For years I’ve been a vegetable gardener. A serious die-hard veggie nut. I would spend months meticulously planning out succession plantings, the best heirloom varieties, maximizing my 3200 sq. ft. of space and planting, harvesting, weeding and generally being overwhelmed by the amount of produce I could grow in my space. While vegetable growing is good for me and my family I’ve still been struggling with what I can only describe as a crisis of life.
Have you ever had a niggling dream at the back of your mind that you really wished would come true, but you keep telling yourself it is either a bad idea or just not feasible? That’s me.
Many, many years ago I had a friend who was a florist. I was insanely jealous that she had such an awesome job. I wanted to be a florist. One of my favorite things in the entire world is cut flowers. I love them for myself, I love giving them to people, I love love love cut flowers. I told my friend I was jealous and wanted her job. She then turned to me and told me how much she hated it. She told me that I would no longer love any holiday. Her hands hurt all the time. She hated the cranky bossy brides. Her own boss was a jerk. She did everything in the world to tell me that this was not what I wanted to do. So I listened to her. I put the idea of being a florist at the back of my mind. Locked it away and tried to forget about it.
I bought a house, started growing plants, cut flowers from my garden and made beautiful things. I went to work in a retail garden center and occasionally got the pleasure of occasionally going to the cut flower wholesaler to pick up things like ribbon and foil wrap for potted plants. I eyed the swinging double doors of the cooler and wondered what treasures were hiding behind them. I never peeked in. I would drive by flower shops and wonder, are you hiring? But I knew that I was getting older and a career switch just wasn’t in the cards. I would have to start at the bottom and I needed to make more money than that.
A few years ago a good friend of one of my bosses was getting married. Travis did the flowers for the wedding and when the boxes of beautiful stems were delivered I begged if I could help. He let me go with him to his house to put the stems in buckets of water. I saw the masses of lisianthus, roses and greenery. The memory of wanting that dream came flooding in and I’ve been hooked ever since. It is all I can think about. It consumes my time.
Last year I learned that there is a small burgeoning faction of gardeners hell bent on bringing the cut flower industry back to the US. From slow food (of which I’m a complete believer) comes slow flowers. What a big fat duh that is! I learned that these small scale farmers are growing the most beautiful cut flowers and some are even farmer/florists. WAIT! WHAT? You grow flowers… you arrange flowers… and you make money?! I could do that.
Of course I can’t just up and quit my day job. I still have bills to pay and my personal plot of land isn’t quite big enough to pay the mortgage in flowers alone. Besides, I have experience growing things, but not so much as an actual crop. There’s a learning curve.
I decided to dedicate this growing season to figuring it out. I did not start a single tomato plant in the greenhouse. Instead I started sweet peas, zinnias, columbine, marigolds, globe amaranth, snapdragons and stock. I threw my veggie garden in in an afternoon, but I’ve carefully planned out colors of the 75 dahlia tubers I’ve put in. I’ve been lucky enough to be promoted from putting flowers in a bucket to turning this:
Into things like this:
I’ve followed the stories of flower growers like Jennie Love and Erin Benzakein, two women I greatly admire. I’ve found inspiration through the lens of instagram and a whole host of other flower farmers/florist around the world. I’ve realized I can do this. I just need to have confidence. I need to take a risk.
I’m also going to play with my design skills by participating in the Seasonal Flower Alliance. It’s a risk. I’m willing to take it. Wish me luck! Or at the very least… follow along.