Blooming Love

Flowers from three local growers are fresh, diverse and exquisite.

Stacy Hannings, of Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand in Peterborough, picks armloads of flowers every day for the grab-and-go
bouquets she creates. 

The growing trend toward eating locally grown, freshly harvested, seasonal produce has extended to include the flowers that grace the table as well. Sometimes called “slow flowers” or “loca-flor,” echoing the world-wide slow food and locavore movements, buying locally gives you peace of mind knowing that your flowers are sustainably grown and free from chemicals. Also the flowers have not traveled thousands of miles to reach you, ensuring fresh, long-lasting blossoms. Best of all, your flower dollars stay close to home, supporting an area farmer.

Check out your local farmstand or farmers’ market, and enjoy the seasonality of the blooms they have to offer; every week brings something new. From the North Country to the Seacoast to the Vermont border, there are many farmer-florists in our state. Here are the stories of three farms behind the flowers.

Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand

Stacy Hannings loves amaranth ‘Opopeo’ not only for its decorative flower spikes, but also for its dark green and burgundy Foliage.

Rosaly’s Top Ten Annuals

  • Zinnias ‘State Fair’ and ‘Benary’s Giant’
  • Cosmos ‘Sensation’ and ‘Double Click’
  • Salvia ‘Victoria’
  • Scabiosa ‘Pincushion Mix’
  • Asters ‘Powderpuff’ and ‘Giant Ray’
  • Snapdragons ‘Rocket’
  • Rudbeckias ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Cherokee Sunset’
  • Amaranth ‘Opopeo’ and ‘Love-lies-bleeding’
  • Sunflowers ‘Autumn Beauty’ and ‘Teddy Bear’
  • Statice and strawflowers—both are excellent for drying

If you live in the Monadnock Region, you have most likely heard of Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand in Peterborough. Started in 1973 by Rosaly Bass, it was the first farm in the state to become certified organic. Longtime right-hand man Matt Gifford is now a co-owner with Bass, ensuring the farm’s future in the twenty-first-century.

Along with raising twenty-three acres of vegetables for the farmstand and offering pick-your-own berries, Rosaly’s Garden also grows an acre of you-pick flowers. Perennials (such as hydrangea, delphinium, peonies, yarrow, bee balm and echinacea) along with sixty varieties of annuals (including celosia, snapdragons, zinnias, calendula, cosmos and sunflowers) combine so there are always plenty of flowers to choose from. Customers are able to create their own bouquets from early July through late September, but August is peak time for the greatest variety of blooms. Rosaly's is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. until Columbus Day.

Rosaly’s Garden charges by the pound for most flowers, except hydrangeas and sunflowers, which are sold by the stem. “It’s hard for people to grasp how many flowers are in a pound, but I guarantee it’s more than you think,” says Stacy Hannings, a manager at Rosaly’s Garden. “Customers pick a small bucket and often spend less than $10.”

This is Hannings’ eighth season working at Rosaly’s, and in that time, she has seen demand for locally grown, organic produce and flowers grow. “Since our farm is organic, we are often assumed to be more expensive. In reality, our prices are comparable (and often less expensive) than many local grocery stores and florists,” Hannings says.

If you don’t have time to pick your own, Hannings cuts flowers every day and creates the fresh bouquets on display in the farmstand along with single stems of sunflowers, delphiniums and hydrangeas. “Customers always buy single-stem sunflowers in the farmstand,” she says. “It’s impossible to turn down your own little piece of sunshine, especially on a rainy day.”

If you have a special occasion coming up and want flowers with a certain flair, Hannings—a sculptor and photographer with a bachelor degree in fine arts in studio art from Colby-Sawyer College—will custom design bouquets in the colors and flowers you desire. 

Beneficials such as bees and butterflies appreciate zinnias that are organically grown.

“My art background helps me choose colors that are complementary, and make bouquets and arrangements that are balanced, yet not too symmetrical,” she says. “When I make sculptures, I am always adapting to my materials, learning what works. It’s the same with bouquets. You have to let the flowers guide you.”

Weddings are a specialty. Brides come with their friends and make a morning of it, picking buckets of flowers for the happy day. “Each bride has their own vision of what they want their wedding flowers to look like,” Hannings says. “So I try my best to steer them toward flowers that will fit what they’re looking for. I love being able to help people make their vision for their special day come to life. Brides often come in a little frazzled, clearly trying to get a million things done in the days before the wedding. I like to think our gardens are a little escape from the stress, where they can focus on the simple task of cutting flowers. It can be very relaxing.”

Hannings has a few words of advice: “Picking flowers in the morning is best, before they have a chance to dry out in the midday sun. Bringing your own buckets or vases makes transporting the flowers much easier, but we do have supplies in the farmstand if you need them. For longer lasting flowers, pick blooms that are only just starting to open, avoiding ones that are fully bloomed or starting to curl and brown.”

