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30,000 tulips beautify High Rock, state parks

Thursday, May 9, 2013
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High Rock Park, where nearly 15,000 tulips are in bloom thanks to the city Department of Public Works and a substantial donation from a grassroots organization to promote local growers.
High Rock Park, where nearly 15,000 tulips are in bloom thanks to the city Department of Public Works and a substantial donation from a grassroots organization to promote local growers.

— The Tempered by Memory sculpture in High Rock Park is now beautified by tulips — 15,000 of them, give or take a few.

In Saratoga Spa State Park, there are new tulip plants blooming, too, along with freshly planted pansies.

The colorful spring displays are courtesy of New York Flower Power, a grass-roots group of local plant growers who joined together two years ago to help promote New York state’s horticultural industry.

The flowers, which were donated by Flower Power members, were planted by employees of the city and the state park, as well as by volunteers.

Ned Chapman, president of New York Flower Power and owner of Sunnyside Gardens in Saratoga Springs, came into possession of the tulip bulbs after asking one of his suppliers to make a donation to help beautify the city.

To his surprise, the company came through with 30,000 tulip bulbs. Half were planted in High Rock Park and the other half throughout the state park.

The sea of blooming tulips in High Rock Park might be the showiest evidence to date of the work New York Flower Power is doing in the community, but the organization, which has about 50 Capital Region members, has much more going on.

Last year, Flower Power donated more than $30,000 worth of plant material to state parks in the region, according to Chapman. All of it, except for the tulip bulbs, came from New York state growers.

This year, the group has already contributed between 100 and 150 flats of locally grown pansies to state parks in the region, Chapman said.

Once the pansies stop blooming, the group will donate different flowering plants.

Flower Power will also provide locally grown flowers and plants for the floats and horse-drawn carriages in the Floral Fete, a parade to be held Aug. 2 as part of Saratoga Springs’ 150th anniversary celebration.

Although a New York state-grown pansy or petunia might look just like one grown in Virginia or Connecticut, there are advantages to buying from area growers, Chapman said.

Locally grown plants don’t suffer the trauma of being transported long distances by tractor-trailer, he pointed out.

Area growers also are able to share a wealth of gardening experience with their customers.

“Many of the owners have 20-years-plus in the industry and they know what they’re doing, and they’re very willing to share that information,” Chapman said.

Flower Power member Bill McKenna, co-owner of Harvest Time in Glenville, said big box stores that sell trucked-in plant material don’t give plants the attention that local growers do.

“I noticed back when I was in wholesale, a lot of the big box stores, they just didn’t care. They were just in it for a quick buck and that was it. None of them really like it and the plants always look it,” he said.

Local Flower Power members plan to work with consumers this summer to help find a strain of impatiens resistant to the downy mildew disease that devastated the shade-loving flowering plants last season, McKenna said.

Growers will caution consumers that impatiens are risky to plant because of the disease, but if customers still decide to plant them, they will be encouraged to dig up and return any plants that survive until late in the season. The plants will be sent to Cornell University, where researchers are working to develop a downy mildew-resistant impatiens strain.

 
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