POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Tucked away in the rolling hills near Point Pleasant is a quintessential family farm, complete with a peach orchard, bee hives, greenhouse, a quilt painted on the barn and those peonies.
The barn is on the West Virginia Quilt Trail, and was the focal point for visitors until this spring, when a sea of colorful blooming peonies now rivals it for attention.
The farm is affectionately called The Ponderosa, and according to Debbie Cottrill Hilbert, the name was coined by their father Charles Cottrill when he purchased the property in the 1970’s.
“Dad always called it The Ponderosa,” Hilbert said of the 70-acre farm. “We grew up here and each of his seven children inherited a part of it. We still refer to the farm by that name. For several years we had a very successful peach orchard, but many of the trees died, and the late freeze damaged much of the crop, so we aren’t certain if there will be many peaches this year.”
She said the peonies were her brother Bud Cottrill’s idea, and they hope to continue with production of plants and commercial sale of the flowers themselves.
The plants were grown in the greenhouse from bare root specimens. Bud is a botanist, and owner of Pro Scape, LLC in Charleston, W.Va. He spends a large portion of his time at the farm, and in addition to the peonies, raised tomato plants for Bob’s Market. Bob’s Market also purchased many of the potted peony plants for sale in their greenhouses.
Hilbert said she loves being on the farm taking care of the bees and plants. The next project is to raise chickens.
“When my dad purchased the property, it was a chicken farm,” she said. “Now we have a variety of crops, and adding chickens into the mix seems like a good idea.”
So, on a beautiful spring day, the fragrance floats through the air across a quarter acre of 30 varieties of blooming peonies, A bush occasionally rustles, but not from the wind. Hermie, the canine guardian of the property, emerges from the field. His job is to keep rabbits and deer away from the crop.
Hilbert said Hermie recently lost his longtime companion, but has continued to do the job well on his own.
“He takes his job very seriously,” Hilbert said. “We really don’t have any problems with deer or rabbits destroying our plants.”
“The peonies are so beautiful and fresh, we are hoping some of the local flower shops will be interested once they see the quality of the flowers and the extensive varieties,” Hilbert said. “And we do sell the blossoms to visitors who want bouquets to take home.”
The farm is located at 11735 Ripley Road, Point Pleasant. For more information, Bud can be reached at 304-550-2812.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.