Gravel road crunches underfoot leading to long trays of foliage as Buddy the border collie eagerly awaits pets.
On Saturday, the Hess Greenhouse north of Harrisonburg opened its doors to business for customers to bring new life into their homes and gardens in a sign of spring. Those who pull into the Back Home on the Farm lot can now purchase any budding beauty from the safety of their car.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the greenhouse is closed to patrons, but co-owner Lynne Hess brought a display of plants in front of the greenhouse and is accepting requests in advance.
Business was slow but steady on Saturday, but Hess says the first day of the year is never a landslide of customers, so she is thankful for the folks who do stop by to smell the flowers.
“We’ve probably had two dozen cars, so I’m not dissatisfied,” Hess said. “The most important thing is not selling plants; it’s important, but the most important thing is keeping the community safe.”
Succulents, flowering perennials and herbs are perched outside the greenhouse, and Hess said she can recommend similar plants based on a customer’s desired criteria if she does not have a specific variety for sale.
Just a few blocks from the farm, Natalie Cowger has four garden beds, two for flowers and two for vegetables. Cowger says the Hess Greenhouse is a “really high quality” one-stop-shop for herbs, flowers and succulents, and she is excited to have a quarantine-safe way to pick up some spring shopping.
“I like to buy their herbs, especially basils, lots of flowers, lantanas and impatiens. Begonias this year look amazing,” she said. “It’s smart given how crazy everything has gotten. They are ensuring that everyone is staying safe and still able to get their plants.”
Hess said the farm is still keeping its employees busy by tending to other temporarily closed attractions, including the enchanted garden, all of which she said will likely not open until June, at the earliest.
“To protect my people and Gary and I, we didn’t see any reason to open. … I’ve got to look out for us and our employees as well,” she said. “I’d love to have kids come out and play in the yard, but there’s so many things out there about how long the virus stays on things.”
Tara Halterman is a Harrisonburg resident who often stops by the greenhouse to collect new foliage for her home. She said plants can offer comfort during hardships, so she intends to swing by the greenhouse soon to collect additional herbs and perennials to support the farm.
“During these times we have to keep businesses running at a safe distance. I believe they’re being active in doing that and also offering an outlet to nature. Mental health is being affected right now and maybe grabbing a flower can brighten someone’s spirits, as long as it is done using precautions,” Halterman said.
On Facebook, Hess shares video tours of the greenhouse to offer shoppers a glimpse of what’s offered this season. Before pickup, customers are encouraged to reach out to Hess via Facebook, email or phone to preorder plants so they are ready before arrival.
“Restaurants and things are getting hit hard but … maybe we can bring some normalcy with flowers,” Hess said.