“I must have flowers, always, and always” said Claude Monet, and, like him, Stonegate Farm is under the spell of a kind of wild, floral alchemy this season, with organic cut flowers having their magical way with us.
With radiant blooms busting out all over, I think – even in his near-blindness – Monet would have fumbled for a fistful of horsehair brushes and gone at it, particularly the luminous, raveled clumps of nasturtium we have growing along the fencerows, and which still grow so beautifully underneath his famous allée at Giverny.
There would be more for him to take in, of course: dark-plumed amaranth and velveteen sunflowers, towering above it all with watchful Cyclopian eyes; the blue, upright bristle of anise hyssop or the radiant chromatic whorls of long-stemmed zinnias..
All of this color and form goes to my head (have you noticed?), but why not farm for beauty? If you’re looking for earthly transcendence, you’ll find it in flowers.
I’m up early, and usually make a bee-line (along with the bees), to the flower farm where, even in the half-light before the sun stretches through the trees, the blossoms are filling the air with fragrance. Besides the smell of dark espresso, that’s all I want my nose to know.
The beds of anise hyssop, with their liquorice-scented leaves and blue bottlebrush flower heads, are a heady experience, especially for the bees, who make a sweet, fragrant honey from the nectar. Planting for bee forage is important to the health of the farm. The orchard provides ample nectar flow in the spring, while summer and fall blooming annuals from the flower farm round out the season.
Some of the best forage for bees are common weeds, such as dandelion, clover, and milkweed, and they’re the very ones that we’ve banished from our gardens. With bees in trouble across the globe, it may be time to re-think the humble weed. It’s just a flower in the wrong place, after all.
Flowers in the right place can make all the difference. Harvests from the flower farm always happen in the early morning, before the blossoms fully unfold, so that they’re as fresh as possible for the CSA shares. With shears and buckets, they’re carefully cut just above a new leaf node, with a quiet “thank you, you’re beautiful” snip, and arranged into the week’s bouquets.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of these, and they all cast a spell, but the neon buttons of pink gomphrena paired with the molten, lava-lamp purples of celosia is one of my favorites.
There is one flower above all that has my heart, however, and that’s my daughter Daisy; lovely and sweet, she is all flowers to me.
Photography by Matthew Benson Foto