I’ve done u-pick-em strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. But u-pick-em flowers? And on the honor system?
Omena Cut Flowers is the big surprise and happy highlight of my northern Michigan vacation this week. I stumbled on Carolyn Faught’s garden of phlox and sunflowers, foxglove and lilac bushes,while en route to one of the many wine-tasting rooms on Leelanau Peninsula, the “Napa Valley of Michigan.” We passed this sign and I warned the kids, “We’re stopping there on the way back!”
Good kids that they are, they were game.
My hub and son are visiting my daughter, a Florida native and now veteran of a “real” winter in Cadillac, Mich. The kids and I took a road trip yesterday to Leelanau, about 70 miles north of our Cadillac cabin.
I’ve been wanting to experience wine country since reading “Dial M for Merlot,” a great first novel by Tarpon Springs wine aficionado and funny guy Howard Kleinfeld. That book will give you the itch!
The road along the shore of Lake Michigan took us past vineyards, farms, and elaborate estates. And Carolyn’s lavish garden.
A few miles later, we reached the tasting room that had been recommended — Leelanau Cellars. (Terrific, by the way. Tastings are free and they have a wide variety; we sampled 17 and left with half a case.)
So, we were in pretty good spirits when we headed back to Carolyn’s u-pick flower farm, but we would’ve been just as nuts about it without the vino! She has more than 40 varieties of perennials and annuals in 24-or-so beds. A charming potting shed welcomes visitors with everything they need for cutting, preserving and transporting.
Those are cut-down milk jugs on the table. Carolyn also has free jars and inexpensive vases — 50 cents to $3 — in the shed.
As the sign says, it’s all on the honor system. No one was around to monitor when we visited. Carolyn says she hasn’t had a problem with people not paying; in fact, they often leave extra.
“People who pick flowers have the greatest karma,” she says. (I agree!)
Carolyn, now 58, says this is the 16th summer of her u-pick. She started it after picking up a bouquet of sunflowers at a farmer’s market for a co-worker going through a divorce.
“When I got back to the office, everyone said, ‘Where did you get those? I want some!’ But the market was sold out,” she says. “It gave me the idea that I could fill my entire front yard with flowers for people to pick any time they want.”
She’d hoped it would allow her to be a stay-at-home-mom, but that didn’t pan out. She still works four days a week as the communications director for Leelanau County’s land conservancy. In the garden, her husband, Dave, helps with the heavy lifting; 15-year-old son Will makes all the to-go bouquets, and Sam, now 24, used to make deliveries.
Carolyn says she has no complaints.
“It’s a lot of work, but I love gardening, and people love it so much. They leave me incredible messages in my guestbook: ‘You made my blood pressure go down’ and ‘This has made our day!’ Families come back here year after year, taking pictures of their kids in the same spot. It’s just pure joy.”
My baby girl picked this bouquet, which cost her $2.85 and gave us all priceless joy. It’s a sunshiny centerpiece on our otherwise very plain cabin kitchen.
Omena Cut Flowers is open dawn to dusk from April through November.