Every winter, a group of about 30 flower farmers from Maryland get together to share stories, information, and ideas. A year ago, I attended the meeting for the first time– and felt like I had landed in a country where the natives spoke a strange dialect of English. I couldn’t understand half of what was said. After a few meetings, I learned to interpret the flower-talk. For example, “Lissie” is short for lisianthus, “ten ten ten” is a type of fertilizer, a “cutting” is not some violent action, but rather, a piece of a plant, etc…
At the meeting this month, flower grower Bill Harlan gave two presentations. The first was on sedums (a kind of succulent plant with lots of different funky varieties). The second was called “The Dark Side of Flower Growing,” and to understand why it was hilarious, you’ll need a little context… Bill Harlan is a quiet, sincere, thoughtful person; he’s a flower farmer, a Quaker, and a father. I worked with him for a day at his farm, Belvedere Farm, which is as lovely and peaceful as I expected, based on his personality. The farm has been in his family for years; he sells his flowers at various markets in Baltimore County, and he also to florists.
When Bill began his “Dark Side of Flower Growing” presentation, I was a little shocked– he has a mischievous sense of humor that I did NOT expect!
The following slides had the entire room laughing for the next ten minutes. Maybe it’s only funny if you’re a flower grower and have experienced these things, but I invite you to laugh with us…
There were pictures of bee stings, flower buckets knocked over with flowers everywhere, etc. Bill managed to capture everything that goes wrong on a flower farm on camera, and we’ve all done those things hundreds of times! He ended the presentation saying, “So why do we do it?…. Because of the people.” The slides that followed were pictures of his employees, and of people buying his flowers at market.
He’s so right. Winter is dark and the work is unrewarding during these months… but come spring, I can give everyone I love some flowers, and that is the whole point!
I wish you all a mint tea,