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'We'll run away and get married anyhow'

When William and I got engaged, we talked about eloping (briefly). We weren't overly concerned with the wedding itself because we were just so happy to have found the person that we wanted to live life and grow old with. I was 31 and he was 36 when we got married, so by the time we tied the knot we'd both been in a lot of weddings and had attended even more. While eloping sounded like a fun idea, realistically we knew that we wanted to have a big party and celebrate with our friends and family. We were only engaged for 3 months before we got married, so I suppose that having a relatively short engagement was our way of eloping.

Here's a little photo journey of us for all you lovers of cheesiness :)

The real reason that I'm sharing our little love story, is that I've had the pleasure of providing flowers for lots of elopements lately and they have a special place in my heart. These couples have been so much fun to work with and I must say, the photos are some of the most spectacular that I have seen from 'wedding' days.

Its just a different vibe than a wedding day with lots of guests, planning and preparation - which I also obviously love! I suppose that I just adore celebrations of love in any form. Here are some favorite shots from this summer. We have so many special places  here in the mountains with amazing views to hold a small ceremony.

These are from an elopement at Craggy Gardens and the photos are by the talented Amelia Fletcher Photography

This Balsam Knob elopement was photographed by my amazingly talented friend Meghan Rolfe Photography. How beautiful and unique is the bride's dress?!

Meghan shoots for weddings, engagements, portraits, maternity and elopements. She also offers elopement packages for the ultimate one-stop-shop experience. She knows all the best places with those killer mountaintop (or waterfall) views. Check out Elope Outdoors for more details. 

This elopement took place at a scenic overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just love the way the pink dahlias pop against the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

There are so many spectacular options for tying the knot here in Asheville. And the bottom line is that I just love being a very small part of helping people celebrate and declare their love. 

We know they’re right when they say we’re not ready
But all we care is how we feel right now
We’ll go ahead just the same
Prepare to take the blame
We’ll run away and get married anyhow
They warned us that we can’t live on love forever
But we just tell them we’ll get by somehow
Our problems will be greater
We’ll worry ‘bout them later
We’ll run away and get married anyhow
If other kids went through it
Then I know we can do it
If our love is that much stronger
It will last that much longer
— Beach Boys - We'll Run Away

xo Niki

 

 

 

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Dahlia Season is Finally Here!

Each year I look forward to the arrival of dahlia season and when the flowers are blooming in abundance! These beauties do take some effort to grow on a larger scale, but are worth every drop of sweat. 

Every year I pour through catalogs, online photos and the pages of random lists that I've jotted down throughout the past season and try to narrow down the varieties that I can afford to add to my collection. This year, my big splurge was KA's Cloud ($25 for one tuber - eek!), but so far she is worth every penny. Just yesterday, I harvested 5 perfect blooms from my one plant. And that was after cutting at least 3-4 blooms just a couple days prior. A true workhorse!

Other favorites that I've added this year are Otto's Thrill, Breakout, Sherwood Peach, Willowfield Matthew, Crichton Honey and Diva.

I focus on growing varieties that will last at least 4-5 days in the vase (since dahlias have a notoriously short vase life) and colors that I like to use in my own designs. Lots of pinks, purples, blush, peach, white and creams.

Here in the hot, humid south, it can be a struggle to keeps plants looking healthy throughout the summer months. I cut deeply to encourage long, strong stems in the future, even if that means some deadheading and shorter stems for now. We lay landscape fabric in the pathways to help with weed control and use t-posts and baling twine to corral/support the plants.

We have significant Japanese beetle pressure during July and August and because we grow organically there are limited options. I set up beetle traps around the property and far away from the crops so I don't attract more beetles onto the plants. I walk around with a soapy bucket of water at least once a week (more often would be better, but who's got time for that?!) and pick the beetles off by hand, dropping them into the bucket. It seems to work. We certainly lose some blooms, but with over 500 plants in the ground, I'm willing to sacrifice some flowers here and there for the sake of growing organically. 

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It can certainly feel overwhelming to keep up with all the harvesting - about every 3 days - but but the dahlia field is hands down my favorite place to be right now on the farm. Its simply magical!

What are some of your favorite varieties of dahlias to grow or organic pest control practices that you've found work well?

Cheers to dahlia season!

xoxo Niki

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Creating Your Own Simple Centerpiece

Even though I am surrounded by flowers all day every day, I still take the time about once a week to create an arrangement for our dining room table with flowers leftover from the week's orders. Okay, full disclosure... Sometimes its not just the leftovers. Sometimes I keep the most beautiful dahlia for myself. 

Photography: Taken By Sarah

Photography: Taken By Sarah

Follow my detailed, step by step instructions for creating a beautiful, simple arrangement to brighten up your own table!

CHOOSING A VASE

There are so many options for choosing a vase, but the most important thing is to be sure that whatever vessel you choose is watertight. When I create a simple arrangement to give as a gift or for my own dining room table, I prefer vases that have a wide mouth and are about 8-12” tall. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to flower vases! Vintage pitchers, local pottery and even old watering cans make for a unique vases.

