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A Flower Farm Will Bloom in East Hampton

Thu, 04/20/2023 - 12:59
MaryAnn Tracey, above, is the proprietor of Sleeping Bee Flowers, which is expanding this year to a familiar plot of farmland on the highway in East Hampton.
Durell Godfrey Photos

MaryAnn Tracey lives in the house where she grew up in East Hampton. Her father, John DeFalco, had been a gardener, cultivating an acre of flowers at home and passing along the pastime to his daughter. Among the plants blossoming in abundance were peonies, which are perennials, and which still thrive at the Traceys’ house some 60 years after being planted.

From that plot of peonies, Ms. Tracey loves to cut bouquets for her mother, Elaine, who’s 91 and lives with the family. “My mom would smile and feel pure joy when she gets the flowers,” she said.

Ms. Tracey and her husband and daughter, Mike Tracey and Haley Tracey, are the owners of a farm called Sleeping Bee Flowers. How sweet is that name?

“Did you know bees sleep in flowers? That’s how we got the name. They were in our flowers,” MaryAnn Tracey said.

The Traceys are embarking this season on an expansion that will see them transition from their previous location, a Peconic Land Trust plot of a little under an acre behind Balsam Farm in Amagansett, to a three-acre property on Montauk Highway that was known as Bhumi Farm for a couple of years.

On their newly leased land, the Traceys plan to grow at least 50 varieties of dahlias, along with asters, phlox, zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons, yarrow, calendula, lisianthus, lavender, and many others. They are planning to sell wholesale to local floral designers and brides doing their own wedding flowers, as well as sell subscription boxes and affordable bouquets from their farm stand on the highway.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to do an event where we can have them pick their flowers, and we’ll teach them how to design their bouquet,” MaryAnn Tracey said.

Haley Tracey, a 2015 graduate of East Hampton High School who has worked on a pineapple farm in Hawaii and spent four years vegetable farming at Amber Waves in Amagansett, said she’s really enjoying the flower business.

“A genuine exchange of flowers brings so much joy,” she said.

They will grow at least one type of vegetable, though. That will be hot peppers, so that Mike Tracey, who happens to be East Hampton Village’s police chief, can continue making his Bonac Hot Sauce from scratch. That will also be available for sale at the Sleeping Bee farm stand.

Back to those sleepy little bees. As pollinators, they will have a major role in the Traceys’ farm operation. For instance, many varieties of dahlias are unique to the farms where they grow thanks to the bees’ pollination activities.

“Dahlias are amazing. You’ll get the tubers, but when you collect the seed of a dahlia, it’s going to be a one-of-a-kind dahlia,” Ms. Tracey said, “so we are going to be planting 500 or 600 seedlings this year to see if we can save any tubers for next year.”

Beekeeping is in the Traceys’ future, too — Haley Tracey plans to take a course at the Hallockville Farm Museum on the North Fork — but one step at a time. The priority this year is to get their new farm and farm stand up and running.

If anything good came out of the Covid-19 pandemic for the Traceys, it was that Sleeping Bee Flowers grew into an uplifting livelihood. “Covid inspired me to grow more,” MaryAnn Tracey said.

“We’re trying to focus on happy things,” Haley Tracey said.

For those who want splashes of natural beauty in their Instagram feeds, the Traceys can be found at @sleepingbeeflowers.

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