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Home business idea blossoms

When lifelong Valley residents Jerry and Aimee Sherrill bought an old horse farm in North Bend four years ago, they thought it would be a great place to expand their landscaping business. The two began brainstorming to figure out what else they could do to utilize the property.

"We realized the Valley didn't have a place for people to cut flowers," Aimee said. "There were u-pick berries and pumpkins, but no cutting gardens for flowers. We saw a niche."

Always interested in horticulture, Jerry said they decided to offer dahlias because of their long growing season.

"Dahlias are such a great cut flower. They provide continuous blooms from July through early October, or until the first freeze. The more you cut them, the more they bloom," Jerry said.

"Any way you put them together, they're just gorgeous," Aimee adds.

In 2003, the Sherrills bought 2,250 dahlia tubers and got busy planting. Jerry took care of the soil preparation, rototilling, digging and the irrigation system.

"The first year, we just let them grow while we figured out our plan," Aimee said. "We opened to the public two summers ago."

Today, the gardens at the Dahlia Barn are exploding with color from more than 4,000 plants in bloom. Eighty-five different varieties are available for customers to choose from, and the gardens are open for cutting through the first weekend of October.

First-time customers are given an impromptu demonstration on how to properly cut the flowers. Jerry gives them clippers and a water-filled bucket and sends them off to wander the gardens in search of the perfect bouquet.

"People really go out of their way to be careful with the plants, making sure they cut correctly so as not to damage the plants. Now, if we could only get them to spend a little time weeding while they're here," Jerry joked.

In actuality, there aren't that many weeds and the gardens are meticulously maintained. The experience of spending a beautiful afternoon surrounded by so many flowers has made the Dahlia Barn a favorite weekend experience for many regular visitors.

Brides are also becoming frequent visitors to the garden, and the Dahlia Barn provides a "do it yourself" alternative to more traditional, expensive floral shops.

"I'd say we do about four or five weddings a weekend," Aimee said. "Brides come out on Thursday or Friday. It really becomes a fun event for the women, and it's a very cost-effective way for brides to do their flowers."

Tubers will be available for purchase in the big red barn every Saturday during the month of March.

"Stroll the gardens now," said Aimee. "This is the perfect time to come through and see which flowers you'd like to have in your own garden."

The Dahlia Barn also sells tubers through its Web site, www.dahliabarn.com; shipping them during March, April and May.

The entire family is involved in the business, with stay-at-home mom Aimee running the behind-the-scenes portion of the business, 7-year-old son Baylor passing out Dahlia Barn business cards to fellow Opstad first-graders and 2-year-old daughter Lauren helping out as only a 2-year-old can.

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