Photography: Taken By Sarah

Photography: Taken By Sarah

CHOOSING YOUR FLOWERS

Its important to incorporate a mixture of different elements to create a balanced and interesting arrangement. Here is my recipe for a well-balanced arrangement:

  • 2-3 focal flowers: peonies or garden roses in the spring; sunflowers and dahlias in the summer and fall are some of my favorites

  • 3-4 tall flowers or spikes: snapdragons and foxglove in the spring; celosia and bells of Ireland in the summer and fall

  • 3-4 round, disc flowers: ranunculus and anemone in the spring; marigold, sweet william, cosmos or zinnia in the summer and fall

  • 4-5 filler flowers: forget me not or phox in the spring; feverfew or globe amaranth in the summer and fall

  • 1-2 whimsical, airy elements: scabiosa in the spring; wild grasses, dill and queen anne’s lace in the summer and fall

  • 4-5 sprigs of greenery: herbs, hostas, dusty miller and lambs ear are home garden staples that are perfect to include in your arrangement. “Weeds” such as honeysuckle and privet are some of my favorite, long-lasting greenery.

  • Don’t be afraid to add unexpected elements into your bouquet, such as artichokes, vines and unripe berries. Floral arrangements are not limited to just flowers!

WHERE TO BUY FLOWERS

To find the best variety and freshest blooms, research where your local flower farm is located and swing by to grab a bucket of flowers. Slow Flowers and the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers are comprehensive nationwide resources for locating local flower growers. If you don’t have a flower farm nearby, visit a farmer’s market in your area - many vegetable farmers also grow cut flowers. Grocery stores with large floral departments often sell single variety bunches of flowers.

DESIGNING YOUR ARRANGEMENT

1. Its a good idea to have a color scheme for your arrangement in mind before you purchase your flowers, or wait and let one specific flower provide the inspiration. For example, a coral charm peony may be the perfect inspiration for a spring arrangement. I would choose colors that will accentuate my peony, such as pale pink ranunculus, white and peach poppies with a yellow center, white sweet peas, pale pink snapdragons, bright green hostas and honeysuckle vines. I prefer not to use flowers that are all exactly the same shade, but rather complementary tones.

2. Once you have your color palette and your flowers, you will prepare your vase. If you’re using a wide mouth vase, use clear tape to create a grid on the top of your vase. This will help your arrangement maintain a solid structure. Fill the vase about ¾ full with warm water. Add flower food or create your own (recipe in “caring for your cut flowers”).

3. Begin with the greenery, placing it around the outer edge of the vase and 1-2 sprigs in the middle of the grid.

4. Next place your focal and tall flowers equidistant around the vase. I prefer using asymmetrical numbers of flowers (for example, 3 peonies). Turn your vase as you work so that each side of the vase receives attention. A lazy susan comes in handy for turning your vase easily.

5. Add clusters of round and filler flowers to fill in the gaps between the focal flowers. Add in one stem at a time so you can see where there are gaps in the arrangement. Sometimes its best to use neutral filler flowers around your focal flower to really let it pop!

6. Finally, add in your whispy, airy elements. Place these to opposite sides of your vase or dangling over the edge. Beware of creating a bunny ear effect though!

7. Once I’ve completed an arrangement, I always walk away for a few minutes so that I can come back with fresh eyes. Almost always I will notice a gap that I didn’t see before or find something that I want to adjust.

Photography: Taken By Sarah

Photography: Taken By Sarah

CARING FOR YOUR FLOWERS + EXTENDING THE VASE LIFE

1. As soon as you bring home your cut flowers, add warm water and flower food to a clean vase. If you don't have flower food, use 1 quart of water + 2 tbsp lemon juice + 1 tbsp sugar + 1/2 tsp bleach. Cleanliness is of the utmost importance for fresh flowers!

2. Remove any leaves growing low on the stem that may touch the water. Leaves in the water will cause bacteria to grow more quickly. Bacteria is the #1 cause of short vase life of cut flowers.

3. Trim the stems at an angle using a sharp knife or flower snips. A sharp knife is better than scissors, as scissors tend to crush the stems and inhibit their ability to soak up water.

4. Change the water every other day (or as often as possible) to minimize bacteria growth. Keep your flowers in a cool location and out of direct sunlight.

5. Admire your blooms!

Student work from 'An Evening on the Flower Farm' ~ Photography: Taken By Sarah


I'd love to see what beauty you create! Share your arrangements on social media and use the hashtag #flourishflowerfarm

xoxo Niki

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Highlights from "An Evening on the Flower Farm"

This past weekend we hosted our very first "Evening on the Flower Farm" workshop and it was a smashing success! I have to admit that I was quite nervous (read: absolutely freaking out) about meeting everyone's expectations. I wasn't sure who the attendees were (designers? growers?) and my self-critical side was wondering what I had to offer them. Thankfully I was able to turn that last minute performance anxiety into productivity, and so I made sure that everything was 100% ready to go and that my notes were typed up and reflected exactly what I hoped to share. Its safe to say that we meet our participant's expectations, and perhaps even exceeded them. 

