Charming NJ Flower Farm Offers More Than Just Beautiful Blooms

Visitors flock to Shoppons Run Flower Farm in Stockton for picture-perfect bouquets—and sparkling chit-chat with the friendly master gardener.

Master gardener Peter McCrohan
Master gardener Peter McCrohan purchased Shoppons Run 13 years ago, at the age of 60. Today, 25 varieties of dahlias account for two-thirds of his crop. Dahlias are planted in May and flower from late August through October. Photo: Laura Moss

Day-trippers and locals flock to Shoppons Run Flower Farm in Stockton not only for its burgeoning blossoms, but to share sparkling conversation with proprietor and master gardener Peter McCrohan.

“I work with all kinds of customers—the floral designers who order large quantities of just one or two fancy varieties, as well as locals who prefer a humble bouquet wrapped in a rubber band,” says McCrohan, who grew up in Princeton.

His goal is to plant just enough each season to meet market demand. “I find a home for mostly everything I grow,” he adds. Quince blooms in March and April; then come peonies in May and June. In August through October, the dahlia crop, for which McCrohan is best known, is at its most vigorous and colorful. The farm also raises lilacs, tiger lilies, nerines, bittersweet, spider lilies and trumpet-shaped crinums.

a field of dahlias

A field of dahlias appears as if imagined by Monet himself. Photo: Laura Moss

Shoppons Run took off in 2021 when a New York Times real estate-section article raved about Delaware Township. One of the images showed McCrohan, in his signature cowboy hat, cutting flowers in his bucolic field. Soon after, he was featured in Princeton-area publications and even snagged a magazine-cover photo, making him a bit of a local celebrity.

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McCrohan is the real deal. He graduated from Cook College at Rutgers with a degree in horticulture, then farmed in Arizona and California for 20 years. Tired of the dry climate, he moved back to the East Coast in 2010 to put down roots on the tract of preserved land that is now his farm. “I bought this property when I was 60 years old and now I’m 73. I grew flowers out west, but had never raised dahlias,” says McCrohan.

The striped Tartan dahlia

The striped Tartan dahlia is a show-off in the field as well as the vase. Photo: Laura Moss

Today, he tends the 14-acre Hunterdon County parcel with his cat, Leo, a good mouser and an ambassador of goodwill at the farm. He employs no staff, but a legion of loyal volunteers helps plant dahlias in spring and digs up the heavy tubers in fall.

“I operate the rototiller and tractor, but personally don’t plant or lift,” McCrohan admits. “We have it down to a science. On four separate mornings, I lay about 600 dahlia pots (2,400 total) in rows four feet apart. The volunteers come right behind me to plant them. We work up an appetite for a nice lunch in one of my five outdoor salons.” His salons are vignettes assembled with a quirky collection of well-loved outdoor furniture that McCrohan snagged at local garage sales.

A bouquet of Karma Chocolate, Cafe au Lait, Castle Drive and pompoms

A bouquet of Karma Chocolate, Cafe au Lait, Castle Drive and pompoms is simply elegant. Photo: Laura Moss

Among his volunteers are a retired dentist and an English professor. “Volunteers experience the whole process from seed to blossom, so they feel a part of it,” he says.

McCrohan is passionate about the science of farming. “These days, there’s an inability for young farmers to own land. But in Delaware Township, there’s a lot of farmland available, with great support from New Jersey conservation groups. It’s a statewide revitalization of agriculture, because our loamy soil offers so many exciting opportunities for young people to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables.”

A Karma Chocolate blossom

A Karma Chocolate blossom is popular among floral designers, as well as bees. Photo: Laura Moss

Meanwhile, back on the farm, McCrohan is on the lookout for new colors and varieties of dahlias. He keeps a nucleus of 25 varieties and tries three to five new types each season.

“I like to swap dahlia tubers with other gardeners. Some like tiny pompom dahlias, while others prefer huge dinnerplate dahlias that grow 7 feet tall.”

Later this year, he will begin taking orders for already-started dahlias in 4-inch pots.

a close-up of a Cafe au Lait dahlia in full bloom.

A close-up of a Cafe au Lait dahlia in full bloom. Photo: Laura Moss

After each busy season, how does McCrohan relax?

“I own a vintage BMW motorcycle and like to visit Riegelsville, Pennsylvania, riding up one side of the Delaware River and back down the other. That’s my idea of a half-day vacation. Then I come right back to the farm.”

Shoppons Run Flower Farm

At the end of the day, even the gardener himself can’t resist cutting a bouquet. Photo: Laura Moss

This passionate gardener and proponent of local agriculture sums up his love of flower farming like this: “Growing dahlias is like cooking scallops. They are good not because the chef is good, but simply because they are naturally good.”

Shoppons Run Flower Farm (87 Worman Road, Stockton) is open most weekends, but it is best to call first: 520-850-3226.

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