Flower power in Red Hook

(Photo by Will Dendis)

As the final third of winter drags on, cabin fever sets in and our spirits need a lift to carry us through until springtime. Bringing home a bunch of cut flowers is always a cheering self-indulgence, but all the more so in winter. Luckily, anemones are still in season – until May – at Battenfeld’s Farm in Red Hook, the world’s largest grower of hybrid anemones. Battenfeld’s greenhouses provide anemones primarily for the wholesale flower trade, hotels and resorts; but locals can buy bouquets sold first-come, first-serve in the greenhouse.

Founded by German immigrants Conrad and Elizabeth Battenfeld in the 1880s, the farm started out with a focus on fruit-growing. But their sons turned their attention to the raising of violets, during the long period when they were extremely popular. Located not far off Route 9G, named Violet Avenue for its pervasive fragrance, Battenfeld’s became one of hundreds of greenhouses in the Rhinebeck/Red Hook/Milan/Poughkeepsie area that for decades supplied the world with so-called “blue gold.”

But after World War II, the bottom dropped out of the market for violets, which had for many decades been the most popular flower in America. Red roses supplanted them for Valentine’s Day, poinsettias for Christmas, white orchids for wedding bouquets. Local nurseries turned their energies elsewhere. Battenfeld’s soon found success as a Christmas tree farm, and by the 1960s, Conrad and Elizabeth’s grandson Dick Battenfeld had already immersed himself in growing and hybridizing anemones. They became a specialty of the farm, unrivaled for quality. And you, lucky neighbor, can simply pop by between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week between September and May, and pick up a bouquet ranging in price from $4 to $16.

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There are about 200 species of anemones: perennial flowers whose tribe belongs to the genus Ranunculaceae, which also includes buttercups, delphiniums, nigellas, hellebores and cohoshes. With a name that means “daughter of the wind” in Greek, and said in legend to have sprung up from a mixture of Adonis’ blood and Aphrodite’s tears, anemones may have been the “lilies of the field” referenced in the Bible. Crusaders brought them back from the Middle East to Europe, where they were being cultivated by the late 1600s in Belgium, Holland and France. The hybrid anemones grown by F.  W. Battenfeld & Son are derived from the de Caen variety, first identified in Normandy.

While most admirers of anemones praise their vivid colors – mostly purple, white, red and pink – their neat, elegant form and long vase life, the flowers offer a special advantage to folks with chemical sensitivities: They have no discernible fragrance. For some, that might be seen as a disadvantage. But the sight of a knot of anemones on your dinner table still remains a tonic to the winter-weary soul. You have another couple of months to stop by and grab a bunch before anemone season comes to an end. Call ahead to ensure availability, as the day’s harvest often sells out.

Self-serve anemones, Monday-Sunday, September-May, 7 a.m.-7 p.m., $4-$16, Battenfeld Christmas Tree Farm & Anemones, 856 Route 199, Red Hook, (845) 758-8018, https://christmastreefarm.us/anemones 

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