All Photos by Sarah Collier with Taken By Sarah

All Photos by Sarah Collier with Taken By Sarah

The Artists + Vendors

I enlisted the help and creativity of incredible local artists to round out the experience. Sarah Collier from Taken By Sarah was documenting the entire evening, start to finish. Sarah is a lovely person and incredible fine art film photographer. I am so grateful to know her better and have a new flower-loving friend. 

Kelci Thompson with Whimsi Design is a local calligrapher (and my neighbor!) and she designed all the signage and watercolor name cards. Kelci's work truly took the details to the next level - rather than me scribbling "parking" on a chalkboard, her calligraphy added a beautiful element of sophistication. The attendees all commented on how they loved the name cards, which were placed in a bud vase with stems of sweet peas, all to take home. 

Sarah Snyder of Formations of Mental Objects custom baked and designed watercolor- inspired cookies for us. They were absolutely delicious and so beautiful. Sarah's dessert was the perfect after dinner compliment to Well Bred Bakery's catering. 

I wanted to include flowers we don't grow on our farm, and also make sure that we had more than enough to supply the participants, so I sourced flowers from some other local flower friends. Lady Luck Flower Farm, The Purple Iris, Poppins Posies and Fraylick Farm all provided us with gorgeous flowers to supplement blooms from our farm. Plus, Grace Rose Farm and Peterkort Roses kindly provided us with garden roses to serve as focal blooms in our arrangements. It was quite the flower spread! 

We began the workshop with introductions and then dove into the farm tour. I shared about our growing practices and planning process, then turned everyone loose into the fields to get a closer look. Then we gathered back together to enjoy the delicious food and I began a demonstration of how to design a compote centerpiece. The participants were a wide mix of floral designers to total beginners - I loved seeing the different color palettes that everyone chose as well as their design aesthetic. Watching everyone chat and laugh and help one another truly made my heart sing! Sarah captured portraits of everyone's work so they will have a piece to establish their portfolio, or to just admire and remember the magical evening. 

This was truly a night to remember and we can't wait to host the next one! If you're interested in joining us, the date is October 7th and spaces are going quickly! More information about registration can be found here

I believe the evening can best be summed up by one of our participants:

"I had a lovely time at the Evening on the Flower Farm workshop last Saturday! Although I have some experience with floral arranging with my job, I learned a lot of new information and enjoyed creating a beautiful centerpiece. It was interesting learning about the farm, and Niki did an excellent job with her presentation on designing a centerpiece. Very easy to follow and understand, and she and her team offered encouragement and advice as we arranged. Every detail was perfect, from the gorgeous and extensive selection of flowers to the delicious meal, infused beverages and calligraphy name cards. They even had a photographer there to capture the evening and take photos of our individual centerpieces that we were able to take home with us! I attended for professional development, but I highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in floral arranging/farming or doing your own wedding flowers (they offer DIY buckets of flowers). I would've loved to have this option when I was planning my wedding years ago. What a wonderful experience!" ~Amber M.

Thank you to everyone who joined us and I can't wait for October!

xo Niki

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Spring Updates from the Flower Farm

Does anyone else feel like Spring has absolutely flown by? My guess is that it feels this way because here in Western North Carolina we've been experiencing warmer than usual spring weather... I'm talking multiple days with highs in the 80s throughout April. I suppose the bright side is that the flowers are blooming earlier than anticipated or hoped.

Photo: Meghan Rolfe Photography

Photo: Meghan Rolfe Photography

We've been able to sell basically every viable stem since the anemones started popping in January - what a vast difference 1 year of hard work makes! I remember last May when all of the snapdragons bloomed at one time (so much for succession planting) and I was scrambling to find buyers. Let's just say that our neighbors and friends loved us since we put buckets of leftovers on the curb in front of our house throughout the season with a note to "make yourself a bouquet, but please leave the buckets." As much as we love doing this, its really nice to be selling as many flowers as we can grow.

A few game changers for this season:

1.  The Hustle: I (Niki) worked NONSTOP to build relationships with local designers, grocery store partners and wedding clients to spread the word about this business. I truly learned the what the word hustle means, and its paying off. The hustle continues just as much now (if not more) and ever as we continue to grow and promote Flourish.

2. Cool Flowers: We're harvesting the benefits from a huge (for a small scale farm) planting of cool season hardy annuals. See my post from last fall What Flower Farmers do in the Fall for more insight into our process for prepping and planting. Thankfully most everything made it safely through the winter and the cool temps made for robust spring flowers. Having flowers throughout the early spring has been awesome... we're all ready for some colorful blooms after winter.

3. Having confidence: I'm learning to have confidence in myself as a small business owner, as a flower farmer, as a boss, as a PR representative and marketer and as a designer. While I definitely drop the ball on lots of small things (my poor dogs rarely get to go on trail runs anymore), those mistakes don't define me. I realize that I the have ability and determination to learn from my mistakes and keep refining our systems.

