Take Your Pick Flower FarmTake Your Pick Flower FarmOn the Ludlowville end of Brickyard Hill Road there's a little sign telling you that you have found Take your Pick, a you-cut flower farm.  The business opened for the first time this June.  "I started with house plants and went from there," says owner Linda Van Apeldoorn.  "I just love having them in the house.  The idea for Take Your Pick was born from that, because so many people say, 'Oh my roses are beautiful, but I just don't want to pick them because they look so nice in the garden.'  And that's how I felt.  I thought there are probably a lot of other people that think the same way.  So I set up some cutting beds where people can come and pick."

The garden is set next to her house, with raised beds holding all kinds of flowers including buddleia, black eyed Susans, bee balm, heliopsos, Russian sage, snap dragons, calendula, cleome, Mexican sunflowers and many more.  It is set up to be self-serve if Van Apeldoorn isn't there.  "I leave buckets and scissors and rubber bands by the garage and people can just help themselves," she says.  People can just leave the money when they are done picking.  She charges 25 cents per stem for most flowers, and lilies and gladiolas are 75 cents each.


The flower farm dovetails nicely with her other job with a Syracuse firm, E-Rate Exchange, writing grants for schools.  She also works from home for that job, and its slow season tends to begin around Spring, perfect for the flower business.  She started planting daffodills and irises last fall, then planted others in the Spring.

She built the beds with help from husband Paul Kempes.  "He was a big help initially, because all the raised beds required a lot of labor," she says.  "He was very generous in helping me build the beds and helping me fill them all." Depending on the flower some things are planted before the last hard frost, and others must wait until the soil warms up.  "For gladiolas you have to wait until the soil is 60 to 65 degrees," she says.  "I go out there with my dinner thermometer.  Don't tell my husband!" she says.


The new business hasn't been without its surprises.  "I wasn't sure what the soil was going to be like here, but it was a lot better than I expected it to be," she says.  "I'm not sure if it's because this is where the brick yard used to be.  Our soil is much sandier here than it is anywhere else in Lansing.  At my old house you could practically make bricks right out of the ground, there was so much clay there.  So it drains really well, which is good."

Customers like picking from the wide variety of flowers.  "Everybody seems to like the gladiolas a lot," Van Apeldoorn says.  "And it seems like people are returning more to the old fashioned flowers.  For a while it really wasn't in vogue to have hydrangeas, gladiolas, zinnias, and sweet William -- the ones that your grandmother and great grandmother used to have.  And everybody seems to have their own particular kind that they like.  Some people go for the really frilly ones and other people go for the plain ones.  It's really fun to watch the little kids go up there - they pick the dead ones!"  She laughs, noting she doesn't charge for those.


Van Apeldoorn says one of her favorite flowers this year were poppies that were a surprise to her, because someone had given her the seeds but she didn't know what they were.  "They didn't last too long as a cut flower, but they looked like cheerleader pom-poms.  They were a really intense pink."

For now Van Apeldoorn says the garden is a manageable size, but she has plenty of room for expansion as more people find out about it.  She would like to clean up a small barn to put in a small gardening library for people to use.  My goal is to have a place where people feel comfortable walking around, smelling the flowers, picking some to take some home or to a friend.  For now she's thinking of keeping the business small.  "It's a hobby gone wild," she says.  "I'll be doing plants and flowers for the rest of my life."