The Original Flower Farmers

(Harpers Weekly/Hathitrust Archives)

My sister and fellow horticulturist Wambui Ippolito sent me this picture and my jaw dropped. It is something I have waited yearzzzz to see. I had read about the legendary flower sellers in Washington D.C. and never seen a picture of what they looked like–until now! Today we call these women (and men) Flower Farmers. Type Flower Farmer into Google images and tell me how many black women you see. I’ll wait……

This picture is from June 1870 (spoiler alert y’all–we ain’t new to this!) The ladies appearance marked the arrival of spring in Washington, D.C. long before the famed cherry blossoms. (If you have followed me long enough you know we can thank an African-American botanist, Roland Jefferson for saving those trees too!)

Flower sellers, sometimes called peddlers or vendors, grew flowers on their rural land and brought them into cities like D.C., Richmond, and to this day Charleston. These women represent so much more to me then spring. They represent resilience, direction, and purpose. The rough path I’ve walked for 20 years as a horticulturist has long been laid with beautiful flower petals. And these are the women I get to thank. The original Flower Farmers. (and Thank you Wambui!)