Cut Flower Farmers: Pamela and Frank Arnosky

In my garden, ‘Patrick’ abutilon’s little orange lanterns signal the start of a spooky month: will it be searing hot or nip that basil with a sudden frost?
Patrick abutilon Central Texas Gardener
Cold and wet can take out an Abutilon palmeri in my microclimate, so I treasure this golden doll in a patio container protected from rain bombs and afternoon sun. I used a well-draining potting soil and added decomposed granite.
Abutilon palmeri Central Texas Gardener
And as much as I love spicy-scented dianthus, I’m famous for killing them off. Recently, I lost this one when August’s rain rotted it right away, despite its well-drained soil.
why dianthus rot Central Texas Gardener
Daphne explains how to grow dianthus in beds or containers: full, bright morning sun, which decreases air moisture around them. She tells us, “Dianthus need regular irrigation but develop diseases if they remain too wet. Water in the morning and try to keep the leaves dry.”
dianthus Central Texas Gardener
In garden beds, keep mulch a considerable distance away. If the area around dianthus stays overly wet for too long, the high humidity will also be a problem. Get Daphne’s complete answer.

Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever fallen for one of those cute grocery store succulents, simply named “cactus” with no details about mature size or care. That’s what happened to Vicki and Jack Newton, who bought a tiny plant that successfully grew into a majestic 10’—now moved into a larger container.
how grow container euphorbia Central Texas Gardener
Thanks to Eric Pedley from East Austin Succulents who identified it as Euphorbia ammak and noted that it’s a beautiful specimen! I love how Vicki and Jack charmed up their front door entry, too.
container euphorbia front door garden Central Texas Gardener
Vicki asked CTG if it’s a problem that her euphorbia is narrower in some sections. Daphne says that it’s minor and not an issue. Per Vicki’s question about offshoots, most likely it will not propagate. Get Daphne’s complete answer.

Be sure to plant euphorbias in well-drained soil. Here’s Eric Pedley’s potting mix.

Trisha brings the outdoors in by blending garden harvests with a few store-bought additions. Combine stately umbrella plants and spider lilies for minimalist drama.
Trisha Shirey flower arranging Central Texas Gardener
Bend equisetum or add a few garden sticks for textural contrast.
equisetum, umbrella plant, garden sticks homemade flower arrangements Central Texas Gardener
Curl liriope and nolina leaves to create little baskets and horizontal dimension.
lirope basket straps homegrown flower arrange Central Texas Gardener
In about 4-6 weeks, we can start ground sowing winter annual cut flowers (and native wildflowers). So, we hit the road to the Arnosky Family Farms near Blanco to get insider tips from Pamela and Frank Arnosky.
Arnosky Family Farms Blanco Texas Central Texas Gardener
I first met Pamela and Frank when CTG was a baby, as was their rocky road adventure as cut flower farmers.
Pamela and Frank Arnosky Central Texas Gardener
Since then, they’ve restored the Texas cut flower industry with incredibly hard work and passion. Pamela and Frank package every hand-cut bouquet themselves (thousands weekly) to celebrate occasions or simply pretty up our homes.
Texas Specialty Cut Flowers bouquet Central Texas Gardener
For fall planting, they confirmed that larkspur is one of the easiest. I asked about delphiniums (in the same genus) since I’m clueless about them.
larkspur delphinium Botanical Interest seeds Central Texas Gardener
Frank told us, “Larkspur is an annual. Technically, delphinium is a perennial, but here in Texas, we grow them all as annuals. Larkspur is easy to germinate in the field. Delphinium seed is more finicky. It won’t germinate until soil temperatures are very cool.”

So many people ask me, “What’s the secret to growing fragrant sweet peas in Texas?”
sweet peas Central Texas Gardener
Start in November. “If we started them earlier and it gets warm, they just stall,” Frank said.

