Dreaming of Spring Blooms – New Varieties For 2018

It amazes me that even while we’re working hard on fall clean up, trying to beat the weather, that the excitement over next year’s blooms is so incredibly high! It seems I never get too burnt out to become excessively excited about new flowers. Getting ready for the next season while finishing up the last is a challenge and dreaming of the flowers to come sure helps!

The weather has been so fabulous this fall. I am really happy how the fields are shaping up, but it’s time to get a start on the endless indoor chores – one of which is finalizing seed/plant/bulb/tuber orders. If one more lovely, gorgeous flower with new attributes jumps out at me, I will have to make more space. (Hubby’s always very nervous if I even glance in the direction of the hay field)

One of goals is to spread bloom time out over a longer period for as many flowers as we can. There are a couple of ways to this – succession sow or to plant different varieties. “Different varieties” are what gets me into trouble. My database already has 399 different varieties not counting dahlia, tulip, peony or lisianthus -those each have their own database.

Another goal here is to plant enough variety that we can supply even the largest weddings throughout the season and give our customers a good selection. (Can you just hear the justification going on?) And if we diversify heavily, when something doesn’t do well one year, another variety (that word again!) will get us out of trouble, right? But my biggest justification is that I just love flowers.

So back to the seed catalogs…. I place our largest seed/bulb/tuber orders in August and September to assure the best selection. Those orders are somewhat a rush job and contains our old standbys and a few new varieties. Then what happens is the days get shorter, I spend more time poking around on the internet, finding this and finding that. The hard copies of seed catalogs also start pouring in. Before you know it my plot maps don’t work any longer, I’m out of room, I need to order more trays, add more propagation shelving, till more new ground, buy more plastic and irrigation, drop a few trees…. and I’ve just bit off more than I should chew. It’s an obsession and I admit I need flowers anonymous. That being said, we intend to add 56 new varieties and/or colors for 2018, some of which are listed below:

Stock – I love stock. I love its shape, the colors it’s available in, the earliness of her blooms, the vase life, it’s ruggedness, and there is nothing like the scent! A few stems in a bouquet are just paradise! So this year I went a bit nuts and I do believe I ordered every color available. I also swear I will get a fall planting in this year.  I can just smell them as I type!

Larkspur – We sold out of every stem of larkspur last year and so, like stock, we’ve really upped the number of plants and colors going in. It’s a fine, early flower, giving vertical height to bouquets without being overbearing. It also dries well which is an added bonus for those interested. The colors expand every year.

Sunflowers – One of my favorite flowers (I know, they are all my favorites!) however, the vermin love them as much as I do. This year Charlie (the dog) and I vow to do much better! And, oh my gosh, I found some new to-die-for beauties ….drum roll! Plus the gazillion varieties I’m already in love with. I’ve narrowed the list down, but it was really difficult!

Anemones– Another favorite spring beauty. We’ve added two new varieties this year- in a color mix of both types.

Blue Mist

Caryopteris incana is another favorite of mine. Although we grow some amazing Longwood and Grande Bleu blue mist shrubs, this variety is grown here as an annual. It has a more intense blue color and a bit of a different stem design. The seed has been hard to find for a few years now and I was so excited to see it available again! I just have to figure out where it will go….

Hairy Balls – I think I just have never grown this because of the name! It is a very unique looking plant that has the added benefit of feeding the monarchs. So despite the somewhat obnoxious name (it’s also called “family jewels”), I think we’re going to have fun with this one! I may just call it “Balloon Plant” on the website. (0:

Hyacinth Bean – I stopped growing this years ago because it doesn’t flower heavily for us. It’s worth trying again and, even without blooms, the vine is lovely.

Lisianthus – Every year I say I’m going to cut back on the lissies; if not the number of plants, at least the number of colors. They are very labor intensive and slow, slow, slow to start….. but oh my gosh, they are my favorite! (Really this time….?) What other flower is truly as beautiful, other than a garden rose?  So, of course, we have added a few new varieties for 2018. Flowers anonymous here I come!

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Ranunculus – Super Greens and Amandine. Our weather is not very conducive to growing ranunculus since, like all of us, they like it not too hot and not too cold. But being stubborn, we’re going to give it another try this year. Love!

Peony – We’ve got around 160 peony plants now, so I behaved sanely and only added Red Charm this fall. In anticipation of an abundant harvest this coming spring (70 of our newer plants will reach their 4th year), we have also lowered the price!

