By Stephanie Cavanaugh
YOU KNOW what’s tragic? All of the clippings I see on the sidewalk, the glad-handed prunings of magnolia, pyracantha and various berries. The lengths of ivy and vinca and branches of red-leaf maple and crape myrtle. Ruffles of fern. They pile on the lawns, are swept to the curbs, stuffed into trash bags.
And O! the butchery of hydrangeas that takes place each autumn. Have you seen the price of a few stems of such at the markets? Keep your eye to the curb and a hundred bucks’ worth might well be yours—lovely when fresh, long-lasting when allowed to dry.
And then. The owners of said detritus march off to the florist or Trader Joe’s or wherever and spend many dollars on a puny bunch of mums or lilies or roses for a display, and then extra for some greens to fill it all out.
What? You have to spend money for it to be . . . good?
Stop. Look at what you’ve chopped. Trim away the bottom stems so they don’t wallow in water and decay. Which stinks. Take a nicely shaped branch of something and stick it in a tall vase. This is key, that nicely shaped branch, with several crooks, offshoots, and a vase that doesn’t allow for much sprawl. Between the two, you won’t require wires or netting or a frog, that pokey item that holds stems erect: The branch stems will provide all the support you need.
Now plonk a bit of something else alongside, add a little of this and that in and, poof! you have a splendid display, for nothing.
If you want to be extravagant, buy a stem or three—remember three, always three—of something gorgeous. A particularly divine rose, perhaps. Or maybe an out-of-season peony or a rare tulip. The greens will form a lush backdrop, and that fancy specimen will stand out against it.
The arrangement in the photograph is one such gathering of someone’s clippings. A stroll produced a fine branch of magnolia, another leafy thing, a branch of some sort of holly, plus a couple of caladium leaves from my actual garden for color.
“Of course, take them,” the silly gardener said, grinning as if she were getting away with something.
Right: less for the trash bags.
More for my front hall.