3Splitz Farm

Pumped About Clumps

Flower blooming season has wound down. But the work of flowers goes on year round. Every season has its special brand of planning, reaping, and sowing.

I had never really even heard of dahlias until we dove in head first to flower farming. They were prissy. Expensive. Fussy. Temperamental. But oh, what beauties. One of my partners wanted dahlias, so off we went into the world of tubers. Why tubers? Some plants grow from bulbs, but dahlias emerge from tubers. We ordered them from several US growers. I’m a sucker for a good name, so I ordered some based on their clever names…Chick-a-dee for the 2 Chicks, for example. Others I ordered based on interesting photos or descriptions. And Cafe au Lait, the “Queen of Dahlias,” seemed like a must-have.

We put them in the ground according to the specific directions. Waited to water them. Watched and watched. The zinnias were already well on their way, for months even, when the dahlias first started to bloom. They were just as promised, unusual and exquisite. Colorful and intricate. They were worth the wait. Even the Queen lived up to her royal hype.

Their fussiness doesn’t end when they stop blooming. If you want to keep multiplying your plants, you can dig up the tubers and, with a little luck, they can be divided into multiple tubers which will each grow into a new plant the following year.

I waited until after frost, cut them back, then held my breath as I tried to dig up the tubers. Tubers are delicate things so it was a bit of a process to find and lift them without breaking them.

Voila! I was pretty giddy as I lifted the earth attached to each stem. Up came clump after clump after clump of tubers. From 22 plants last year to maybe 50 or 60 next year, plus new varieties we will add. It’s so exciting! Each clump felt like a small victory.

Keeping the tubers healthy is another stage of tricky. Right now they are air drying before we will move them to more permanent storage. Then we will wait a few months before we divide and plant again.

Another example of learning in action from the flower field.

3Splitz Farm, author moments

Moments of Vacation

We’ve talked about life being lifey lately. In addition it’s just been a busy, hectic time. Sports leagues, long days at work, volunteer commitments, owning businesses and all that goes with it…it’s just kinda out of control these days.

My county had a true fall break this year for the first time. A glorious five-day weekend in the middle of my favorite time of year, the fall. When I saw this coming on the calendar, I imagined a quick trip to the coast for some salt and sand therapy. Or maybe a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the leaves change. A long hike in the great outdoors or laughs at Dollywood. I dreamed of a getaway.

Life being what it is, enough little commitments popped up that a getaway wasn’t in the cards this year. Just too much going on and the lure of catching up mixed in with a few poorly-timed “have tos” would keep me at home.

As I scrolled through the posts of colleagues and local friends who had hightailed it out of town to Disney or even Napa Valley, I had to reframe my mindset. Instead of being stuck at home pouting, how could I find those moments of vacation in my days?

Coffee Break: I love my coffee in the morning, but it’s generally on a timer. I have my two cups then I’m out the door. I decided to reframe my mind to think of an extra cup of coffee at a leisurely pace as a morning getaway. Even just a slower pace can be a helpful break.

Day trip: I went to a town I had never been to for a few hours to hang out / support / cheer on friends. I ate at a local bagel shop. I saw some new places and things to wonder about. It was less than two hours from home, but just taking that little trip made me feel refreshed from my day-to-day.

Appreciate nature: I had some things to take care of at the farm this weekend. Although I had work to do, I tried to remind myself to stop and appreciate the beauty of the dahlias and fresh fall air. I ate lunch outside on the porch. I took a few extra moments to breathe it all in and notice it.

Maybe noticing is the secret to finding those moments of vacation in daily life. Slower coffee, looking around a new place, taking a moment to observe and appreciate the nature that I often speed by on my way from task to task.

I do still feel that pull to take a trip, but for now these little vacation moments will tide me over. They are always there if I take the time to slow down for a minute and notice them. Yet another instance of how we can choose daily.

3Splitz Farm

Going to Seed

I knew it was coming. I saw it on the horizon. But still, I was sad when it happened. For so long, I was just hoping and hoping to see the color when I drove around the bend. I was hoping the zinnias would keep going long enough to make the girls’ homecoming flowers. So much holding my breath, watching the weather, wondering if it could be. Until, at last, they made it!