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Tulips – We sold out before the end of Mother’s Day last season, so we tripled the amount of bulbs planted this fall. Oh jeeeeeez. How do you even decide? I narrowed it down to 18 varieties. I think am most excited about having more La Belle. These were a huge hit. Or no, maybe Charming Beauty. Or maybe Orange Princess….

Some of our newly added (2015 and 2016) flowering shrubs should begin giving us blooms this season. Almond, Kerria, Mock Orange, Quince, Allspice…… (0:

And although this list isn’t complete, we also plan to add:

Bachelor Buttons – Pink
Campanula – Champion Pro
*Culver’s Root – Purple and white
*Penstemon – Husker’s Red & Prairie Jewels
*Jasione laevis -Sheep’s Bit
*Clematis recta purpurea
Pumpkin-on-a-stick
*Germander

(*perennials take a few years to establish)

There are a few flowers we are not growing this coming year for one reason or another:

Baby’s Breath – annual (we can order baby’s breath in for you)
Bee Balm
Blanket Flower
Cosmos
Delphinium (a good replacement is larkspur)
Lamb’s Ear
Marigold
Statice

So until spring, we can dream in flowers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Budgeting for Your Wedding Flowers

Bridal Bouquet by Elizabeth Kushnereit
Bridal Bouquet and photo by Elizabeth Kushnereit

Budgeting Your Wedding or Event Flowers

Buying flowers direct from the farm for your wedding or event can be extremely cost efficient.

To budget for your wedding flowers you will first need to know how many arrangements and bouquets you will need. A lot of factors go into this equation such as vase size, flower size, etc.  A rough estimate and starting point is 20 stems per quart size vase for a full arrangement, but again this can depend a lot on the size of your flower choices and the look you are after.

There are some amazing floral design videos on U-tube and some extremely wonderful books out there on floral design. There are also classes you can take on floral design prior to your wedding. Any of these resources will help you to decide on the look you desire and how many stems it will take to accomplish that look.

Helpful resources on our website include our Price List and guide to Approximate Bloom Times. If you would like to schedule a wedding or event, please see our Wedding and Event Page for more information.

Sometimes couples would like flowers we do not grow or are not in season here in Michigan for their date. For flowers ordered in, we can get estimates from our supplier. Unlike our pricing which tends to stay pretty consistent throughout the season, pricing for flowers that we order in, much like groceries, can fluctuate depending on the market.

What’s Happening On the Farm – November 2016

The list in November is full with fall cleanup, planting and tucking the flowers in for winter. All of it is important for healthy flowers next season. We have less daylight hours to get it done, and we’re always trying to stay one step ahead of the weather. Order of importance seems to be the theme this time of year as inevitably some things we’d like to see done will need to be put off until spring.

We were extremely blessed with our dahlia tuber harvest. I was so afraid we would lose them this year. With the gorgeous weather, our plants didn’t die back until very late. The first frost hard enough to kill back the foliage came October 28th. If the tubers don’t cure long enough after a hard frost, or if they freeze in the ground, they will rot.  Mother Nature blessed us with a window of perfect weather to get them out! I cut all the foliage back and hauled it off the previous week, then I started digging the tubers the week of November 13th. The weather was incredible! They all get washed out in the field and I end up wet and quite muddy in the process. This year it was as comfortable work as it could possibly be! Without a moment to spare, they are all tucked away in the cooler, with a small space heater, waiting to be labeled and divided.

The peonies in the field all got weeded out and cut back. Compost was added where needed. I still have a few beauties by the flower shed to go. I sure look forward to their lovely, scented blooms beginning in mid-May!

The sunflower field was a huge mess and got severely gutted, tilled and a cover crop of wheat and oats planted.

The old lisianthus beds are almost ready for next year. The hoops, stakes and plastic are put away, the ground tilled, and now it’s just waiting for a nice layer of compost. The new lisianthus area is also cleaned up and almost ready for next spring. I like to get the lisianthus in the ground mid-April, so having the beds ready in the fall is a big help.

A new area for flowering shrubs is in the works. It’s cleared out and tilled. I dropped a few trees to let more light in and that still needs to be cleaned up. The new shrubs come the first week of December and the hope is to get as many planted out as possible and pot the rest up for spring planting. We might be chipping through a layer of frozen ground.

