Farmers’ markets in full flower

Jul. 11, 2013 @ 12:35 PM

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The Earth laughs in flowers.” It’s true. Nothing gives more simple joy than flowers – whether the crushed wildflowers in the hands of child, the spectacular arrangement from a florist on a special anniversary or the fragrant bouquet for a dinner party hostess.

I’ll never forget a Christmas years ago when my sister-in-law gave each of us a sealed envelope with the words “Open when you’re feeling blue” on it. One dark day in January, I opened it and found a $5 bill with a sticky note that read “Treat yourself to a cheery bouquet of flowers.”  I’ve been treating myself ever since.
And, nowhere are there cheerier bouquets than at your local farmers’ market. It is peak flower season now and a good time to fill the house with beautiful, soul-satisfying blossoms. Carrboro Farmers’ Market growers Leah Cook of Wildhare Farm, Betsy Hitt of Peregrine Farm, Joan Holeman of Flat River Nursery, Carrie McCann of Fern Rock Farm, Cathy Perry of Perry-winkle Farm and Pam Oakley of Grandma’s Garden,  give their tips for enjoying the season’s bounty of fabulous flowers.
* Flowers bought from a farmers’ market should last about a week. The way to ensure that is to get to know your grower and ask questions about everything from fragrance to longevity to arranging.
* Put cut flowers in a vase of easier-to-absorb warm water for longer life.
* Keep the vase of flowers away from direct sunlight and heating and air conditioning vents for longer lasting blooms.
* Keep an eye on the water level in your vase. You’ll be surprised how much a bouquet will drink, especially those first couple of days. 
* Want to stretch your money? Go for long-lasting blooms such as zinnias and lilies. 
* Interested in making your own mixed arrangement at home? Start with the greenery first–leaves such as Hosta or Caladium, sticks, branches of bushes–and then fill in with the flowers.
* Think odd (the number of flowers, that is!). You always want an odd number of blooms – three, five, seven – never an even number. 
* Think about fragrance when creating a bouquet. Lilies, basil and snapdragons look and smell wonderful.
* Go wild. Work vegetables and herbs into your arrangement: peppers, eggplant, squash and basil and rosemary sprigs. Vegetables, herbs and leaves add texture and interest.
* Herbs and flowers can be appealing to the eye as well as the palate. Work in edible flowers such as marigolds, bachelor’s buttons and calendula.
* Consider potted flowers or hanging baskets. These ‘arrangements’ deliver big beauty for months instead of weeks. Just be sure to water every day–a big drink if it’s hot out.  Dead-head potted flowers such as petunias by pulling off the faded blossoms; some plants naturally drop dying blooms so dead-heading isn’t necessary. And, give potted flowers a haircut every now and then, cutting or pinching them back for even fuller, healthier growth. Want to share the beauty? Plant the pinched-off stems in pots, water well and delight your friends in a few weeks with robust, beautiful pots of flowers.
* Last and most important of all, have fun when creating an arrangement. Don’t get nervous about making ‘the right choice’–all flowers are beautiful and will look wonderful. Play with your bouquet –you simply can’t go wrong with flowers.
Melanie Raskin is one of 35 volunteers at the Carrboro Farmers Market, which has been bringing local foods to the community for more than 30 years. Open year-round, 85 farmers and artisans sell vegetables; fruit; meats and fowl; canned, baked and prepared foods; flowers and greenery; cheese and crafts at the Carrboro Town Common Saturdays, 7 a.m. to noon and Wednesday afternoons, 3:30 - 6:30. For more information go to