Spring is on the horizon, though stubborn winter is hanging on as I write.  Despite low nighttime temps, the warm daytime breezes and that one 80 degree day we had makes us sure that Mother Nature has goodness in store in the coming days. With the promises of a new growing season on everyone’s minds, I will share the wisdom of some fellow growers in the Southeast Region who answered these questions:
1.) What are your top 3 best-selling flower crops?
2.) What is your personal favorite crop out of everything you   grow and why?
3.) What was the best new crop you grew last year and why?
 Include growing suggestions and any specific advice.

Donna & Tim Mills of Floral & Hardy Farm in Lexington, South Carolina (zone 7b) say their three best sellers are sunflowers, Christmas wreaths, and Benary zinnias. And in Donna’s words: “My favorite is hybrid delphinium, because I never thought I could grow it here, and when we did it was drop dead gorgeous! It always gets a lot of attention at the market – I love the “Did you really grow this HERE?” question. My favorite new crop was ‘Frosted Explosion’ panicum, but it wasn’t at the time, because it was so short. But I dried all I had and used it in wreaths to sell at the market, and people absolutely loved it! I want to try it again, hopefully we’ll get better stem length this time around.”

Steve Bender of Homestead Flower Farm in Warrenton, North Carolina (zone 7) said his best sellers are zinnias, celosias, and peonies. Steve’s favorite to grow is larkspur “Because of its length, beauty, longevity, and the option it gives us to use it as a dried flower.” He liked growing some new varieties of lisianthus last year, like ‘Cinderella’, and reported “We get 2-3 flushes of blooms through the summer and fall when grown in a well-vented hoophouse.”

Marian F. Maloney of Memory Orchard in Tupelo, Mississippi (zone 7b) grows a variety of plants, and listed her best sellers in categories: bulbs – iris, tulips and lilies; perennials – monarda, penstemon, phlox; annuals – laceflower, zinnia, sunflower; shrubs – hydrangea, kerria, spirea. Marian’s personal favorite is ‘White Honeybee’ agastache. Her best new crop was gomphrena ‘Fireworks’.

Ella King of King’s Country Gardens in Owensboro, Kentucky (zone 6a) said her three top sellers are sunflowers, lilies, and lisianthus. Ella says she just can’t help loving peonies because “They are so beautiful and now that my crop is beginning to bloom on a regular basis I fall in love again every spring! One of these days I hope they will be my biggest seller.” Her best new crop was Panicum elegans ‘Frosted Explosion’.  She explained why: “I love it because it looks light and airy in a bouquet, is great for wedding work and for use as a filler. I sold all that I grew last year, so I am planting more this year. I started my plants from seed in my unheated hoophouse and then moved the plants out to the field. My best advice is to put them where you can find them if weeds tend to take over. I mulched mine last season and it helped to keep the weeds down and I was able to find all plants. They did great in full sun.”

Susie Whaley of Knot Hill Flower Farm in Durham, North Carolina (zone 7a) grew these bestsellers: rudbeckia, ammi, and dianthus. Her favorite crop is zinnias because they are so easy to grow from seed and are mostly trouble free (except the powdery mildew). Here are Susie’s favorite new crops: “I grew dill on a larger scale last year and really liked it. It has a nice delicate texture and fragrance. I spaced them tight (6”x6″) and they branched beautifully. I grew both ‘Vierling’ and ‘Bouquet’ and couldn’t tell any difference between them. They took 15 weeks from seed to first cut.

“I grew godetia ‘Grace Mix’ for the first time last year and loved it. I started them the third week of September, transplanted at the end of October and took the first cuts the second week of May. I had crop netting in place when I transplanted on a 6″x12″ spacing and unfortunately did not pull the netting up around the plants as they grew. After pulling the winter row cover off, any attempt to pull the netting up around the multi-branched stems did nothing but break them. I was able to take quite a few cuttings but after a heavy rain storm they were lying down. This year the netting is in place slightly above the plants.”

Janet C. Nutt of  Janbil Farm Country Cuttings in Cedartown, Georgia (zone 7) is located in northwest Georgia, outside  Atlanta. Her bestsellers are zinnias, larkspur, and sunflowers. She has recently begun to grow Orlaya grandiflora (a fuller Queen Anne’s lace) because it “Reseeds well and is great by itself or as a filler in bouquets. I like anything that grows and reseeds well and works in bouquets.”

Cathy Jones of Perry-winkle Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (zone 7a) grew these bestsellers: zinnias, Dutch irises, and basils. Her favorites to grow are basils because they make such a great filler in bouquets.

I will end with my own three bestsellers here in zone 8a : zinnias, sunflowers, and celosia. My favorite flowers to grow would be Karma dahlias because they’re so gorgeous.

Charles Hendrick

Yuri Hana Flower Farm, Inc.

Charles Hendrick Yuri Hana Flower Farm, Inc. [email protected]