Find Beautiful Locally Grown Peonies at Red Twig Farms
Grown in the gardens of Asia for thousands of years, the peony is often referred to as the oldest of plants. Peony plants can often live a century or more, and those who grow them, or enjoy their beauty and scents, have a real nostalgia for them. Red Twig Farms has been cultivating peony varieties for several years and their 5,000 plants grow more than 12,000 blooms. The blooms have recently been harvested are ready to find their way into wedding bouquets and floral arrangements.
“Almost everyone has a peony story to share,” says Lindsey McCullough, Communications and Brand Manager of Red Twig Farms in Johnstown. “We love peonies and the stories that everyone has to go with their childhood,” she says. “It’s been amazing to meet new people and hear about their grandparents or parents that had them in their yard.” McCullough’s husband Josh McCullough manages the peony farm with his father Karl.
Red Twig Farms began as an offshoot of McCullough’s Landscape and Nursery, the landscaping company that Josh McCullough works on with his brother, Nick, who co-owns the landscape business with their parents, Karl and Terri. Founded in 1997, McCullough’s Landscape and Nursery brings together the family’s extensive knowledge of horticulture and agriculture. Nick has a degree in landscape horticulture and design from The Ohio State University, Terri has a degree in landscape horticulture from Columbus State Community College, Josh studied at Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, and Karl has a a background in agriculture, at Dow AgroSciences working in seeds.
At first, the farm only grew varieties of dogwood and willow for cut ornamental stems during the holidays, and for use in other floral arrangements. The bright reds and yellows of the stems make for some stunning floral displays. Last winter, they experimented with weaving leftover branches into wreaths.
“We wanted to diversify,” says Karl McCullough on why they got into growing peonies. “The peonies are one of our first big crops of the season.”
They also grow varieties of alliums, dahlias, and pussy willows.
Karl also grew up on a farm where peony bushes could be found everywhere. Karl’s mother Phyllis McCullough helped fund the land that got Red Twig Farms started. It began with only 300 peony plants.
It was a very special day when Josh took his grandmother some of the first peonies that bloomed from their farm. When Josh brings his stems to the farmers’ markets, he often hands a new mother or grandmother a peony and the smile that simple gesture inspires makes all the hard work of picking thousands of blooms -often in the span of a week and by hand- worth it.
The McCulloughs keep a test garden close to their main offices with around twelve different peony varieties. This allows them to see what will do well, and it indicates where their fields are laying.
“Weddings and the nostalgia are what drove our focus into peonies,” says Josh. “They became a viable solution for a spring crop. We are always looking for new ways to diversify, but we have to find the right plants.”
Josh plans to grow Red Twig Farms into a business that will require all of his attention. It’s currently divided between Red Twig Farms and McCullough’s Landscape and Nursery.
Red Twig Farms currently has about six acres in production and has recently acquired ten more that they would like to get into production. They practice good stewardship of the soil, using leaf compost gathered from the city of New Albany, and using drip irrigation systems to be conservative with water.
Demand for their peonies has more than doubled this year over past years, an accomplishment Josh credits to Lindsey’s work on social media and other communications efforts for the farm.
“Lindsey really grew our brand,” he says. “People are starting to pay attention to us. Our first out of state order came from our Instagram account and the beautiful photos she takes.”
The farm grows peonies in shades of white, blush, pink, dark pink, corals, and reds.
“There’s never too many pinks,” says Lindsey.
“There will be some really beautiful weddings with our flowers,” adds Karl.
The farm’s peonies have been on the desk at the Governor’s Mansion, showcased in Rose Bredel during Gallery Hop, a part of the VIP party at the Columbus Arts Festival, and are now available at Whole Foods in Upper Arlington. The farm will also open for visitors and you can find them at the Worthington Farmers’ Markets June 6 and 13.
“We’re pretty strong entrepreneurs,” says Karl of his family. “I never dreamt that we would all be working together.”
They certainly enjoy their farm, their peonies, and each other’s company.
“The three of us make a really good team,” says Josh.
Stop by Red Twig Farms during open hours Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am to 2pm to pick up peonies. Red Twig Farms will also be at the Worthington Farmers’ Market on Saturdays June 6 and 13th 9am to 12pm. Please call 614-855-1288 for availability and to confirm hours.
For more information, visit RedTwigFarms.com.
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