WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) — It might be a good time to smell the flowers.
Shenandoah Peonies has opened for its second season. Located on the outskirts of Waynesboro off Stuarts Draft Highway near Troyer’s Fruit & Produce Farm, there are only a few signs along the roadside navigating customers to the farm, where the flowers are laid out in rows in the fields and bloom bright and beautiful beneath the hot sun.
The peonies have been blooming quickly for over a week and are planted by Jelte Tjalf, a Dutch-born tulip farmer, and his wife, Tip, with the help of some friends. Originally from Holland, Netherlands, Tjalf said his home country is known for tulip flowers and agriculture due to the mild climate. He moved to the Lyndhurst area to work at a nearby tulip farm.
The couple initially created the peony farm to plant wholesale peonies for grocery stores but soon discovered competing with large corporations was too difficult.
“Plus, it’s boring, the wholesale industry,” Tjalf said. “Because you never get to meet your customers, and that’s the great thing about the field.”
Tjalf said he has met customers not only locally, but also internationally.
“It was an eye-opener for us,” Tjalf added. “People really, really enjoy the flowers, so now we get to meet the customers.”
The farm was opened for the first time to the public last May, but it did not gain too much attraction from the little peony signs they put up on the roads. However, once people suggested that Tjalf promote the peony fields via Facebook and Instagram and offer customers a free flower, the fields were flooded with flower pickers during the following days.
“It took off because everybody wanted a free flower,” Tjalf laughed. “So, everybody started sharing, and then, more and more people showed up, and we were surprised. People drove from Virginia Beach, Richmond, Washington D.C. and Roanoke.”
The couple has planted the peonies for over six years. The big flowers grow well with any soil and regular fertilizer, but their root clumps are planted by digging a fairly deep hole in the ground and are covered, then grow over time. The peonies start to bloom with their bulbs during the spring season throughout the summer months, then die off in the fall before regrowing again in the springtime.
In addition to the long rows of peonies, this year, the couple added purple hyacinths shaped into a heart and a sign that reads Love made from daffodils to represent Virginia’s slogan, “Virginia is for Lovers.” The couple also extended their peonies to another acre of land for customers to pick from. Deer and foxes are no concern to the fields, but the growing weeds between the plants are annoying, Tjalf said. To get rid of the weeds, the couple encourages flower pickers to make bouquets out of them to add accents to the flowers.
Tjalf did not expect the farm to succeed quickly and is grateful to open for another year.
“It’s great,” he said. “We’ve received some questions over the last few weeks, and we did not expect it. We had no clue that locally it’s so popular.”
Half of the profits made from the flower-picking will be donated to National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the other half will be used to plant more peonies and other flowers for the next season.
Shenandoah Peonies is open from 3 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the weekends through May 22.
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