It’s an annual tradition for me to gather cut flowers the day before the first frost and make a couple last flower arrangements for the season. I enjoy this ritual immensely. It is really the only time I cut marigolds as they are laborious to arrange and they look so great in my flower beds that I don’t want to sacrifice any blooms until frost is imminent. Because of the urgency of this pre-frost task, I have been known often to pick the flowers by flashlight because I have been too busy to pick them earlier. First frost never seems to come at a convenient time. Now, I could just let things go. After all, I’ve enjoyed the flowers all summer. But I simply can’t stand doing that when I can have at least one more beautiful bouquet.
Delayed frost this year
This year here in Connecticut has been an unusual one. Twice the weatherpersons predicted frosts and I went out and gathered flowers and arranged them. But the anticipated frosts did not come. The second time we had a little frost on the cars but still none on my flowers. So I had beds and pots of gorgeous flowers all through October. Not until this past week, on the third warning, after my third set of pre-frost flower arrangements did it finally frost. Thursday, November 9 marks the latest first frost I remember. Attached are pictures of all three sets of night-before-frost flower arrangements. By the third one, the zinnias were no longer available but I decided to try a miniature arrangement of verbena, lobelia and Dara carrot. It goes so well with my wife’s fall décor. My grandmother, Jessie Isaman, used to make miniature arrangements. I thought of her.
A reminder of the urgency of doing good
Picking flowers before frost speaks to me of the urgency of getting some special things done before….. For people of my generation, several life events from the autumn of life could go in that blank. “Frost” could be semi-retirement or full retirement. It might be ill health which brings disability preventing us from doing what we had planned. It could be the illness of a loved one. It could be financial loss or an unplanned or a necessary move. And “frost” ultimately might stand for our passing on to face our accountability before God (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 9:27).
When I was still in full time ministry, there were some things I wanted to accomplish before I retired but I don’t think I felt sufficient urgency. Hopefully I’ve learned from that and in my current part-time ministry, when I think of some key goals I almost nourish a sense that time is too short before “frost” arrives. “Frost” in this case could be just the end of my current assignment or it might mean full retirement, but whatever it is, time always seems shorter than one thinks. “Frost” will arrive before we are ready.
Make the most of time before “frost”
So before “frost” comes, whatever it may be, I want to pick some more blooms and arrange them well in my life. What I mean is I want to live productively. I want to take good advantage of the time God gives. The Bible exhorts us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Eph. 5:16); and I believe that God has a purpose for every day (Eph. 2:10). So I’ll use my urgent gathering of flowers before yearly first frost to help me to have a healthy sense of urgency about doing the good deeds I need to do. I could procrastinate but … it may frost! I’d rather see the beauty of a few more bouquets.
Before the first frost warning
My zinnias were at their peak. The dara carrot looks great. My late shasta daisys work well too. The black and green vase was Grandma's. She had great taste for that kind of thing.
Before the second frost warning
Second chance. Lots of marigolds still as the late rains helped them.
A miniature bouquet before the third frost warning
I saved some little flowers for this one that I had not used before- lobelia, dara carrot and verbena. One of the joys of all flower arranging is learning to use what nature provides. My grandmother, Jessie Isaman, used to make miniature arrangements. I thought of her.
I just love marigolds
One last marigold bouquet. I used some sweet potato vine for filler along with the licorice plant which grow abundantly in my tower pots. I used the shrub out front and the seed stalks of the Japanese Iris for straight pieces.
A pre-frost bouquet from 2016
The ultimate goal of bouquets is to fit well and beautify the place where you place them. Here I am enjoying a cup of tea in my big chair along side my reading table with its cheery bouquet even though the flowers outside have frosted.
One from 2015
This one includes some mums in one of the vases I inherited from my Grandmother Isaman. The family flower arranging tradition stems (pardon the pun) from her.
As one who dabbles in gardening, I like to keep track of first frost dates. Here in northern CT, this has been a wonderfully warm fall and we have not even been close to a cold night until the last two nights. There has been frost in each of them. I went out on Saturday to do the things that gardeners do on the last day before frost. I gathered green tomatoes and cut zinnias, marigolds, daisy mums, Shasta daisies, and a few other flowers for a couple last fresh bouquets. Never mind that I hadn’t really picked many until then. It’s the sense that it’s the last time I’ll have that opportunity until next year. More then once I’ve been known to go out with a flashlight to get those last minute items. In fact, I picked the marigolds in the dark this year after arriving home from a church event. The first frost seldom arrives on a convenient night. Like judgment day, or consequences from bad habits, first frost descends into the schedule just when you wish it wouldn’t. Blessed are those who have been listening to the weatherman ahead and those with a little margin in their schedule so they have time to do the last minute things. It reminds me of Jesus’ words concerning his second coming, “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes” (Luke 12:37 NIV 2011).
