Reaching for the Sky: Q&A with Venelin Dimitrov

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dimitrovVenelin Dimitrov, senior project manager of vegetables, herbs and fruits at Burpee’s Flowers, shares about his favorite flower varieties and his respect for pollinators and their important work.

Seed World: What’s your favorite book on your bookshelf?
Venelin Dimitrov:
Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Growing up in a communist country, books such as this were banned and often distributed underground and with questionable translation. So owning one, especially having the ability to buy one in the US, in its original form, was exciting.

SW: Favorite flower?
VD:
There are so many it is hard to choose just one. I think I have say that my #1 is Burpee’s ‘Celosia Red Velvet Cake’—the flowers of this plant will guarantee you a shower of blue ribbons in any competition or state fair. They are so vibrant and maintain their color so well, even when dried. And for #2, it is hard not to mention Sunflower, ‘Candy Mountain’ and ‘Treasure Mountain’—both of these sunflowers are tall and branching with an abundance of long secondary stems providing a vase-full of blooms through the season; but the most impressive quality is how useful are they in small urban or city spaces: they reach for the sky and provide cut flowers even if you live in the middle of downtown.

SW: Best way to spend Valentine’s Day?
VD:
First, red roses for my wife. Then, find an interesting recipe (my favorite is Asian food), accompanied by a bottle of red wine. After dinner, cozy up on the couch and watch Masterpiece Mystery (Midsomer Murders), trying to solve the mystery before the end of the episode.

SW: How does your family beekeeping history affect your work?
VD:
Growing up around bees had an immense impact on me that continues to this day. I learned of the phenomenal part honey bees and pollinators play in the food supply chain. Now, working for a seed company, I respect them even more for their role in seed production.

SW: Are you working on any new seed varieties?
VD:
We are always trialing and crossing new varieties for home gardeners. At the moment we are working on new and improved tall marigolds, and new colors and shapes of cosmos.

SW: What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment while working at Burpee?
VD:
Taking part President Obama’s National Pollinator Initiative and working with the National Park Foundation and the USDA to provide one million seed packets for donation to visitors of national parks throughout the US.

SW: What advice would you share with growers?
VD:
When selecting new products to try, look for good garden performance and long lasting color; anything above that is an added bonus.

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