A summer camp in Minnesota has put flower growing and floral design front and center in its programming. Camp Birchwood for Girls in LaPorte, Minnesota, which runs for a total of nine weeks each summer, is based on a “challenge-by-choice” scheduling system, offering campers options from horseback-riding and waterskiing to gardening and flower arranging.
Rachel Bredemus, a graduate of Flower School New York, was originally hired to teach pottery at Camp Birchwood 25 years ago. Five years ago, she decided to put her knowledge to use by instituting camp sessions on flower and vegetable gardening.
“It’s been shocking for me to see how big of a deal this has been for them,” said Bredemus. “A lot of the campers say that they had no idea [gardening] would be so relaxing. They zen out when they’re in the garden.”
Bredemus and the Camp Birchwood staff teach, feed, and house around 100 girls at a time throughout the summer. Each morning, the girls (ages 8 through 18), sign up for four creative sessions. Depending on the time of the summer, the campers who focus on gardening and plant care will learn how to plant the summer bulbs, fertilize the crops, harvest the flowers, prune the window boxes, and arrange the flowers. They also talk about issues such as sustainability and growing conditions on flower farms.
“I am opening their minds to a part of the world that they have no idea about,” Bredemus said.
Reactions from the parents have been largely positive, said Bredemus, adding that through their experiences, the girls develop life-long friendships and leave more prepared for college, having learned critical life skills. After the camp, Bredemus said that one camper sent her photos from her aunt’s wedding, where she made the centerpieces and taught her mother about floral design.
“I’d like to think that they will farm one day or at least support local farmers,” Bredemus said. “It helps them get in touch with the earth, it is a vitamin for their soul.”