Have you ever been driving down Market Street and noticed that cool-looking garden next to St. Vincent-St. Mary High School?
That’s what Alyssa D’Amico did, every day on her way to work. D’Amico has a passion for gardening and farming. She couldn’t help but wonder if she could get involved in that garden that looked like it had so much potential. One day she decided to check it out, and that’s how she came to be the caretaker of the flower gardens and organizer of Heads Up Flowers.
D’Amico has a wide variety of farming experience — she spent her 20s at WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and learned about growing food. She’s worked on expansive private farms and urban gardens.
“I used to think flowers were a waste of garden space,” says D’Amico, who believes strongly in the value of growing food and feeding people. She changed her mind after working with adults with disabilities and using gardening, flowers specifically, as a therapeutic activity. “Flowers are important too,” she says, noting the meditative qualities of caring for and arranging them and the positive effects of their beauty.
Heads Up Flowers is a project at the SVSM school garden that provides “you-pick” hours for the community each week, pop-up events and a flower stand. During “you-pick” hours — Mondays from 6-8 pm starting July 5 — visitors pay $10 cash or Venmo and are provided with some pruners and an empty jar. You walk through the flower garden and fill up your jar with a bouquet to take home.
All of the flowers are grown from seeds by D’Amico, who starts everything at her home with grow lights and a small hoop house in her backyard. This season there will be zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, snapdragons, strawflowers and herbs like mint and basil, just to name a few. Perennials like echinacea and daisies are coming up and there is a whole patch dedicated to dahlias.
During the you-pick hours, people are encouraged to bring a blanket and their kids and hang out. D’Amico wants the space to belong to the community, and for everyone to feel comfortable in the garden with the flowers.
D’Amico added a cashless flower stand to the gardens, which will be filled with picked flowers ready to be arranged into a bouquet. This is the third year she’s taking care of the gardens at SVSM, and she’s gaining knowledge and confidence all the time. She’s looking forward to observing the land and working at her own pace.
At the end of the growing season, D’Amico dries flowers for wreaths she sells. Her favorite flowers to use are strawflowers because they look exactly the same when they’re dried out, and they last forever. “They hold a lot of memories,” she says.
Currently, D’Amico has her own caregiver business for adults with disabilities. Her evenings and weekends are spent in the garden, but she says it hasn’t stressed her out yet. For more information, visit the website www.headsupflowers.com or follow Heads Up Flowers on Instagram and Facebook.
The Heads Up Flowers gardens are located at 249 W. Market Street. You-pick hours are every Mondays from 6-8 pm, starting July 5.
Emily Anderson writes stories and bartends in Akron. Follow her on Instagram @ladybeerdrinker.
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