If you’ve ever bought peonies, there’s a chance that Carl Van Staalduinen grew those stems in North Carolina. He comes from a long line of Dutch cut-flower farmers. In 1943, his grandfather Leendert Van Staalduinen settled in Pantego, North Carolina, and founded The Terra Ceia Farms. What made this destination special? Carl Van Staalduinen says, “He had to find an area where the climate and product coincided with flower-driven holidays.” Tulips bloom here right around Easter.
When Van Staalduinen took charge of what is now a 1,500-acre family farm, he realized this region was suited for more than just Easter tulips. In May, right before Mother’s Day, 150 acres of big, bright peonies bloom. Over the past few decades, he’s mastered the specific and slow art of cultivating these buds, which require long, cold winters. Now, in addition to cut flowers, The Terra Ceia Farms sells and ships whole peony plants for people to grow at home. Here, the budding genius shares a few pointers.