Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Spring 2019 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Humans love flowers — so much so that it’s a billion dollar industry.
And there are reasons for that. Scientific studies show that flowers make us happy and those happy feelings can linger for days.
Thankfully, there are local gardeners and farmers who love to grow flowers and want to share their passion for them with the rest of us.
“It’s just the epitome of simple pleasure to give yourself a little bunch of sweet peas to enjoy for no reason other than they make you smile,” said Tenille Enger, owner of Lucky Clover Flowers in Traverse City. She sells her homegrown market bouquets at Fieldstone Market in Long Lake Township as well as direct by request, and offers bouquet subscriptions and flowers by the bucket for the do-it-yourselfer.
Enger works full-time at a desk job so she spends time before and after work and on weekends tending to the flowers planted on her quarter-acre in Long Lake Township. She said she’s happy to do it because it gives her mind time to wander and to connect with nature. She admits it’s hard work but that’s exactly why she loves it.
“You truly do get what you give when it comes to the garden,” Enger said.
Michelle Shackelford sells bouquets at her farm stand on Co. Rd. 651 north of Cedar and offers weekly bouquet subscriptions through her business, Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers.
She grows her cut flowers on an acre near her home and is out planting frost-hardy annuals as soon as the soil is ready. She plants thousands of bulbs, especially tulips. “We continue planting through mid-summer to ensure we have fall blooming flowers,” she said.
Once the snow melts Shackelford said she spends 65-80 hours a week weeding, trellising, pinching, harvesting and more.
“I flower farm because I have such a deep connection and love for flowers and plants,” she said. By the time she was senior in high school she had amassed some 500 varieties of bearded irises. When she learned about cut flower farming in 2008 she knew that’s what she wanted to do. The hours are long and the work can be grueling but Shackelford doesn’t mind. “As long as I get to work with flowers I’m happy.”
Like Shackelford, Virginia Coulter opened her self-serve, pick-a-bouquet business on a half-acre on Center Rd. on Old Mission Peninsula because gardening is a lifelong passion. She also wanted to make a little money and “provide a place of joy for others,” she said.
Coulter plans to expand to an acre this year and remain open to the public from dawn to dusk. She plants so there is a succession of blooms from May 1 to Oct. 31, she said.
The season starts with bulbs then flowers like lupines, peonies and digitalis in the spring, delphiniums, carnations, Echinacea, yarrows, rudbeckia, roses, lilies, gladiolas, daisies and hydrangea in the summer and dahlias and chrysanthemums in the late summer and fall. Coulter also grows plenty of annuals including ageratum, basil, snapdragons, china asters and sunflowers.
She spends several hours a day in the garden, especially in the late spring and early summer. “Good preparation makes the summer so much more pleasurable,” she said.
If you want to grow your own cut flowers, start with annuals — flowers that will bloom all summer, the gardeners suggest.
“If you want to pick, pick, pick you cannot exclude zinnias, they’re the workhorse of the garden,” Shackelford said.
Enger also recommends cosmos. Like zinnias they are easy to start from seed and are considered a cut-and-come-again flower. But if she could only grow one flower it would be dahlias.
“I don’t know of any other flower that can offer so many sizes, colors and forms,” she said.
Coulter adds sunflowers to the list as another easy and inexpensive option.
When putting together a bouquet, include a focal flower like peonies, zinnias or roses, and then add greenery, a spike flower and some disk flowers such as Queen Anne’s lace, daisies or sunflowers, suggested Shackelford.
Greenery can be snipped from your shrubs. Think viburnum, Ninebark, maple seedpods and even thornless raspberry foliage.
“There are all kinds of plumes, pods, seed heads and grasses that you can include, too,” Shackelford said.
To extend the season plant plenty of bulbs in the fall.
“Daffodils are another flower I’d recommend to anyone,” Enger said, adding that the spring flowers come in several colors and forms and some are even fragrant. “They’re so easy and virtually critter proof.”