Last November, Frank and Sessy planted about 1,000 tulip bulbs in a bed on their farm in Clarksville. Then, right on cue, they pushed up through the earth about 3 weeks ago. This week, they are starting to bloom, and what a wonderful bounty of beauty they are providing. Tulips are a bit of a pain to plant and protect (from rabbits, squirrels and deer), but when they are the first thing to bloom in the spring, all that hard work is suddenly worth it!
At Blue Gables Farm, we think of March 1 as the day when we start putting seeds in trays, but actually a few varieties need to be started before then. Still, the effort really gets rolling at the beginning of March. This year, we will pot up and germinate more than 2,000 tiny plants that we hope will grow over time and produce thousands of blooms for our farmer’s market, CSA and custom cuts customers.
If you take a peek under the snow-covered fabric in our flower field you’ll find thriving little plants that are perfectly adapted to winter in Maryland. On the coldest of days, they sort of hibernate and wait for better days. On warmer days, they wake up and grow a little. It’s a privilege to watch such amazing, stubborn vitality despite the worst weather Maryland has to offer.
Farming is, by its nature, a seasonal life. Winter is a quiet time on a farm. It’s a time to rest and regroup. It’s also a time to dream and get ready for the crazy abundance of spring, summer and fall. There is beauty in every season, and part of what we love about farming is that we get to be outdoors to experience it. We get to see and feel the amazing variety that a full year brings. There is a beginning and end to every season, and there is no end to the cycle of them. As it should be.
Winter can be a challenging time for flower lovers in Zone 7. Hellebores with their evergreen leaves and early spring flowers help Sessy and Frank at Blue Gables Farm get through the cold, dark months. We like to use Hellebores as cut flowers because they’re really unusual and compelling, and because they bloom in early spring when few other flowers do.
Mother’s Day starts in November at Blue Gables Farm when we plant the colors for the following spring’s tulip crop and plant huge quantities of bulbs in our flower field. Frank says looking at all those bulbs makes him hungry for onion soup! There is a long, cold, dark winter between us and spring, but when the days get longer and the sun stronger, the soil will warm and a menagerie of colorful flowers will jump out of the ground and proclaim a new season!
Zinnias hold a special place in the hearts of flower farmers mostly because they are such prolific producers and have such beautiful blooms. The more you cut a zinnia, the more it will produce! And, at Blue Gables, no flowers we grow attract as many butterflies as our zinnias.
Like many farmers, we struggle with crop damage caused by whitetail deer. We have learned that tall fences are the best way to deter them. Other farmers use dogs and sprays, and hair, soap and their urine to fend off hungry deer. In the end, we have accepted that we must coexist.
Soon after we started selling flowers via our website and at roadside stands, people started expressing interest in visiting Blue Gables Farm. We understood their desire to see the flowers growing and experience the fun of picking out blooms. It wasn’t long before Custom Cuts became a big part of our business. It gives us a lot of joy to welcome visitors, answer their questions and share our love of flowers with them.