Follow Your Dream
Dabbling with a few dahlias turned into a colorful, full-time venture for this entrepreneur
Summer Dreams Farm founder Michael Genovese gathers Gerrie Hoek dahlias.
Photos by Heather Saunders
BACKSTORY: Sometimes small moments can completely change your life. Michael Genovese, who grew up working in the fields at his parents’ 31-acre Candy Cane Christmas Tree Farm in Oxford, planted a few dahlia tubers in 2012 that had been sent to his family as a gift. When the flowers bloomed, he gave them away to friends.
“They were beautiful, people loved them,” Genovese says. “You never see dahlias at florist (shops). I thought maybe there was a hole in the (floral) market.” Native to Mexico, colorful dahlias can vary from tiny pompoms to the size of dinner plates. They grow from a sweet potato-like tuber. In 2015, Genovese planted 5,500 dahlia tubers on a section of his parents’ farm. “I thought I was going to die,” he says of the effort. “At one point I pulled my car into the field and collapsed in the back.”
The dahlias bloomed. Genovese, who had full-time work in automotive purchasing, hadn’t found a place yet to market his flowers. One day his mother, Cathy, took Michael’s cut dahlias to Clarkston-based event planner Liz Stotz, at Parsonage Events. “She went crazy and fell in love with them,” Genovese says. Stotz helped Genovese network with florists and planners. Genovese quit his purchasing job and started Summer Dreams Farm. He bought land a mile from his parents’ farm and planted more dahlias. He plans to build a home and plant at least 6 acres of dahlias. He hasn’t given up dreaming, either, adding, “I want to become the largest dahlia grower in the Midwest.”
Clockwise, from top left: Many of the plants are almost as tall as Genovese. An easy way to harvest his dahlias is to hold them upside down while collecting the blooms. Scaur Swinton features a raspberry sorbet-like shade. Rows upon rows dazzle the eye. Genovese clips the orchid-hued Seduction dahlia.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE: This year, Genovese will sell about 450 varieties of dahlias. The flowers come in more than one shape, including decorative, pompom, cactus (spiky), ball, and water lily — all in a multitude of colors except blue and royal purple.
MOST POPULAR DAHLIA: Café au Lait, a show-stopping bloom that comes in creamy or blush colors and is often used at weddings.
BUSY TIME: In August and September, crews work up to 14-hour days picking dahlias.
GROWING YOUR OWN: Plant dahlias in sunshine in well-drained soil. You can dig them up in the fall and replant them next spring/summer, or just plant new tubers in the spring.
COLLEGE CRED: Genovese has a business degree. “Working with the corporate world and suppliers gave me experience; it was so valuable.”
SPARKLE APLENTY: Genovese loves the colors of dahlias. “Dahlias are so bright, with colors (that are) so intense.”
FORMULA FOR SUCCESS: Genovese believes success comes from 50 percent hard work, 25 percent being smart, and 25 percent from being blessed.
MOTTO: The more you give in life, the more you receive.
FIND THE FLOWERS HERE: Genovese’s flowers are at the Rochester Farmers Market and at Plum Market locations. His dahlia tubers are available online for $5-6/ea. at summerdreamsfarm.com. To see them in full bloom, check the Summer Dreams Farm website in late August and plan a visit to the annual Open House at 4780 Seymour Lake Rd., Oxford.
dahlias for days
From upper left: A bee enjoys the Sweet Nathalie dahlia. Camano Buz dahlias soak up the rays. The yellow bloom is called Mary Lou. The coloring of the Cafe au Lait dahlia is downright delicious. At far left is the Ben Huston dahlia. Dahlias at Summer Dreams Farm come in a rainbow of colors and even range in size, from small to giant. Most dahlia varieties grow 4 to 5 feet tall. Though not well-suited to extremely hot and humid climates, dahlias love the sun and enjoy a growing season that’s at least 120 days long. You can purchase the farm’s bounty of beauties at the Rochester Farmers Market and at Plum Market locations. You can even order tubers and plant your own via the farm’s website at summerdreamsfarm.com.