Like many of you, I am so inspired by Erin Benzakien and the work at Floret Flower Farm in Skagit Valley, Washington. Washington state seems like a world away, and while I'm fortunate to have a visit to Floret in my not too distant future, there are many folks here on the east coast that might benefit from connecting with flower farmers a little closer to home.
I am not yet a member of the ASCFG (Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers), but I hope to join the group soon. There will be an ASCFG event not far from Buffalo, New York in August, and another one in Columbus, Ohio in October. Both of these feel more manageable to me than a big trip out west, and I've heard they are helpful events.
But perhaps, even more beneficial are the personal connections that flower farmers seem willing to make. I find that there is a common bond between people who grow flowers. We share the same frustrating moments, the same tribulations. I'm not quite sure how to describe it, but there just seems to be a bit more there.
When I was just starting out I bought a few dahlia tubers from our local flower farm (during our time in northern New Hampshire). But it wasn't just a transaction, the sale came with a heartfelt description for their care. I would have been completely clueless had Vanessa not taken a few moments from her day to tell me how to care for those tubers. And then, when I wondered how they'd react to our sandy soil, she explained what she thought might happen. An article was published recently about Vanessa and Reggie Tarr's beautiful flower farm. Take a peak, it is well worth the read-- an inspiring story for cold climate growers.
This week I decided to call up a local boutique hotel here in Lake Placid and try to talk to the head gardner. I'd admired the Mirror Lake Inn's dahlias and the hotel's care for them well past the first hard frost. Each day, on my way to work in the fall, I took note of how someone had carefully covered them overnight. The dahlias lasted through mid-October, and that seemed pretty encouraging for our growing zone (3).
I guess I was surprised to be patched right through to him. I have to admit, I was at a loss for words at first. I knew I had questions, but they escaped me for a moment. But, he was so flattered that I'd noticed their hard work. And then...the floodgates opened and my questions came forth in a flury. I learned that they don't have proper storage for their tubers at the end of the season, so they give them away or discarded them. I was thinking, "sign me up! I'll take those off your hands!"
We shared a conversation about the challenges of growing here in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. We talked about our greenhouse dreams. And when I asked if there might be an opportunity to volunteer or help out to learn more, he suggested instead that I fill out an application. I'm not sure what will happen, but if I end up with time to grow flowers in this area during the summer months, I'll have to make time to learn more from the crew at the sweet hotel down the road.
To learn more about the gardens at the Mirror Lake Inn, see this blog post from the hotel's site. Better still, plan a visit to Lake Placid and check out the crew's handiwork in person.