Once they made it, I knew it would be the last time I would harvest them for the season. It was golden hour, the sun slowly slipping behind the mountain. I keep repeating to myself “thank you, thank you, thank you” as I admired their beauty one last time for the year. Their work was done! It was time to let these amazing babies rest and go to seed.

It’s not a pretty process. After months of deadheading, pinching, ripping out and stomping on weeds, trying to make way for the blooms to thrive, now the whole idea is just let the field go wild. Let them turn brown and overgrown. Let all that energy spent blooming just run its course. Let the seeds drop where they may. What was focused and intentional care and maintenance becomes just a reckless field of nature.

Then we hold our collective breath and see if the seeds will take again next season. My home patch of zinnias has doubled each year even though seeds were only planted once. We are hoping for the same abundance to take at the farm. We have faith that what has been so beautiful will return with vigor and abundance when the seasons turn again.

For now, it’s rest time for the zinnias. The dahlias will follow shortly after (but their hibernation is a little more complicated!) And the work of these flower farmers will focus more on paper than dirt, more on dreams than digging. We will rest and restore our energy, getting ready to return next season with renewed joy and color.

3Splitz Farm, nature

What Rhymes With Orange

When I became a University of Georgia fan, I was taught to hate orange.

Why hate a color? So many of UGA’s rivals have orange as one of their team colors…Florida, Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee: orange, orange, orange, and orange. My older brother and parents had been fans long before I was, so up until then I had hardly noticed that orange wasn’t really something we wore or decorated with. We are all about red.

I took this to heart. I don’t have orange clothes. Orange cars. Orange anything, really. I hate orange. Even in the fall, I am drawn to white and green pumpkins. Red and brown leaves. Orange leaves me cold.

Enter flower farming. I somehow managed to order seeds for orange flowers without really realizing it. I ordered mixes of zinnias. Zowie had a bit of orange. And then, just recently, the queen orange lime brought her full glory.

Don’t throw dog biscuits at me, UGA fans, but these flowers have made me warm to orange a bit. A friend asked us to make an arrangement of pink and orange flowers and it just screamed happiness. I’ve gone from thinking orange belongs exactly nowhere to thinking maybe, just maybe, it belongs in a bunch or a vase sometimes. I’ll be ordering more next year (although don’t look for me to wear orange anytime soon!)

3Splitz Farm

Flowers Don’t Care

The first summer season as a flower farmer. The triumphs. The trials. (I’m looking at you, weeds!) The lessons.

Flowers have their own time. On the back of each seed pack, it tells me about how long I’ll be waiting to see their blooms. For so many, it’s weeks and weeks, even months, before the blooms begin to peek out. Seems like forever I’m just waiting and waiting, thinking they’ll never get here.

Then, driving in through the trees, into the wide valley, I crane my neck and finally see…

color.

Red, pink, yellow, orange, purple, white, and more. Color after color exploding in the middle of the wide green field. The flowers are here!

And from that point on, every time I make that crossing into the valley, I hold my breath. Will they still be here? Are they still coming? And every time, the answer is a bright, explosive YES!

Yes, we are here. Yes, we are growing. Yes, it’s time to cut us so we can make more more more more more.

It’s a lot of work, the whole process of growing and cutting flowers. It may seem simple but it isn’t. So many steps from dream to plan to ground to stem to vase to the recipient’s smile. It’s worth it in the end, but the middle parts can be wearisome.

But, no matter how tired or busy I am, the flowers don’t care.

They are driven. They have a mission. They bloom and bloom and bloom.

If it’s raining? Bloom. Sunny? Bloom. Come wind or any other weather.

If I have a busy social calendar? They don’t care. Bloom. If I’m tired? Bloom. If a family member is sick? Bloom. They must.

It’s kind of a beautiful thing, with all the ugliness in the news, the poison and pandemic and pessimism, they just keep on blooming, totally unaffected by the goings on. Their whole job is to make the farm and faces light up with color. And next year we will have even more of them.

When I don’t feel like making the trip, I remind myself that the day will come when I will crane my neck coming into the valley and the color won’t be there. I’ll miss them when they are gone. So I continue on, enjoying the blooms.