Mum is the word
This time of year, mum is the word. Soon, our landscape will evolve and the colors and senses that comprise fall will brighten our day and shout loudly to our eyes. This is the time of year that yellow and gold and orange are the flavors of sunrise and sunset.
This is also the time of year for mums. Formally, the mum is a chrysanthemum, and her roots are traced all the way back to Asia. There are believed to be 40 varieties of mums; names ranging from Cheryl Spicey Orange, to Jacqueline Pink, to Wilma White.
North of Hillsborough and before the crossroad of Schley Road, BeeWild Farm is brightening the landscape with mums. Here farmers Pelham and Mary Jacobs christened their own landscape with more than 1,800-mum plants, this summer.
“We always knew we wanted to do something like this on our land. It is just so very peaceful to finally see it come to life, literally,” Mary said.
It is early afternoon and the vibrant colors of the trees are weeks away and yet one cannot help but feel a frost coming-on when seeing the yellow and gold and pinks and reds found amongst the mum’s. Mary Jacobs is from Durham and she attended St. Mary’s where she studied English. She is the assistant to the dean of arts and science at Duke University, and though she was not born in the old farmhouse where they now live, Jacobs refers to this place as home. Her husband, Pelham, was raised in Durham and attended Mars Hill College. Pelham is the church sexton at Hillsborough Episcopal Church, where upon those hallowed and historic grounds, Jacobs maintains the landscape and buildings.
“We had the idea well before we potted our first plant, it just took time to research and carve what we wanted to do with mums,” Mary said. Upon settling on a business plan and the logistics to growing mums, for sale, the Jacobses began their journey into farming by potting 1,800 plants this summer.
“It was a lot of bending and up and down, but also soothing,” Mary said. The irrigation system and the layout of the plants and weed fabric were all designed and built by Pelham. “This summer, we were lucky in that it rained and we didn’t have to feed them as much,” Pelham said of some of the challenges of growing the mums to a finished product. “We also had problems with caterpillars, which led us to having to fend them off with adding neem oil to the water,” Pelham said.
On this open green landscape, among a row of mature cedar trees and in the shadows of an ocean of hills and trees far upon a distant knoll, the Jacobses opened their mum stand and moved into the business of selling mums and meeting the public.
“This has been a family operation,” Mary Jacobs said. Helping grow the business, their daughter, Hannah, who is an accomplished photographer and designer, designed the logo and associated marketing ideas for the family business. In town, their son, Pelham Jr. has delivered mums as advertising pieces to local businesses and circulated postings to areas of commerce. The Jacobs family appreciates the hard work and effort that allowed them to grow such a large crop, their inaugural year of business. “We bought all the materials necessary for laying out the plants and supplies to set-up an irrigation system. There wasn’t a written diagram of how to do this, but lots of reading, figuring space, and putting a system together,” Mary said.
The Jacobses said there were and still remain challenges balancing life and career around the needs of their mums. However, there are takeaways from growing your own crop that makes the process and the tedious nature of balance worthwhile.
“I was amazed at the beautiful deep greens present on the plants before they bloomed; it was just stunning and beautiful and a diverse variety of shades of green,” Pelham said.
While they have not tracked their time, this husband and wife farming team believe they spend close to 30 hours each week working with the mums. Satisfaction from their toil and effort comes from beautiful plants that will adorn steps and front porches of many homes in the area now, and into the fall. Beneath a Carolina blue sky, with vibrant colors all around them, the Jacobses helped customers choose mums and answered questions about the process and the pleasure of living within the rural landscape of Saint Mary’s Road.
Mary Jacobs looked out among her mums, all 1,500 that remain, and said, “I get a sense of peace here that I did not expect.”
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