Way down the red dirt road, past the house that sells goats, where your cell phone doesn’t work, we use a lot of things other people forgot about. Rotary phones. Clotheslines. Dial-up. Out here, florist flowers are for funerals only.
But we have cut flowers by the armload, by the bucket or vase-full.
Momma still cuts flowers from the yard to take to church on Sunday. On Saturday evening we’d cut whatever looked good, let them rest in water, and take them up early Sunday morning. I don’t even go to church. But I sure do miss that and it makes me sad that she has to miss it too.
Bouquets of fragrant country flowers bring memories and tie us to the old ways. Black-eyed Susan, and blue hydrangea, cat whiskers, and cast iron plant.
Now there are people further on down the road, in the swamp who still have real country flowers; cartwheel lily, hot water flower, jewels of Opar, and dog fennel.
But the most obscure, most country bumpkin flower name I ever heard, has to be from way down Gum Swamp Road.
Chicken feet flowers. Put the ugly raw image out of your head. Imagine the girls with their toenails painted bright pink, fluffy feathers, tarted-up-for Sa’dny-night beautiful chicken feet.
I”m telling you, not even in a high-tone flower shop in AT-Lan-Taa, uptown, will you find a more elegant, architectural stem. Practically mo´durn. Hunkered down in old lady country gardens long enough, it’s time for chicken feet flowers to come out.
In early June, they’re yellow or kind of orange. By the Forth of July, they’re red, white, and blue. In one ladies garden, she’s real fancy, they’re gold. So you see, they make the perfect cut flower as they can be varied in color as the booth that sells old spray paint aisle at the flea market.
Unlike their salty-fried namesake, which will make you drink a ton of tea, chicken feet flowers don’t even need water. That’s right. You cut them and drop them in a vase. Or tin can. Or a plastic bleach bottle with the top cut off. No floral gel or funky recipes with pennies or Seven-up. They’ll last for weeks.
Now that’s you’ve discovered them, help me out. Do they need an updated cool name? Is it even ethical to re-name something just so that we can sell them? How about Fairy Wand Flowers? Or something timely pulled from a Disney movie?
In one way, we already change them. Check out Tom’s Fourth of July Flowers. With the right spray paint, they could do a Lady Gamecock Chicken Foot Bouquet. Or a Tiger-Caught-a-Chicken-Foot Flowers.
I know yall. I’ve been off the farm
and seen the world and I know that you all know a lot. You are urbanity-defined. Sophisticating, a subscriber to Oxford American, Garden & Gun AND watcher of documentaries — especially about deep south country stuff. You probably wonder why you’ve never heard of these.
Maybe there’s some anthropologist working on it right now. More likely some therapist is working on why I like telling these stories. Making things up. You see, I’ve just told you a good one, a big one, a story I pulled right out of my little country-boy head.
I made up Chicken Feet Flowers. They’re just old crinum stems left after flowers fade. But they are cool aren’t they? And yep, we really do pick them, clean them and we really do ship bundles of them as gifts to your friends. (link below).
A business advisor, all the way from Chicago, told me that we had to figure a way to sell our excess flowers. Y’all know I put a lot of stock in what smart ladies from Chicago have to say about our farm.
The truth is that when I put these things in a vase when I tell that little story, everybody smiles, everybody falls for chicken feet flowers.