Debra Prinzing

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A (American Grown) Flower-filled Road Trip, Part Three

May 24th, 2014

The hot, new "ice cream" tulip - spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane Devries's desk!

The hot, new “ice cream” tulip – spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane DeVries’s desk!

I’ve been home for an entire month from an 11-day road trip that took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car. 

I have many fond memories (as well as the photographs that I collected), while stopping along U.S. Hwy. 101 on my way north to Seattle. My first post featured Rose Story Farm and the Carpinteria flower scene; my 2nd post was about visiting author-friend Sharon Lovejoy and her husband Jeff Prostovitch in San Luis Obispo. [I’m going to save the photos and stories of my stop in Healdsburg-wine country for another day.]

So here is my third travelogue installation — all about The Sun Valley Group of Arcata, California.

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Visiting Sun Valley and touring its vast flower-growing universe has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with CEO Lane DeVries and his staff over the past few years to promote American-grown flowers and flower farms. In fact, Lane was a podcast guest last year – you can listen to that interview here. But I had never been able to see Sun Valley up close and personal!

Still on the road last month, I routed myself through Eureka, Calif., where I first visited another writer-friend, Amy Stewart of Flower Confidential and The Drunken Botanist fame (listen to our Podcast interview here).

The following morning I continued north to the next town on the map, Arcata – home to Sun Valley’s headquarters and one of the company’s farm locations. 

Sun Valley is a leading grower of cut bulb and field flowers in the United States. According to its web site, Sun Valley chose this area as an ideal environment for growing bulb flowers, due to its mild winters, cool summers, generous humidity and coastally moderated sunlight. The fields surrounding the greenhouses also provide excellent growing conditions for spring, summer and fall iris, and summer flowers including crocosmia, hypericum, monkshood and montbretia.

Bill Prescott, the farm’s social media/communications guru, met and escorted me on a whirlwind tour. It’s a good thing that I brought my rubber-soled Merrills, cuz the ground gets muddy and wet at a flower farm – in the shade houses and in the greenhouses. These farms practice water conservation, of course, but the puddles and wet spots still exist.

We started by walking through the tulip operations. By the way, click here to see the farm’s mind-boggling array of tulip varieties – you’ll not believe it!

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

 

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

 

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

 

I couldn't take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It's not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It’s not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this! 

 

Hello, tulip!

Hello, tulip! 

 

The tulip harvest - this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting!

The tulip harvest – this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting! 

 

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground - bulbs and all - to ensure the longest stems.

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground – bulbs and all – to ensure the longest stems.

Some other popular crops include irises and lilies:

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises!

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises! 

 

And the classic purple ones, too!

And the classic purple ones, too! 

 

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers.

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers. 

 

Having fun with the lilies - Bill is a bit of a ham!

Having fun with the lilies – Bill is a bit of a ham!

Bill sent me home with a huge bucket filled with irises and tulips – gorgeous, fresh, just-picked and more than I could ever use in a single Easter arrangement. They survived the 10-hour drive to Seattle that day and still looked awesome when I gave an arrangement of those blooms to my mother on Easter. We both enjoyed those American-grown flowers for nearly two weeks – especially the lilies, with so many plump buds that kept opening up, a few new blooms every day.

And speaking of lilies . . . did you know that “Lily,” the voice of Sun Valley’s blog, is none other than Mr. Bill Prescott? On the blog, he channels his inner florist supremely well! Check out “Flower Talk: Grow with Lily” here – and subscribe to receive notices of the frequent installments. 

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