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Flower farm blooms in the Ranchos

by Amy Roby

The sign in capital letters posted along the Kimmerling roadside simply said, “Flowers.” My interest piqued, I rode my bike to the house indicated by the signage and was delighted to make the acquaintance of Barbara Pini, owner/grower of Bunches and Bunches Flower Farm.

Barbara told me that after making the move to the Gardnerville Ranchos in 2015, she and her husband, Peter, contemplated how they might make the best use of the land surrounding their home. Both are avid gardeners, so that seemed a natural fit.

“My husband comes from an Italian family, and they always had these enormous vegetable gardens,” said Barbara. “My first love of gardening came from him.”

Peter started teaching her the tricks of the trade and together, the couple has cultivated robust and evolving gardens of their own throughout their 45-year marriage. Their current vegetable garden boasts grapes, herbs, onions, pole beans, potatoes, and tomatoes, much of which is donated to the Carson Valley Community Food Closet.

Though pleased with the bountiful success of edible produce, Barbara found herself longing for more. She recalled the moment, while sipping a cup of coffee in downtown Minden, that she realized how much she missed flower gardening. Fueled by inspiration and determination, she and Peter set to the task of clearing their property of rocks by hand.

This was no mild undertaking; anyone who has attempted any kind of planting in this area is familiar with the abundance of river rock just below the soil’s surface. The Pinis gave it their best shot but eventually hired someone to dig down through the dirt and sift the rocks out mechanically. As evidence of the magnitude of this effort, an impressive stack of stones remains piled against one of the outbuildings in their yard.

At the same time, Barbara devoted herself to Floret, a comprehensive, online workshop that instructs people how to “grow, harvest, and sell flowers on a small scale.” Led by “internationally renowned flower farmer, designer, author, and instructor” Erin Benzakein, the course taught Barbara how to successfully establish a thriving flower garden in all kinds of conditions. Topics covered included: succession planting to ensure the harvest produces throughout the duration of the growing season, adapting planting space for specific flower varieties to ensure optimal growth, and the use of caterpillar tunnels and hoop houses to ensure flowers are protected and their growth is supported in any weather.

Last year, the Pinis established a drip system, set their intention to planting, and did not hold back. Flower varieties blooming in a wash of color across their space include: anemones, baby’s breath, bachelor’s buttons, bells of Ireland, black-eyed Susan, daffodils, dahlias, daisies, forget-me-nots, gloriosa lilies, hydrangea, lavender, mums, peonies, Queen Anne’s lace, ranunculus, snapdragons, stock, sunflowers, sweet peas, and tulips. They also grow ornamental grasses and herbs such as mint and basil for inclusion in Bunches and Bunches’ cut-flower bouquets. New to the rotation this year is an olive tree, which Barbara is cultivating for its silvery foliage.

Now in the midst of their second successful season, the growing, tending, and selling of the flowers extends “beyond full time,” Barbara said. She relayed a recent experience with sweet peas, which must be harvested every several days or they will die.

“I was out here by lamplight until midnight,” she said with a laugh.

The hard work and dedication involved in this endeavor hasn’t dampened Barbara’s enthusiasm and joyous approach in the least.

“I have learned so much, and it’s very exciting,” she said. “The thing about flowers is that they makes everybody happy. Who doesn’t like flowers? People smile when they see them.”

Bunches and Bunches Flower Farm offers cut-flower bouquets in either single or mixed varieties at the Minden Farmer’s Market on Esmeralda 4-8 p.m. every Tuesday. Occasionally, blooms are available for purchase at the Pini’s house off of Kimmerling Road; if the sign is posted, you can swing by and buy a bunch of happiness from Barbara.

Questions may be emailed to bunchesandbunchesflowerfarm@yahoo.com.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.