I was a lucky boy, growing up in the Northeast. My parents were both gardeners, and I enjoyed helping them plant cosmos in pinks, whites and deep cerise. And thanks to that training, I know a weed seedling from a snapdragon seedling.
Our gardens were filled with perennials, and when summertime approached our annuals — marigolds, nasturtiums and others — were all in place, ready to fill the garden with color and with plants for cutting.
Zinnias in pinks, oranges, yellows and whites were always available to give color to the breakfast table, along with the morning glories that made their entrance later in the season. During the blooming months, I enjoyed watching the garden transition — from hyacinths and daffodils to tulips and bleeding hearts; then it was on to the dahlias, asters, lupines and marigolds, and right through to the last of the chrysanthemums.
At my home in Ireland, I employ a wonderful gardener, Sinead Foley, to tend my walled garden. She knows the garden well. She plants the sweet peas, readies the beds for color, cleans the iris beds and replants bulbs.
Sinead and I are always looking for new tricks to employ in the garden. My rose garden, for instance, is filled with color. And to keep the color blooming, we dead-head the rose bushes right down to the five-pointed leaves — not to the three-pointed. By cutting and dead-heading down to the leaf with five points, we keep the flowers blooming right up to the first frost.
I love gardeners who understand the beauty of arranging blooms. In scale, arrangements can be unassuming or grand, depending on the table, or perhaps the mantel, they adorn. Bouquets can be full and lush, or they can be simple with just a few stems — or even one, if the flower is stunning.
Delicate arrangements featuring small vases — each holding a single lily of the valley — lined up on top of a luncheon table are so impressive and charming. Or if you like sweet peas, you can use the same technique.
Floridians love orchids and so do I. But although the orchid is always appropriate in Palm Beach settings, the flower is often overused, for my taste. There are so many other Florida flora that can substitute for the popular orchid, even if just occasionally to shake things up.
I love to place big arrangements of gardenias or hibiscus on my entry tables to offer a dazzling welcome. And I have seen marvelous arrangements of birds of paradise perched on a pair of drawing room console tables — so striking, and perfect in a Florida home.
Whichever you choose, flowers from the garden are truly magic from the earth, whether you are in Palm Beach, New York, Ireland or beyond.