Buckner branches out into hydrangea outlet
PALMYRA, Va. — For Murray Buckner, the notion of growing flowers on a commercial basis fell out of the sky. Like many other homeowners in the region, Buckner had planted some hydrangeas at his house.
The impact of a summer thunderstorm, though, created a situation from which he saw the potential in developing a flower farm.
Buckner said after a summer thunderstorm caused branches to break off from the shrubs, he took one of the broken branches to a local florist, asking if they could do anything with the hydrangea flowers. The response was positive.
“I saw the business opportunity in growing hydrangeas,” Buckner said. “Those few initial hydrangea plants have led to thousands of hydrangeas.”
Buckner owns Full Moon Blooms, growing and hybridizing hydrangeas on about four acres of his 35-acre Old Iron Farm southeast of Charlottesville.
He said he acquired the farmland about six years ago and recently bought out his business partner to be the sole owner.
Old Iron Farm got its name, Buckner said, from all of the metal — an old flask and horse buckets, for example – found in the fields from the Civil War time period.
In addition to the 800 varieties of hydrangeas, the Old Iron Farm is home to about 20 chickens and about 10 ducks.
“I got them because they eat bugs, help fertilize the soil, and take care of weeds,” said Buckner. “But the chickens also eat flowers. And the ducks dig holes and don’t eat the weeds.”
Even so, he loves having the chickens and ducks at the farm.
“They think I’m God,” Buckner said. “They come when I call them.”
He focuses on hydrangea paniculate, which “produces bigger blooms and larger amounts of blooms each year.”
Buckner said while the quantity of blooms on individual shrubs is more modest in the first few years of growth, the amount of blooms increase through the years, with more blooms coming in the third and fourth years.
Hydrangea blooms are used in floral bouquets as well as on tables and venues throughout central Virginia.
In particular, the hydrangeas from Full Moon Blooms can be seen at weddings and other events in the region.
Buckner came to farming later in life after working in another career.
He studied architecture and graduated from the University of Virginia; he then worked for years in landscape design, retiring from that work about eight years ago.
“Our values reflect our deep love for the ecosystem that supports all of the life on the farm (chickens and ducks included),” Buckner’s website reads. “We use sustainable farming practices including natural (no pesticide) pest management.”
Harvesting of the hydrangea blooms typically starts in late June and continues through the beginning of November, Buckner said.
“September and October are the peak times for weddings in the area,” he added.
Buckner said the bulk of the sales are done directly with area florists — though a limited amount is done on a retail basis.
“Most florists know what they want,” Buckner said. “They may order a week in advance or months in advance, depending on their customer’s schedule.”
“Most florists want white hydrangeas for weddings,” he continued. “In the fall, requests for weddings also include hydrangeas flowers in other colors, including pink/green, a reddish tone, or even brown.”
Buckner said he is looking at the commercial mass production of some of his hybridized hydrangeas in the coming years.
Businesses would acquire the rights to grow and distribute large quantities of a hybrid hydrangea variety he created.
Buckner would then earn royalties from the sales of his hybrid hydrangeas.