Friday, July 25, 2014

Taste of Seed Savers, Decorah, Iowa

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Gardens at Seed Savers, Decorah, Iowa

I have been wanting to return to Seed Savers Exchange since I visited Decorah a couple of years ago. Only this time I was not in search of ancient memories from places on Water Street; rather, I wanted to revisit Seed Savers Exchange, a magical place where saving seeds from heritage plants has been the mission since 1975, making it "the largest non-governmental seedbank of its kind in the United States."

Steel Cow paintings available in the gift shop at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa
Lina, White Park cattle painting by Steel Cow
Not only do they save seeds, they showcase them in their gardens and test trial plots.  It was these gardens and plots I wished to return to see again.  With my camera.

Structural elements at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

So I twisted the arm of my good friend Mary to join me for the day and oh what a day it was.

My beautiful friend Mary amidst the corn and cosmos at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

We both loved all of the raised beds in Diane's Garden, dreaming of ways we might incorporate more of these structures into our own gardens at home.

Raised beds in Diane's Garden, Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, IA

Of particular interest to both Mary and I were the willow structures constructed in a child's garden by Willowglen Nursery, also of Decorah, IA.  Mary had taken one of their willow trellis making classes this summer.

Woven willow structures by Willowglen Nursery, at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

But for me, it was all about the flowers.

Cleome flower at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

I love flowers, and I've missed growing my own since moving to the Little Farm.

Cosmos and cleome in the gardens at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

Ironically, I used to grow hundreds of flowers from seed every year when I lived in places where I had no land to plant in - now I have more land than I know what to do with, and no time to cultivate flower beds!

Hollyhocks at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

A rainbow of colors at the gardens of Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

Old favorites like cosmos, zinnias and hollyhocks grew in abundance alongside veggies and other varieties of plants I didn't always recognize like this beautiful striped maize, an ornamental corn from Japan which yields gorgeous burgundy kernels. Seed Savers has kindly labeled many of their plants so we could learn as we wandered.

Japonica Striped Maize, Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

One of the most famous flowers to come out of Seed Savers is Grandpa Ott's Morning Glory, an easy-to-grow flowering vine with deep purple flowers which I had been purchasing for many years before learning it was one of the first seeds given to Seed Savers when it all began.

Grandpa Ott's Morning Glories - Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

For me, no trip to SSE would be complete without going out to see their herd of Ancient White Park Cattle, a heritage breed from the British Isles dating back to pre-Christian times.  The farm hosts two distinct herds of more than 80 animals and have helped the breed move from "critical" to "threatened" status by the Livestock Conservancy.

Ancient White Park bull watches me closely at Seed Savers Exchange, Decorah, Iowa

We probably could have spent more than the few hours we did, wandering, perusing, and gathering ideas (and seeds!) but eventually we needed food and water and to sit down and rest our backs.  So we drove into Decorah and stumbled upon the Nordic Fest - unintentionally, but a nice bonus to end our day!

I enjoyed several pieces of fresh-from-the-griddle lefse - a taste that can never be replicated by refrigerated, store-bought lefse, and we enjoyed wandering down Water Street, watching people and ducking into gift and art shops.

My only regret is that I don't live even closer, as I would be a much more frequent visitor to this area of Iowa.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl visits Seed Saves Exchange in Decorah, Iowa

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