Thursday, May 25 2023 10:44

Everything’s Coming Up Roses …

Written by Carol Metzker

Lavender, Peonies and Dahlias

Eleanor’s Peonies

It’s late on a June afternoon when the air finally turns cool. Purple-gray clouds roll in. The sky seems to melt into the silvery lavender blooms below, waving in the wind. Bumblebees and yellow sulphur butterflies go about their business, while longhorn cows in the valley glance up for a moment before lowering their heads to continue grazing.

I wonder if they know they’re part of a scene that’s as beautiful as any on Earth.



Lavender Fields

Munstead Hollow Lavender

Munstead Hollow Lavender, owned by the Abdala family for two decades, began growing lavender in recent years. Products from the fields debuted in 2022 — bunches of dried Grosso lavender known for filling long-lasting bouquets and Provence buds sought after for sweet fragrance and culinary properties. Munstead lavender, grown for fine quality oil and future products, also lends its name to the farm.

Munstead Hollow is one of many flower farms that make the Brandywine Valley an extraordinary place. Our region boasts both working farms — closed to the public, such as Munstead, that provide flowers and floral goods — and destinations that welcome guests for visits or special events.

Check whether advance reservations or appointments are required. In most cases the land is home to farmers’ families and their animals, as well as to the blooms. Please respect their boundaries and privacy, as well as rules about what, when and where to cut, to keep plants thriving.

Ooh, Pick Me!

Strawflower at Strawflower Farm

It’s sunset’s golden hour at Strawflower Farm in Glen Mills. Goldfinches flit among sunflowers. Swallowtails and monarchs feed at a rainbow of zinnias while aiding pollination. A young couple snips dahlias at one edge of the gardens, while a family gathers strawflowers and ageratum in the hoop house.

The farm has a dazzling array of flowers that look as beautiful after drying as they do the day they’re cut. Take in the red strawflowers, magenta globe amaranth, silvery blue eryngium, dark purple Hidcote lavender, yellow statice, pink baby’s breath and others. Grounds and hoop houses — where tall Veronica, blue bachelor’s buttons and sought-after Nigella grow — also produce strawflower and Nigella seeds for local True Love Seeds.

Strawflower Farm

A few years ago, Strawflower Farm owner Linda Clark took some extra bouquets from her home garden in Media to a community potluck, where she met an octogenarian who was giving away seedlings. Clark’s stop at his farm — intended only for picking up strawflower seedlings — turned into a visit to rows of all the flowers she dreamed of growing, sights of solar panels and a conversation that resulted in the purchase of the farm when the farmer retired.

Within a few years, Clark, her partner David and their small band of animals were creatively sustaining the farm and inviting people to book appointments online to pick flowers.


Big Things from Little Packages

Walnut Hill Flower Farm

Kristin Wisnewski greets me on her patio alongside a beautiful table: a fruit and cheese board adorned with her blue bachelor’s buttons and borage blossoms; a mason jar holding daisy-like feverfew, magenta zinnias and lavender bee balm; and a portrait of her grandparents.

Walnut Hill Flower Farm, now under the loving care of Kristin and her family, was once the home and property where her grandparents planted a fig tree that still supplies fruit for family and friends, and where a large blue hydrangea provides blooms for bouquets. The hill of buttercups and violets where Kristin once walked with her grandmother now holds rows of pom pom craspedia, forget-me-nots, frosted explosion grass and more. All sprout from seeds started in the basement by Kristin when she’s not teaching or tending her children and animals. Visitors can order bouquets, subscriptions or designs for small weddings.

Cheeseboard from Walnut Hill Flower Farm

Nearby, turn onto a seemingly unassuming lane in Glen Mills and be dazzled. The perfume in the air is as arresting as the view of brilliant red, pink, coral, magenta, yellow and white peonies. What started as Eleanor Tickner’s small garden “ran amok,” she says, growing into Eleanor’s Peonies. This happy accident delights peony lovers who want to spend time strolling rows of glorious flowers, choosing stems for a custom bunch or buying a bouquet from the cooler. Thanks to Eleanor’s passion for educating, guests also take home a slice of her vast knowledge about peony anatomy and division.

Breathe deeply. The season has arrived.

Turkey in the Straw … Flowers

Jack in lisianthus at Strawflower Farm

As the sun rises, farmer Linda and her companion Jack are found among rows, gathering a breakfast of flowers and berries — probably the largest, juiciest blackberries Pennsylvania has ever seen. Jack gobbles a few, then heads off to the purple lisianthus, leaving Linda behind to finish the rest of the morning’s picking. What a turkey! Really.

Jack is a friendly ornamental royal palm turkey, with red waddle and blue trim around his eyes, who struts his black-tipped white fan while wandering Strawflower Farm’s hoop house. More than a pretty face, he snorts hello to farm visitors and scratches the ground to unearth turmeric bulbs during harvest season.

He’s not the only critter there. Percie the goat, Scout the cat and others make their home at Strawflower Farm. Linda’s love of animals is legendary. Last summer she put Magic, their young alpaca, into the back seat of her car to travel to another farm for a playdate with another young alpaca.

Jetson on the tractor at Eleanor’s Peonies

Flowers take the spotlight in fields, but farm animals are also superstars for gifts and help. Rare Indio Gigantes — colorful three-to-four-foot tall chickens residing at Munstead Hollow — lay pink, tan or speckled eggs. Farmer Julia Bull’s video of dog Ranger helping her spread compost at Hickory Groves Gardens went viral on Instagram. At Walnut Hill, tabby cat Gilbert follows Kristin to the flowers and hunts voles. Cookie the hen comes to her clicking sounds to eat grubs discovered near the plants. Strawflower Farm’s goats and alpaca also provide wool that ends up in soft, beautiful scarves.

Sometimes animals are simply the best company and entertainment. Boone the rescue miniature horse and his donkey pals provide photo ops for social media fans of Hope Hill Lavender Farm. Jetson the St. Bernard trots among peonies, then keeps Eleanor company near the fan in the shed on scorching summer days.

Flora and fauna — the perfect match!

Find More Flower Farms

Be sure to check that the farms are open to visitors before you go.

Chadds Ford Greenhouses

Eden Flowers and the Arts
Kennett Square. 610-955-1373

Farm and Gardens of Coatesville

The Farm at Oxford

Front Porch Flower Farm
Phoenixville. On Facebook

Gunther Sunflower Field
Chester Springs. On Facebook

Hendricks’ Flowers

Hickory Grove Gardens

Oxford Produce Auction
On Facebook

Styer’s Peonies
Chadds Ford.

Wildflower Farm (temporarily closed)

Lavender Farms

Hope Hill Lavender Farm

Mt. Airy Lavender Farm

Peach Valley Lavender

Warwick Furnace Farm