We appreciate flowers for their beauty, but we value them for many of their other properties- they are part of the plants’ reproductive systems that produce seeds, are often edible and medicinal, attract beneficial insects, and help repel pests (more on companion planting here).
The mild winter allowed a lot more plants to live through to spring than usual in our zone 6a, so we’ve got a lot of flowering plants these days!
We planted sage last year in our carrot bed to repel carrot flies- we've never seen any, so it must be doing its job. It just started flowering this past week, so beautiful and fragrant- this photo doesn't do it justice! Sage flowers are edible, though we found the fuzzy texture unappealing. Apparently you can make sage flower pesto (recipe here), which we might need to try soon.
Chamomile acts as a trap plant for aphids and is also said to heighten the flavor of onions, cucumbers, and cabbages.There are many types of chamomile, but they can all be used medicinally as a sedative to treat insomnia and anxiety, usually through tea- just steep the flowers in hot water with lemon or honey.
We've got quite a few arugula plants that overwintered and are now flowering- soon we should be able to collect seed. In the meantime, the flowers are delicious- nutty and slightly spicy like arugula leaves, but with a sweeter undertone- and are excellent in our spring salads!
We planted this cilantro last summer and it continued to thrive through the winter under our cold frame. It bolted pretty early, in part due to the warm weather but also because we didn't harvest the leaves regularly enough to keep it from flowering and bolting. The flowers are edible and have a lemony undertone, but not as tasty as the leaves. I'm thinking it'd be killer mixed in with the sage flower pesto! For now we're keeping the flowers in place so we can collect seed and also attract pollinators.
These beets (in front) and leeks (in background) were planted last spring and are both about ready to flower. Both beets and leeks are biennial, so we purposely left some in the ground to flower and produce seed this year.
This red russian kale plant is in full bloom in the side yard. As a member of the brassica genus, the flower buds resembled and tasted like broccoli, and the flowers are edible as well (as featured in our spring salad post). The seeds start forming in pods along the stalks and can be harvested when the pods dry out and turn brown.
This dinosaur kale just stopped flowering, and the seed pods along the stem are filling out- looking forward to collecting lots of seeds!
Many consider dandelions to be lowly weeds, but they can be quite useful in the garden. Their long tap roots bring up nitrogen and other nutrients for shallower-rooted plants to access, and they attract pollinators. Dandelions have been used medicinally as a diuretic and to treat stomach aches (more medicinal info here), and the root, leaves, and flowers are edible. I'm currently making an edible-flowers wine, which includes petals from dandelion flowers.
Plenty more flowers to come- Eric started a lot of flowers from seed that are about ready to transplant, and we’ll be direct seeding some too. On the docket: pest deterrents like marigolds, edibles like borage and nasturtium, native perennials like echinacea (cone flower) and fleabane, and pollinator-attractors like cleome and zinnias, to name just a few.