Snuggled among wineries in the Shenandoah Valley, Amador Flower Farm has become a bright slice of gardening heaven.
Located about an hour from Sacramento, the farm soon will celebrate a milestone: its 20th birthday. Visitors who come for its annual Daylily Days on June 11 and 12 can get a piece of birthday cake while touring 14 acres of flowers and demonstration gardens.
Patrons can wander among the flowers for hours, and often do. That’s part of the farm’s beautiful charm.
“Sometimes, people just want a break from wine tasting,” said owner Jeanne Deaver. “Visitors are always welcome.”
They can bring a picnic (and maybe a bottle, too), then sit, snack and sip under the farm’s shady and inviting trees.
The colorful view is simply spectacular. Stretching under mammoth oaks, row after row of sun-loving daylilies form rainbow stripes across rolling hills. In June, more flowers open each morning than the day before. By next week, at least a million blooms will greet guests.
That’s a conservative estimate. About 200,000 Stella De Oro daylilies line the fence – and that’s just one variety.
Used by landscapers throughout California, that “golden star” daylily is just one of an estimated 1,200 varieties that grow at the Amador Flower Farm with about 1,000 named varieties available for sale to the public.
“You look around and say, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ” said Leslie Sellman-Sant, who has worked at the farm since it opened in 1996. “You think you find a favorite, then you see another flower you absolutely love.”
“I probably have 50 favorites; it’s so hard to pick,” Deaver said. “I tend to go for big and showy.”
The flower names tempt visitors with evocative imagery: Swirling Spider, Kisses Like Wine, Shadows Within, Spellbound Secret, Absolute Treasure. There’s so many, it’s hard to keep track.
“We’re getting a lot more dwarf varieties in a lot of different colors,” Deaver said. “That’s a big change in recent years. The flowers are fancier with ruffled edges or wired edges or different colors in their throats.”
Instead of narrowing her choices, Deaver keeps adding more possibilities.
“We won’t sell them until we watch them grow and multiply,” she said.
Multiply indeed; that’s how her garden grew from former cow pasture into a destination nursery, attracting flower lovers from throughout Northern California.
Already popular in low-maintenance landscapes, daylilies have become water-wise stars during California’s prolonged drought. After an almost “normal” winter, these perennials respond with abundant flowers.
That’s made this spring at Amador Flower Farm particularly bountiful.
“Daylilies are very drought-tolerant,” Deaver said. “They’re fire-resistant, too. You can totally ignore them and they still do well. That’s why I like them; they’re so forgiving.”
Sentinel to the flowers, a giant valley oak lords over the daylily fields. One of its branches dips down to the ground, forming a living bench.
“So many parents take pictures of their kids sitting on that branch,” Deaver said. “People really love this oak. When you stand underneath it and look up, it’s just beautiful.
“It’s 300 to 400 years old,” she added as she marveled at its branches. “I love the history of our trees. I wish they could talk and tell us their story. Indians camped out under this tree; later, cowboys rode by. It would be wonderful to know all that happened.”
Recently, the farm offered dinner for 12 under the oak at a charity auction to support the Amador County Fair Foundation. The winning bid was $5,000, Deaver said proudly. “It’s going to be a farm-to-fork feast with Deaver wine, Deaver port, Deaver lamb.”
Daylilies are just one crop farmed by Ken and Jeanne Deaver, who have worked this foothill parcel for five generations. Their zinfandel vines date back to the 1850s.
“Daylilies are edible, too,” Jeanne Deaver said. “We don’t spray our flowers, so if someone wants to sample one, they can.”
In an impromptu taste test in the flower fields, Deaver noted that each variety had its own subtle differences in flavor as well as appearance. Some blooms tasted grassy like fresh asparagus tips; others crunched like cucumber or crisp butter lettuce. The most fragrant blooms had the sweetest flavor; they tasted slightly spicy and tropical like starfruit.
Ken Deaver enjoys the farm’s months-long flower show, too.
“I love pretty flowers,” he said. “I like bright colors. When these fields are all in bloom, it’s phenomenal. On warm sunny days like now, these plants just start going bonkers.”
“Ken’s a farmer; he likes anything that grows,” Jeanne Deaver added. “He’s always been very supportive of the flower farm.”
On their 300-plus acres, she started the flower farm as a sideline to the grape business. Intended originally as a mail order nursery, the flower farm began with demonstration gardens to show how the perennials can combine with other plants.
Now, the farm boasts a dozen separate demonstration gardens, showcasing daylilies with about 200 other blooming plants.
“I like lots of other flowers,” Deaver said. “But other flowers – daffodils, irises, tulips – they bloom once in spring and then they’re gone. Daylilies will keep blooming and blooming and blooming. They’ll still be in flower in October. They’ve got to be the easiest flower to grow. What’s not to love?”
20th annual Daylily Days
Where: Amador Flower Farm, 22001 Shenandoah School Road, Plymouth
When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 11 and 12
Details: 209-245-6660, amadorflowerfarm.com
Highlights: Free tram tours, refreshments and garden advice.
Also: Flower farm and nursery are open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. every day.