3300 new bulbs got planted and they still need a layer or two of mulch now that the ground is thinking about freezing. The brodiaea needs hoops and frost cover to try and winter it over.

Half of the baptisia is weeded out and cut back. This is a lovely lupine-like flower that blooms at the same time as the peonies and looks gorgeous alongside them in a vase.

We added to the to-do list by having some trees around the storage shed and garage dropped. We hired an expert to climb the trees and take them down piece by piece as they were dangerously close to the buildings. The brush needed to be cleared away quickly so we could get to the buildings. The rest will have to wait until later this winter.

November isn’t over yet, but the list is still long. Today I need to get the heated waterers to the ducks and chickens, trim the horses’ feet, tidy up the cellar to make room for the dahlia tubers and finish winterizing the irrigation systems. Tomorrow I’ll start dividing tubers and get ready for our Thanksgiving feast. We sure have a lot to be thankful for and need to remember to count every blessing – there are many.

 

 

Cooner – The Story of a Raccoon

Our first foster raccoon - Cooner
Our first foster raccoon – ‘Cooner’ in North Carolina

My first foster raccoon’s name was ‘Cooner’. He came to us as a 3 week old orphan bottle baby. Although I’ve fostered many orphaned raccoons since, Cooner holds a special place in my heart.

At the time, we had a place in Poplar, North Carolina we had intended to move to. It was 70 acres of gorgeous, peaceful mountain land in the middle of nowhere. We made the trip to NC every year to work on the cabin. Because Cooner had some heath issues and was on medication, I didn’t want to leave him home with the woman who cared for our other animals, so we packed up two boys, three dogs, one baby raccoon, and headed south.

About half way through Ohio, something started reeking. Bad. We blamed it on Cooner. We stopped at a rest area, check Cooner’s litter pan, and that wasn’t it. It was awful and we couldn’t figure it out, but it had to be Cooner! We aired out the Bronco a bit and loaded back up. About an hour later the smell was back in full force! We again blamed it on Cooner. It was a stink we were completely unfamiliar with. It turned out to be my son’s friend’s feet and every time he took his shoes off it about knocked us out! We stopped again for a bit of foot powder, and we were back on the road, Cooner off the hook.

The trip was about 750 miles and we usually drove straight through. It was a long trip and we were all relieved to get out of the Bronco when we arrived, but Cooner was amazed! Unlike our trees here, the poplar trees grew straight up for over 100’ with very few branches. Cooner headed for the first one and started to climb. Unfortunately his strength gave out and as I watched in horror, he fell from about 30′. I was sure he was dead. Little guy bounced, shook it off, and went right back to climbing trees!

There was a beautiful, fast moving, branch (a creek to us Northerners) below our cabin that was home to crayfish. Cooner was just learning to hunt. At home we would put some minnows and marsh mellow pieces in a kiddie pool so he could develop his skills. They weren’t very developed yet, but what he lacked in skill he made up for with determination! He was bound and determined to catch himself a crayfish. When Cooner got scared, he would climb me like I was a tree and perch at the highest point – my head. He came flying out of the branch, water flying, and scurried up my body with a crayfish clamped on his nose!

We were all having a great time when…… the in-laws came to visit. I loved my ex-mother-in-law, but she really had no business in a place like this. The place was rustic. It was an old one room hunting cabin, but we’d been working on it and felt it had all the comforts of home. A wood cook stove, a wood stove for heat, a propane water heater and refrigerator, a wonderful gravity spring fed water system complete with a shower, and an outhouse. We also had bugs, snakes, bats, bear, cougar, bob cats, wild boar AND, God forbid, a baby raccoon.

From the amount of luggage, the in-laws planned to stay awhile. The mom-in-law was putting her things in the cabin when I heard a blood curdling scream. Since we seldom saw wild cats, and never ever saw a wild boar, I’m thinking rattle snake, bear or ax murderer. She was in a fetal position on the bed sobbing and screaming “Get it away! Get it away!” I couldn’t figure out what “it” was! I saw nothing to set off this type of hysteria. Then she pointed at Cooner….

