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Wildflower whisperer shares her secrets

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Special to Postmedia Network

Miriam Goldberger, co-founder and co-owner of Wildflower Farm of Coldwater, has written her first book, Taming Wildflowers. She has been touring garden shows in Canada and the United States promoting her book, which was published in February.
GISELE WINTON SARVIS - THE PACKET & TIMES

Miriam Goldberger, co-founder and co-owner of Wildflower Farm of Coldwater, has written her first book, Taming Wildflowers. She has been touring garden shows in Canada and the United States promoting her book, which was published in February. GISELE WINTON SARVIS - THE PACKET & TIMES

ORO-MEDONTE TWP. - 

There aren’t many people who know as much about wildflowers as Coldwater’s Miriam Goldberger, the co-founder and co-owner of Wildflower Farm.

She is a sought-after speaker at flower shows and events and has about 40 presentations lined up for this year. She’s also written her first book, Taming Wildflowers, published in February.

“People are very, very interested in everything that wildflowers offer,” Goldberger said from her home solarium filled with plants. “They are super low maintenance, super drought tolerant, they are really beautiful. They make great cut flowers and they are essential to bringing back the pollinator populations that we’ve been losing so drastically.”

Wildflowers attract all the beneficial insects that pollinate plants, including human food plants, and they eat the “bad” insects, she explained.

“What people are now discovering is that all the pesticides and the ways we’ve been trying to manage landscaping, gardening, farming, dealing with plants and the soil, there seem to have been some errors made that have affected the health of the planet,” she said.

She drew the example of a farmer in Michigan who conducted an experiment growing large areas of wildflowers around his crops and he found the wildflowers brought in beneficial insects that killed off the pest insects and reduced his pesticide budget by 80% or $6,000 in costs for chemicals. He also ended up with healthier crops and pollinators.

Wildflowers are the flowers that have been here for thousands of years, Goldberger explained.

“They evolved with the pollinators, the beneficial wildlife. In North America, we’ve wiped out 90% of the wildflowers and the 10% left are struggling to survive,” she said. “They are basically living in a Mad Max world. It’s an ugly, destructive scene where everyone is struggling.”

Goldberger said if people had to do the plant pollination for human food crops, it would cost $8 billion.

“It’s far more efficient to grow wildflowers,” she said.

Goldberger and her husband, Paul Jenkins, founded their business on their 100-acre farm on Highway 12 in 1988. They started by growing and wholesaling dried flowers.

“I loved flowers so much, I wanted to be Canada’s first pick-your-own flower farm, so (then) we did that,” she said.

Expanding her personal display gardens on the property became a lot of work. Researching gardens, Goldberger discovered how little work it is to grow and maintain wildflowers.

“People started asking me if I could landscape a garden for them. We then became wildflower landscapers,” she said.

The two also weren’t growers, but after so many people asked them for flowers, they got the idea to pursue that business. They grew and sold wildflowers from their property for 25 years, but shut it down two years ago, as they had enough of working seven days a week.

Currently, they farm wildflowers and grasses and sell wildflower and meadow seeds over the Internet across North America. They also sell seeds for Wildflower Farm’s Eco-Lawn at many stores including Home Hardware.

“I would never have had time to write this book if we were still open. There is a strong need for this kind of information,” she said.

People should grow wildflowers for the health of the natural environment as well as for the health of human food plants and, ultimately, themselves, she said.

“It turns out wildflowers are the secret weapon to keep pollinators alive,” she said.

The book contains plenty of photographs, most of which were taken by Goldberger.

There is a chapter on creating wildflower bouquets and another on creating a do-it-yourself wildflower wedding. It also features 60 of Goldberger’s favourite wildflowers.

The book costs $19.95 and is available at wildflowerfarm.com. It is also available from amazon.ca, the Chapters bookstore in Barrie and online at chapters.indigo.ca.

Goldberger will host a book signing at the Barrie Chapters store May 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. She is also working to set up a date for a book signing in Orillia.

For more information about the book and seeds, call 1-866-476-9453 or visit wildflowerfarm.com.

gisele.wintonsarvis@sunmedia.ca


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