Text by Holly Seng
Spring has its pastel petals and autumn its rusty hues, but come summertime, vibrant florals reign supreme, capturing the season’s pizzazz. With 11 years of experience growing everything from cut flowers for cultivation to wildflowers that support pollinator habitats, Jenn and Adam O’Neal of PepperHarrow Farm share their expertise.
“With summer blooms, I initially think of flowers that are bright, vibrant, and cheery—so definitely zinnias and sunflowers,” says Jenn. While these two varieties are seasonal showstoppers, the couple notes celosia, snapdragons, and cosmos as additional blooms sometimes overlooked. “We really love celosia,” says Jenn, noting its ability to thrive in warmer temperatures.
At PepperHarrow, the seedling growth process begins about four to six weeks before the last frost. By mid-June, row upon row of radiant sunflowers and zinnias in eye-catching hues usher in the long-awaited season.
Knowing the right time to cut the flowers can be tricky, but Jenn and Adam know just the trick. “For zinnias and celosias, they need to be more mature,” says Adam. Applying what’s known as the wiggle test, Adam advises, “[Wiggle] the top of the stem between two fingers, and if it’s nice and stiff, it’s ready to cut.” An in-depth video about harvesting zinnias can be found on their YouTube channel, PepperHarrow Farm. For sunflowers, they suggest cutting them before the flower has completely opened to avoid potential issues with insects and ensure a beautiful bloom.
When crafting stunning arrangements, Jenn and Adam developed a tried-and-true process. Starting with one focal flower—zinnias or sunflowers—they incorporate texture with celosia or amaranth, finishing off the look with what they call a sparkly detail to add a bit of airiness—dill, Jewels of Opar, or Agrostemma.
Whether you want to try your hand at gardening or enjoy these charming florals in an arrangement, be sure to take full advantage of nature’s brilliant display.
Jenn and Adam O’Neal share more about their love of flowers and the dream that started it all in their debut book, Small Farm Big Dreams. Geared for existing flower farmers as well as the home gardener, its pages are filled with tips anyone can apply to their own growing practices. “We wrote a book because we want to inspire people to start their dream,” says Adam.