Ear to the Ground: The Insider Dirt to Gardening in Upstate NY

Plant the colors!

by cathym on May 5, 2020

by Carol Ritter Wright

Cover of official program for the National American Women’s Suffrage Association procession, Washington, D.C. March 3, 1913. Courtesy United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division. Original artwork by Benjamin Moran Dale; restoration by Adam Cuerden.

Purple, white, and golden yellow.

To the suffragists who marched and campaigned and picketed more than a century ago, those were the colors signifying their quest for laws granting women the vote.

This year is the centennial of passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that accomplished what those suffragists had fought to achieve. And 2020 is also the bicentennial of the birth of Susan B. Anthony, one of the principal figures in that long fight for suffrage.

Anthony and her close friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the organizers of the historic 1848 Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, spent years working together to gain the right to vote for women. But neither of them lived to see it actually happen.

We—all of us, women and men, anyone who cares about equality and democracy and fairness – owe a great deal to Anthony and Stanton and to the many others who dressed in white and carried suffrage banners and flags in the colors of their fight. 

In this important centennial and bicentennial year, we should recognize and demonstrate our respect for those rights pioneers.

How can we do that? Simple.

Let’s plant the colors.

Most of us, even non-gardeners and apartment dwellers, usually manage each year to have at least a pot or two or a window box filled with flowering annuals at home during our all-too-brief summer.

Many plants we use in those displays are relatively inexpensive, need little care, and can be grown from seed or purchased everywhere from large nurseries and big-box home stores to supermarkets, drugstores, farm markets, and roadside stands.

Petunias, for instance, are available in many varieties with purple or purple-and-white flowers. There are lovely white geraniums. Marigolds bloom profusely in several shades of golden yellow and even in white. None of these plants requires more than minimal attention to produce abundant flowers from late spring to first frost. Experienced and adventurous gardeners can find many other species and varieties in the three colors.

Planting the three significant colors in one pot or individually in a group of pots can create a show of recognition and respect for the suffragists who made it possible for American women to cast votes in this and every election year and to hold public office. 

In Seneca Falls, a variety of special events are planned by Seneca Falls 2020, the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the town government, Seneca Falls Development Corporation, and other organizations and agencies.

All of this summer’s municipal floral displays in that Seneca County town will be in the suffrage colors. Planters overflowing with mounds of flowers in purple, white, and golden yellow will decorate town parks and principal streets and historic sites.

Castelmezzano container combination. Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

There’s a movement afoot to encourage residents of Seneca Falls to use those colors in plantings at home on porches, decks and balconies and in front yards to warmly welcome visitors and show pride in the community’s suffrage history.

People in Rochester, Susan B. Anthony’s home, should do the same. Residents of Canandaigua, where Anthony was tried in court and found guilty of voting, ought to follow suit. There are several other communities in central and western New York that have historical ties to the suffrage movement. Planting the colors would be one way to acknowledge those important bits of their histories.

It would be great if people arriving in the Finger Lakes were greeted by floral displays in purple, white, and golden yellow.

We can make this happen. Let’s do it!

Carol Ritter Wright, originally from Seneca Falls, retired as a journalist at the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Pam Ketchum May 8, 2020 at 7:11 pm

Loved the article about honoring the suffragettes! Hope everyone will plant in honor of the women who worked so hard and didn’t give up.
I would enjoy seeing all the planters / gardens that are created with yellow, white and purple.


janem May 9, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Isn’t it fun? I was just thinking this morning I haven’t done my planter color schemes yet. I think I will do this (once the pansies are done—though this would have been perfect for pansies!).


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