The difference between growing food and growing flowers is illustrated by going down a couple of numbers in a dictionary when you look up the word ‘taste.’ The first definition, at least in the Internet dictionary ‘Word Web,’ describes what your taste buds are doing. Two entries down at #3, Word Web defines taste as, “Delicate discrimination (especially of esthetic values.)”
And for gardeners that opens up a whole new world with zillions of types of flowers.
There aren’t that many vegetable museums around are there—except maybe seasonally at country fairs? But there are flower museums. All over the place. But they go by the name of ‘botanical gardens.’ Many big cities have one. New York City has two world class gardens: The New York Botanical Garden (in the Bronx) and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. No matter what your garden interest, a botanical garden is worth a visit. As they say on TV, there’s one near you!
And funny we should mention that because botanical gardens are great sources of online information for the serious flower gardener. One of the most famous is The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (in south west London) (usually referred to as Kew Gardens). The serious flower gardener will want to have a look at Kew's listing of the plants, including flowers, on display. Clicking on one of the names in the “plant A-Z listing" will take you to an extensive profile of the plant or flower. It's a little cumbersome to use. In fact, our original blurb here on Kew gardens had a whole different set of directions to get to what they were calling at the time "information sheets." So we had to rewrite this whole section. What makes the "A-Z Listing" tough to use is that you need to know at least the common name of the plant (flower) you're looking up. If you do know that name you can use the "find on this page" function of your browser. The result, however, is worth a little playing around. The completeness and interest of their profiles is terrific. Includes photos (at least the ones we tested this out on.)
Down to Earth (hmmm)
Another source, and you can be as much of a flower garden beginner or expert as you like, is the Cornell University online collection of flower gardening info. If you’re a newbie (how do you plant flowers,) take a look by clicking on the following blue title: “Flower Garden Design Basics”. A step up in expertise is a set of guides, also from Cornell. (Go right to the guides by clicking on the following blue link: “Flower Growing Guides.” These are, “guides to 269 flowers and foliage plants.”
Think About It
Back to Brooklyn for a moment: To gain an appreciation of how flower gardening can open up your world, check out a Brooklyn Botanic Garden offering by clicking on the following blue link: “Plants in the Japanese Garden—Evocations of Art and Nature,” The two photos alone will knock you out. Promise.
And finally, for a sort of compliment to Cornell’s beginner to intermediate exploration of flower gardening, take a look at the University of Minnesota’s (U of M) high level pages by clicking on “Gardening Information: Flowers.”
This is part of the U of M’s extension service offerings. The material is heavily local, and some of it is for sale. But we thought well enough of it to recommend it here because the level of difficulty goes from zero (mostly) to substantial science briefs. If you don’t live in Minnesota you’ll have to get with your local extension staffers to find similar information (all free don’t forget.) But at least you’ll know the questions to ask.
Here are the major headings for the U of M’s “Flowers” exercise:
- General Flower Gardening
- Minnesota Annuals
- Minnesota Perennials
- Diseases, Insects, & Weeds
- Cultivar Introduction and Research