I went to visit my Mom today. It takes about two and one-half hours one way going down through Gorham, Rushville, Naples, and Wayland. I enjoy the scenery, especially today as the fall colors were more and more prominent as I neared my boyhood home. I went to encourage Mom and took her some flowers from my garden in a basket that was my grandmother’s. Thankfully I have a good crop of zinnias this year that have made wonderful cut flowers to take to Mom. I read Scripture to her and sang to her as I usually do. Even though she is on medicine that makes it hard for her to remember or think well, she sang with me on the chorus of “God Will Take Care of You.” The most precious part was when she prayed for me. That encouraged me. These days I try to give back to her from the rich spiritual heritage that she and my Dad gave to us.
Every gardener should have a tall sunflower jungle picture. So this year is my chance. I planted a few in what I thought was the least favorable corner of the garden. And they grew and grew. Now I’m cutting for the table for us and feeding the birds outside. The goldfinches are already eating to their heart’s content and yesterday I saw cardinals, another seedeater, flying nearby. The tallest is 4 feet higher than I can reach which means it’s about 12 feet tall. I planted several different types so I have lots of different colors too. Delightful!
You could call it the mother lode of daylilies, but I just cannot resist the sheer beauty of a hillside filled with a variety of hemerocallis in bloom. That is what you see at Grace Gardens. (Hemerocallis is the formal scientific name for a daylily.) I try to visit at least once each summer and I have already been there twice this year. Each time I go I end up adding one or two more of these elegant flowers to my own collection. Tom and Kathy Rood invent new daylily varieties too. Kathy has one named after her now that has been featured in a magazine because it is very fragrant. I knelt down to smell its pleasant fragrance on this trip. I recommend visiting just to enjoy the beauty. But be prepared to get snared by the charm of hemerocallis too. Open house is this Saturday.
This last weekend was a big celebration weekend for me and for my wife too. It was Father’s Day and I enjoyed appropriate attention and good food on account of that occasion. It was also the weekend we could tell our friends at Community Wesleyan the good news—those who had not read my blog or heard by the grapevine—that our daughter and son-in-law are expecting so we are going to be grandparents for the first time! That is cause for celebration! I hear that grandkids are the greatest!
Then to put the celebration over the top, Monday, June 20, was our 41st anniversary. We spent the bucks last year for the big four-O. So this year was lower key. We soaked up some sun amid the beauty of the Syracuse Rose Garden—delightful smells and eye-popping beauty. Then it was out to dinner at Red Lobster—I highly recommend the maple glazed salmon and shrimp. JoAnne says our wedding happened on a bright sunny but windy day a lot like this June 20! We consider each other a treasure and pray that God grants us many years of good health to enjoy together.
A few weeks ago we visited Keely and Mark and while we were there we took time to relax in the gardens at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford, Conn. I have written before that I like to look for quiet spots to relax. Well, this is a beautiful one. It’s main feature is the extensive rose garden which was not in bloom this early in the spring. But it also features this exquisite annual garden which is very well tended. In the spring it is planted to tulips. It also has goldfish ponds and grassy areas. I have not had time to blog about it until now so here is a gallery of some shots we took.
One of the great joys of summer for me is daylily season. Hemerocallis is one of my very favorite summer flowers. It is hardy, easy to grow, makes a good display and has few enemies. It transplants well, divides well, and is generally hard to kill, although the voles have been trying. When I arrived here, there was only one kind, the old-fashioned one, growing here. Now I have collected about three dozen varieties and every year I try to add a few more. Some I get from friends, some I buy in stores or from specialty catalogs and I have purchased several at Grace Gardens (http://gracegardens.com/), a daylily garden near Geneva that I love to visit. In recent years, I have tried to be better at recording the names, but with the way CNY winters beat up my name plates, I unfortunately have lost names regularly. Several of my lilies I inherited from my Grandmother Isaman, including one called Frans Hall that is still sold in catalogs today.
The name, daylily, comes from the fact that each bloom lasts only one day. (However, I have collected one strange but very fragrant variety that blooms each evening and closes in the morning). Many people are not aware that some strains are fragrant. In a way, it is sad each evening as beautiful displays come to an end with the setting sun. Yet in another sense, I always think about how every morning I have a brand new garden display! It is one small way God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3: 22,23 ESV). The old blossoms of the night before were faded in the sun or beaten up by rain, but the new ones of the morning are perfect. So each morning all summer during day lily season, I go out to see what has opened for today. I have observed unusual things on those morning walks too. One morning, I found a green tree frog backed down into a large daylily blossom. If I extend the spiritual analogy, as a Christian, I can look forward each morning to how God’s grace will make this day a fresh experience walking with my Savior.
I’m including a few pictures from this year’s gardens. You may notice that I tend toward the jungle look in gardens as opposed to the neatly-separated-plants look. I like the happy coincidences that happen as plants overlap. I’d rather they fill in the spaces, and then I don’t have to. If it’s weeds – well, I will eventually get to them…