Rosaly’s Garden and Farmstand is the place to go for fresh produce and flowers in the Peterborough area. Visitors are encouraged enjoy the surroundings, and relax at one of their shady picnic tables or benches. You may see an artist capturing the scene on canvas.

If you don’t want to do the picking, call in your order a few weeks ahead and Rosaly’s will have the flowers picked and waiting.

“We also encourage our customers to treat Rosaly’s as a destination,” Hannings says. “Pack a lunch and spend the day!”

Tarrnation Flower Farm

The unheated greenhouse stretches the season on both ends, giving Vanessa Tarr a long harvest of dahlias, one of her most popular flowers.

Tarrnation Flower Farm in Sugar Hill is a family affair. Father-daughter duo Reggie and Vanessa Tarr have turned their six-acre property—tucked in the hills north of Franconia Notch—into a premier flower farm.

For years, Reggie rented this fertile piece of land near the Gale River that was once part of the neighboring potato farm. A well-known landscape designer who worked for more than thirty years in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Reggie finally purchased the land in 1997 and retired to his property in 2011. He has rebuilt the old barn into a cozy home—which is so darn cute it was featured in Country Living magazine in 2014—and settled in to raise vegetables and flowers. “Everyone around here knows Reggie’s Veggies,” Vanessa says. “If you have a question about gardening, he’s your man.”

While growing up, Vanessa worked for her dad. She broadened her horticultural and floral design skills while working on farms in New Hampshire, Maine, Panama and Spain. After interning with farmer-florist Erin Benzakein at the family-run Floret Flower Farm in Skagit Valley, Washington, Vanessa was inspired to come home and start her own flower growing and design business. Reggie was all in, and Tarrnation Flower Farm was born.

Tarrnation is not only a working farm but also a beauty to behold. Neatly kept beds next to the 150-year-old barn are laid out on the diagonal. Here, row after row of annuals (including cosmos, globe amaranth, celosia, dill, nasturtiums, asters, calendula and phlox) join perennials (such as peonies, ladies’ mantle, astilbe, delphiniums and foxglove, among others). The ratio is about one-quarter perennials to three-quarters annuals. “They have to be winners or they don’t stay,” says Vanessa, a no-nonsense businesswoman.

The barn that houses Tarrnation Flower Farm’s shop was the original farmhouse on the Sugar Hill property more than one hundred years ago. Vanessa Tarr steps into its cooling shade to work on her bouquets.

She tries to pick her blooms before the bees have done their work. “If the flowers are fully pollinated, they will crash, and not last the five to seven days we like to see,” she explains. Marigolds are grown as much for a trap crop for Japanese beetles as for their blossoms. “The beetles like the marigolds and leave everything else alone,” Vanessa says. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides are used.

Left: Colorful annual asters at Tarrnation Flower Farm have a long vase-life, making them a must-have flower for any cutting garden.

Right: Bouquets and local honey can be found in the barn where Vanessa Tarr has her floral design studio. Tarrnation Flower Farm is open into the holiday season, offering wreaths, kissing balls, garlands, and arrangements constructed from flowers and foliage she and Reggie have grown and dried over the summer, which is then woven with foraged native greens, such as cedar, juniper and pine. 

The unheated greenhouse is a new and much needed addition for a farm in this zone 3 location where growing seasons are extremely short. “Winters here are not consistent, and we are at the whim of Mother Nature,” Vanessa says. “We had our first frost in early September last year.” The Tarrs planted two thousand tulips and anemones under the protection of the greenhouse, hoping for an early spring crop. Later, the bulbs were replaced with dahlia tubers and lisianthus. A row of cold frames, only one of which is outfitted with a heat mat, is used in the spring to get plants up and growing before they are planted out in the beds. Some, such as larkspur, are direct seeded in the garden in early spring.

Foxglove is one of Vanessa Tarr’s favorite flowers to use in arrangements and bouquets for weddings. 

Vanessa Tarr’s Favorite Wedding Flowers

  • Phlox ‘Cherry Caramel’
  • Ornamental herbs
  • Dahlias
  • Peonies
  • Spirea
  • Mock orange
  • Foxglove
  • Flowering vines, suchas clematis, cup-and-saucer vine, and honeysuckle

Since Tarrnation Flower Farm sells more dahlias than the Tarrs can grow in the greenhouse, about one thousand more are planted in the open field. “We grow twenty-five varieties,” Vanessa says. “People go wild for them!”

Other beds are home to zinnias, gladiolus and snapdragons, which need horizontal netting to keep their stems growing straight, and there is a huge sunflower patch. Annual vines—including love-in-a-puff, cup-and-saucer vine and sweet peas— grow on a tall fence. Even though zone 3 is a tough location for roses, the Tarrs are adding to the fragrant ‘Morden Blush’ roses growing behind Reggie’s house to build up a collection to cut for weddings.