4. Planning: Putting in the hours to build spreadsheets and make a solid crop plan for this season is well worth the precious time away from farm chores in the early fall. Knowing that the seeds are ready to be sown on schedule, plugs ordered and fields laid out takes away so much of the stress of what to plant and when. We just follow the schedule

5: Hannah: Our amazing farm hand from last year returned to work with us again this season. We are so incredibly lucky to have Hannah working on the farm part time. Not only is she a joy to be around, she's an incredibly thoughtful, efficient and hard worker. More on Hannah later when we provide a proper introduction :)

A few exciting things that have been very encouraging this spring...

This blog has been named one of the Top 100 Flower Blogs on the web by Feedspot. We came in #50!!! Along with all sorts of other amazing flower blogs, we are so honored to be included as a part of this list.  

 

Our very first "Evening on the Flower Farm" workshop sold out! We have an incredible lineup of local artisans contributing to this evening. From catering, to confections and calligraphy, photography, textiles and more, this is going to be a night to remember. Not to mention flowers from our farm and garden roses donated from Grace Rose Farm in California. Because we received such an overwhelming response, we are excited to announce that we're offering another workshop this fall. "An Autumn Evening on the Flower Farm" will be held on October 7 and registration is now open. We hope that you'll join us! 

Photo: Meghan Rolfe Photography

Photo: Meghan Rolfe Photography

There are a few other really exciting things coming up very soon, but I can't announce them just yet :) Let's just say that Flourish Flower Farm is about to reach a nationwide audience through a handful of different print, radio, social media and online publications. I will be sure to post about them on social media and share on the blog.

And finally, I'm heading out to Washington State's Skagit Valley next week to attend Floret Flower Farm's workshop. To say that I'm excited is an understatement! Erin has been a huge role model from afar, and I'm thrilled for the chance to learn from her and Team Floret. I have no doubt that I'll bring back many, many farming and design tips to incorporate into this little farm. 

xo Niki

PS - Check out our Image Gallery as we've been updating the page with all sorts of loveliness from weddings and designs this spring!

 

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Ranunculus Love Affair

This has been a weird winter... very mild overall and remarkably un-winter-like. February brought weeks with highs in the upper 70's (possibly even hit 80 a day or two) and March brought lows in the teens and with a couple inches of snow. Thankfully the ranunculus and anemone, which started blooming in late January, survived, as did the thousands of cool flowers out in the fields. 

Ranunculus have always been my favorite flower (shhh, don't tell the other flower babies) and this year most of the varieties I planted seem to have bloomed pink. I'm hoping that my 2nd succession turns out to be more true to color - - if pale yellow and cream end up blooming pink, then we may have a problem. I haven't been able to help myself from snapping hundreds of photos and simply embracing all the pink. I hope you enjoy!

xox Niki

 

 

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How I Became a Flower Farmer

I get asked this question a lot: "How did you become a flower farmer?" It has taken me over a year to articulate my story. Attending ASAP's Business of Farming conference this past weekend provided me with the structure and encouragement to sit down and really think about how I got where I am today. I can't pretend that this story is just about me however. William, my husband, best friend, love of my life and partner in all things, is the real reason that I had the courage to follow this dream. 

I grew up on the coast of South Carolina and some of my earliest memories are of climbing the giant magnolia trees outside my dad's office and picking wildflowers along the path to the beach. My parents are both plant people through and through. My mom taught me at a young age that to pick lettuce, you don't actually yank the whole plant out of the ground. And that vegetables from the garden are immensely tastier than those bought from the grocery store. I spent hours every summer watering trees at my dad's plant nursery and landscaping company, and I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. Family vacations were spent camping in the same mountains that I now call home. So its no wonder that my heart led me to be growing plants here the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I spent my 20's living and adventuring in the Western states while leading outdoor adventure trips for teens - backpacking across British Columbia, mountaineering in Washington and rock climbing in Northern California. I would save all my money in order to travel (and do the same activities) in places like Nepal, Peru and Costa Rica. I apprenticed on an organic farm in Georgia and fell in love with farming. I eventually became the director of the outdoor program and after 10 years of traveling, I started to crave a home. I got a dog, a cat, some chickens and built a huge garden in the heart of Asheville. I reconnected with a college friend and fell in completely in love. I married that sweet friend, added another dog to our family and built a bigger garden. But I started to feel restless in my professional life. I loved working with kids and wanted a new challenge, so I joined an incredible team of folks who were starting a K-8 charter school. It was a wonderful experience, but my heart was still restless and being drawn even more strongly towards farming.