After that, things became a bit testy as I was expected to lock Cooner up while she was there. Well, that just wasn’t going to happen. Cooner and I figured if she had that much fear of baby raccoons, she needed to stay in a hotel. We spent a lot of time avoiding her, but as a concession, Cooner did sleep in his crate at night. They all finally went home and there was peace again. (The ex-sister-in-law also came awhile later, but that’s a completely different story)

You would think this was enough excitement for one baby raccoon, but there was more to come!

We all headed off for a hike up to the top of the mountain. It was a gorgeous day and Cooner was trotting along like the dogs, stopping to investigate along the way. All of a sudden we heard baying – coon hounds heading our way! It sounded like a pack of 100! Cooner scrambled up my body to perch on top of my head when the pack came barreling through the brush. I don’t know how many exactly, but when you have a coon treed on top of your head, it seems like an awful lot of dogs. The coon hunters broke through the woods and stared in disbelief. They seemed a bit upset that after following those dogs God knows how far they weren’t getting a coon after all.  Sometimes the language barrier was a little difficult, but I am sure I heard “Damn fool crazy Yankee woman” and a few other terms of endearment as the coon hunters gathered up their dogs shaking their heads. Cooner stayed very close after that.

New travels fast and far in such remote locations. Our closest town was Erin, TN; about 40 minutes away by the time you got down off the mountain. As I entered the hardware store I could hear a story being told at the front counter. Lots of laughter about some “Damn fool crazy Yankee woman” up there in Poplar. I quietly slipped out the back door.

As we were leaving for home, we stopped for a final visit at the branch on the way out. Cooner bounded into the creek and came back with a crayfish – this time in his mouth!

As he matured, Cooner began to spend more time away from us and on his own. He was becoming much less social around humans and more independent. Eventually he wanted little to do with us. The last time I saw Cooner, he brought a friend with him. I assumed she was his girlfriend. She stayed back while Cooner came up to me and climbed me like a tree one last time. It was almost like he came to tell me goodbye; he was fine, he had grown up and was o.k. on his own now. Although ever so bittersweet, that was always the goal.

Foster Raccoon Cooner
At the time this story took place, I was a commercial freelance animal photographer. One of Cooner’s photos from the trip to N.C. was published in a May 1998 issue of Readers Digest to illustrate a story about another foster raccoon, T65. Because Cooner was so dear to me, it is one of my favorite published photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Varieties for 2017

 Garden Rose Golden Celebration
2016 Garden Rose – Golden Celebration

Part of the fun of flower farming is trying new things. Every season we add new plants to our extensive grow list. Even though every year I vow to cut back, the excitement of growing, literally and figuratively, draws me in. Do we really need over 300 varieties? Probably not, but for a lot of reasons, it’s nice to diversify. Someday I may cut back and only grow our top 10 best sellers, but for now I spend a lot of time researching new plants for us to try!

Not all are keepers. Some just aren’t worth the trouble and space despite their beauty. But one that is, so far, is the garden rose.

I love garden roses. I could easily become a garden rose addict. Mid winter of 2015, after swearing I would never, ever, ever grow roses again (mainly due to the heartbreak of the Japanese beetle problem here) I allowed the dreamy catalogs to pull me in. In defense of my weakness, on that bitter, cold, dreary afternoon, I looked at the stunningly beautiful photos and I could actually smell the roses. We managed to, for the most part, keep the beetles and disease at bay. And so, with little hesitation, I ordered several of a few more delightful varieties to add to the ever expanding grow list for this spring.

We get a nice bloom period on both sides of the Japanese beetle hatch. In-between it’s constant battle, but we find the joy they bring is worth the effort. One whiff of their delicious fragrance and you will be hooked too!

This year we’ve added the following garden roses to our collection:

Garden Rose
Garden Rose – ‘Jubilee Celebration’. Described as “Salmon pink with tints of gold underneath with a fruity fragrance”. Photo credit: David Austin
Garden Rose - Lady Emma
Garden Rose – ‘Lady Emma Hamilton’. Described as “Tangerine orange with a fruity fragrance”. Photo credit: David Austin
Garden Rose- Munstead Wood
Garden Rose – Munstead Wood. Described as”Deep velvety crimson with a strong old rose fragrance”. And, as one would describe a fine wine, “warm and fruity with blackberry, blueberry and damson”. Photo credit: David Austin

Flowering Shrubs
We’ve been adding flowering shrubs a few at a time, but for next season I went a little nuts. I am still not sure were they are all going to go, but we always seem to tweak out a little more space here and there. With 60 new shrubs ordered, I better do some serious tweaking!

