Besecker makes a floral mark in wedding industry with Hope Valley Gardens

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Darlanna Besecker is surrounded by hydrangeas and calla lillies in her kitchen. Downstairs, seedlings are sprouting for Hope Valley Gardens.

A simple request by a daughter led to a second career for a Shady Grove woman.

When Darlanna Besecker and her family still lived in Chambersburg, daughter Sarah asked her to do the flowers for her wedding. She was marrying Dallas Strait in 2010.

“I’ve always loved flowers,” said Besecker. “We decided to grow our own.”

She rented a lot the next season and was successful growing plants in town, but an adequate water supply was a problem. She began leasing an acre at Green Grove Gardens, still the base for her Hope Valley Gardens.

Besecker specializes in fresh cut flowers for weddings, and also offers arrangements or subscription plans. She picks the blooms for weekend weddings on Thursday mornings. Then the garden is open for the community to walk through and pick what they want. The charge varies from $5 to $40, depending on bucket size.

“It was scary at first,” Besecker admitted, “but I put it up to prayer.”

She cut back to 30 hours a week as a nurse mid-wife, and added more than fulltime hours as a flower farmer. The change of pace from a stressful job was necessary.

“I came up with the name Hope Valley Gardens because it gives me balance. It is peaceful and I am surrounded by beauty.”

Besecker starts about 185 varieties of flowers from seed in her basement on Stull Road. She had no idea how many of each, but knew there were 3,000 snapdragons and 2,000 anemones. She has bulbs, peonies, forsythia, zinnias, sunflowers, and almost anything people can imagine. There are also peppers, eggplants and other accessories for arrangements.

“People like my garden. I’m known for my dahlias,” Besecker said. “They see all sorts of crazy things they don’t see anywhere else.”

She is a member of the American Association for Specialty Cut Flower Growers, and recently won the Wedding Wire Couple’s Choice Award 2015 for Floral Design. The win was based on reviews from newlyweds. The award recognizes the top five percent of the site’s wedding professionals who demonstrate excellence in quality, service, responsiveness and professionalism.

Besecker followed her passion, which includes one more special wedding. She and her husband Dave’s daughter Abby is getting married in May.