Flowers for every garden

By Lynette L. Walther | Apr 15, 2021

Someone once asked me what my favorite flower was. Ho boy, talk about a trick question.

Like a lot of gardeners, I sometimes tend to get obsessed with a particular family of flowers. Roses meant working my way up from common tea roses, and eventually my interest evolved to include old garden roses. Over time, I made my way from roses that make for nice bouquets to those varieties with the most fragrance.

A concentration on roses naturally led to passion for a varied family of climbing plants, clematis, which are often paired with roses. Then, I “discovered” salvias, and the fact that they are one of the few flower families that come in every color of the rainbow had me hooked; and so it goes.

I am still learning about flowers after decades of gardening.

I can vividly remember the first flower I grew. I was about 9-years old, going into the fourth grade. I purchased a packet of marigold seeds that summer, and with those seeds I grew two short rows of the hardy annuals on the edge of the parking lot of the apartment house where my mother and I lived.

When school started, I fashioned a corsage of marigolds trimmed with a bit of ribbon for my new teacher. No apple-polishing for me! I put my horticultural “skills” to work early.

Like many gardeners, I eventually realized growing flowers is the “gateway drug” that often leads us down a maze of colorful and often fragrant paths. Garden writer and author Jan Johnsen is also captivated with flowers, and she too remembers the first flower she grew.

“My first flower I ever grew was a sunflower, and it is a funny story,” Johnsen relates.

“I lived in suburban Miami for a few years in the 1960s. We went to see 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' in a drive-in (a vintage ‘60s memory) and they gave each kid a seed that would grow to be a monster plant.

“I was 10 years old, and very carefully planted my ‘monster’ seed at the side of our house,” she says. “Every day I would run to see it develop. It grew and grew. I was mesmerized – of course it turned out to be a very tall sunflower!”

Johnsen has been infatuated with flowers ever since, and when it comes to flowers, her newest book, “Floritopia,” says it all. Yes, “Floritopia” is all about flowers.

But until you open this book, and take a good look at it do you understand the breadth, the absolute abundance and variety of flowers that exist, and how we use them and how we grow them and even how we look at them. “Floritopia” is a mouthful, and what a joyful one it is.

Jam-packed with luscious images of flowers — images that, by the way, are also the work of this talented author — “Floritopia” is expansive in its reach and content.

In six “themed chapters,” Johnsen develops 110 different flower garden ideas and techniques. There are enough flowers here to satisfy anyone’s floral love affairs. If you thought you’d seen it all when it comes to flowers, think again. There are options for all seasons and regions, in containers and out, annual and perennial flowers as well as combos that make the most of all ingredients.

Add detailed guidance for gardening success and you’ve got one big satisfying book with 250-plus pages packed with posies. An extensive index adds to the use of this book.

Over the years quite a few gardening books have crossed my desk for review. To be honest, they have all been quite good. However, just a handful of them have stood out as something really special, something unique and something that will stand the test of time. I am happy to say “Floritopia” is one of those singular gardening books.

If flowers are your gardening passion, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here. If you are new to gardening and are seeking guidance and inspiration, you’ll find plenty of inspiration here in “Floritopia." From years of experience working with clients, Johnsen understands how important flowers can be, on so many levels.

“I hope to inspire gardeners of all skill levels to add flowers where they live” Johnsen says, about what she'd like for her readers to discover in this book. “It could be a planter on a balcony filled with lantana or a simple flower bed within a vegetable garden. I hope it encourages people to try their hand at flowers and also they will make our pollinators happy.

“I am a landscape designer, and I include flowers in all my landscape projects” she adds. “Over the years, I have noticed how everyone loves the flowers so much. I wanted to share what I have learned from working with flowers and encourage others to do the same! My motto is ‘More Flowers, please.’”

And share she does. For many of us, flowers are the reason we garden, and delving into the kaleidoscope of the floral world in “Floritopia,” we are inspired to do even more with flowers. Good thing too, because this book gives us plenty of ways to do just that.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.

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