Liven up your life with a trip to a roadside flower stand
Not sure what to do with your weekend? Tired of the usual clean the house, run the errands, cook the meals extension of the work week? Why not go for the proverbial Sunday drive and look for flowers? Grab your friends, grab your family, pack a picnic, and hit the open road while the weather is beautiful and the flowers are at their late summer peak!
What we love about roadside flower stands
Roadside flower stands pop up everywhere throughout the year, adding to the spontaneity that turns a car trip into a road trip. And if you happen to be on your way to visit relatives, why not get the kids out of the car, let them run around, and show up with a surprise bouquet? And since many roadside farm stands also sell fresh cut flowers, you can find a healthy road snack while you’re there (good-bye Cornnuts–hello, peaches!)
Interesting and unusual flowers
You know all those pretty flowers in your mom’s garden she would never let you cut? Flower farmers will cut them for you! Popular flowers at roadside stands might include purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, zinnias, dahlias (sometimes bigger than you’ve ever imagined), and branching sunflowers (so you get more than one to a stem). Other flower farmers might sell fuzzy-leafed cosmos, snapdragons, and larkspur. There may even be some you’ve never heard of and have to ask the farmer about: ageratum, anise hyssop, cleome, coxcomb celosia, feather celosia, statice, and veronica.
Freshness (practically) guaranteed
Since most of these flowers are cut in the fields surrounding the roadside stands, you won’t find anything fresher. And the fresher the flowers, the longer they are bound to last. Even if the stand you find isn’t right next to the flower fields, the vendor either grew them close by, or bought them from a local flower farmer. Watch out for freeway stands, however, they are usually individuals who purchased their flowers at an extremely low price from florists who needed to offload some less-than-fresh flowers and bouquets. The savings are probably not worth the day or two you will get out of the flowers.
Support local flower farmers
One of the best things about stopping at a roadside stand—of any type, but especially flowers—is that you are supporting local business. Through direct sales to you, flower farmers save on distribution costs, packaging and fuel. This makes you directly responsible for putting more money in their pockets and in their towns, so they can do more of what you both love—grow beautiful flowers. And since the flowers encourage bees and butterflies, guess what? Now you’ve encouraged biodiversity and healthy plants. Finally, since the flowers you bought didn’t have to be preserved, packaged, and shipped to a grocer or flower shop (nothing against any of these outlets), you’ve also helped the environment. You are one awesome person—and you have pretty flowers to enjoy as a reward!
We’re in! When and where?
When to go: Any time the flowers are blooming, you’ll find flowers by the roadside. While many flower vendors may pop up around Valentine’s Day on the corner by the gas station, these aren’t the type we’re talking about. And really, unless you live in very specific parts of the country, you know better than to think the roses were grown locally, right? The daffodils and tulips you find February could have been grown in a local greenhouse, but the roses probably come from South America. Since many farmer’s markets open sometime in early April and close late in October, these are the months you’ll find the best selection near the farms, too. Spring time will bring you the traditional daffodils and tulips mentioned above, but be sure to look for ranunculus and sweet peas, too. Later in the summer, you will find those gorgeous zinnias and dahlias we love so much. Find your favorite roadside stand and visit several times a year to discover new flowers and get in touch with the changing seasons.
Where to go: Our two best suggestions—if you’re a planner, check out the vendors at your nearest farmer’s market and ask them about their farms and neighbors. If you like to wander country roads, then pack that picnic and go for a long meandering drive through the farmlands around your town.
Windblown and sweaty? You, not your flowers!
You’ve had your adventure, met your farmer, and chosen a gorgeous bouquet. Now, how do you get them home? Time to put the top up on your convertible and/or roll up the windows on your car and turn up the A/C!
Temperature: Your flower farmer worked hard to keep the flowers cool for you. Now you have to continue their work. Especially if you are driving around on a hot day–you don’t want your flowers to wilt. And you certainly don’t want to beat them to death with wind. So make flowers your last stop, and crank up the air conditioning on your way home. No A/C? Bring a cooler with you. Just don’t put the flowers directly on any ice–lay a nice thick towel between them and the ice. And definitely keep them out of the trunk and off the dashboard.
Water: Come prepared. You make sure you stay hydrated on a hot day, so make sure your flowers do, too. The people at the flower stands will probably have some sort of water pack for you, but just in case they don’t, bring some water you aren’t planning to drink, some old plastic produce bags (no holes), a roll of paper towels, and some rubber bands. Wrap the stems in paper towels, slide your bouquet into the plastic bag, and dribble enough water into the bag to thoroughly soak the paper towels. Gently bring the plastic as high as it will go and secure it around the stems above the paper towels to keep it from leaking all over your car. Don’t close the bag up, even if you can. The blooms still need air. Then get them into a vase at home as soon as you can. (And see our post on extending the vase life of your cut flowers.)
Have fun, feel good about yourself, and bring home pretty flowers
Our recommendation for a perfect weekend outing? Anything to do with flowers or plants, of course! But for an adventure you will remember and want to repeat, load your favorite road trip tunes for the car and hit the road. Give yourself an excuse to tell your co-workers you made the world (and your home) a better place on Monday morning. Show off what an interesting life you lead on Facebook and Instagram. Tweet the directions to the best place you found. Help others find their way to your favorite flower stand. And enjoy those flowers and the memories on your kitchen table.