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Stories from the valley

Kindness Grows Here

Contributed by Jennifer Harrison

It’s 9 am and the Mezger Family Zinnia Patch near Woodland is buzzing.  Literally.  Bees dot the flowers and people line the lanes of colorful zinnias that stretch as far as the eyes can see.  It’s a pay-it-forward place where you can cut a bouquet of zinnias, for free, all summer long, under one condition.  You have to share the bounty.  

“We have different colors and different varieties of zinnias but the same message, pick some flowers for yourself and for someone else too!” explained Sadie Scott whose father Mark Mezger started the popular patch over a decade ago.  

mother and toddler standing in a flower field holding a flower together

The Friendship Flower

It started with party or rather leftover flowers from a party.  Mezger, not wanting to toss the centerpieces distributed them to hospitals and convalescent homes in Woodland.  Then, taking the gesture a step further, he grew zinnias, unbeknownst to him at the time, “the friendship flower” on a few acres in Yolo County and encouraged others to pick and give as well.  

The rest is free flower history.  

“Coming out here and just picking flowers brings joy, I mean how can you not smile walking out in these fields?” said Hortencia Hernandez, a school principal who was picking flowers for teachers at her school as well as for a family member.  

mother and son standing in a flower field each holding a bouquet of flowers

“Flowers make people happy.  I also think people thrive in nature.  We build these cement walls and we think we are so civilized, but really we still have primal instincts as mammals that we need to plug in with nature,” explained Paige Brokaw who along with son Ben made the trek from Sacramento after recently learning about the patch. 

“I never knew it existed.  I love zinnias but I had no idea they grew here” she explained. 

Grow they do.  An annual, zinnias thrive in the sun and heat, making them a natural fit for Sacramento Valley summers.  

“This year’s crop is the most beautiful yet,” proclaimed Sadie, who along with her two-year-old son Landon gave me a colorful tour of the flowers and relayed her recommendations for a Mezger Family Zinnia Patch visit.    

vases of zinnias

If You Go: Top Tips

  • Open sunrise to sunset until mid-September, go in the morning to beat the heat. 
  • There can be a pause on the patch.  Check social media pages (linked above) to ensure picking is happening.  Never fear, zinnias never run out.  The more they are cut the more they grow, but recently the flowers needed to catch up due to increased popularity and demand.  
  • Clippers and vases are available on a first-come first-serve basis, so if possible, bring your own.
  • Variety rules. Seven different varieties and a rainbow of colors are available. Green Envy is new this year and the color is a Mezger family favorite. 

The address is 12410 County Road 99W, north of the community of Yolo.