I knew deep down that I wanted to be growing plants, but vegetables didn't feel right. One day while trail running, I had an intense vision that I needed to be growing flowers. I could see it so clearly in my mind: fields full of flowers. Throughout my life, I've carried with me my parents' love of flowering plants - drooling over dahlias at Pike's Place Market in Seattle before I even had a home, always having vases of fresh flowers in the house, growing them in my yard and designing the flowers for our wedding. I tentatively approached William - who by now was well aware of my professional restlessness and wild dreams - and told him that I wanted to become a flower farmer. I started reading, researching, writing business plans and creating financial projections and spending every spare moment developing this dream. The biggest obstacle (besides finances and actually doing the hard work of farming solo) was that I wasn't sure that I could build a new business and really give it 100% while working a full time job. When I set my mind to do something, I go all in and want to be successful. I wanted to quit my job and become a full time flower farmer. William was nothing short of heroic as he encouraged me to pursue this dream.

So we made a plan: we depleted our savings, I tearfully left my job at the school and found some beautiful land to lease. I was absolutely terrified. Leaving behind a steady paycheck, health insurance, set hours for work and the camaraderie of coworkers felt like such a huge risk. But I knew that in order to make this dream happen, I would have to be organized, focused and work my ass off. 

We humans crave beauty in our lives. Flowers truly feed the soul and are such a unique expression of caring. Seeing the look on someone's face as I hand them a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I love telling people the romantic names of varieties that I grow and feeling proud that when someone sticks their nose into my flowers, they'll inhale fragrance instead of chemicals. With each seed sown, weed pulled and bridal bouquet created, I am literally building our future and living the dream. 

Following your dreams is never easy - its hard work, sore muscles, fear of failure, loneliness, mistakes and lots of dirty laundry. But having the courage to step out of my comfort zone and explore that restlessness, with the unfailing support of William, led me to start this little flower business. Its the best risk I've ever taken. 

P.S. This is the long version of my story :) My next homework from the conference is to write the short version. Why is it always harder to condense stories and edit? Wish me luck!

 

 

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Give a little love

Valentine's Day has never been about red roses and sugary treats in our house. My husband rarely bought me flowers even before I had a flower farm and design studio, and of course even less often now. Perhaps its because no matter how thoughtfully he displayed them, I always wanted to rearrange them, put them in a different vase, move them to a new location - basically to put my own touch on the arrangement (sorry honey!). William and I tend to shy away from the consumerism surrounding most holidays, but use February 14th as a day to celebrate our marriage, to reflect on how grateful we are for each other and to plan an extra special date night. 

In the spirit of thoughtful gift-giving and celebrating the person you love (friend or sweetie), I wanted to share a few ways to experience the magic happening at Flourish Flower Farm this coming season:

Workshop

I am so excited to invite you to the farm, which is usually not open to the public, for "An Evening on the Flower Farm." After receiving so many requests to visit, requests to bring a friend or mother out to the flower farm and seeing the desire in kindred spirits to get their hands on our beautiful flowers, I created this evening to satisfy those cravings. 

We'll begin the evening with a short stroll through the flower fields and then we'll move into designing a compote centerpiece. You'll receive a demonstration with tips on simple design principles, and then have your turn at creating your own. The beautiful ceramic vase is your's to keep. Our goal is that you express your creativity using flowers and feel empowered to buy a bundle of flowers from a farm or grocery store, and have the confidence to create something spectacular. 

Its the perfect opportunity to plan a date with a friend and spend a beautiful evening amongst the flowers. The workshop is June 10th from 3-6pm and cost is just $105. All flowers, supplies, tools are included, plus light snacks and beverages. Adults of age are welcome to bring their own adult beverage. Space is limited - register here

Bouquet Subscriptions

Flower bouquet subscriptions, also know as a flower CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), are the perfect way to enjoy fresh, local flowers throughout the growing season. At each pick up, you will receive a lush, hand wrapped bouquet of seasonal flowers. Rather than giving just one bundle of flowers on Valentine's Day, give a season's worth of gorgeous, local, organic flowers. Gift certificates are available.

For Asheville folks, our Spring Bouquet Share is currently open. Space is limited. Details here.

Waynesville friends, we are so excited to partner with our dear friends at Fiddlehead Farms this year for our pick up location! Fiddlehead Farms offers a vegetable CSA from May through the Fall. While you don't have to be a member of their veggie CSA to participate in our flower bouquet subscription, you won't want to miss out on the incredible bounty from their family farm. The Waynesville bouquet subscriptions run from May through August, with one pick up per month. More details here. 

Whether or not you choose to include some magic from Flourish Flower Farm in your Valentine's Day, I hope that this season finds you surrounded by your favorite people and lots of love. We can certainly all use more beauty, kindness and flowers in our lives!

With love, Niki

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Snow on the farm

I LOVE snow! After spending many years living in the West, snowy winters and especially skiing are what I miss the most now that I'm in the South. But this year I found myself dreading the possibility of snow. The anxiety of cold temps, collapsed hoop houses and buried plants had me feeling just fine with a snow-free winter.

Well, we did get some snow this past weekend... and I'm happy to report that everything made it through! I added some extra layers of Agribon over the ranunculus and anemone in the hoop houses since we were expecting lows in the single digits. I knew there wasn't much to do for the field crops, except hope the snow would provide enough insulation (it did!). 

