Cold comfort



Seed catalog browsing is all very well, but when the temps have a “minus” in their name, seed catalogs are not enough. In addition to traveling to where flowers are always in bloom and growing bulbs indoors, I have been contemplating the possibilities of locally-grown cut flowers becoming part of my CSA allotment. We have a number of CSA choices in Western New York—this still being farm country—but one of them, Promised Land, includes a fresh flower and herb option as well as the normal 6-7 months of vegetables (there is a fruit option as well).

The flowers are perfect for me—exactly the varieties that will not thrive in a smallish, partly-shaded urban garden. They include sweet peas—I have failed numerous times with this classic—strawflower, celosia, amaranth, bupleurum, glads, even grasses. I am using the names found on the website: a charming mix of common, botanic, and misspelled.

Maybe you don’t have this problem, but—with the exception of lilies—I really hate picking flowers from the garden. I need them to stay outside, where they are scenting and decorating a summer living space. Then there is the slight possibility that some of the perennials and annuals from seedlings will not succeed with the abundance you need for casual picking. I also like the option of supporting local farmers, especially these farmers. Daniel, Jane, Ben and Pam Oles run a chemical-free operation, using cover crops, compost and crop rotation to maintain their soil. I could never hope to do so well, or grow so much. And flowers too! That anticipation alleviates the sting of the single digits. A bit. 

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Years ago I decided to grow a cutting garden in an out-of-the-way site. The plants grew fine, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut the flowers. I knew they would last longer outside connected to the plant.

  2. I am so glad I came across your blog!!!

    Last year I became addicted to gardening… so much that I started a blog about it! 🙂

    I love learning as much as I can… and your blog is going to be an excellent resource!

    Thank you!

  3. I feel the same about picking, even with lilies. Now, though, I’ve found out you can use lily blossoms like those of squash. They’re supposed to have a faint similarity to asparagus. So, your CSA choices could still be considered all edibles, even if the flowers are only seen at the table, not consumed.

  4. Oh yeah, I feel your pain ! The cut flower issue is part of the reason I ended up with over 50 roses; I can cut one flower off each and have a decent bouquet with little or no effect on the garden. Every year I buy more and more lilies hoping to reach the threshhold when I am ok cutting them. Hasn’t happened yet. Maybe this year ?

  5. I feel the same way Elizabeth…if I had an out of the way spot where I didn’t see the flowers from the patio table I might cut them. Otherwise, since I spend more time in the summer outside than inside it seems a shame to move them.

  6. Naomi,

    I am pretty sure you mean daylilies (hemerocallis). Those buds are edible, but the regular lilium, which I grow, are mostly not. And the thing with edible flowers … never mind, a rant for another time!

  7. I can cut the calla lilies. Why ? Because they bloom February through May here – prime mosquito season. On top of that, it’s usually dusk or dark by the time I get home in those months & I’d never see them if I didn’t bring them inside. But the flowers that bloom in the warmer, brighter months rarely see the inside of the house. Maybe a few glads or roses now & then, but not on any regular basis.

  8. And you can really feel good about buying flowers from your CSA. Not only are flowers a good rotating crop and great at attracting pollinators, they are a huge economic help to farmers. They can help smooth out the losses from other little crop failures and keep a steady income coming in throughout the season. Looking forward to photos–

  9. I think that some folks forget that foliage, tree branches , fruit and vegetables can make a spectacular indoor arrangements.
    My garden is small and is heavily planted with subtropical and Mediterranean plants so my interior arrangements are mostly made up of foliage, fruits, vegetables and the occasional flower.
    Today in the living room a bunch of papyrus stalks make a statement and in the dining area an arrangement of bromeliads, tillandsias and some cut succulents are bringing the outdoors in.
    A couple of weeks ago I found some broken Mananita branches and brought them inside and mixed them with some pyracantha and lemons.
    There quite a bit of available cutting material that can be used from the deciduous garden this time of year, think of a gorgeous stand of red twig dogwood branches in a tall clear vase.

  10. Great post on a subject many of us can identify with. I, too, am loathe to cut any of my flowers and diminish the beauty outside. My solution this year is planting a few beds in my community garden plot–and hope for the best that I can bear to harvest there!

    Also great point on utilizing other plants–I’ve enjoyed radish seed heads as bouquet filler, Diablo ninebark, mints, bronze fennel…

  11. I prefer the flowers ,leaves, whatever to stay in the garden for all the reasons posted above and also because of the Cat. A vase with water and something from the outside stuck in it encites him to bad behavior. No matter where it is placed the cat will knock it over.

  12. Whenever I cut flowers, I am reminded of the BFG who said that he could hear the plants screaming as the stems were cut. It kind of puts a damper on a cutting garden.

    Nevertheless, I cut the flowers that we have in excess (ie. peonies and lilacs) or those that will go unnoticed in the yard if not brought in for close inspection and sniffs. I can’t help that whoever created flowers would want their artistry to be acknowledged and appreciated. And sometimes cutting flowers causes the plant to bloom again and again.

  13. The only flowers I can bear to cut are lilacs and I cut tons of them and put them all over the house. But I do cut hosta leaves and dogwood stems, etc.

  14. Funny. Aren’t we! So many people are drawn to gardening with the ideas of bringing them inside b u t – – no way! I really must have at least 5 full perfect roses just coming out to bear with taking one in! Then I say to myself that it needed pruning “just there” so I won’t feel guilty.

    I keep a shallow, wide vase near the sink for cuttings of all kinds that is lovely until the Christmas decorations come out! That reminds me – order more yarrow!

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