A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Friday, June 06, 2008

Review: The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers

I’ve always wanted a cutting garden. Although I love having bouquets of flowers in my house, I don’t like picking flowers from my carefully planned borders. A separate plot, preferably in an inconspicuous spot from which I could plunder as many blossoms as I wanted without worrying about leaving holes in my planting scheme, is definitely the answer. But how to begin? How to decide what to plant, when to plant, the best methods of harvesting to ensure the longest vase life? Surprisingly, I found the answers to all of my questions as well as questions I didn’t know I should be asking in “The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut flowers”.

In this revised and expanded edition, Lynn Byczynski covers every aspect of raising flowers for sale in easy to understand terms. The book is incredibly detailed but I was never bored. Rather than a manual or a textbook, it was like a friendly talk over the backfence. It’s obvious that she loves flowers and the business of growing flowers. The author starts with the basics of site, soil, seeds and plants then moves through pests, diseases, season extenders and harvest. She devotes several chapters on what to grow, not only the usual annuals and perennials, but also plants one doesn’t usually think of, trees and shrubs, whose foliage, flowers and berries are used in both fresh and dried arrangements. Then she moves on to flower arranging, transport and marketing.

Along the way, successful flower farmers are featured. Their farms, their market niches, how they got started and how they have expanded or shrunk their businesses to suit their financial and lifestyle goals are explained.

All of the information is presented in an easy to understand format. Each concept is clearly explained. Technical terms are defined. No prior knowledge is assumed on the part of the reader. Nor is the book limited to one climate or region of the country. For information not covered in the book, sources are given where the information can be found. The author points out how the each section applies to both large and small farms and even cutting gardens such as I envision.

Whether you are thinking of growing flowers for market or just want a cutting garden, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. But don’t take my word for it. Cathy Jones of Perry-winkle Farm in central North Carolina was one of the experienced flower farmers asked for their Top Ten varieties for each area of the country. Cathy says, “It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was reading The Flower Farmer to learn just these sorts of things!”(page 25)

As for me, I’m finally going to plant that cutting garden. Thanks to “The Flower Farmer”, I know what to plant, when to plant it, and how to plant it. I’ve learned about succession planting and other techniques to extend the season. And when it comes time to harvest my flowers, I know the proper way to harvest each variety to prolong its vase life.

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