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Know the West

Utah's flower child


Flower aficionado Paul Ames is no pansy: Gathering wildflower seeds under a Utah sun is hot, back-breaking work. Besides, he dislikes the pansy. It and all exotic flowers, he believes, are pampered intruders that drink too much water and don't belong in a desert state.

For the past three years, Ames has been a champion of native wildflowers. Combing meadows in the East Tintic mountains, he harvests the seeds and bulbs of more than 40 species, then sells them at the Pioneer Park farmers' market in Salt Lake City.

The native Utahn hopes to convince others that gardening with endemic flowers, such as buckwheat and sego lilies, saves water. Buckwheat, for example, requires no water all summer, Ames says, and it produces continuous blooms that vary from yellow to burgundy. And now is the time to get the seeds and bulbs in the ground, he says.

Water-hogging exotics aren't Ames' chief concern, though; it's Utah's enthusiasm for off-road driving and development. Says the former Forest Service employee, "I wish I could buy the land and preserve it, but I'm just one guy."

To purchase seeds, priced between $1 and $6 per package, write to Paul Ames, P.O. Box 355, Eureka UT 84628, or call him at 435/433-6924. For more information on Utah's native plants, visit the Utah Native Plant Society at www.unps.org.

Copyright © 2001 HCN and Rachel Jackson