Text & photography by Will Gullette
A cutting garden is a delight both indoors and out…
CINDY MCGLOCKLIN IS ENAMORED OF FRESH FLOWERS. Unequivocally, emphatically, passionately. This passion, or “hobby” as she describes it, is abundantly clear in her garden and in her profusely bouquet-decorated home high in the hills of Poway.
Growing up in Altadena, in California’s verdant San Gabriel valley, Cindy developed an early interest in botany — a subject at which she excelled — during high school. Her love of flowers was cultivated with frequent visits to nearby Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia. Those early memories and influences remain poignant to her today.
Cindy grows all her own flowers for bouquets and arrangements in her cutting garden, which was installed in 2002 with the help of her husband, Jon (who has an equal passion for his own cactus garden, another decade-long ongoing project). Jon’s contribution to Cindy’s garden included building raised beds, a necessity because of the hillside home’s poor soil conditions. Truckloads of topsoil, amended soil and compost from the landfill were mixed to provide the ideal one-foot depth and drainage for growing flowers.
Fencing in the cutting garden, which Jon also did, was absolutely necessary to “keep out the critters” that dined on the garden delights. Mule deer were a problem in the beginning but they are rarely seen these days. Now there is an array of screens and traps to control gophers, moles, squirrels, rabbits and snakes.
When Cindy began the garden she kept records in A Gardener’s Journal, A Ten Year Chronicle of Your Garden. Here, she recorded planting dates, daily temperatures, what grew well and what didn’t and she also jotted down her personal thoughts.
Since different plant needs dictate that the garden be completely watered by hand, there is plenty of time for contemplation, inspection, observation and to enjoy the growth process.
Cindy’s love of growing flowers is palpable when she talks about it: “Working in the garden is wonderful. It’s peaceful, therapeutic and always evolving. Every time I walk through the gate, there’s something new to see. The flowers are like children. I look forward to seeing them grow and blossom. In the spring I love the fragrant, delicate sweet peas and freesias, and in the summer I enjoy the big, bold zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers. Every season has its charms.”
In the fall, during September, Cindy plants early-variety sweet-pea seeds to bloom in January. Winter, however, is primarily a dormant time. Holiday decorations replace floral arrangements in the home. Cindy uses this time to peruse seed catalogs, looking for new, unusual, interesting and untried varieties, and planning what she will grow next season. She has her perennial favorites, of course: freesias, ranunculus, larkspur, sweet peas, cosmos, dahlias, zinnias and roses.
“These are flowers you don’t usually find at a florist shop,” she says. “And, most commercially grown roses are bred primarily for a long shelf life and don’t have the rich fragrance of homegrown varieties.”
As much as she adores growing flowers, she equally loves bringing them into the home to enjoy. Although her bouquets might indicate otherwise, Cindy has no formal training in the art of floral arrangement. She defines her style as “simple and natural” but she is influenced by what she describes as an “English-garden style.”
Typically, arrangements are large, colorful bouquets, designed with consideration for their overall complementary colors and harmony with location and background, creating visually appealing vignettes. She collects crystal, glass and pottery containers, and especially likes to use English earthenware jugs — one in particular that is decorated with images of vintage seed packets.
Cindy says, “Sometimes I just cut pails of flowers and then decide how and where to use them, and other times I look at a space in the house that needs some flowers and go out and cut specifically what I’m looking for to fill a particular vase or spot.”
Cindy enjoys having people come and visit the cutting garden. It is extremely productive, and like vegetable gardens, there are periods of excess. During these times she gives away lots of flowers. But, most importantly, she relishes sharing her passion for flowers with others and hopefully instilling inspiration in them to begin to grow their own.