By now, I think many Manitobans are likely quite weary of winter.
I know I am.
So take heart, for today on the first of March, spring — that elusive shrinking violet — has finally arrived. Well, meteorologically, that is.
And what does spring yield? Flowers, of course.
In the spring and summer of 2021, I worked for a greenhouse. It was an enlightening experience overall, but greenhouses are not exactly what you’d expect.
A machine filled a pot with dirt. I put the pot on a conveyor belt and watched it slowly rattle off toward my co-worker, holding a label that she stuck in the soil. “Tomato.”
I couldn’t watch too long, however, as the machine was ready to belch out another load of nutritious soil.
Not a moment too soon, I grabbed another pot and slid it under the machine, filling it with earth. I then sent it down the conveyor belt. I grabbed another pot. I filled it. I sent it down the conveyor belt. I grabbed another pot…after a couple of hours and a coffee break, we switched. Now I could plant.
It wasn’t much different. The pot slowly rattled toward me. I grabbed it and shoved my fist into the soil, making a hole. I then extracted a young tomato plant from its planter and delicately placed it into the hole I’d created.
Giving it a spritz of water while smoothing over the top layer of soil with my fingers, I’d hand it to another co-worker who placed it on a trolley, which they would wheel off to one of the many storage greenhouses once it was full.
It was insipid, tedious work.
Strolling through the picturesque ecological grandeur of a greenhouse’s showroom is entirely deceiving.
Every plant is strategically placed. Every flower is blooming in radiant health. There isn’t a weed in sight.
Well, that’s because we used the herbicide Par III to kill any weeds. Every flower looks lovely because only the best make it to the showroom.
The ones that didn’t make it were either taken home by a genial older co-worker of mine or tossed.
Overproduction was a serious problem. In any given year, a greenhouse doesn’t know exactly how many plants people will buy. Plants take time to grow, so a greenhouse must have a surplus or risk running out of flowers.
And a surplus we produced.
I remember one rainy afternoon near the end of August that I spent chucking countless unsold petunias (your aunt’s favourite) into our old stick-shift garbage truck.
Drenched to the bone, I wondered what in the world I was doing.
I was getting paid to throw away flowers.
Something was wrong.
Thus end my greenhouse memoirs. However, they illuminate an important issue — namely, purchasing commercialized plants. Though convenient, it isn’t really a rewarding thing to do.
This is because flowers from many stores are mass-produced. Purchasing them to display in your yard or home is to indulge in instant pleasure seeking, attempting to circumvent the healthy ecological interim period in which delayed gratification is fostered.
Instead of opting for this expediency, I’ll always champion the buying and planting of seeds oneself. In this case, you’re in it for the long haul. From the moment a flower sprouts to the moment it blooms, you’ll be more invested, and that is a good thing.
In short, it is important to plant flowers because they’re beautiful. You don’t need a better reason than that. But what is really important is that you are the one planting them.
It is, in a way, more natural and pure — wholesome, even. It’s also much cheaper to buy seeds than fully grown flowers.
You may feel that you’re unable to plant flowers, as you live in the city with no yard or in a cramped apartment. However, you still can.
All you’ll need is a little box, preferably wooden and rectangular, which you can place on a windowsill or sun-soaked ledge.
Next, you’ll need some soil. You can get this anywhere — your local grocery store may even stock it. But a greenhouse or hardware store will certainly have it.
Finally, seeds. Please get the seeds, not the plant. There are several excellent local seed suppliers. Personally, I’d recommend Prairie Originals or Sage Garden Greenhouses.
The package of seeds should include instructions on how to plant them. If you’re into local things or don’t feel like you have a particularly green thumb, try to find flowers indigenous to Manitoba such as the Western Canada violet, Woods’ rose, anise hyssop, evening primrose, prairie crocus, bluebells or the crowfoot violet.
Finally, if you’re just unsure where to start, you could take my drab advice and plant flowers that I think are especially aesthetically pleasing, like baby’s breath, black-eyed Susans, lupins and asters.
Do it to make the world infinitesimally more beautiful. We all know how hideous it can be.