Maria Waymire's greenhouse flower company grows over a million stems of cut flowers.
No matter the season, Maria Waymire’s family greenhouse near Yellow Springs, Ohio, blossoms with thousands of flowers. “We harvest our fresh blooms 365 days a year,” she says from the headquarters of Little Miami Flower Co., named for a river running through their rural property. The 1-1/2-acre greenhouse is a hotbed of activity—keeping three generations of their family busy.
Maria’s mother-in-law, Pat, and father-in-law, John, longtime grain farmers, began the business 25 years ago. “Pat had no luck finding local, fresh flowers to decorate their home, so she and John decided they’d try growing their own,” Maria says. “Now flowers are the main business, and my husband, Chris, and I have joined the operation. We specialize in growing lilies, alstroemeria, gerbera daisies, tulips and Dutch irises, selling to wholesalers who supply Midwestern florists.
“I was raised on a farm—but I never realized until now what a science growing flowers can be. A computer controls our drip-tube watering system and monitors temperatures in our greenhouse and coolers. If they vary by more than a couple of degrees, we’re alerted by a phone call—sometimes in the middle of the night. We buy our bulbs from the Netherlands, leaders in bulb production. They keep us on the cutting edge, making sure we have the latest varieties and colors. And Chris adds the best possible nutrients to the artificial soil we use as a growing medium. But Mother Nature is ultimately in charge.”
Making the Cut
Normally Maria has her hands full with accounting, phones and payroll. But at rush times, her green thumb gets a workout, too. “Our crew picks or cuts every flower by hand—some when they’re in full bloom and others just before opening,” she explains. “Frequently, we harvest two or three times a day. After the flowers are picked, we separate them into three grades, depending on bloom size, color, stem strength and length, and overall appearance. They’re placed in water buckets with preservatives and kept in our cooler for one or two days until they’re sold.
“That way, when florists arrange them for weddings, corporate events and such, they’re at the peak of their beauty and freshness. Demand for our flowers is greatest from February through early spring, and our busiest holidays are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, followed by Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Prom season is big, too. As farmers know, tending to living things isn’t a job. It’s a way of life.”
And for the Waymires, it’s also a family affair. “Our children—Tim, 17, Andrew, 15, and Audrey, 12— help with flowers in summer and when they have free time,” Maria says. “It gives them a great work ethic and shows the benefits of everyone pulling together.”
While the greenhouse isn’t open to the public, the family’s flower company reaches out to the community in other ways, Maria notes. “We’ve hosted private tours for florists, garden clubs, vocational schools and farm women’s organizations. And we’ve delivered surplus flowers to nursing homes and shut-ins. “Raising flowers takes a lot of effort, but whenever I walk through rows of blossoms, I just have to smile,” Maria concludes. “Because for me, greenhouses are where happiness grows.”
Want to learn more about greenhouses? Get some fun facts here.
You can contact Little Miami Flower Co. at their website littlemiamiflower.com.