Wildflowers on demand

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This is a mock-up; click on the link to see the (very similar) real thing.
This is a mock-up; click on the second link to see the (very similar) real thing.

Just stop by one of Jenny Kendler’s seed stations, located at strategic spots on Buffalo’s East Side, as well as other Western New York locations, and grab a pack of seeds. The project, titled Rewilding New York, is intended to reintroduce native plants to the urban center, providing sustenance for pollinators and challenging conventional notions of what urban plantings should be. The seed stations are standard newspaper boxes that have been covered in floral designs created by Kendler (and otherwise adapted); it is part of a series of public art projects organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Erie County.

Of course, some of the eleven species, provided by Wildflower Farms, should be familiar to most Buffalo gardeners. Echinacea, rudbeckia, and monarda are already commonly used throughout area gardens, though many gardeners are using hybrids rather than the Echinacea purpurea and Rudbeckia hirta offered in the stations. Some varieties are much less familiar though. One of my favorites of the eleven is Agastache foeniculum, the hyssop variety of agastache that is much hardier than the more colorful varieties that only make it as annuals here. If I were planting a wildflower plot with these seeds, I’d combine Agastache foeniculum, Heliopsis helianthoides, and maybe Oligoneuron rigidum (stiff goldenrod). Goldenrod is considered a weed by most nongardeners and many gardeners (at least around here), but I’ve always loved it. The other seeds offered include Achillea millefoilium, Asclepias incarnate (Red Milkweed), Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed), Coreopsis lanceolata, and Symphyotrichum novae-angliae  (New England Aster).

Wildflower Farms is a family-owned seed operation operated by Paul Jenkins and Miriam Goldberger, and located north of Toronto in Ontario; several bloggers visited it during the recent bloggers’ Fling. As Goldberger affirms, the eleven species selected “are designed by nature to withstand the brutally cold conditions of our region. They’re built to survive.”

I have to think most of the politicians who attended the announcement of the project would call many of these plants weeds if they saw them on a roadside, and it’s Kendler’s intention to challenge the conception of what a weed is. I spoke to her briefly, and she said, among other things, “My mother was an active environmentalist and our property bordered on a public bike path; we planted it with native grasses and flowers and I am still wondering how we got away with it.” Kendler’s other projects include a milkweed dispersal balloon cart (the balloons are meant to be popped in the garden, not released), and a large mural in Chicago, A Place of Light and Wind, that educates on the disappearing native prairie. Kendler is also an  artist-in-residence with the National Resources Defense Council.

As we know, front garden wildflower plantings that include mainly tall plants are still a problem in many communities. So there’s still plenty of discussion to be had regarding wildflowers/native plants. I hope Kendler’s project will facilitate such a discussion in Western New York.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com

4 COMMENTS

  1. That is SO cool and you have me wondering if I could set up something similar here on my corner of Katy. I always have an overabundance of wildflower seeds and it grieves me mightily to just toss them in the trash.

  2. I’m with Cindy–that’s as neat as the little free library setups in some folks’ front yards. Neighborly and cool as all get-out.

  3. Great ideas; western NY sounds like a happening place! Side note: I’m guessing you meant milkweed balloon dispersal, not milkwood?

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