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North Fork Flower Farm and other Long Island field-to-table flower growers

What's blooming at North Fork Flower Farm? Locally grown flowers, of course. Charles Sherman, co-owner of the Orient farm, on July 26, 2019, explained the importance of growing and buying locally grown flowers. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

A new "slow flower" trend is taking root on Long Island, and you can experience it from sunny East End farms to bustling farmers markets from Rockville Centre to Greenport that are showcasing locally grown stems.

Locally grown flowers are fresher, look and smell better than those imported from afar, says Charles Sherman of North Fork Flower Farm, a pioneer for its small-scale operation in Orient that grows 200 varieties of flowers, herbs and ornamental grasses.

“Most of the things you see aren’t going to be available in regular flower shops,” says Sherman, a retired divorce attorney. Like ornamental basil or valerian, an herb with a beautiful white flower that has the aroma of vanilla. The bounty is tucked into floral arrangements delivered to members of its subscription program and bouquets sold at farmers markets.

Clad in a wide-brimmed sun hat, Sherman is a regular presence in the fields, giving guided tours (just call ahead to make an appointment) of the two-acre farm he started four years ago with his life partner, Karen Braziller, along with Kevin Perry and his wife, Drianne Benner, of Brooklyn and Orient. 

Sherman invites visitors to take selfies in front of odd plants such as the giant mullein (it looks like a space plant and flowers from the bottom up), to sip wine at a picnic table near the beds and to pick out flowers on the spot for a custom take-home bouquet.

Meanwhile, it's hard to miss the new picture-perfect flower truck — Hometown Flower Co.— that's been parked at weekly farmers markets, selling Long Island-grown bouquets and floral crowns wove with eucalyptus, zinnias and angel’s breath. “We work with whatever’s fresh at the moment,” says owner Jaclyn Rutigliano.   

Sherman and Rutigliano credit Debra Prinzing, a West Coast podcaster and author, with inspiring Suffolk County’s slow flowers farmers. Prinzing’s book “Slow Flowers” (St. Lynn’s Press 2013), praises flower farms that are owner-operated, use sustainable practices and sell to a marketplace within a 200-mile radius.

“The No. 1 edge that locally grown flowers have is freshness,” Prinzing said in an email.

Freshness is an essential ingredient at the small organic farm run by Jeri Woodhouse, 76, of Orient, where slow flowers meet the slow food movement. Woodhouse’s flowers flavor the rose jelly, lemon verbena jelly and vinegar she sells at local shops. Her flower petals decorate cakes sold at The Orient Country Store. “Sunflowers have a peppery flavor or a crunch,” said Woodhouse, who offers educational petal tastings at the Greenport Farmers Market.

Other flowers fans prefer to appreciate the glory in its natural splendor.

Pindar Vineyards in Peconic has for years grown an arresting full field of sunflowers that beckons summer passersby to halt for a photo op. 

“We took a walk through and found the most beautiful ones,” says Carissa Graziosa, 22, of West Babylon, cradling armfuls of the bright yellow blooms on a recent afternoon destined for a handmade vase. The vineyard encourages selfies and lends clippers to cut your own for $2 a stem.

Nearby, the North Fork Sunflower Maze in Mattituck is bursting with flowers spread out over 17 acres, with trails through the fields that are open to the public daily — that is, until the splendor peters out. 

WHERE TO FIND SLOW FLOWERS

North Fork Flower Farm

1110 Terry Lane, Orient

INFO 516-652-8188, northforkflowerfarm.com

Farm tours by appointment. Floral arrangements are available by CSA flower subscription in Orient, Greenport, East Marion and Southold. They’re also sold ($8-$20) at Greenport Farmers Market, 414 First St., Greenport, 3-7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday; and Rockville Centre Farmers Market, 7 a.m.-noon Sunday at Long Beach Road and Sunrise Highway.

Hometown Flower Co. flower truck

INFO 516-644-9105, hometownflowerco.com

Four sizes of floral arrangements ranging from the Mini (starting at $40) to The Kitchen Sink (starting at $90) are available for delivery or by subscription. Flower crowns are also available at the flower truck at Alive by the Bay, 5:30-9 p.m. Aug. 13 at West Main Street in Bay Shore; Valley Stream Farmers Market, 7 a.m.-noon Aug. 15 at A.J. Hendrickson Park; Food Truck Fridays, 6-9 p.m. Aug. 16 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 3434 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown.

Pindar Vineyards sunflower field

37645 Main Rd. (Route 25) Peconic

INFO 631-734-6200, pindar.net

Take photos or cut your own stems ($2 each)

North Fork Sunflower Maze

9 a.m. to sunset daily at 8623 Wickham Ave., Mattituck

INFO 631-298-5907, northforkchips.com

Admission is $7 for adults, free children ages 12 and younger. Sunflower boutiques can be purchased for $6 a bundle.

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