Spend some time in Humboldt and you’ll get to know a lot about redwoods, winter rains and cool summers full of fog. Turns out that all makes for a perfect place to grow flowers.
Just ask Lane Devries, President and CEO of the Sun Valley Group. Over the years, Sun Valley has grown into one of the leading growers of cut flowers in the United States. It’s well-known for its tulips, lilies and irises.
“When we started growing lilies in this region, we did it for the specific reason that the climate in Humboldt is very conducive to the crops we grow—lilies, tulips, iris—all those crops love a temperate climate,” says Devries. “Our winters are never cold, our summers are never hot, and we have relatively high light levels in the wintertime, which makes this a unique spot to grow high-quality flowers.”
Sun Valley has locations all over Humboldt to take advantage of our varied landscapes: cool summers on the coast, warmer temperatures inland, and generous humidity. Asiatic and Royal lilies grow well in the warmer, inland area of Willow Creek during the spring, summer and fall. Coastal Arcata provides the perfect climate for iris in fields during summer.
“You just get a much bigger stem, bigger flower, and more intense color if these flowers are grown under cool conditions,” says DeVries. “There isn’t another place that has a 63-degree high temperature in August.”
Flower quality is a top priority, and it starts with the highest-quality bulbs—DeVries works with farmers in his native Holland. And despite the nursery’s size, most tasks are still done by hand, whether cutting flowers in the field, bunching them or inspecting them.
Humboldt's ideal growing conditions have also attracted specialty orchid growers. One is Orchids for the People, started by Blaine Maynor. He became an expert in exotic species while a student at Humboldt State University, and now he passes along his expertise to his customers. Each plant he sells comes with tips for growing, plant information—and his phone number and email address in case you have questions.
Like many businesses in Humboldt, Sun Valley makes sustainability a priority. When the company renovated its Arcata location, it turned 20 acres of black-topped, industrial area into agricultural land. Now they use it to grow iris and cover crops.
And while Sun Valley used to use fungicides to prevent root rot, now it uses a mixture of compost and bark to build up beneficial organisms in the soil. That prevents such diseases naturally. “When the roots are happy, the plants are happy,” DeVries says.
Learn what's in bloom right now and more about Sun Valley Floral Farms on the Flower Talk blog.