In his delightful gem of a book, Annuals for Connoisseurs, Wayne Winterrowd recalls an older gardener who continued to scale back her garden, bed by bed, year after year. At the end of her days, she left herself with nothing more than a single small plot of zinnias that she could see from her sitting room. "Those she could not forgo". I was utterly charmed by the idea of the flower you cannot forgo.
"All gardeners must have some one flower with which they hope to end their days", writes Winterrowd, and he himself is torn between zinnias and marigolds. I choose cosmos. Yes, they are big and bulky for a small urban garden, but their airy foliage is a delight, and their sweet flowers remind of quiet summer moments in the garden. This year, I am growing the 'Rose Bon Bon', sent to me by Renee's Garden. The double flowers are frilly and deeply colored, and make for a beautiful informal arrangement in a jelly jar.
For the garden to end my days -- and may it be a long way off! --I would pick a less showy variety, 'Antiquity' perhaps. For as Winterrowd advises, "the choice must be of something simple and naive, easy of cultivation, full of lusty good health and carrying in its open flowers a memory of all the gardens one has known and loved".