I even found a little surprise in the hoop house as I was uncovering everything... the first anemone bloom! 

Hope your snowy days are filled with sledding hills, cozy fires and warm blankets. 

xoxo Niki

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What Flower Farmers do in the Fall

Contrary to what most people assume, fall actually is the busiest season on a flower farm. Even though most of the flowers are done blooming, the backbreaking labor of fall clean up and planting is only just beginning. 

This fall has been very unusual in that our first hard frost came on November 11th and it hasn't truly rained since September 27th (there were 2 days between now and then that it rained less than half an inch, but I'm not counting those). If I had known that there would be almost another full month of good growing weather, I would have planted another succession and kept aggressively irrigating. But that's the fun part of farming: there is not a lot of "normal" and always plenty of trial and error.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned this year is that its worth the time to plan ahead (far ahead) so that you're ready to move forward with a solid plan as the season shifts. I am so thankful that I took the time this summer to read Lisa Mason Zeigler's fantastic book Cool Flowers. The wisdom that Lisa shares is invaluable and helped me completely change my fall crop plan. I'm so excited to try out some cool flowers and hopefully have more robust spring plants and earlier blooms. 

Here is a recap of my process for fall clean up and planting:

Mid to late September 

  • Seeded trays of sweet peas, scabiosa, nigella, cornflowers, bupleurum, and larkspur in the greenhouse. This year I put the larkspur and bupleurum seeds in the freezer for about 2 weeks before planting and had 100% germination (which was not the case this spring). 
  • Ordered plugs for flowers that I wasn't going to start from seed myself

Late September 

  • Retagged all the dahlias so that I could identify them accurately while they were still blooming
  • Started pulling out spent summer plants and adding them to the compost pile

Early October

  • Pre-soaked ranunculus and anemone corms (Erin from Floret Flowers has a great explanation of presoaking) and "planted" them for pre-sprouting. I store them in the basement for pre-sprouting and have had great results. 
  • Re covered the 3rd hoop house that we took the film off of this summer. When I eventually move and rebuild the hoop houses, I will definitely make them all with roll-up sides.
  • Continued pulling up annuals from the fields 

Late October

  • Planted ranunculus and anemone in the hoop houses. I ordered my corms from Gloeckner and Italian Ranunculus - 7 different varieties of ranunculus and 6 of anemone!
  • Planted 1 row of sweet peas in the hoop house

Early November

  • Dig, label and store dahlias
  • Finished clearing all annuals from the fields
  • Measured, cleaned off, rolled up and labeled all landscape fabric. Hello soreness! It was worth the time to inventory the fabric as I took it up because now I know exactly the length of each piece. 
  • Took up and disposed of all drip tape from the fields. I will not reuse the same tape as its too easy for it to crack during storage and then leak. I made the mistake of reusing the same drip tape in the hoop houses this fall, and have been repairing it non-stop. Not worth it.
  • Tilled the fields
  • Planted bulbs: narcissus, tulips, leucojum, iris, muscari and frittaria

Mid November

  • Laid down drip tape, landscape fabric and finally planted cool flowers! 
  • Lupine, Eryngium (Sea Holly), Larkspur, Cornflowers, Love in the Mist (Nigella), Scabiosa, Snapdragons, Bupleurum, Campanula, Delphinium, Foxglove, Flax, Dianthus and Bells of Ireland
  • Added a layer of Agribon to protect the little plants from wind and freezing temps. I'll keep watching the highs and will uncover them as needed. 

So things have been just a little busy this fall. The only thing left to do is plant Iceland Poppies, but those will wait until after a much needed vacation.

I am so grateful for all the incredible resources available through the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and Growing for Market.  If there is any secret to success in the first year of flower farming - or business in general - its that you must read, research and just be obsessed with learning as much as possible. And then just get out there and do it! Trial and error goes a long way and I've kept a detailed journal of everything from planting, rain, bugs, harvesting and sometimes just plain old gripes to myself - a practice that I plan to continue (the journaling that is, and honestly, probably the griping too).

Year 2 is already off to a GREAT start and it feels amazing to be putting in place the lessons learned. I can't wait! But first, I'm looking forward to vacation in Italy with my hubby and doing a lot of yoga this winter. 

xox Niki

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Expanding the vision ~ more weddings!

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Expanding the vision ~ more weddings!

I have learned SO much in this first season and while there are many lessons that I learned the hard way (and don't wish to repeat!), it has been overwhelmingly successful and rewarding. Throughout the next few months I'll continue to fine-tune and adjust my vision for Flourish, but one thing is for certain... I cannot wait to take on more weddings and special events!

When I started out earlier this year, I vehemently stated that I was absolutely not going to do wedding designs, that I would only offer buckets for DIY. Well I am so glad that I didn't follow through on this and said yes to many couples this season. Designs for weddings and other special events have been one of my most favorite aspects of the business! Its such an honor to create pieces that add beauty to someone's special day, small or large life event.

