When Jeff Charles and his wife Marisa Striano Charles decided to move to the North Fork five years ago, a four and a half acre former bed and breakfast on Sound Avenue in Riverhead was the last property they looked at.
It was clear the ranch would need a lot of work.
“It was so run down I didn’t think my wife would want any part of it,” said Charles, who also goes by the nicknames “Charlie Flowers.”
But among the reasons why they liked the property — besides the fact that every bedroom had its own bathroom — were a full acre of peony bushes planted by the former owner, Dave Macknee.
Charles felt that the peonies were a gift from Macknee. The couple bought the farm and named it “Blossom Hollow Ranch.”
A year after they moved in the couple also started the non-profit equine rescue “Spirit’s Promise Rescue” repurposing the barn and paddocks on the property.
Of the 3,000 peony bushes there are three different varieties planted; abalone pearl, coral charm and hermione. The buds this year are down 25 percent because of the harsh winter, Charles said. He cuts the stems before the blossoms open and keeps them stored in a refrigeration unit at 34 degrees.
He sells the bouquets for $10 at the farm stand.
“It is very labor intensive to lead up to the fertilization, weeding and cutting. By the time it is said and done I don’t think I make any money,” he said.
He added that it brings people into the driveway, which allows the couple to meet new people and explain what Spirit’s Promise Rescue is all about. They currently have 20 horses on the ranch.
Visit them at 2746 Sound Ave. in Riverhead.
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