Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Martin Viette's Meadow

I’m happy to report that the flower fields of Martin Viette Nurseries in East Norwich – once an eye-popping, traffic-stopping tradition – will bloom again. And soon.

That’s because drainage issues that swamped the fields in recent years have finally been resolved. And now, the colorful flower fields are being brought back to mark the 80th year that a nursery bearing Martin Viette’s name has existed on Long Island. Yes, there really was a Martin Viette – and I told the story of the man and the nursery in a recent column. But I only had enough space to mention that plans were in the works to bring back the flower fields.

Let me tell you more now. The fields that stretch along Route 25-A in front of the garden center won’t be flowing with the rivers of irises and peonies and poppies that grew there in Martin’s day. Here's a picture of Martin in a field of Cedar Hill poppies, which he created and named for the Brookville estate of Theodore Havemeyer, the famous lilac breeder, where Martin perfected his hybridizing skills.

And the fields won't be be filled with the daylilies that grew there when Martin's son Andre, a renowned horticulturist and Hemerocallis hybridizer who has his own nursery in Virginia, ran the place. Instead, they’ll be blooming with bee balm and bachelor’s buttons and black-eyed Susans, with calendula and coreopsis and cosmos and California poppies, with tall marigolds and giant sunflowers, with larkspur and red flax and Asclepias curasavica and Tithonia rotundifolia. A 10-acre wildflower meadow designed to attract bees and butterflies and birds – and the attention of humans.

I was out at the nursery recently when more than 150 pounds of wildflower seeds were sown. Cesar Cruz, who has been with the nursery for 14 years, headed the operation with the help of Miguel Bencosme and Felix Trejo.

First they combined the wildflower mix with about 30 pounds of sunflower seeds – Gray Mammoth, the 6-foot giant with big yellow heads that kids love. Then they added clean sand so the seeds didn’t blow away in the wind.

Next they broadcast the seeds onto the tilled field and raked them in so they were only lightly covered with soil – about an eighth to a quarter inch.

The sun-loving summer annuals – which by the way, come from Botanical Interests in Colorado – germinated quickly and are up and growing happily. Donna Moramarco, the horticulturist who made it all happen, tells me there should be an explosion of color in the fields by the Fourth of July.

“Cars speed by here on Route 25-A at 50 miles an hour,” she said. “So we created a mix that has a fifty-mile-per-hour WOW factor.”

But do me a favor, slow down just a little bit to enjoy the show.

Here’s a list of what’s growing:
Anethum graveolens – Dill
Asclepias curasavica – Butterfly flower
Calendula officinalis
Centaurea cyanus – Bachelor Buttons
Coreopsis tinctoria
Cosmos bipinnatus – Cosmos Sensation mixed colors
Delphinium ajacis – Larkspur
Eschscholzia californica – California poppy
Linum grandiflorum rubrum – Red Flax
Monarda citriodora – Beebalm
Mammoth Russian/Greystripe Sunflower
Rudbeckia hirta – Black-eyed Susan
Tagetes erecta – Tall Marigold
Tithonia rotundifolia – Torch Flowers

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