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Meet Lancaster County's flower farmers, starting with Trish Snyder of Flourish Flowers in East Earl [photos, videos]

Trish Snyder

Winter may be a period of rest in the field, but Trish Snyder’s still busy, making sure a variety of flowers bloom through the coming year at Flourish Flowers.

In the dead of summer, rows of dahlias, celosia and zinnias fill the field at Flourish Flowers.

A pergola lined with airy curtains gives visitors a shaded place to take it all in and learn about growing and arranging flowers.

To make all of this happen, from the flowers to the class agendas, Trish Snyder needs to work seasons ahead. Winter may be a period of rest in the field, but Snyder’s still busy, making sure brides have the flowers they want, little dancers have bouquets of peonies for recitals and bouquet subscription holders have a variety of flowers blooming through the coming year.

This winter, LNP | LancasterOnline will share more about some of the county’s flower farmers. These women are part of Lancaster County’s agricultural industry as well as a new generation of flower growers. Their harvests can brighten cold winter days. They’ll also share tips on arranging flowers and growing your own.

For Snyder, growing flowers is a beautiful business that sometimes comes with bone-tired days. Still, flowers can commemorate special days and everydays. Flowers can delight and make you take a second look and perhaps reveal something new.

“I really want people when they come here to feel refreshed,” she says. “I think flowers can do that.”

Planting the seeds

Growing up, Trish was surrounded by the gardens of her mother and grandmother. It wasn’t until she married Bob Snyder and had her own yard in East Earl for her own interest in flowers to grow.

She loved growing the flowers. Yet even better was bringing them inside, creating an arrangement and seeing the flowers in a different setting.

“When they’re on your dining room table, they’re even more beautiful because you can enjoy them up close,” she says.

She started Flourish in 2001, years before Debra Prinzing wrote the book on slow flowers, a movement that values local, sustainable and seasonal flowers. Flourish started as a cut-your-own flower farm.

“I told my husband when I first planted them, even if nobody comes, I would love to just plant 200 tulips and just see them bloom in my yard,” she says. “He reminds me of that. ‘Remember when you said, even if you wouldn't sell a single flower’ ... and it's true. I really just thought it'd be so cool to have rows and rows of flowers.”

The Flourish farm

Today, Snyder has about an acre filled with flowers just down the road from Shady Maple Smorgasbord. Now that she grows flowers mainly for weddings and other events, Snyder needs to keep an eye on her flower supply. The cut-your-own flowers are limited to students in her classes.

Inspired by a floral class in Italy, Trish’s husband, Bob, built a pergola in the center of the garden. Students have gathered there for an arbor decorating class and as a shelter when learning about topics like growing dahlias and making centerpieces.

They can also gather in the converted chicken barn, where floral arrangements are made. Snyder has help from eight part-time employees. Rachel Nowakowski and Donna VanScyoc have been with her the longest.

Hellebores to evergreens

Hellebores are the first to bloom. When they open in March, Flourish fans call them stunning, simple, elegant and a pleasant surprise at the end of winter. They’re followed by daffodils and tulips in April. Ranunculus pop up next, and peonies bloom in mid-May along with lilacs. Then come larkspur, feverfew, Canterbury bells and baptisia. As summer temperatures soar, snapdragons thrive along with lisianthus and scabiosa.

Closer to fall come the dahlias and celosia. “Amaranthus was really big for us this year. We used a lot of that,” Snyder says.

Heading into the holidays, dusty miller and evergreens work in winter arrangements.

The farm grows a mix of perennial plants that last year after year and annual plants that finish their life cycle in one year.

To get an early crop of annual flowers, Snyder thinks ahead.

For example, snapdragons usually are planted in the spring. Snyder and her crew will plant some snapdragons months before, in August, and later cover with a low tunnel to block the winter wind and keep animals away.

The early plants have time to set roots before dying back in the winter. They bloom a few weeks earlier than those planted in spring.

“Oftentimes, they’ll be taller and even nicer because they’ve made it through the winter and have such a good root system,” Snyder says.

To have everything in place, she has to order seeds early. While home gardeners are placing orders now, Snyder buys seeds for the jump-start crop in June.

After the flowers are harvested, they go to weddings and events and into bouquets for weekly flower subscriptions. Snyder also hosts classes to teach others about growing and arranging flowers.

This winter, she’s developing a class on how to grow a backyard cutting garden. It’s a balance to come up with a roster of flowers good for cutting, with staggered bloom times and able for it all to fit into a 12-by-12-foot space. Two test plots will show if the plants thrive together. People often ask about how to have their own mini-flower farm, and Trish may turn her research into a book.

Flowers in a pandemic

COVID-19 hit the U.S. just at the start of the busy season, from Valentine’s Day through Mother’s Day. The flower supply chain is global and major wholesalers closed during the early spring shutdown. In Pennsylvania, flower shop storefronts were ordered closed, but online sales were allowed.

At Flourish, there was a balance. More people showed up to buy flowers for family and friends. Yet many weddings were postponed or scaled back. Usually hundreds of peonies go to bouquets for dance recitals in late spring. Those were canceled and there were peonies to spare.

And as many more people turned to gardening, some seed orders came to Flourish late. Bupleurum and larkspur seed arrived too late for the head-start planting as summer turns to fall.

However, it still was a good year for Flourish, Snyder says.

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