A New Trend: Pick-Your-Own Flower Farms
Tips for making the most of this fun, fresh air activity
You've heard of picking your own berries, pumpkins, apples and more, but how about combing a field full of colorful flowers to create your very own bouquet? It's a growing trend across the country, and one that my neighbor, accomplished gardener Amy McGinniss (her garden looks like a miniature of painter Claude Monet's famous garden at Giverny) and I tapped into this summer at Brittany Hollow Farm in Rhinebeck, New York.
For $20 each, we were allowed to pick as many flowers as we could fit into a reusable bucket.
"Obviously, I love flowers since I love to garden," McGinniss says, "but I had no idea what to expect —how it would work, what kind of flowers they might have. It turned out to be such an adventure that I brought my sister back to pick her own bucket!"
"In this busy world, it is a chance to slow down, enjoy the butterflies and birds and observe nature."
According to Debby Mosher, co-owner of Brittany Hollow Farm, "Many people love to pick their own flowers because it gives them a sense of ownership and creativity." Plus, she adds, "in this busy world, it is a chance to slow down, enjoy the butterflies and birds and observe nature."
When and How to Pick
At the farm, McGinniss and I quickly fanned out in the vast field. We had different strategies for picking — she created a curated bouquet, while I filled my yellow bucket to the max.
"Everyone picks flowers differently," notes Mosher. "Some pick a certain color palette, others only like zinnias, and still others only like the more unusual flowers out of the fifty or so we grow." It's all about personal preference and style.
While you don't really need to prep for a visit — and many DIY farms will provide scissors — it's best to be prepared in case they don't. Here are some tips:
- Go in the early morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler out.
- Wear sunscreen and bug spray.
- Wear a hat.
- Wear light clothing so you can spot any ticks.
- Wear good walking shoes.
- Bring gardening gloves if you have them, in case you end up picking flowers that have prickly stems.
- Bring scissors or clippers if you have them (another just in case).
- Snip off the stem of the flowers at the lowest point you can reach. If you pull up a bulb, snip it off and deliver it to the farm stand so they can plant it again next year.
- Have a plan for how you will transport the flowers back home — you might want to bring your own bucket or vase filled with water, or at least wet paper towels that you wrap in aluminum foil or brown paper to keep the flowers hydrated.
How to Arrange a Bouquet of Flowers
- Choose a vase to work with and decide whether you would like a multicolor or more monochromatic arrangement, as well as if you’d like a more horizontal or a vertical orientation for the flowers.
- Pick different kinds of flowers for your arrangement — round flowers like gerber daisies, dahlias, carnations and cone flowers, and taller, vertical flowers like gladioli, poms, heather and snapdragons. You can also choose a few flowers to be the focal point of your design — larger flowers like lilies, roses, peonies, sunflowers and irises.
- Cut the stems of the flowers you’ve picked on an angle, which helps them stay hydrated and discourages the growth of bacteria that could cause them to wilt prematurely.
- Shorten flowers to fit the height of your vase. You want to have a variety of heights, so experiment as you go along. Allow flowers to position themselves organically — for instance, if they want to drift to the right, put them on the right side of the arrangement.
- Strip the stalks of their lower leaves (and any dead leaves) to reduce bulk and prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. No leaves should be touching the water in the vase.
- Add foliage-only stems for variety. Good choices include eucalyptus, leather or tree ferns, myrtle, lemon leaf, Israeli Ruscus, Bells of Ireland, hostas and Dusty Miller.
- You can also add filler flowers like white baby’s breath or Queen Anne’s lace.
- Don’t stuff the vase to capacity; give the flowers some room to breathe and be seen.
- Place the vase in a spot that doesn’t get direct sunlight or is overheated to make the flowers last longer.
- Change the water in the vase frequently.
- Remove dead flowers from the arrangement as they droop; you can freshen the bouquet by adding some new flowers.
With any luck and regular water changes, your bouquet may stay fresh for a week or even two weeks. You can also extend the life of your flowers by adding in a packet of cut flower food, a powder that typically contains lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, sugar and bleach, when you do your arrangement and then every few days. Also recut the stems on a diagonal every few days.
For additional advice and a flower food recipe, Mosher recommends visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's website.
Where Can You Find a Pick-Your-Own Flower Farm?
Flower farms can be found in most states, offering a fun experience out in nature, a way to support local farmers and the opportunity to have flowers in the house without the usual high expense. Picking seasons in the south and warmer climates are year-round, but only run from June to late September in the East and Midwest.
Here's a sampling of some flower farms you might visit:
Wicked Tulips, Preston, Connecticut and Exeter, Rhode Island: This Northeastern farm specializes in tulips, and is only open each year from late April through late May.
Land's Sake Farm, Weston, Massachusetts: This New England farm has over 100 varieties of flowers and fillers.
Southern Hill Farms, Clermont, Florida: This central Florida farm grows sunflowers and zinnias for spring and fall picking.
Emery Acres Flower Farm, Rosemount, Minnesota: This midwestern farm has over 100 varieties of flowers and is open July - September.
Wilderbee Farm, Port Townsend, Washington: Pick lavender and cut flowers here during the summer.
The Farm at Park Winters, Winters, California: Pick from cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, dahlias, poppies, dianthus, sweet peas, love in a mist, agrostemmas, snap dragons, ranunculus, sunflowers and other flowers.