Pick Your Own Flowers: Willow Flower Farm
Iowa in January, when it fights to get above zero, is the time for warm blankets, hot soup, and toasty fires, right? Well, that wasn’t the case for one Central Iowa family who spent last winter beginning the magic of a flower farm that’s now bloomed, beautiful, and ready for us to pick.
The Willow Flower Farm, just south of Des Moines, first opened to the public this summer with more than fifty varieties of flowers. And while it’d be easy to go on about the beauty of it, let’s learn more about what it took to get this farm up and running.
Willow Flower Farm’s owners Tom and Mandy Septer are first-time farmers who saw an acre of land around their home as an opportunity to grow beauty and a business. And (maybe more importantly) a way to keep their five children, ages eight to 16 years old, busy and working during the quarantine. This extra time at home gave the family time together to plan this massive flower garden project.
“In a year so full of confusion and ugliness we really cherished the time spent working together on something beautiful. We started the farm so that others could experience that too,” said Mandy.
How the flower farm started
The plan all started with flower seeds which were picked based on how well they would grow in Iowa’s climate and vase life status. They also had to be varying colors and bloom types, so they had the potential of becoming beautiful bouquets. The winning assortments were then planted in seed trays and soil blocks inside their garage, in the dead of winter, on seedling heat mats. Then, while snow still covered the ground, the seeds sprouted and were moved under warming shop lights where they were kept watered and fertilized.
Once spring finally showed up, it was then time for the little blooming beauties to be planted in the family’s front yard. This meant tilling, lots of tilling, and planting, like the bend over and put the plant in the ground back-breaking work. Next up, time to wait, watch and pray that their flower version of Field of Dreams really happens, and it all grows, and the people come.
Spoiler alert: the plants have grown and are still growing but that doesn’t mean the work is done. Now it’s time for keeping the garden areas free of debris and monitoring the picked over or dying plants and replacing them with fresh flowers. Oh, and lots of weeding, the family spends more than ten hours a week weeding!
Pick your own flowers
Luckily the rest of us get to skip that sweaty hard work but still bring home flowers to enjoy. The Willow Flower Farm, located at 5119 Harding Street in Prole, offers U-Pick hours this summer on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here you can come, grab some clippers, and pick yourself a beautiful bouquet.
A couple of quick housekeeping tips about the farm: give yourself plenty of time to check the garden out, remember to bring a container for water to transport the flowers home in, and the farm accepts cash, local check, and credit cards. The flower varieties are constantly changing too so make sure to plan more than one trip.
And take it from Mandy, “Whether someone is looking for some time for themselves after a hard week or a family is looking for something fun to create together, getting outside and into the garden is a great place to be!”
About the Author
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is a tough question, just ask Stephanie Lovelace, because she still hasn’t decided. First, she got a degree in journalism and was a newspaper reporter and public relations specialist, then went to college again and became an elementary teacher, now she stays home, homeschools three kids, and is a freelance writer. What’s stayed steady: her supportive husband, love of pets (current counts at three dogs and four cats), and being an Iowa girl.
Follow along with her current gig, on Instagram at @stephs_at_home.