Tiptoe through the tulips at Rocky Hill Flower Farm

Tracy Haun OwensGet Up & Go, West Knox

A thoughtful gesture a few years ago led Rocky Hill resident Robert Dowbiggin to a whole new “agritainment” enterprise.

He was at a local florist buying a bouquet for his wife, Melodie, when a flower wholesaler made a delivery. Dowbiggin, who is an educator and childcare expert by vocation, wondered what it would take to grow flowers as a side business. He had six acres off Davis Lane in Rocky Hill, and he had a friend with farm equipment.

Friend George Beets tilled a small portion of the land for him, and Dowbiggin threw down some zinnia seeds.

Today, Rocky Hill Flower Farm is a thriving u-pick flower enterprise, welcoming guests from late March until the last flower blooms (probably late September). As long as there are flowers, Dowbiggin plans to be open 9 a.m.-noon Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.

Customers grab flower baskets and wander through the field to choose and pull their blossoms. The flowers are wrapped in craft paper and ready to take home.

The farm opened last weekend with its first Impression tulips. Next up will be Triumph tulips and, in a few weeks, some colorful tulip hybrids. Last year Dowbiggin planted 4,000 tulip bulbs in the fall and sold out the blossoms within a week. This year he planted 20,000.

For 2019, he has also sown zinnias, sunflowers, peonies, black-eyed Susans, a row of wildflower seeds and more. In order to have different flowers until the fall, he’s sown something different each week in preparation.

“I want to see what grows,” he says.

After he grew those first zinnias, he ventured into the cut-flower business before he figured out it wasn’t the best use of his resources. He also tried cutting blossoms for a farmer’s market. He had taken his own four kids and kids in camps to u-pick pumpkin patches and other farms, so when he came across the idea of an interactive flower farm, “a light bulb went off,” Dowbiggin says.

“Our location is great,” he says, “and there’s nothing like it around here.”

Oddly enough, he had never gardened before starting the business.

“I have a black thumb,” he says, joking that the more he leaves the flowers alone, the better they do. Melodie is the creative mind behind the presentation of the farm, its logo and signage, and he is the front man. Saturdays and Sundays are understandably busy with families, and weekday mornings attract stay-at-home moms with small children, homeschoolers or enterprising hosts looking for the freshest blossoms for dinner parties. Dowbiggin enjoys meeting them all and sharing this beauty with them.

“I love it,” he says.

Rocky Hill Flower Farm is at 1400 Davis Lane, Knoxville 37923. Admission is $5 per vehicle, and tulips are $15 per dozen. When you visit, wear shoes for walking on uneven ground. Updates can be found on Facebook and on Instagram.

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