By Tovah Martin
Admit it: Ever since the weather started warming up, you’ve been lusting for a big bouquet of fresh flowers. You can think of a dozen different places where that bouquet would be primo, starting with your kitchen table and moving into your bedroom nightstand and bathroom sink. But come to think of it, you’ve also been yearning to get outside into the fresh air for a family outing. Well, here’s an idea: How about combining those two strong impulses for a Pick-Your-Own (PYO) flower event?
Imagine a beautiful day with the birdies singing and the pollinators fluttering while you are in your shirtsleeves lapping up the opportunity to soak in some sunbeams. Stretched in front of you are beds of beautiful flowers just begging to be cut, whisked home, and arranged into vases to furnish days—maybe even weeks—of enjoyment. You could make it into a family affair. You might bring your mom, kids, cousins, best friends, and your favorite pair of pruning shears. You can do it in a flash or spend time savoring the scene. And you can snag flowers in exactly the color combo that your creative juices crave.
Have a wedding coming up? Or do you just want to do something nice for your church group? Maybe you need to give someone a surprise smile or a little boost to elevate their flagging spirits. PYO flowers are capable of performing all those feats and more. Often, your clutch of flowers will cost a fraction of a similar purchase from a florist. Plus, you get boasting rights – You are the creative genius behind your arrangement.
Fortunately, Connecticut offers several opportunities for PYO with cut flower fields scattered throughout the state. Some open early in the season. Others kick in during July onward when cut flowers are going strong. Check out our overview of options right here. Get ready, get set, start picking!
Wicked Tulips, Preston, CT
If many thousands of tulips sparkling in the sun say spring to you, Wicked Tulips has a treat. The result of a eureka moment that struck Jeroen and Keriann Koeman. When they had leftover tulips, they resourcefully planted their excess and then invited the public to come pick flowers in the spring. At the time, they were based in Virginia, but in 2015, they found land in Rhode Island and began Wicked Tulips—opening their tulip field to PYO crowds every spring. Their idea was so wildly successful that Wicked Tulips expanded to five acres in Preston, CT where they planted 550,000 tulips for the 2022 season just begging to be plucked in an ultra-scenic bucolic rural farm field.
Because Mother Nature has a mind of her own, they can’t predict the exact opening date, but you should start looking for online tickets at their website (that’s www.wickedtulips.com) in late April or early May. “We want the fields to look absolutely gorgeous when you come,” explains Leah Hill, “so we wait for 30% of the tulips to be open.” From the starting date, PYO usually continues for about 2 weeks—focusing on a timeframe when all the flowers are picture perfect. They also stagger entry times to make your experience sublime.
Not only does Wicked Tulips endeavor to make a memorable PYO experience, they also offer the full gamut of tulips. We’re talking 70 different varieties in the full spectrum of tulip hues. Being in the bulb business, Jeroen plants tulips of every shape and frill, including traditional, peony-like doubles, lily-petaled tulips, fringed tulips, parrot tulips, and more. Adults are charged $20.00 for entry with a ticket that allows plucking of 10 tulips to take home. Additional tulips can be purchased for $1.00 a stem. Children 5-17 are charged $5.00 for entry, and for little kids 5 and under, no ticket is needed. No pets are allowed other than valid service animals. And for your picking convenience, buckets are furnished, or you can bring your own. Get ready to savor a memorable experience tiptoeing through the tulips…with souvenirs to bring home.
Anderson Acres Farm, 1 Anderson Acres Rd, Kent, CT
Although Anderson Acres in Kent is not a PYO venue, this productive flower farm comes close with a 4-week subscription for a spring bouquet picked up at their barn on Thursday afternoons starting in May from their two acres planted solidly to flowers. They run the gamut from tulips to ranunculus, and it doesn’t end there. For the rest of the growing season, you can buy their voluptuous arrangements spilling with dahlias and a broad spectrum of other fabulous flowers grown at the farm sold either in bunches or arrangements available as single purchases or by subscription. Go to www.andersonacresfarm.com for details. And there’s more…starting in May, Anderson Acres sets up a flower bar with tiers of buckets overflowing with cut flowers at the Kent Flower Market in front of the RT Facts Design and Antiques shop in the middle of town. The Flower Market usually convenes every 2nd Saturday morning during the growing season, but there are exceptions, so go to Kent Flower Market on Facebook for dates and times.
Petersen’s Flower Farm, 125 Burgess Road, South Windsor, CT
This 15-acre venue provides the full spectrum farming experience including a corn path and pumpkins. In 2003, they hatched the eureka concept of planting rows of cut flowers. “It started as a silly little idea to just try flowers, but it’s grown,” says Susan Petersen. Petersen’s Flower Farm now grows 4 acres of PYO cut flowers, available from the weekend after July 4th onward. Planted in May, they strive to give visitors the full breadth of options. For folks who don’t want to wade too deeply into the field, they scatter a smorgasbord throughout so you can create a bouquet without wandering far. The diversity is jaw-dropping – including gomphrena, snapdragons, love-lies-bleeding, and other amaranths, cosmos, ammi, ageratum, dusty miller, celosia, etc. In other words, you could go to this field and create a full, totally alluring floral creation complete with all the fixings in any color of the spectrum. And the selection will send you into orbit—Petersen’s Flower Farm plants 2,500 seeds of zinnias, for example. Plus, they put in 4,000 sunflowers – of all types.
Not only is the cutting experience totally mind-boggling, but the day will be memorable. “People come and hang out,” says Susan, “it’s like a little piece of nature.” Envision a field bouncing with birds and buzzing with pollinators and you’ve touched on the ambiance. At their farm stand, Petersen’s has cutters and buckets for your convenience. Cut flowers are sold for $8.00 a pound, no matter what you gather.