I love everything about the process of design - being able to talk through the vision for a couple's wedding and learning their aesthetic, touring the farm with them and discussing what will be blooming on their wedding day, and then using my creativity and skills to design fresh flower arrangements, all from flowers and foliage grown on the farm.

I am SO excited to be attending a floral design master class with Kiana Underwood of Tulipina in October. Kiana is a flower goddess - seriously, check out her Instagram feed. I can't wait to bring these new skills and everything that I learn to my clients and weddings next year. 

I will only commit to one wedding or large event per weekend so that each couple will have my full, undivided attention and the absolute best of what is blooming on the farm.

I hope to work with you, or someone you know, on beautifying their special day!

Love, Niki

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Instagram Love

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Instagram Love

I've recently received some shout outs on social media that have me blushing, so of course I had to share :) I'm beyond thrilled that over 13,000 folks had the chance to glimpse a little bit of the magic happening on my little farm!

I hope you'll continue to share your pics of Flourish flowers on social media #flourishflowerfarm

xoxo Niki

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Summertime Update!

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Summertime Update!

Now that the season is in full swing, my days (and nights) are spent picking flowers, weeding, planting, making bouquets and sweating in the sun. I could not be more pleased with how my first season is turning out! 

Here are a few places you can find Flourish Flowers around Asheville: Earth Fare Westgate, Earth Fare South Asheville, West Asheville Tailgate Market (market dates I'll be attending), in the lovely designs by Flora and many other awesome local floral designers. I usually do a pop-up flower shop on the lawn of the Isis Restaurant & Music Hall one Saturday morning a month (check social media for details). And of course, by requesting a custom order. Flourish Flowers make a great gift for just about any occasion!

Its been amazing to get to know my inaugural CSA members and I have plans to expand the offerings next year. I'll post details early as a flower bouquet subscription makes a great gift. I've been doing lots of weddings and events and providing buckets for those DIY brides, grooms and wedding parties. 

Be sure to follow along on Instagram and Facebook to see all the pics of beautiful blooms and stay connected! It looks unlikely that I'll have time to fully update the website with photos until this winter - my time is mostly spent away from the computer and in the fields! A goal for next year is definitely to be better at updating the blog. 

I've been published on the American Flowers Week website! One of my shots was included in their roundup of 2016 American Grown Flowers

The West Asheville Tailgate Market featured my tips for Extending the Vase Life of your blooms. 

Farm visitors are always welcome by appointment. Or better yet, come get your hands dirty and trade some farm work for flowers! 

With Love + Gratitude, Niki

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Springtime in April

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Springtime in April

Its hard to believe that April is already midway through, but you know its truly spring when 2 weeks after a heavy frost warning and low of 25 degrees, its sweltering hot with no breeze and a high of 82 degrees. Thankfully all of my flowers came through the freeze unscathed - it was certainly nerve wracking though! I had just spent the previous couple weeks filling the field with snapdragons, dianthus, larkspur, lisianthus and bachelor buttons. All in all, I planted over 10,000 plugs (baby flowers). My body has probably never ached as much as it has this month, but its all worth it. 

My amazing parents came to visit and helped on the farm for a week. Their company, kick booty work ethic and expertise really kicked things into full gear. My dad came up with a plan to rework the field and take care of the grass that I would surely have been battling all season (well, I probably still will battle it, but to a much lesser degree). My mom is a planting machine and tirelessly tucked plugs into the ground and painted a beautiful sign for the farm. I cherish their company and it was absolutely wonderful to have them around. 

I've also been planting dahlias and the first round of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, scabiosa, nasturtium and queen annes lace. The mini greenhouse is absurdly full, but hopefully by the weekend all that will remain are a few trays of foliage and filler starts and my summer veggies. Many friends have asked whether I'm doing a home garden this year, and the answer is yes: per usual I had to have a large home veggie garden too. Oh, and I met my sales goal for the CSA/bouquet subscriptions! I may add a few more spaces once summer hits, but I'm thrilled.

Despite the overwhelming amount of work for one person, the farm is truly my happy place. I can't help but break into a spontaneous grin when I remember to take a moment and look around me. Now, amongst all the million other tasks to complete each day, I am patiently waiting for my first big harvest of the season. 

Flourish's first official bud of the season, a black and white anemone

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Seeds, hoops and a hint of spring

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Seeds, hoops and a hint of spring

No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.
— Unknown

The warm days and sunshine lately have restored my faith that spring is indeed on its way. There is truly nothing better than working away at the farm under the blue sky - except maybe walking into the mini greenhouse and seeing the seedlings growing steadily each day. But in all honestly, there have been some cloudy days amidst all the sunshine.

Throughout the last month I have wondered many times, "What the heck have I gotten myself into???" I think some people would love the type of projects that I've been doing lately... but I am not one of those people. Honestly, building projects are not something I enjoy or am remotely good at. But in the midst of exhaustion and frustration, I remind myself of a few things: (1) that I won't have to do this exact thing again next year because its all part of starting something from scratch (2) farming is hard and its not all about "playing with flowers" (3) while this is indeed hard, I'm living my dream each day (4) I have amazing mentors and resources at my fingertips. I'm certain that I will continue to have these same feelings throughout the season, no matter what farm project I'm working on. The beauty of all of this is that I am learning a lot and I am literally building my dream!