Only the greenhouse has irrigation; the rest of the gardens are watered by hand or overhead sprinklers.

Vanessa runs a floral design studio and farmstand in their barn, which is open from May through September on Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. “Our biggest revenue source is wedding design,” Vanessa says. “I take weddings almost every weekend during peak growing season.”

Customers can support the farm by becoming members of the flower CSA (community-supported agriculture). In return for an upfront payment, CSA members receive one bouquet a week for twelve weeks with a full share or six weeks with a half share. Wednesday is pickup day, and any bouquets that are not claimed are donated to the local nursing home. From June through September, Tarrnation Flower Farm is at the Littleton Farmers’ Market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mountain Roots Farm

All Mountain Roots Farm photgraphy by John W. Hession

Heidi Cook, of Mountain Roots Farm, tends her flowers from seed to centerpiece. Located in Bethlehem, the farm offers scrumptious French baked goods along with beautiful flowers and other garden bounty.

When Heidi Cook and Kevin Gordon bought the old Bethlehem Flower Farm on Route 302, the property had been vacant for about five years. Most of the daylilies were gone, weeds had taken over the perennial beds and the buildings needed work, but Cook and Gordon could see the possibilities.

Gordon has a degree in horticulture and landscape design, and worked designing and building gardens and landscapes in Vermont. Cook, a New Hampshire native, has worked on and managed several organic farms and CSAs. Cook and Gordon are committed to sustainable farming and a self-sufficient lifestyle.

Both are outdoor enthusiasts (Gordon is a licensed fly-fishing guide); in July 2013, they were in New Hampshire hiking with friends when they drove past the farm for sale. After looking for a place to homestead in Vermont for several years with no luck, this seemed like a perfect location. “We were familiar with the Littleton Farmers’ Market,” Cook says. “There is a great community here, and we could enjoy a healthy lifestyle in a beautiful area while growing a business.” By September, the property was theirs, and then the work began. Cook and Gordon started the renovation process—fixing up the buildings, painting fences and reclaiming the gardens to bring the farm back to life.

Heidi Cook’s Best Cut Flowers for Beginners

  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Yarrow
  • Sunflowers
  • Ageratum
  • Sweet pea
  • China aster
  • Statice
  • Scabiosa

The first growing season, Cook and Gordon concentrated on vegetables. “I’d been growing food for about ten years,” Cook says, “but I also put in a teeny patch of flowers.” From there, Cook and Gordon added animals: pigs, sheep, goats and chickens. “The goats helped reclaim the overgrown pasture,” Gordon says.

Cook and Gordon opened up a farmstand in the 1800s barn, selling flowers, eggs, vegetables and some meats. “We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of stop-in traffic,” Cook says. In addition to being a gardener, she is a fantastic baker; so, on the weekends, she would whip up some of her specialties, including croissants, sweet and savory galettes, biscotti, scones, cookies, brownies, and babka. These proved to be very popular, drawing more shoppers to the farm. “The Littleton revival is helping us, and the Bethlehem artist’s community is very supportive,” Cook says.

Over the years, Cook and Gordon added more cut flowers and grew fewer vegetables to sell, finding that with the sandy, acidic soil and short growing season, flowers are easier to grow. “We built a greenhouse and some hoop houses to start the plants in and also use them to extend our season,” Gordon says. Woven plastic keeps the weeds at bay and drip irrigation supplies water to the plants. Cook and Gordon grow zinnias, sun-flowers, amaranth, asters, statice, bachelor buttons, sweet peas and dahlias—to name just a few. The wide paths are seeded with clover that makes a nice surface to walk on and enriches the soil.

Cut flowers and baked goods are turning into the most profitable items; along with expanding the flower gardens, Cook and Gordon are putting in a commercial kitchen. “Flowers and baking are the things that make me happy,” Cook says. So Mountain Roots Farm went back to its roots, operating as a full-service flower farm and floral studio. Cook and Gordon run a weekly farm stand offering Cook’s French baked goods, and they partner with local farms to supply meat, vegetables and other products. Cook and Gordon will also be selling their flowers wholesale to local florists and providing bouquets to the Littleton Food Co-Op.

The lovely garden beds are open to the public, and Cook and Gordon envision the farm becoming a destination garden and wedding venue. With Mount Washington in the distance serving as a backdrop, who wouldn’t want to say “I do” in this gorgeous location?

Zinnias give long-lasting
Sunflowers, such as
'ProCut Gold', come
in many sizes.
Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’
is a great bouquet filler.
Cosmos ‘Double Click
Snow Puff’ has strong
stems for cutting.

Categories: Gardening & Landscape