Scotts’ Farm and Greenhouses, 81 Plains Rd, Essex, CT
From mid to late July onward, the one-acre field beside the greenhouses at Scotts’ Farm is buzzing with brides selecting their own flowers, florists stocking up on fresh cuts, restaurateurs gathering the goodies to create their own tabletop bouquets, and folks like you and I blissfully enjoying the bounty. Coming from a family with five generations of farming in their heritage, the Scotts open their farm stand early in spring, selling bedding plants, perennials, and patio pots started in the greenhouses. Simultaneously, behind the scenes, they are busy plowing the cut flower field. Although they can never predict exactly when it will be ready for picking, they suggest you keep an eye on their website, www.scottsfarms.com, and Facebook page. Or, if you happen to be cruising by, look for fellow cut flower enthusiasts filling their buckets—the field is clearly visible from the road.
With 80 varieties of flowers including colorful rudbeckias, marigolds, gomphrena, celosias, sunflowers, amaranths, etc, the scene is so ultra-colorful, you can’t help but rubberneck when driving by. Ask Jane Scott-Lavezzoli to name her favorite bouquet prima donnas, and she won’t miss a beat before declaring zinnias (7 rows!) and dahlias as personal favorites—a preference that is clearly evident in the field. When picking commences for the season, the public is invited to partake any time that the farm stand is open. You are encouraged to bring your own buckets—water is available at the farm stand for hydrating your stems, and the blossoms are sold by weight–$9.95 per lb. Picking continues until frost. Last year, the field was still pumping out flowers in November, much to everyone’s delight.
The Dahlia Daughters
If you ever found yourself tooling around Cornwall, CT in late summer, you surely slammed on the brakes as you whizzed by Something to Crow About—Amanda Chase’s legendary, very prominent, and much-publicized dahlia field. She was the dahlia supplier to the stars—furnishing estates, florists, and brides with blossoms like you wouldn’t believe. “Mom had 2,500 dahlias,” recalls her daughter, Allison Chase.
Tragically, we lost Amanda a few years ago. But her daughters, Allison and Stephanie Chase, are determined to keep the legacy alive. For two years, they’ve been selling PYO dahlias by appointment from their roadside raised beds in Sharon. With 16 raised beds (and adding more each season), they’re working toward their mom’s numbers. “We have 700 dahlias total now,” beams Allison, “plus we planted 200 zinnias for filler last year, and we’re planning to add red hibiscus and coleus as well for this coming season.” Plus, the dahlia initiative is now based on the Sharon family farm where their mother first began gardening.
The Chases can’t predict exactly when PYO will commence this year—in 2020 they had blossoms for Father’s Day weekend. But in 2021, the dahlias held off until the 3rd week in July. Check out their website at www.thedahliadaughters.farm for updates. When it does happen, PYO is by appointment only and subject to availability—local restaurants are clued in, and demand sometimes overwhelms the crop. But these dahlias keep pumping out their phenomenal flowers until frost, so get in line and PYO dahlias will probably be in your future. Big, voluptuous, and heart-racingly outrageous, these dahlias are sold by the stem.
Brown’s Harvest, 1911 Poquonock Ave, Windsor, CT
Proof again that farming is something that you can’t get out of your blood, Kathi Martin is the fifth generation to dig in at Brown’s Harvest. This year will be the farm’s 44th season of PYO strawberries and pumpkins. Five years ago, they added a PYO Sunflower Fest kicking off with a two-day event in 2018. It was such a happy moment that they now plant acres of sunflowers. There’s a field for picking and a field to photograph your happy campers finding the sunflowers of their dreams. And the event is now spread over two weekends in August with vendors and food trucks as part of the festivities. Plus, painting and flower craft events are scheduled during the week in between.
To make sure that everyone has a spacious experience, timed tickets for entering the field and picking sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos are sold online, go to www.brownsharvest.com for more information. Plus, there’s a flower-planted labyrinth to walk for meditation. “August is flower focus month,” says Kathi. “It’s really an experience,” she beams, “and it brings such joy to people.”
Buttonwood Farm & Ice Cream, 471 Shetucket Tpke, Griswold, CT
Although Duane Button is not the type to boast, he admits that they grow “quite a few sunflowers” at Buttonwood Farm in Griswold. To be specific, they plant 14-15 acres of sunflowers. Some fields are meant solely for admiring during their Sunflowers for Wishes Event. However, for your PYO pleasure, approximately 3 acres are planted with 15-18 cut flower varieties of pollenless sunflowers. To be held this year on July 23-31, 2022, the 9-day festival is totally geared to benefiting Make-a-Wish Foundation of CT, an organization that grants life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Moving into their twentieth year hosting the fundraiser, Buttonwood Farm figures they’ve raised a total of $2 million in donations for this incredibly good cause.
Dedicated to making the event accessible to everyone, Duane says, “There’s no admission fee to the farm and no parking fee. We have sunflower fields for viewing and taking pictures. If you want to spread out a blanket and have a picnic, nobody is going to ask you for a donation. But there is a suggested $2.00 donation per person for admission into the cutting field plus a $2.00 per stem donation for cutting.” And here’s another highlight for those who build up an appetite while finding the sunflower of their dreams: The farm is famed for Kim Button’s ice cream (she’s Duane’s wife) with 60+ lip smacking flavors, like Peppermint Stick, Almond Coconut, and Strawberry Cheesecake. But again, “Nobody is going to look at you cross-eyed if you don’t buy ice cream,” Duane promises. Another promise:
You are going to have a ball. Go to www.buttonwoodfarmicecream.com for more information.