The support that my friends have provided me with lately is making all the difference. I am incredibly grateful whenever someone asks if they can come help me at the farm. The encouragement of friends and family goes a long way!

Here are some snapshots of the projects that I've been working on this past month:

The hoop house frames are up and 1 of 3 already has plastic. After the plastic is pulled on all of them, I'll spread compost and do a final till, then run drip lines, lay down pre-burned landscape fabric and finally tuck my plants in the ground. A huge thanks to Floret Flowers for the amazing tutorial on growing with landscape fabric. After creating the templates, I've been burning holes in the fabric while jamming out to music in my driveway (I'm sure the neighbors think I'm crazy). This will help greatly with weed suppression (which is good since there's only one of me and a lot of weeds) and spacing for planting. So far I have templates for 9x9 and 12x12 spacing. I imagine that I'll add more in the future, but this should get me started.

The mini greenhouse is jam-packed with seedlings! Watching all the seeds germinate and grow makes me crazy happy. So overall, I am making a lot of progress.

Come out and see me today at ASAP's Annual CSA Fair! There will be 16 farms ready to talk about all the veggies, flowers, eggs and farm goodness we have to offer.  The event is from 3-6pm at Jubilee! downtown. 

 

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The First Week

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The First Week

Even though its only Wednesday, this has been a very busy first week as a full-time farmer. (I still feel like someone should pinch me - I can hardly believe that this is actually happening!) As much as I wish the weather would warm up and the ground would dry out so I can get to work outside, I know that this office time is crucial. Once I have plants in the ground, these hours of planning will quickly slip away.

Here are some of the things happening at Flourish this week:

  • Measured the fields, finished up the crop plan and the succession planting plans. If all goes well (ha!) I should have 6 different plantings by mid-summer.
  • Ordered 29,940 flower plugs, 1,190 bulbs and 160 packets of seeds. They're not all arriving at once, in case you were wondering.
  • Designed a super cute gift certificate for Valentine's Day. (Hint hint, today is the last day to order in time for V-Day!)
  • Booked 3 weddings for this summer and fall. 
  • Opened a bank account for the business.
  • Built shelves for the tiny greenhouse in my backyard. Let's see how many trays can fit into a 6x8...
  • Launched a Facebook page, and in less than 1 week received over 200 likes. 
  • Researched buckets, floral sleeves and all sorts of other necessary farm items like row covers and drip irrigation.
  • Snuggled with the pups during my afternoon tea break. 
  • And now, I am patiently awaiting the delivery of my 6 hoop houses, 90 trays for seed starting and brand new tiller. I decided to purchase new instead of used for the tiller after receiving advice from seasoned pros.

The "finished" product: A massive spreadsheet that I ended up printing out to see better, pages of notes gleaned from articles by veteran flower farmers and bags/baskets of succession plantings. 

Thanks for following along at the start of this adventure and for spreading the word about Flourish!

xoxo Niki

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So it begins...

Its official... the Flourish Farm is really happening. For those of you who've known me for a long time, you understand just how monumental this moment truly is. For years I have been dreaming of being a farmer, of sharing what I grow. And let's be honest: I am obsessed with flowers. After several months of spending my evenings and weekends writing a business plan, crunching numbers and dreaming (literally) of flowers, I am taking the leap to start my business. This entire endeavor would not be remotely possible without the love, encouragement, business acumen, patience and support of my husband, William. Doing life with this man is an honor and it just gets better with each day. Our families have encouraged, supported and dreamed of this farm alongside us. Plus, Flourish owes its name to my amazingly creative mother. Our dear friends (who are more like family than "just" friends), John Michael and Stacey provided the missing link for this dream to become a reality - they connected me with the land. John Michael's friends at Southeastern Native Nursery have graciously agreed to lease me land for an unbelievable bargain.

My goal is for Flourish to be a farm and a business that uplifts people. Whether its by coming out to the farm to plant a seed, weed or harvest, or by enjoying a vibrant bouquet on your dining room table, I hope Flourish can remind us all of the beauty of the natural world and within ourselves.  

The process of launching a business has reminded me of my own creativity and passion, has made me feel energized and reminded me to believe in myself. I believe that my dream and happiness is important, that its worth taking a risk for and that I have what it takes to be successful. 

So this year marks the beginning of a new adventure sure to be filled with lots of dirt, sweat and tears. But hopefully, with lots of lovely flowers. 

With Gratitude, Niki

People often become what they believe themselves to be. If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it, even if I didn’t have it in the beginning.  - Mahatma Gandhi
 
Beautiful bottomland that is the new home of Flourish. So much work to be done!

Beautiful bottomland that is the new home of Flourish. So much work to be done!

P.S. Farm helpers of all ages are welcome!

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