Su Clauson-Wicker Special to The Roanoke Times
FLOYD — Mountain music and high quality crafts put the town on the tourism map.
Now, Floyd citizens are working on a new reason to visit the Blue Ridge burg – flowers.
Volunteers have taken up spades and shovels to plant thousands of flowers around town in an initiative called Floyd Flower Power. Most of the seedling posies are native flowers, planted to welcome the birds, butterflies and pollinators as well as human visitors.
The idea for project began germinating in Jean Woods’ mind after she visited the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, years ago on her honeymoon. She was impressed by the lush gardens atop an old bridge and equally impressed by the number of visitors strolling amid the blooms.
“The license plates in the parking lot were from New York, Ohio, North Carolina, and all over,” Woods said. “Later I thought we could make Floyd a ‘flower town’ too.”
Last fall Woods discovered that another Floyd resident, Kamala Bauers, had suggested the “flower town” idea to the Partnership for Floyd (PFF) community improvement group. After bouncing the idea around, Woods joined Bauers in the PFF and they formed Floyd Flower Power. Their mission is to promote environmentally friendly flower gardens in Floyd, with an emphasis on native flowers. The Flower Power group is now a committee of PFF and receives donations under the parent organization’s tax exempt status.
“When Kamala first suggested the name ‘Flower Power,’ I wasn’t sure about it,” Woods said. “I was concerned the ‘70s association with hippies and counter culture would turn off some older people and not reach younger folks. But after thinking about it, I realized Flower Power is the perfect name. The power of flowers to comfort us, to bring us joy, to unite us, and to feed our birds and bees is exactly what we are about. Our differences melt away when we see the colorful blooms. Flowers can reach everyone’s heart.”
A member of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Woods favors trading grass lawns for native plantings and hopes others will too. Lawns require water, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers that pollute the waterways. One-species grass yards don’t feed pollinators, she says. Plus, mowing those lawns requires fuel that’s increasingly expensive these days.
Flower Power’s first planting, a 1.5-acre meadow at the Church of Christ along Route 8, will be mowed a mere once a year, primarily to keep invasive shrubs from getting a foothold. For the rest of the year, natives including columbine, milkweed, asters and lupine will grow and bloom without the need for any soil additives.
Woods was delighted to find a native plant nursery in Floyd County, Wood Thrush Natives, and enlisted owner Ian Caton as an advisor and garden designer. Although the nursery grows most of its plants from seed and couldn’t supply the thousands of flowers needed for Flower Power gardens, Caton helped select and order wildflowers for town sites. The Church of Christ garden still looks like a meadow with a path winding through it, but actually the plot is home to 2,400 new plants.
“The plugs [seedlings] aren’t too visible yet,” Caton said. “They’re mixed in with plants that were already growing here, such as groundsel and arrowleaf violet.”
It will take three years for the wildflower gardens to reach their full blooming potential, Caton said. But once they are mature, they’ll continue to bloom and reseed without much attention.
In addition to the Christ Church plot, the lawn of Wall Residences, Floyd Center for the Arts and the Floyd library also sport new wildflower gardens. Woods, founder of the Perfect Gift free Christmas store, and Bauers, co-owner of Wall Residences, use their considerable networking skills to enlist crews of volunteers, including ACCE scholarship students and Floyd Friends of Asylum Seekers. The arts center’s new landscaping design incorporates a path connecting scenic spots as well as wildflower plantings by the staff, including director Po Wen Liu and glass artist Liz Mears.
Flower Power has 20 targeted sites for plantings and hopes individuals will add their own flowerbeds to the colorful mix on Floyd streets. To help with the effort, Floyd’s Jessie Peterman Library compiled a list of its gardening books and hosted a talk by Caton on growing native plants. Floyd-based gardening writer Barbara Pleasant worked with a team of volunteers to fill downtown planters with pansies. Tourism Director Kathleen Legg is researching funding sources for additional plantings and signage. Jane Cundiff, founder of Floyd’s Wild Edibles Garden Club, has been active with PFF to design, build and maintain three nature education trails around the town, as well as their flowers and signage.
Huge flower-themed murals will soon ramp up the flower power of downtown Floyd. A building owned by Woods and her husband will be decorated by Floyd art students. Floyd Mayor Will Griffin says the mural design has been well received by surrounding property owners.
“This mural and the works of the Floyd Flower Power group are two of the exciting new things happening this spring,” Griffin said. “We are so very fortunate to have citizens willing to make investments like this to make our community a more welcoming place.”