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Published: Sunday, 5/29/2005

15th Flower Day sale blooms with people

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Amy Leonard, left, and Sylvia Kachar check out hanging baskets at the Toledo Farmers Market Flower Day sale. The annual event, which showcases area floriculture, draws tens of thousands of people. Ohio is a top producer of bedding plants. Amy Leonard, left, and Sylvia Kachar check out hanging baskets at the Toledo Farmers Market Flower Day sale. The annual event, which showcases area floriculture, draws tens of thousands of people. Ohio is a top producer of bedding plants.
DIANE HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

When Zandra Moore left the Toledo Farmers Market yesterday, she had her hands full of northwest Ohio's "favorite flower" - not that she knew it at the time.

The Toledo woman was just picking up as many blossoms as she could carry - impatiens, marigolds, and ageratums, "just to try."

And she planned to return today, although much earlier than her seemingly late start of about 10 a.m., to find a better parking spot and shuttle more plants.

The 15th annual Flower Day sale at the market teemed with people yesterday, and even more are expected between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. today and tomorrow.

A Memorial Day weekend tradition, the flower sale attracts between 50,000 and 70,000 over the weekend, organizers said.

"Every year I come to the flower sale," Ms. Moore said, shifting the weight of two flats of flowers in her hands.

"I think they're better than in the stores - nice and hearty," she said.

Ms. Moore's attraction to impatiens, a flower that growers say can bloom well in both sun and shade, is not hers alone.

Deb Chirco of Temperance carries geraniums to her car at the Toledo Farmers Market as Susie Gutierrez of Toledo follows behind. Lucas County ranks first in Ohio's 88 counties in floriculture, a $2.5 billion industry nationally. Flower Day, held every Memorial Day Weekend, is an opportunity for gardeners to meet the people who grow the flowers they plant. Hanging baskets are always a popular item. Deb Chirco of Temperance carries geraniums to her car at the Toledo Farmers Market as Susie Gutierrez of Toledo follows behind. Lucas County ranks first in Ohio's 88 counties in floriculture, a $2.5 billion industry nationally. Flower Day, held every Memorial Day Weekend, is an opportunity for gardeners to meet the people who grow the flowers they plant. Hanging baskets are always a popular item.
DIANE HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) told a market wall-to-wall full of people that a survey of growers and buyers put impatiens as northwest Ohio's favorite annual flower. Also on the list were marigolds, petunias, snap dragons, and geraniums.

Miss Kaptur, who has championed the floriculture industry in northwest Ohio for years, said it's important that residents know how important plants are because only then will the area get the recognition it deserves.

"We have so much here, but we have never marketed or helped this industry grow," Miss Kaptur said.

"This is truly a home-grown industry, and these are people who have been here for generations."

Ohio is the fourth-largest producer of bedding plants in the country, Miss Kaptur said.

And of the 88 counties in Ohio, Lucas ranks No. 1 in floriculture. Nationwide, floriculture is a $2.5 billion industry, she added.

Tina Cooper and her daughter, Claire, 11, weren't necessarily aware of the importance of flowers in the region.

But the two came armed with a wagon - and friends - to scour the market for their yard's next residents.

"I'm looking for climbing things and hanging things," said Ms. Cooper of Toledo, who described herself as an Erie Street Market frequent shopper. "We'll be here 'til we're done."

On her way in, Ms. Cooper ran into neighbor Julie Parames, who was on her second trip out to her car loaded with plants and planters. Ms. Parames said she got an early start - shopping the stalls at 8:20 a.m. - but even then, the market was jammed with people.

"We thought we were getting here early," she said.

Rita and Larry Helle sat behind two booths of fresh grown vegetables and potted plants.

The Pemberville-area farmers said they try to come to the market every weekend during the season, which runs from May through December, like they've done for the last 45 years.

Although Helle Farms won't be represented today on the actual Flower Day, Mrs. Helle said they would be back with tomatoes, asparagus, and onions tomorrow.

"Oh, I love it," she said of the markets. "I love meeting people."

Contact Erica Blake at: eblake@theblade.com or 419-724-6076.



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