Every week, the Arnoskys plant as many as 30,000 seeds in greenhouses to beat out the grasshoppers and crickets that can mow down seedlings in the fields.
Frank Arnosky in greenhouses Arnoskey Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Many are started in anticipation of the next season, when the transplants hit the fields.
planting plugs Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
To fertilize, they mow down, mulch, and till in spent flowers to support new crops. They also add cottonseed meal which helps buffer high pH and lasts a long time. “Cottonseed meal brings in a natural rather than a chemical type of fertilizer. It runs about 6% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus and potassium as an average,” Frank said.
planting fields Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
How do they keep their cool when it’s searing hot, even in winter? Watch and find out right now!

On our garden tour, Pamela and Frank tell us their story of starting the farm in 1990 with $1000 to their name, and why they switched to cut flowers in 1993.
Pamela Arnosky bundles flowers Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Central Market had recently opened and wanted all the Texas Specialty Cut Flowers the Arnoskys could grow.
Pamela Arnosky Central Texas Gardener
Frank remembers, “I would be going through the wine section and through the bulk section and people would stop me and say, ‘Oh, my God. These are beautiful. Where did you get these?’ It is that kind of feedback that really makes you realize it’s all worth it, for all the hailstorms and tornadoes and ice storms and everything else we’ve been through.”
Pamela Arnosky Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Since they built the Blue Barn, people can stop by any time for self-serve bouquets or meet up with Pamela on Saturday mornings to plan wedding flowers.
Blue Barn Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Gary Weeks, renowned furniture builder in Wimberley, designed the Blue Barn based on historic Hill Country German halls, just made for dancing. Hundreds of neighbors joined in for a traditional barn raising.
Pamela Arnosky Gary Weeks Central Texas Gardener
They downsized production when drought hit hard in 2011. But Pamela, Frank and 4-6 employees are in constant motion with 20 acres of cut flowers.
Marigolds Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
In Texas relentless heat, gomphrena, sunflowers and celosia never break a sweat in summer production. Pamela and Frank also explain the intricacies of cutting. Not only does bloom stage matter, so does time of day.
garden on tour Arnosky Family Farms
Plus, we stopped by the American Grown Flowers Field to Vase dinner event where Slow Food meets Slow Flowers.
Field to Vase dinner Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Around the country, Field to Vase dinner parties showcase local flower and food farmers, vintners and craft beer brewers.
Debra Prinzing, author and founder of Slow Flowers knows that “There’s this romance to being in a flower field that is priceless. To me, the food is great, but it’s really about the flowers.”
Debra Prinzing Field to Vase Blanco Central Texas Gardener
Field to Vase Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
In May 2016, H-E-B Blooms floral designers and Austin chefs brought together seasonal Slow Food and Slow Flowers at the Arnosky farm.
HEB Blooms designers Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
Field to Vase dinner tour Blanco Arnosky Family Farms CTG
Kathleen Field to Vase Central Texas Gardener
American Grown Flowers was established in 2014 to promote local flower farmers. “Today, 74% of consumers have no idea where flowers come from, yet 58% of them would prefer to buy more American,” said Kasey Cronquist, American Grown Flowers.
Kasey Field to Vase Central Texas Gardener
Since the spotlight was on Texas that night, H-E-B Blooms’ designers recreated miniature fence posts that united one and all under the beams of the Blue Barn.
Field to Vase Blanco dinner tour table decorations Central Texas Gardener
local flowers Field to Vase dinner tour Arnosky Family Farms Central Texas Gardener
When the guests were homeward bound, Pamela and Frank went back to work: writing the newsletter, working on their website, posting to social media, and planning.

And, here, my dear ones, is Pamela’s philosophy to bookmark: “We’re always up for a new adventure. If we’re bored in the field doing something or it’s 112, you think oh, God. I just can’t take this any longer, if one person comes up with a new marketing idea, we are off to the races and we forget how miserable we were and get all excited about something new.”

Watch their story now!

AND, this week we’re deeply honored to announce that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center joins us a production underwriter to continue our mission to educate, inspire and serve you.

One of my personal treasures is a letter from Lady Bird, a dream that I never imagined as a child and young adult that she influenced so much.
letter from Lady Bird Johnson Central Texas Gardener

Thanks for stopping by and see you next week!