I used to believe orange was strident. Like millions of gardeners who came of age in the 1980s, with a careful eye on the tastemaking English masters, I knew enough to scorn all shades from yellow to red on the color wheel. Pink and blue gardens in the misty and innoffensive tones of cool, virginal afternoon tea and Sunday bonnets—that's what the new converts to "perennial gardening" were all for. I worked at plant nurseries in those days, and not a workday passed without the words "yellow" or "orange" spoken of with the same self-righteous disgust one might reserve today for scorning trashy novels or instant coffee.
The tables have turned, and for some time now, chartreuse and hot shades to complement it have become the vogue. Now, the very idea that a blossom can be "in" or "out" of style is pretty goofy to me. How can anyone shun any flower, especially after a long, dark winter? Still, while I was looking beyond the pastel '80s ahead of the curve, it's only recently that I've begun to understand the role sunset shades play in a spring garden. Orange is restorative. Like that first dose of bitter greens, chlorophyll-forward asparagus or diuretic rhubarb, bolder colors are a sort of visual spring tonic. Soon enough, we'll tone it down to "millennial pink" (the latest vogue-though it's actually that same shade we detested in the dread "pink bathroom" we ripped out 10 years ago, or the pink barf buckets they gave out with every '90s appendectomy). The Cafe Au Lait dahlias and cameo-pink zinnias that make a bouquet sell right out of the car before I can get my market stand set up? They might be pushing us back towards another decade of toning it down. Meanwhile, here are my favorite all-out blooms this week: Sedate at sunrise, and full-on joyous as the spring sun climbs high. Orange is righteous, and spring is here. Bloom Where You are Planted!
I've been farming since I was a toddler, when my grandparents showed me how to put onion sets point-up in the sandy furrows of our Michigan homestead. It's taken thirty-odd years of horticultural jobs—from potting up lilies by the thousands to managing a 150-member CSA at Hancock Shaker Village—for me to embark on cultivating a farm of my own. Hence, the title.