Kierra japonica 'Pleniflora'
Kierra japonica ‘Pleniflora’. Small 2″ double yellow flowers early spring to May with a good vase life. I am very in love and a little afraid of this wild beast which reaches 12′ high and has a “sprawling, spreading” habit. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden
Flowering Quince
Flowering Quince – ‘Toyo Nishiki’. This has been on my wish list for quite some time. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden
Carolina Allspice
Carolina Allspice – Reddish brown 2″ blooms produce an intensely fruity fragrance during spring/summer. I love it’s unique blooms. Photo credit: Missouri Botanical Garden
Flowering Almond
Flowering Almond – “Prized for heavy flowering in early spring. Branches literally covered with densely packed double pink blooms”. This shrub seems to need a lot of pampering and I sure hope we can do it justice.
Mock Orange
Mock Orange – lovely fragrant white blossoms in late spring/early summer. We are hooked on this one!

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Tulips
Tulips are one of those must have spring flowers and we try to grow unique varieties. We’ve been getting a lot of requests for peony flowering and green tulips. Our early bloomers always give us so much hope spring will actually come!

tulip-aveyron
Peony Flowering Tulip – ‘Aveyron’. “This fluffy, flouncy newcomer is deep rose with paler rose petal edges and prominent green feathering on strong stems”. Photo credit: Van Engelen
Peony Flowering Tulip - "Blue Spectacle". It is deep violet-purple with a blue sheen and a fully double form resembling that of an actual Peony. Photo credit: Van Engelen
Peony Flowering Tulip – ‘Blue Spectacle’. “It is deep violet-purple with a blue sheen and a fully double form resembling that of an actual Peony”. Photo credit: Van Engelen
tulip_peony_mount_tacoma
Peony Flowering Tulip – ‘Mount Tacoma’. “A fully double, glistening white, this 1924 award-winner has subtle green markings on its petals. Fragrant”. Photo credit: Van Engelen
tulip_greenland
‘Greenland’ – “Also known as Groenland, this award-winner is a charming old rose color with soft green stripes from the flower’s base to its tips”. Photo credit: Van Engelen

Brodiaea
Brodiaea is an experiment for us this season. It is a zone 6 bulb, so a lot will depend if we can create a zone 6 environment for it.  We thought them beautiful enough to give it a try.

brodiaea_corrina
Brodia laxa corrina – “Clusters of delicate star-shaped, deep blue-violet flowers with darker midveins and grass-like foliage”. Photo credit: Van Engelen
Brodiaea californica babylon. This gorgeous selection out of B. californica has clusters of star-shaped amethyst flowers adored by the Dutch cut flower trade. Limited supply.
Brodiaea californica babylon. “This gorgeous selection has clusters of star-shaped amethyst flowers adored by the Dutch cut flower trade”. Limited supply. Photo credit: Van Engelen

 

brodia_laxa_silver_queen
Brodiaea – “Silver Queen has airy stellates of delicate star-shaped, silver-white flowers with a hazy silver shadow running the length of each lobe and grass-like foliage”. Limited Supply. Photo credit: Van Engelen

 

brodiaea_queen_fabiola
Brodiaea – “Queen Fabiola has clusters of delicate, star-shaped, blue-violet flowers with darker midveins and grass-like foliage”. Photo credit: Van Engelen

Anemone
Another flowering bulb outside our comfort zone is the spring blooming anemone. We’ve had some success with them in prior years. I love them so much I’ve forgotten the pain of losing an entire crop to early season high temperatures and are going to attempt them again.

anemone-sylphideanemone-mr-fokkeranemone-bride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dahlias
Dahlias are by far our most popular flower. The list of varieties to choose from seems endless. Our most popular colors this past season were burgundy, white, and the soft creamy pink of the Cafe au Lait. This year we’ll be adding Karma dahlias to the mix. Karma dahlias have been proven to have an excellent storage and vase life.

Karma Dahlia Choc
Karma Dahlia – ‘Choc’. A deep red, almost black.
Karma dahlia 'Maarten Zwaan'. A white waterlily type dahlia
Karma dahlia ‘Maarten Zwaan’. A white waterlily type dahlia.
Karma Dahlia 'Goldie' - A warm golden yellow dahlia.
Karma Dahlia ‘Goldie’ – A warm golden yellow dahlia.
Karma Dahlia Naomi
Karma Dahlia – ‘Naomi’. Deep mahogany red.

