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Say It With Flowers

I love roses, tulips and daffodils as much as the guy, but I have a special fondness for more modest flowers that are overlooked by the commercial floral trade, like collards, radishes, and blooming cover crops. Today, instead of writing a typical newsletter, I thought it would be fun to “say it with flowers” and share a virtual bouquet of working class agricultural flowers with you. -Andy (Click on images for a larger view.)

Fava beans smell as nice as sweet peas, and a walking in a field of flowering fava beans can be an intoxicating experience, except that there’s nothing “toxic” about it. The fava variety pictured here is called “Windsor.”
I’m growing out a variety of fava bean that sports a beautiful red flower. The mature, dried bean is green in color. I thought this bean was called “Red Epicure,” but I’m informed by knowledgeable sources that “Red Epicure” has brown seeds. Maybe you know the correct name of this fava bean. I’m planning on selling some of the seeds of this crop to gardeners so that other people can enjoy this vegetable’s flower.
Austrian Winter Peas are a typical ingredient in commercial cover crop mixes like the “Soil Builder Mix” I get from L.A. Hearne in King City. When the peas in the mix go to flower we know that it’s time to turn the cover crop under. This flower is as attractive to my eye as any sweet pea.

Another typical cover crop plant is vetch. Here is a picture of a patch of vetch in full bloom. The flowers are structurally similar to fava bean blooms because the fava bean is a kind of vetch. The plants are massed in this picture instead of mixed in with oats because I spilled some seed when I was unloading the truck last fall.

 

another photo of vetch

Alyssum. We plant alyssum because this plant attracts and hosts beneficial insects, like serfid flies, that feed on pests like aphids. If you look at the alyssum bloom closely you see that it is actually composed of many smaller, four petaled blooms. Alyssum is a crucifer. Like broccoli, cabbage, collard and mustard. My goal is to eventually have alyssum become a “weed,” so that I don’t have to plant it.
The watermelon radish makes a lovely white bloom tinged with pink. Observe the four petals in a cross. Another crucifer family member. Compare it to its wild cousin.
Oxalis is a pernicious weed, but it has a pretty flower.
And lastly, what bouquet is complete with out a donkey? Here is a picture of my donkey foal. She’s named Sweet Pea, and sometimes I give her bouquets of weeds to chew on.

 



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