YOLO COUNTY -- It's been a rough year for outdoor flower lovers.
A few weeks ago Solano County sheriff's deputies were warning tourists to refrain from trespassing on sunflower fields to avoid conflicts with growers working in the fields. Daffodil Hill announced that the family-owned free venue was closing because crowds had grown too big and traffic jams were blocking emergency vehicles.
But Mark Metzger is reminding flower lovers that they are still welcome at his 2-acre Zinnia Patch a few miles north of Woodland.
Metzger and his wife became flower growers on a whim. A grain elevator operator and truck company owner, Metzger donated flower decorations to a convalescent home after a company event and got a flood of notes of appreciation.
"If it brought that much joy just a few vases of flowers why don't we go ahead and next year plant some?" Metzger said.
Now, hundreds of people come to his Zinnia Patch to cut flowers during the summer. Free vases are provided, as well as cutters.
His one rule from the beginning: Take as many flowers as you and your family want but give some to those who aren't able to cut them for themselves.
Volunteers continue to gather flowers for senior centers and events. Parents also come with their kids for outings to cut flowers.
Among the visitors on a Monday was April Kemp, who came for the first time after a friend gave her some flowers from the flower patch. She intends to do the same.
"I saw the article in the paper and decided to come get some and share the love," Kemp said.
Metzger said planting, fertilizing and watering has become a hobby that his kids and grandkids have taken an interest in. He hopes to continue the tradition well into the future.
His zinnias bloom well into September.