by Aliya Hall
After retiring from her bank manager position, Jeanne Deaver traveled with her farmer husband to a conference and toured the nursery she would end up buying and running 26 years later.
“I came across Alpine Valley Gardens, who sold her property and didn’t want her daylily business,” she said. “I took my husband back there and we made a deal to buy her daylilies and take over her mailing list.”
Renamed as Amador Flower Farm, Deaver opened the California Shenandoah Valley farm to the public in 1996. At 14 acres, the farm hosts four acres of demonstration gardens, a waterfall, 300-year-old heritage oak trees, a pond and picnic area and a nursery as well as an Easter egg hunt in spring and a pumpkin patch and corn maze in autumn. They offer over 1,200 varieties of daylilies in addition to wine grapes, fruit, nuts, pumpkins and gourds.
“The reason I chose daylilies is because once they start blooming in the springtime, something is always blooming,” she said, adding that some varieties are evergreen or bloom multiple times a year. “I was thrilled to death when I found it.”
Daylilies are also on the fire-retardant list and are drought-tolerant. Deaver said they are very forgiving to grow and the buds, blossoms, leaves and roots are all edible. “It’s a versatile plant,” she said, adding that they are “pretty prolific.”
Originally, the nursery focused on mail order catalogs, but when neighbors wanted to see the flowers, Deaver got permission from the county to put in a gate and demonstration gardens. From there, they started adding in unusual shrubs and grasses that were native to the area, and when people wanted to purchase those plants, Amador Flower Farm became a full-time nursery.
“We live in an agritourism area, so with our daylily farm we had tourists stop by, and the more they stopped by and saw plants, the more they wanted things to go with daylilies,” Deaver said.
Amador Flower Farm also leaned into agritourism with their spring and fall events. For Easter, Deaver said they work with the Plymouth Rotary Club to hide 1,400 plastic eggs filled with candies in their fields. “We have people from all over come to the egg hunt,” she said. “It’s good because it’s a great day for families.”
For the pumpkin patch, Deaver said it was about offering something to the local community. The farm only charges for the price of the pumpkins, not for entry to the grounds, corn maze or the tram ride. “We make it at a level so people can afford what they can afford,” she said, adding that it’s staffed by the Deaver Vineyard workers.
The larger pumpkins are brought from outside of the region because they grow better there, but Deaver also grows 40 different kinds of gourds. Providing pumpkins from October to December was also part of what helped the farm during the pandemic.
“It was a draw for us because they’d decide they needed something to take home,” she said, “but it also gave the opportunity for people to come outside and enjoy life.”
During COVID-19, the farm also transitioned to including vegetable starts as more customers wanted produce. “People didn’t want to spend their money unless it was on something they could eat,” she said.
Outside of the pandemic, the biggest challenge facing the farm has been gas prices. Located 45 minutes away from Sacramento, Deaver said they are greatly impacted by gas increases.
Although it’s been a struggle to maintain their employees, Deaver said they’ve been able to weather the storm. With gas prices rising again to around $5 per gallon, Deaver is expecting another challenging time for the farm.
“Going forward in the business climate and what’s going on in the world, we just want to maintain,” she said. “I think that’s going to be hard to do for the next couple of years and we’ll see where the world ends up.” She added that they will continue to sell more vegetable plants and help customers who want to plant gardens.
The most rewarding aspect of Amador Flower Farm for Deaver has been the environment and what it brings to people. “We have a really beautiful place to be and people bring a picnic lunch and come to get away from everything,” she said. “Being outside and hearing birds chirping and flowers blooming – I love it.”