Farm Intern Notes: Flower Farming

by Tusha Yakovleva

I had next to no opinion on growing flowers and no experience with it before farming at the Seed Library. Their beauty was not lost on me, but their importance as a crop was: the thought was - wildflowers are abundant enough (at least in our region) for both bees and vases. Intensive gardening efforts are better spent on food.

After spending a season tending to purely ornamental flowers - I no longer feel neutral on the issue: flower farming is great. The Heartseed was the first to convince me - a wall of green vines with inconspicuous flowers and pretty seeds, I paid little attention to it until it was time to enter the green corridors to harvest the seeds. Once inside, the hum of pollinators was as loud as the noise from a nearby highway. The smell was an all encompassing herbal sweetness and the visual barrier made it easy to focus on the ecosystem the Heartseed created: a shady sanctuary for thousands of great bugs.

The Gift Zinnia is a variety we've been growing for a few years and in the elapsed time, it has gone from a crimson, single-layer petal, medium sized bloom to a genetic variety show of color, petal shape, and bloom size. Writing down descriptions for each of our nearly 300 plants forced me into a scientific intimacy with the Gift Zinnia, which in turn was an excellent lesson about the science of seed farming and complexity of preserving the desirable characteristics of open pollinated varieties.