Take your pick: Sunflowers are in bloom at U-Pick site
Despite the lack of consistent rainfall needed to sprout towering sunflowers, things are still picking up for Putnam County residents who want to handpick their own flowers.
An acre of sunflowers at Coventry Oaks Farm, 104 Springside Shortcut Road in Palatka, will be open to residents for the first time 9 a.m. Sunday. Whether people want to fill vases with the blooming flowers or turn them into a bouquet for their sweetheart, they will have thousands of flowers to choose from.
Farm owners Jeff and Claudia Barnes bought the 30-acre property almost a year ago with the hopes of turning it into something the entire community could enjoy. The couple planted an acre of sunflowers in March, their first ever attempt to grow the crop.
“They actually came out better than I thought they would,” Jeff Barnes said. “The rain this week and last helped them a lot.”
It was not until Thursday that the couple knew the planted crops would produce sunflowers suitable enough for the community. From scorching heat to hungry deer neighbors, the crops had to fight for their lives before blooming recently.
“We had extreme heat and drought conditions, and then we battled the deer,” Barnes said. “We were hoping that Mother Nature would have cooperated a little better, but they are blooming.”
Because of the conditions the plants were fighting against, Jeff and Claudia Barnes were surprised to see sunflowers blooming this week. Once they did, however, they knew what they had to do.
“When I saw them blooming, I said we shouldn’t let these go to waste,” Jeff Barnes said. “Lets share them with the people that really want them and enjoy sunflowers.”
Erica Mulvihill of Palatka said she plans to take her 5-year-old daughter to the farm Sunday to pick the beautiful flowers since it is a unique activity they can do together.
“We are pretty excited,” she said. “She is going to love it, and I am going to enjoy seeing her have the best time picking flowers.”
Jeff Barnes said while the flowers are smaller than originally planned, he is just glad the community will have a chance to pick something. Since this was the Barnes’ first year growing the crop, the family intends to keep improving on the product for the residents as time goes on.
“It is going to continue to develop as we go along. … It is all a learning process,” Jeff Barnes said. “It is like when you start doing something for the community, and with the community it kind of grows.”
It costs $5 to participate in the U-Pick. Participants are asked to bring their own clippers. For information, call the farm at 904-361-8565.