COMPTON — Darlene Cullen is a professional flower farmer. She has the expertise to grow plants from seeds, and knows what works well together and what could cross pollinate and create their own kind.
She sells dahlias, daylilies and everything in between. During a tour of her gardens, she shared the smell of lemon basil, that was amazing.
“I’ve got Buffalo River BeeKeepers just over the hill, so I try to spray late in the evening and only with organic sprays so I don’t hurt the pollinators,” she said. She has plants that heal and plants that add decorative greenery to arrangements.
“I live on top of a mountain, so I have to grow up instead of down — because there are only rocks,” she said. She designed and her husband built several raised beds for her that form an interesting pattern in her garden area. There are row after row of beautiful flowers. She takes flowers to the Eureka Springs on Tuesday and Thursday and is at the Harrison market on Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.
In Eureka Springs, Cullen takes buckets of fresh cut flowers and customers love to come by and make their own bouquets. “I just set out a buffet of flowers and customers go crazy.”
For the Harrison market she usually makes up arrangements of a variety of fresh flowers so customers are ready to go with flowers in a vase.
“I’m not a florist,” she easily admits. “My arrangements are just stuck in a vase I’ve picked up at a thrift shop.” But the colors, fragrances and texture are stunning.
“Fresh cut flowers last much longer than bouquets you can get from a grocery store or florist. Most flowers that are shipped to the United States are cut in South America and shipped to Florida. That distributor ships them to wholesalers across the US and then they go to a regional wholesaler, and then they get to the florist or grocery store.”
Cullen is very careful to cut her flowers at just the right time to give her customers the maximum time of enjoyment. She sold some to a customer that only had one pedal starting to lift up and the others weren’t open yet. The customer thought Cullen was trying to sell her almost dead flowers. When she explained, the lady hesitantly purchased the flowers. The customer was pleasantly surprised when the day lilies opened up beautifully during the week. The customer returned the next Saturday and purchased two additional bunches of flowers to give away as gifts.
Some of her yard is also full of “supporting landscape,” she said. They just keep building beds and she lets them grow. “They don’t take any care. I just weed and mulch them once a year.”
But her flower beds for cut flowers are a different story. There are times her flowers have breathable bags around the blooms to protect them. She knows the flowers have to be cut regularly to continue getting blooms.
Cullen said it is a lot of hard work, and she is often working in the garden after dark with the help of some bright outdoor lights she can move around. But she enjoys it — and probably gives away as many flowers as she sells.
Cullen has about 350 varieties of daylilies that are her trademark flower. But there are 70,000 varieties available. Some have bursts of colors, some have unique designs of colors, some have ruffled edges.
The Cullens moved to Arkansas from Louisiana after visiting many times to admire the aqua blue water of the Buffalo River. “We just had brown water in Louisiana,” she laughed. She had spent more than 20 years as a surgical nurse and decided she wanted to do something different in this area. With the natural country side of rocks and bluffs on their 67 acres, she decided she would raise Kiko meat goats.
“My husband works out of town, so I’m often a one-woman show raising goats and flowers,” she said.
There are certain times of the year when she sells bare-root plants with planting instructions. She also hosts a plant swap each June and encourages people to bring a “clump of something” to trade.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information. Cullen has her garden timed to sell cool season arrivals all the way to fall flowers. Look for her at the Central Ozark Farmers and Artisans Market on Saturday mornings in downtown Harrison.