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(HOST)Giving someone a flower may be a simple gesture, but commentator Henry Homeyer believes it has complex and lasting benefits.

(HOMEYER) On a recent afternoon I was rushing to a book reading by my friend Nardi Reeder Campion, who, at age 89, has come out with yet another book. I was late, in part, because I’d gone to my garden to cut flowers for the table at the reading. There were few parking places, and I was getting cross. But, as luck would have it, I found a spot, parked, and was about to dash inside. Then I noticed a woman in a wheelchair being pushed my way. I stopped, greeted her, plucked a daffodil out of my vase, and handed it to her. “Here, this is for you,” I said. We both smiled.

I recount that story because there is still time to plant some extra flowers. Flowers to cut and give away. Flowers for anyone who needs a big smile – either you – or the recipient. Had a bad day? Pick a few flowers and bring them to a housebound friend, or someone going through a rough patch. You’ll both feel better.

Garden centers and nurseries are still chock-full of annual flowers that will bloom all summer long. Get some, and tuck plants into empty spaces in your vegetable garden, or along the front walk. Or plant them in pots and place them on the front steps or the back porch. They’ll provide you with a splash of color and a source of cut flowers all summer long.

Most annual flowers aren’t fussy. They don’t need that chocolate cake-colored soil we strive for elsewhere. In fact, most annuals do fine in pretty ordinary soil. Zinnias, cosmos, marigolds and nasturtiums, for example, flower better without any added fertilizer.

If you plant annuals in pots or window boxes, ordinary garden soil won’t work very well, as generally it’s too dense and heavy. You should buy potting soil. It’s light and fluffy, allowing air and water to easily reach the roots. Most potting soils are made from peat moss and have few of the minerals needed by plants, so you’ll need to give plants some liquid fertilizer every two or three weeks throughout the summer. As an organic gardener I prefer using a natural fish and seaweed fertilizer – it contains everything that a chemical fertilizer has, and lots more.

If I had to choose just one type of annual flowers to grow, I’d pick zinnias. The more you cut them, the more they branch, and the more blossoms they produce. They have strong stems, bright colors, and last well in a vase.

Giving flowers is easy, and even a single flower can bring great joy. I know I’ll remember the smile I got from the recipient of that single daffodil for a long time – and I bet she does, too.

Henry Homeyer is a gardening writer and columnist.

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