It wouldn’t be summer without a bouquet of fresh flowers from River ‘Rangements sitting on our kitchen counter, and we know we’re not the only ones! They’re one of our favorite stops at the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market each Saturday, and each time we peruse her booth for the perfect blooms, we can’t help but wonder about the riverside farm where they come from.
Wonder no more, since we got a chance to catch up with Debbie Bailey on picking day at her Greenwich home, and it was every bit as delightful as we imagined. Rows of colorful flowers, butterflies at every turn, and the sound of the Battenkill flowing steps away. Read on to find out how Debbie got her start, the perfect flower to start with if you’re thinking of growing flowers in your garden, and some of her tips and tricks for arranging.
Tell us about yourself and River ‘Rangements!
I live in Greenwich on the Battenkill River and grow all my own flowers. Some of them are cultivated by me and some grow wild on the property. I’ve been at the Glens Falls market for over 20 years and was arranging before that, so my grandchildren (6 girls and one boy) have grown up watching me and making their own arrangements from what I discard on the floor. That means I can count on most of them to do great work and actually 2 of them (Isabelle, 19 and Eden, 16) are working with me now. I also have another girl, Abby Neigh, who works, as did two of her older sisters. Sometimes two of my daughters in law, the mothers of Isabelle and Eden, help with weddings. So, it is a family business. My husband digs big holes when I need them and mows...sometimes over the roses!
You mentioned that you’re a Master Gardener - how did you get your start and what inspired you to get into gardening (and more specifically, flowers)?
As my husband was minister at the Fort Miller Reformed Church for over 40 years, I used to arrange the flowers for the sanctuary. Actually, a very dear member of our church did it before me and I observed her and then one day she said, "It's all yours". I then began growing flowers that would be good cuts and had colors that would look good in our church (the color of the walls were "Angel Pink"...right name for a church!).
When I was an active Master Gardener for Washington County, I saw an article about growing flowers for market and as I had access to good soil on the Hudson River, I decided to try it. I bartered for land, I bartered for greenhouse space...my barter being labor.
We’d love to hear a bit about your process from soil and seeds to flowers.
I start all my flowers from seed under lights and then in the greenhouse when it warms up. We plant out around the end of May.
We’re dreaming of our own cutting garden at home - what tips do you have for beginners? Is there a flower that is easiest for those just getting started?
Zinnias are easy...either from seed (started inside) or from plants so they have time to bloom. Other fillers are Cosmos, Black Eyed Susan and Tai Basil.
Any words of advice for arranging?
Everyone has a different style but there are some rules to follow. Cut into clean buckets (as clean as your teacups) with lukewarm water in the morning or evening (not in the heat of the day), strip the bottom leaves and them sit for about an hour. When arranging, use the rule of odd numbers of focal flowers (ex: 3 or 5 or 7 zinnias). Two tall long steams looks like bunny ears.
It’s easy to see how much you love this - what rewards have your flowers brought you?
Being part of the Glens Falls scene and having great customers that return year after year. Also, having my family involved is a really wonderful thing.
Your table is a regular stop for us at the Saturday Market. You mentioned you sell there exclusively - what drew you to Glens Falls?
I have always felt at home there. My husband and I both have taught at SUNY Adirondack and I feel that Glens Falls is a wonderful northern city.
Any dreams for the future of River ‘Rangements? A rooftop garden in Glens Falls perhaps? :)
That is really a pipe dream. I just want to keep doing what I am doing. I do NOT want to be featured by Martha Stewart!
And we must know, what’s your personal favorite flower?
Lisianthus and I don't grow it...it's fussy!
We couldn’t help but see the sign out front for books - we’d love to hear just a bit about your husband’s book shop!
He has collected them for years from all over the world! His interest in history and books in general have fueled this.
Thanks Debbie! See you at the market!