Bouquets of Joy From U-Pick Flower Farms
What is it about a field of flowers that makes us want to tug on our wellies and don our floppiest sun hat? It might be the allure of getting that perfect shareable shot—or maybe it's something deeper. U-pick flower farms have (ahem) blossomed over the last couple of years, driven primarily by social media and backyard exploration during the pandemic. Cute photos aside, fresh flowers not only brighten your home, but they also have scientific benefits as mood-boosters and stress-reducers.
"I could have told you that!" laughs Ann Franzenburg, who runs Pheasant Run Farm in eastern Iowa, with her husband, Eric, and their son Calvin. "That's why folks bring flowers to people in the hospital. People respond to certain flowers. They'll say, 'Oh, my grandma grew that!' They're almost moved to tears to see that flower again."
A study done by Rutgers University confirms that: Every participant who received flowers grinned. Researchers were surprised, but for flower fans, it's a no-brainer.
U-pick flower farms like Pheasant Run deliver a bouquet of joy with a small price tag, while also connecting us to nature in a lasting way. Load up on lavender, gather gladiolus and stock up on sunflowers from these five farms that will be in full bloom this summer.
NEW LIFE LAVENDER AND CHERRY FARM Baraboo, Wisconsin
The rocky Baraboo Bluffs shelter this favorite farm not too far from Madison. Walking trails link 25 acres of fragrant lavender fields and wildflower meadows, passing a picturesque pergola, patio and koi pond. Guests hop on wagons for farm tours and U-pick lavender harvests. Owners Aron and Laura McReynolds (a former pharmacist and aromatherapy expert, respectively) teach guests to distill essential oils like those used in the lavender mists, lotions and massage oils they develop for the gift shop. The farm's coveted lavender ice cream and other treats are made from scratch. "We want people to take a tour, do some shopping, get some drinks or maybe try a piece of our signature lavender cherry pie," Aron says. "We make it about the experience."
THREE ACRE FARM Byron Center, Michigan
Right in her backyard, Lori Hernandez's garden bursts with over 100 types of flowers and foliage, including colorful zinnias, button-like strawflowers, delicate Queen Anne's lace, elegant dahlias and ultra-textured amaranths. Her farmstead outside of Grand Rapids, with its 1880s house and weathered barn, serves as a sanctuary. "We grow flowers, but what people really want is an experience and a connection, time to themselves for quiet reflection," she says. "The farm offers an almost sacred space for that. Being surrounded by nature is a really healing experience." Hernandez sells flowers by the bucket or pitcher. She also offers farm tours, dahlia tubers and gardening classes.
PHEASANT RUN FARM Van Horne, Iowa
A yellow wave washes across eastern Iowa each August during Pheasant Run Farm's Sunflower Experience outside Belle Plaine. Quiet paths meander through 9 acres of towering sunflowers. Nestled among them you'll find vintage farm implements, garden gnomes and signs sharing snippets of history from the nearby Lincoln Highway. "The variety that we grow is 8 feet tall, so it's almost as if you're in a forest of sunflowers," Ann Franzenburg says. "It's rejuvenating." Selecting one to take home is part of the experience. As the shadows lengthen, climb a viewing platform to watch a blazing sunset above a sea of nodding blooms.
DOLLIE'S FARM Franklin, Indiana
Snip tulips, hyacinths and daffodils in spring; lavender in June; and mint and over 80 flower varieties in summer at this Indy-area farm. It's a family tradition: Tricia Wilson's great-grandma Dollie (who bought 40 acres with egg and butter money) offered zinnias to customers who would come to get eggs from her. Guests still buy eggs at her namesake farm. They also fly kites in the clover field while picnicking in the sunshine. "The rush of life seems to leave in the parking lot," Wilson says. "People will bring a bottle of wine and sit on one of the swings to watch the sunset. Great-grandma would be very pleased."
MAKE A BOUQUET U-PICK FLOWER FARM Arlington, Ohio
Jessi Alger loves flowers. Her parents are farmers and her husband has a landscaping background. So last year they converted their northwest Ohio farm to a garden, selling sunflowers, gerbera daisies, cosmos, yarrow and other blooms by the stem. It went so well, they're already expanding. Look for a larger garden; U-pick vegetables; a gift shop stocked with Ohio-made items; a fairy garden for kids; and seating to watch hummingbirds, goldfinches and orioles dart around the property. "After everything that's happened over this last year, this is something that just brings a little joy to everybody," Alger says.
Three Acre Farm's Lori Hernandez shares her top three tips for making a bouquet of cut flowers last.
RISE AND SHINE Cut flowers in the morning, if possible. The stems are most hydrated then, which means less wilting and longer-lasting blooms. A flower cut in the middle of the day won't last as long as one cut when the sun is low.
STRIP THOSE STEMS Remove leaves from the bottom half of the stem so there is no foliage in the water, which can cause rot and clog the stems.
STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN Once you have cut flowers in your house, you should not display them near ripening fruit. The ethylene gas from apples and bananas will make flowers expire faster.