As we prepared for the first frost last Thursday, we offered free pick-your-own flowers to our CSA members. I wanted to pick all the flowers, the zinnias especially, which finally began to send out long cutting stems a few weeks ago when I learned to prune the first middle bloom low on the plant to encourage branching at the base. I remember the excitement of seeing those first blooms, and then the slow impatience as the plants stayed squat and the stems too short to put in a bouquet. I didn’t want to cut the middle–it was so precious and the plants were so small at the time it seemed as if I would stunt them even more.
One day when I finally remembered this important instruction, I took the shears out and walked down the bed, fearlessly clipping those blooms, which by now had passed their prime and begun to prepare themselves for the transition into seed-heads. With each snip and heavy drop of a flower I felt as if I was somehow freeing the zinnias. It wasn’t long before they did begin to branch out and shoot up new blooms with smooth, long green stems.
It’s hard to trust ourselves sometimes. Who wants to prune the first bloom? Who wants to risk that cut, that exposure? We are not often taught to reduce–more! more! is the mantra society plugs into us. But look what the zinnias teach us: prune, cut low, and you create space for so much beauty.
Each time I announced free pick-your-own flowers at CSA pick-up, delight spread over our members’ faces. Even those in a rush put down their baskets and bags of veggies to make their own bouquet. They came back with arrangements of zinnias, rudbeckia, statice, amaranth, sunflowers, salvia, aster, marigolds, and calendula. One woman told me, I’m not usually very good at making bouquets, but this one seemed to come together!
I believe if you give someone some shears and point them to rows of flowers, they will take beauty and create more.
The frost kissed those zinnias on Thursday night and left them brown by morning. It’s time now to pull the plants and put the flower beds to rest for the season. This is the gift that frost brings: the encouragement to say goodbye, to clear out the garden and let the soil rest; and just as pruning makes space for the blooms we seek, the frost tells us to make space for winter, which will eventually turn again into spring, when we will take that space and plant flowers once more.