Dahlia fields open to visitors through September
More than 360 varieties of dahlias are still in bloom in the fields at Swan Island Dahlias in Canby, and visitors are welcome to wander the 35 acres of blooms and buy bouquets of fresh cut flowers through Sept. 30, or longer if the weather holds.
"Exploring the dahlia fields is one of the Willamette Valley's most popular agritourism activities this time of year," said Mary Stewart, OSU Extension agriculture business and marketing development faculty. "The impressive dahlia fields appeal to everyone, and photographers use the rich tones of autumn light to take stunning photographs."
The fields are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through September—sometimes into October, weather permitting. The gift shop is open year 'round from 9 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends only during the months of August and September.
Swan Island Dahlias has been owned by the Gitts family for more than 50 years. Nicholas Gitts is the patriarch of the third-generation farm.
He grew up working the fields on the farm and then ventured off to college at Pacific University to major in business and accounting. He joined the farm full-time 43 years ago.
There have been many changes in those years. Sales have grown, new varieties have been created and the business has shifted from wholesale to retail.
"Back in the '70s when we started, we were about 90 percent wholesale and 10 percent retail, and now we are 95 percent retail and 5 percent wholesale," Gitts said. "I decided when I came back [to the farm] that retail was a lot more stable. We started putting a lot of money into advertising and retail grew like crazy. We expanded our catalogue which has really done well for promoting the retail part of it."
The farm is home to more than 360 different varieties of dahlias. Customers can purchase fresh cut flowers or tubers to plant.
Though the farm requires a lot of hard work year-round, compliments from customers make it worthwhile for Gitts.
"When you have customers coming this time of year, and you hear the compliments and joy they get from seeing the flowers, it's very rewarding," Gitts said. "By the end of October I'm tired of looking at the flowers, but every year when they regrow again, it's like starting a whole new generation. I enjoy the springtime when everything is growing again. People fly in here or drive from all over the country to see this."
According to Gitts, it is almost time to retire. Luckily, he has his two daughters, Jennifer and Heather, to take charge.
"They've been here a long time. They started doing cut flowers when they were in their teens," Gitts said.