I received a press release from Burpee recently and wasn’t surprised to read that gardeners across the country are putting their energies into growing vegetables over flowers.
“Most urban agriculture projects consist mostly of vegetables and herbs with a few flowers on the side,” observed George Ball, a 35 year veteran of both the cut flower and vegetable business. The keynote speaker at the recent Urban Agriculture Conference held at New York University in Manhattan, Ball urged the more than 300 urban gardeners in attendance to meet the great potential and pent-up demand for fresh flowers.
Fresh cut flowers have almost vanished from urban homes, parties and other public and private events, according to Ball, past president of The American Horticultural Society and chairman and C.E.O. of the home gardening company, W. Atlee Burpee & Co.
Think of cut flowers as an endangered species, he quipped, urging those attending to allocate space for flowers in whatever enterprise they undertake.
Ball also pointed out the latest research at Rutgers University that proves that fresh flowers in the home alleviate mild depression or other mood disorders. Vegetables are fuel for our body, he concluded, but flowers connect with the deepest parts of our spirit.
The conference was held under the auspices of the Horticultural Society of New York, at NYUs Kimmel Center.
I think there’s something to be said for growing flowers among the vegetables. I tend to grow things that “work” meaning flowers that draw beneficial insects into our gardens, repel the bad bugs and add fragrance for the enjoyment of the gardeners. And while some flowers might be cut and brought indoors – like a little lavender bouquet for next to the bed – in my gardens most flowers will remain with their roots in the earth and faces in the sun doing what they were planted to do.
I don’t find the need to grow flowers to cut and bring inside this time of year. Do you? The flowers I do pick tend to add to whatever I am doing rather than be on display. For example, nasturtiums will be picked to add to a salad, flowers will be used to decorate cakes for a garden party and in the fall armloads of hydrangeas will be cut and dried for Christmas decorating. Perhaps, I have a more practical view.
And with urban gardens, where every bit of space counts, I can understand choosing food over flowers. What do you think?
BTW – In the plots at the Moreau Community Garden’s Family Gardening Program we are growing a colorful display of hard-working flowers such as marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias and cleome. They will not be picked but left in the garden for the enjoyment of everyone.