Flowers tradition changes hands


Picking time for the Eremurus looks more like a family outing than hard work.

Mike Roskamp
Picking time for the Eremurus looks more like a family outing than hard work.



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The Variegated Iris is not grown for the lower market but the bulb market. Roskamp wholesales them in bulk, and retailers package them for sale.

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When the Alliums reach the point of harvest, the fill the field with such beauty that you don’t want to look away.

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Efren Valencia of Sunnyside tills carefully the soil of a field with growing Alliums. He makes each pass twice with the tines working a different each time.

— It’s spring, all right. The Alliums of Outlook are out of the ground and growing.

According to grower Mike Roskamp, the stand shows promise of a good crop of the beautiful purple flowers that will be ready to harvest in May.

Roskamp has been around flowers all of his life, watching and helping his grandfather and uncles – the Friend family – grow them.

Now it’s Mike’s turn. He is taking over Uncle John Friend’s farm, but the tulips that have been familiar on Price Road over the years are no longer part of the business.

“Tulips have become a commodity,” Roskamp said. “We can’t compete with the big operators.”

What Roskamp is growing are awe-inspiring special high-value flowers that have more limited markets.

South of Outlook, on the north slope of Snipes Mountain, Roskamp grows

Alliums. The plants grow to 3-4 feet tall, and the flowers are a purple ball.

Over on Price Road, north of Outlook, Roskamp grows Eremurus and Variegated Iris.

The Eremurus comes in several varieties and colors. There are pinks, peaches, tangerines, yellows and whites.

The Alliums and Eremurus are shipped all over the United States, including, Florida, Los Angeles and Hawaii. The are used by hotels, museums and other places that require a grand decor.

Roskamp grows two varieties of the Variegated Iris – Aureo and Albo. They are white and yellow respectively. But he doesn’t grow it for the flowers but for the wholesale bulb market.

The Friends grew and Roskamp grows these flowers because they are profitable and fun to grow. Not easy, but fun.

“We do it because a lot of people can’t,” Roskamp said. “Uncle John has been growing these for years. Uncle Nick has been growing them, and my grandpa grew them.”



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