I am a reluctant gardener. So when I tell you that I grew sixty-five white mini pumpkins last year that were so adorable, such a delicious creamy shade of ivory, so symmetrical and perfect and aesthetically pleasing on every level, you should believe me, but you also should know this was none of my doing. I am too lazy to put the effort into even hoping for what began as Huh,Those Don’t Look Like Zinnias but then metamorphosed before my very eyes into a landslide of the sweetest, teeny tiny, marshmallowy gourds. On view right outside my kitchen, they increasingly made me want to just chomp right into one because I knew it would taste exactly like what I imagined a vanilla-flavored pumpkin should taste like (a cupcake, duh). It was a miracle, but one only observed by me.
Basically I had purchased six of them at Trader Joe’s the autumn before for table decorations at Thanksgiving, thrown them in the compost after the holidays, and used said compost the following summer, to fortify a last-minute, what-the-hell, let’s-see-if-these-seed-packets-are-still-good summer planting.
Everyone wanted those beauties, but Cymbidium won out because they offered me a trade in free flowers. So Flower Fan Girl here tripped over her Achilles heel and limped as fast as she could down to the shop after they were harvested. That’s right, harvested. Because there were so many of them. It was a harvest.
I come from Southern California, where we gardened by sort of throwing things in the ground and wishing them luck. Whether it was in the salt-laden patch of yard outside my first apartment by the beach, or the heavy, trucked in clay soil in the backyard of the tract home we eventually purchased, the temperate climate tipped the odds favorably away from any actual poor conditions in the soil. What did do well did well, and what didn’t, didn’t. All you’d really have to do was water. And shrug.
Then we moved here. The house I live in was inhabited by previous owners who were rumored to have gardened all day everyday, starting in the spring when the ground was thawed enough to work until it froze solid in the fall, and the extensive beds surrounding the house were lovely. But listen up Friends, they were also a big fat lie. You know the kind of gardens that have a kind of natural, whimsical, effortless look? Not too groomed? “Cottagey”?
Yeah I thought I could handle it. And I could not. My casual, no-makeup makeup garden was a beast.
It’s taken me a long time to admit this because I tried so hard to love gardening. But I simply hate it. I’m not hardy enough. And ok, hate is kind of a dramatic word, so let’s put it this way: I strongly disliked working up the courage to grow tomatoes and losing all of them to late blight. Late being the operative word here because it only shows up after you’ve gone into denial at least five or six times, when everyone has repeatedly told you to just rip up the plants and trashbag them up. Call it a day. But Hope Springs Eternal here had to hang on just in case, until the tomatoes were ripening, which is when the blech shows up. And murderously mars those gorgeous fruits of your labor and sends you to bed for a long nap.
I strongly disliked planting the smallest melons I could find and still not having enough time to ripen them so they’d taste like actual melons, even during the hottest summer I could remember out here. I strongly disliked it when one year everything--flowers, veggies, everything--bloomed simultaneously, gorgeously and picturesquely…and then a historic hail storm laid it all flat. I also strongly dislike weeding. It is not “grounding” for me. Especially the first two years when I strongly disliked not knowing which were the actual weeds and which were not. I strongly disliked doing things like pulling dandelions and then finding one fully formed in the exact same spot the very next morning. And also? What is the actual deal on how fast everything springs up here and keeps growing at breakneck speed? I mean isn’t summer the season to maybe chill out a bit? To catch our breath after the never-ending winter?
I thought gardening was supposed to be relaxing! What a buzz kill to find out nothing reminds me more that WINTER IS COMING than to try to keep pace with a pastime that actually turns out to be a brutal race against time.
One day last month, I was walking into the shop to interview Jess and Stacey for a future blog post, when I saw the woman in front of me wielding a huge metal tub of cut peonies.The biggest, fattest, fluffiest, softest-shade-of-pinkest peonies, and at least three dozen of them. She marched right up to the counter to present them to Jess, and we all oooed and ahhhed over them (I actually got weak in the knees and had to sit down they were that beautiful), when suddenly I had a very interesting thought. I wondered how many other folks in the community had felt inspired to share their bounty, (intentionally cultivated or accidental), with Cymbidium?
Quite a few of us actually! There’s Lynn, who covers all the F’s in that she is a friend of the shop, a flower farmer, and a florist, and who grows many varieties of sweet peas, dahlias, and zinnias. Julie, who has scraped sheet moss off her roof to bring in. Toby, who brings in branches of something similar to kiwi vine. Keith, who gave the shop carte blanche to cut as much curly willow as they wanted on his land. There was also a man who years ago came in to the shop and gave them extra tiles from a job he did that reminded him of the stones the shop uses to write their prices on (and which they still use to this day). Jillian, another local flower farmer who supplies thistle, Russian olive, apple mint, astilbe, scabiosa and others. Kristen, who also grows sweet peas. And the “Roadsidia Men” as Theresa likes to call them, various people who cut things like pussy willow and winterberry and sometimes even flowers out of the swamps and bring them into the shop to sell.
This is one of the reasons I think Cymbidium is such a special business. The brick-and-mortar part is beautifully appointed and has space for everything that a floral business would need-flowers, storage, workspace, products—but I’ve always sensed that when you enter the shop, there’s also space for you. And while your custom is welcome, so are all the intangibles that make up your experience in life. You are recognized for the moments happening outside the shop that lead you into it. Flowers mark the times in our lives that are perhaps the most memorable and significant—proms, weddings, births, illnesses, deaths. Yet they can also mark the simple act of crossing someone’s mind. Purchasing flowers for someone or for any occasion is incredibly personal. And it’s evident that Jess, Stacey and Theresa get how important that is, and that they are holding space for more than just the exchange of goods.
So it doesn’t surprise me at all that over the years, people have been inspired to share back with the shop. By bringing in what they’ve grown or found, they are saying, “You’ve created a community of lives that intersect around its most meaningful moments”.
*Many thanks to Susan for her kind words!
Read more from our Flower Fan Girl here: