haven't I planted zinnias in ten years?"  

The year that I was pregnant with Big C (who will be 15 in a less than a month), my neighbor taught me how to plant zinnia seeds.  Yes, that's right...intellectually I knew that flowers grow from seed but I didn't truly believe it. Flowers came in flats and pots from the gardening center.  I also didn't know much about flowers other than the petunias, geraniums and impatiens my mother favored.

Although I loved my mothers beautiful containers and annual beds, I developed a longing for what I learned was called a "cutting garden."  I could see myself standing in my garden.  I'd wear a big floppy straw hat and tall wellies.  In my hands I would carry a vintage floral basket and a pair of shears.  I'd wander about, carefully selecting only the most perfect blooms, before taking them inside to fashion a lovely cut flower arrangement in a unique antique container. 

Anyway, even though I wasn't wearing a big hat or wellies, I DID manage to wander into my neighbor's beautiful garden one evening.  It was awash in a riot of colors and blossoms of different shapes. Zinnias. I could hardly breathe.   "What are THEY?"  I remember asking.  "Where did you buy them?  Are they expensive?  They ARE expensive, aren't they?"  She looked amused and said, "Honey, just throw down a few packages of seeds." 

So the next spring I did. Our small home had a very large garden and there was lots of room to throw down more than a FEW packages of seeds.  I went a bit zinnia crazy.  And when Big C was born right in the middle of the summer dog days, my garden was in full, glorious bloom. 

It was fantastic! I remember that as the roses and lilies and carnations that  arrived in celebration of C's birth began to fade in their vases, my mother in law removed them and refilled the vases with armloads of colorful zinnias.  It was definitely a case of "having your zinnias and cutting them too." 

I'm not quite sure what this Return is all about but I am going to pay attention.  I'm just going to watch it and see what happens.

Meanwhile, here are a few shots of my zinnias.  They are planted right outside my sunroom window...I can see them easily just over the top of the computer monitor while I work.   Last year that bed was dominated by a pretty but overly large clump of French lavender.  I was sad when it developed some kind of blight and quickly turned brown and died but I have to say, it was really nice to have a spot for zinnias again.

More later on The Fairly Odd Summer. 

Here's to color. 




  1. Wow! I didn't know zinnias came in so many varieties!

  2. This is only one zinnia mix, Brenda. They come in so many...and different sizes too. I also like button zinnias and the "Cut and Come Again" variety. I think zinnias are the perfect cottage garden annual.


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