Additional new dahlia varieties:
Dinner plate:
White Perfection – white
Thomas Edison – purple

Decorative/Ball/Waterlily:
Zas Zas – Orange
Cornell Brons – Bronze
Purple Flame – Purple

We’ll also be expanding our most popular varieties to give us over 1000 dahlia plants.


We’re also adding quite a few new annuals and perennials as usual. When I get that list complete, I’ll add it here.

Peonies in July?!?!?

peony-dahlia-sunflower
Peonies, Sunflowers and Dahlias on July 9th

It’s been an exciting year, to say the least, but I have to say I got really, really excited when our first dahlias and sunflowers came in AND I still had a few peonies in the cooler. So I got to thinking…. Is it possible to have peonies in early to mid, even late July? Quality peonies?

The quality is what has always concerned me. I have always been led to believe that peonies will not store well into July, so I have never even considered offering them this late in the season. I am now happily rethinking and testing that theory.

The peonies I pulled out of the cooler on Thursday still look fabulous 3 days later, even with the 90+ degree heat of late. I have sent some home with a few of my floral designers to test also.

Another great thing I have learned about peonies has to do with the side shoots. After weeks of being stored in the cooler, any buds showing color will still open, and although short, are still very pretty and very usable. (The tightest buds will not open and are excellent for boutonaires)

I have maybe 20 stems to work with and will pull them out of the cooler every week to see how far into July we can actually go. Maybe we can supply the request for sunflowers, dahlias AND peonies from the farm in July!

I’ll try to update this post with our results after I learn – just how late can we go?

Hummingbird Feeder Tip – Ants!

Hummingbird-GN2H1302

 I’ve never had any luck at all with ant guards, so this has to be one of the number one tips of the year. If you hang your hummingbird feeders with fishing line, it is too thin for ants to navigate. I used 10#, which is what we had around here, and so far I’ve not had one ant in the feeders. (One note: If the line is too short they can figure out how to get to the feeder. 12″ seems to be plenty long enough) It is quite entertaining to watch them try to figure it out at first and then it’s certainly nice to not have to clean ants, dead or otherwise, out of the feeders all the time.

So You Want To Be A Flower Farmer?

FlowersSo You Want To Be A Flower Farmer?

Flower farming is a wonderful occupation for many people. It is exhilarating, challenging and constantly changing. You will be your own boss, surround yourself with beautiful plants and flowers, and work outdoors.

It’s so flattering to get calls and emails from new-to-be flower farmers. While time limits the amount of help and advice I can offer, I thought I would address some of the questions I commonly receive. I hope this is helpful. Good luck in your venture!

1) How do I get started?

Study. This is a business. Your business. You have to be extremely passionate about beginning a flower farm, as passionate as you would be in starting any other business. It’s not about throwing some seeds into the ground and stepping back. Do your homework, research and build a business plan. Know yourself and your potential customers. Do the math and all the other learning curves involved. Some people who contact me want the “easy answer” or my “magic wand”. I actually had a woman who thought this would be a dream job “because the flowers grew themselves”. Ha, ha, maybe I can train them to harvest themselves, too! They want to learn how to become a flower farmer, easy and free, over the phone or by email. There is no “easy answer” and it will be your “magic wand” that will get you where you want to be, and only yours. You will build knowledge, experience and skills as the years pass, but you first have to be willing to pay your dues and do the initial ground (literally and figuratively) work.

2) How much money will I make?

I honestly have no way of knowing. This will depend on a lot of variables including you, your number of growing months, expenses, yields, types and quantities of flowers grown, the quality of your flowers, and your markets. Do your math, do your research and write your business plan. Do not expect to make much, or anything, for the first few years while you become established.

3) What should I grow?

Go slow while you are learning. If you’re just starting out, you could choose some of the easier annual and perennial flowers to grow until you become more experienced. Some perennials, shrubs and trees take years to give you a return on your investment. You will learn over time what does well in your growing location. Every year add to your grow list as you learn about the habits and needs of new plants. Keep track of your sales by flower type so you know what you need to grow more (or less) of, where you are lacking, and what flowers are profitable for you.

4) Where should I market my flowers?

