Lucky for those who live in the Upstate, the local farm-to-table movement includes fresh, sustainably produced flowers, as well as fruits, vegetables, and meats. My friend Julie Hill is one of the growers, as well as a member of SC Upstate Flowers—a lively group with an array of horticultural knowledge and a great sense of fun.
Really, a great sense of fun? Yes! And for a chance to join in, you’re invited to join Julie and her cohorts tomorrow at the TD Saturday Market on Main Street for Greenville’s first Flower Throwdown!
Scheduled for 10 a.m. at Main and McBee Streets, the throwdown promises to be a friendly competition of flower arranging using locally-grown, seasonal blooms such as coneflowers, zinnias, celosia, dahlias, sedums, sunflowers, and millets and grasses. Floral designers will be paired with flower farmers to compete in the three timed challenges, from simple bouquets to more elaborate arrangements.
No competition worth watching would be complete without judges, of course. Amanda McNulty, of Clemson Extension and host of the award-wining PBS television show Making It Grow, will be there, along with Mike McGirr of Feed & Seed, an Upstate organization that connects local farmers with chefs and other consumers. I’ll be there too.
The event is a great opportunity to learn more about flower growers, what they offer, and how their flowers can be used for weddings, dinner parties, and other special occasions. And to spread the joy when the day is done, all bouquets and arrangements will be donated to area hospitals and other health care facilities.
As a preview, I joined Julie and Amanda on what must have been one of the hottest days of summer in Julie’s garden, meeting many of the members of SC Upstate Flowers (www.scupstateflowers.com) while they were filmed for an upcoming segment of Making It Grow.
It was an eye-opening experience. I hadn’t seen Julie’s garden since my spring visit and I was astounded by the beds filled with colorful blooms, giant bumble bees, and hundreds of butterflies. And the bloom-filled buckets supplied by the growers quickly disappeared under a growing collection of beautiful bouquets and vases.
For gardeners contemplating a cutting garden of their own, Julie offers the following advice. Plant flowers in color groups, so they are easy to collect and you can quickly see how many are available. Don’t hesitate to harvest, as cutting encourages more blooms. Gather flowers early in the morning when they are most hydrated. And finally, keep flowers at their best by immediately putting them in a bucket filled with a couple of inches of tepid water, along with a few of drops of bleach to kill harmful bacteria.