A newly-opened attraction at a Vermont destination aims to inspire smiles by having visitors experience flowers in a new way.
"The mask doesn't hide a smile," said Ashley Earn, who was in a required facial covering at the landmark—yet her enjoyment of the sunflower house was obvious.
Ben Pauly, the master gardener at the nearby Woodstock Inn & Resort, came to the farm to plant 10,000 square feet of sunflowers.
"The goal is to create some place magical," Pauly said of the planting.
The creation is called a "house" because the thousands of individual plants, each with multiple blooms, are arranged in hallways and rooms that turn a walk into an experience.
The landmark said it hopes the addition to the gardens creates joy and a needed sense of calm during the pandemic.
"The cares of the moment—of the day—just kind of slip away," observed David Simmons, the executive director of Billings Farm & Museum, describing the feeling he got walking the paths of the sunflower house.
"This is exactly what people are going to want this summer," Pauly said, referring to what he believes people are looking for during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. "They're going to want to see bright yellow flowers, be able to get outside, walk around, enjoy the outdoors. This is probably one of the best years to do this."
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The sunflower house is included with admission to Billings Farm, where visitors can tour a working dairy operation and learn about rural Vermont's agricultural heritage.
The architectural planting of sunflowers isn't a maze. You're not going to get lost on the paths, or end up frustrated trying to find your way out.
"I think it's really relaxing," said Mary Clark, who toured the sunflower house while visiting Vermont from the Berkshires.
"The flowers were smiling at us, so it was a good time," Clark's friend, Marti Breau, added.
Pauly said the sunflower house will keep evolving as more buds open up. He predicted peak color will come between the third week of August and the third week of September.
Visiting Vermont from out-of-state does come with certain safety expectations and procedures. To learn more about those guidelines for travelers, visit Vermont's Agency of Commence and Community Development.