Markets for your flowers will depend on your location and if you want to travel or add a delivery service. CSA, farmers markets, florists, markets and on-farm sales are just a few options. You may start out with one type of client and change markets as you expand and learn what suits you and your location. You will tend to evolve many times over your flower farming career.

5) How many hours do you put in?

During the growing season I put in 12- 18 hours a day, almost every day. I am up at 4 AM reviewing notes, updating the website, planning the workday, and doing all the “inside” work involved with a business. I am in the field at daybreak. Our day “ends” around nightfall.

At the end of the season (after our hard freeze), our fall cleanup and spring planting prep begins. This goes right though until the weather prevents us from doing any more. In December we begin to start seedlings and begin our winter projects which may include repairs, maintenance, building, tree removal, office work, bookkeeping, etc. It is a much welcomed “slower” time for us, but by no means vacation time (although it would be a good time to take one!) Winter projects and seed starting continue through March and April. By April we are geared up for the next planting season.

Some Tips:

Lose The Romantic Notions. Flower farming is farming and all farming is extremely labor intensive. If you’ve never farmed before I suggest that you work on a farm for a season before you pick up your own shovel. Although a flower or vegetable garden is great experience, farming as a business will be a lot different for you.

Devour information. Part of the fun of this business for me is that the learning never ends. There are some great books already written on both growing and marketing. A list of some of the very informative books available is offered here: http://www.growingformarket.com/store. (While you are there, check out the entire website by Lynn Byczynski, Growing For Market.) There are thousands of websites out there on growing, design, diseases, pests and products. Some of the best are the university websites. Study them. Every growing season you learn new techniques, learn about new plants, new diseases and pests, and develop new skills.

Take care of your soil. Like you, if not taken care of, your soil will burn out. Care for it. There is nothing like being proud of your dirt.

Keep meticulous notes. You will build a good supply of information to refer back to every season.

Keep accurate accounting records and obtain all necessary licenses. Find out what licenses are required in your area. Learn a good accounting program or hire someone to handle your bookkeeping for you. Keeping good records for your federal, state and, possibly, local taxes will save you a lot of grief further down the road. Start out right. It will also give you a great picture of your financial health and help you to obtain your goals.

Stay Sane. Be philosophical about failures. Most years you will have some failures. Try to determine what the underlying cause is and correct it. Some years certain insects and diseases are worse than others, even to the extent of wiping out entire crops. Weather plays an important role. Hail, wind, hard rains, drought, etc., all can take your beloved flowers out right along with your hard earned money and labor. It’s all part of farming and happens to even to the most experienced farmers. It’s never fun, but it is part of it. Diversifying your crops will help cover the loss of others.

Spread out your bloom times. Scheduling is a learning process. You don’t want all your flowers blooming at once. You’ll study days to maturity, day length, and succession sowing.

Take care of yourself. Flower farming is hard, sometimes exhausting, very physical work. It seems we all burn out at some point during the season. Minimize this by stretching, staying hydrated, getting enough rest, eating well and taking time to enjoy the business and your accomplishments. Treat yourself as well, if not better, than you treat your plants. You are no good to anyone run into the ground.

Some qualities you will need:

Stick-to-it-tivness
The ability to work when you are just plain too tired and burnt out to work.
The willingness to pay your dues over the course of building your business.
The understanding and acceptance that Mother Nature is bigger than you.
Patience
Honesty and Integrity
The love of living things – people, plants, animals and insects.

 

 

 

 

 

Deer Repellent System From Messina Wildlife

Deer

I want to mention a deer repellent system we’ve used very successfully this season. Believe me, if it works here, it will work for you. We’ve had a few “security breaches” this fall, but I think that was due more to user error than anything. Deer get bolder in the fall and I needed to protect our inlet beds with more fencing earlier on. (I did lose my last two plantings of sunflowers to the vermin and learned a *few* new cuss words, but not near as many as last year).

You must spray religiously, on time, (I spray every 3 weeks) but you are only spraying the ribbon, not acres of plants. I spray about 1500’ of ribbon in less than 20 minutes. The repellent is pleasant smelling to humans.

Using black step in posts with the black ribbon, the fence blends in with the landscape well. So far it has prevented the need to install a 10’ deer fence – fencing us in or out also! It is also simple to set up temporary protection for seasonal bloomers such as tulips.

The link to Messina Wildlife is here.