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How we plant ranunculus and anemone

I am a researcher by nature, always wanting to figure out how other people do things and seeking out the best way to approach something new. But I'm not one of those people who just researches endlessly and never takes action. I'm all about getting my hands dirty (obviously!) and a big believer in the "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" philosophy. I've spent countless hours researching the myriad of ways to grow ranunculus and anemone. As they are some of the earliest spring blooming flowers, I am determined each year to have an amazing crop. After a few years of trial and error, I finally believe that we've arrived at a great system. 

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Growing Conditions + Where to Plant

The soil on my farm has a very high clay content and tends to hold moisture for a long time. This can be good in dry seasons or super challenging any other time. We also have widely varying winter weather here in Western North Carolina (zone 6a/7b). It can be in the upper 60s during the daytime one day and then reach a low of 25 the following night. So I only plant ranunculus and anemone in hoop houses to have a little more control over the environment. 

In years past, I have closed up the hoop houses sometime around early December and left the sides down and end walls open for the duration of the winter. When it gets below 20 degrees (which is not too often and usually in January), I close the end walls and also cover the rows with a layer of remay. This year however, I intend to leave the sidewalls rolled up as much as possible. Even though we're still early into the winter, the plants already look remarkably happier and healthier. With the sides up, I cover with remay fabric when it drops below 30 and then uncover in the morning as soon as it starts to warm up. 

Soil Prep

The soil on the farm is pretty well balanced, so my field prep consists of adding some organic compost and fertilizer. I strongly recommend having regular soil tests done on your farm too so you know what you're working with. Hoop house space is limited and in high demand here so as soon as last fall crop is done blooming, I flip the beds. I start by ripping out the old plants, pulling up landscape fabric and removing the drip lines. Once the soil is dry enough, I go through with the walk behind tiller - starting with a shallow till first, then do a deeper pass and finish with a light till to smooth the bed.

The hoop houses are 12' wide so I can fit 3 rows in each, leaving 2 very narrow pathways of about 18" each. I would rather have narrow pathways and maximize the amount of growing space, so I settle for feeling slightly awkward in the paths. After tilling, I lay down landscape fabric in the pathways so that there is no weeding or maintenance required. 

After tilling and laying fabric in the pathways, I spread organic compost and fertilizer in each bed. I use a 7 - 5 - 10 organic fertilizer and mix them into the soil with a rake.

Presprouting

About 10-14 days before I'm ready to plant, I soak and presprout the corms. I'll usually prep the beds after I've started this process. There are many different ways to presprout your corms and I have had great success by keeping it simple. This year I lost no corms to mold - horray! Because I know that my soil tends to be too wet, and thus lead to bacterial issues, I soak my anemone and ranunculus corms in an Actinovate solution. Actinovate is a concentrated beneficial microorganism that establishes itself on the plants' roots. I also use it to drench all lisianthus plugs before planting and have eliminated fungal issues. Even though I shy away from using any chemicals, this product is approved for certified organic production and helps protect my large investment in the corms.  

I soak ranunculus corms for about 12 hours and anemone for 4 hours, until they start to plump up and double in size. After soaking, fill large seed starting trays (the bottom trays without holes) with a blend of ProMix and vermiculite. This is the same mix that I use for all seed starting. I "plant" each corm into the tray so that the legs or "bananas" are facing down and the corms are touching, but not overlapping. Cover with a light dusting of the mix.

My basement is the perfect spot for presprouting as its about 60 degrees with medium humidity and minimal light. I check the corms every few days to make sure the soil is slightly moist, but not damp. Err on the side of too dry rather than too wet. After about 10 days, the corms grow little white rootlets and they're ready to go. Oftentimes I am so busy during this time that by the time I get around to planting, they have 1/2" sprouts growing. No need to worry - they continue growing in the soil just fine. 

Planting

Although I grow almost everything at the farm in landscape fabric, I do not plant ranunculus or anemone into fabric. I've found that the leaves and blooms of anemone get stuck under the fabric and that the ranunculus do not appreciate the extra heat and moisture retention caused by the fabric. Also, I have more time in the winter and early spring for a few rounds of weeding before the plants mature. I aim to have the plants in the ground around October 31st.

I typically plant 4 rows per bed of ranunculus and 5 of anemone with 6" spacing. I made a super high tech planting spacer out of a conduit pole and flagging tape. One person uses the spacer to lay the sprouted corms along the rows and another person follows behind planting them about 1-2" deep. My favorite planting tool is also super fancy - a butter knife from Goodwill. Its amazing how quickly you can plant a few thousand plants using this method! 

Depending on how damp the soil already is, I may give it a light spray after planting. Again, our soil stays so wet that this year I'm not even laying drip lines for these crops. They usually don't need water again until spring anyhow, so I'll run drip or water overhead if need be later. 

They really do grow so quickly and don't require much maintenance throughout the winter except occasional weeding and protection from those super chilly nights. 

I'd love to hear if you have any tried and true tips for growing ranunculus and anemone! I am by no means an expert, but love sharing what I've learned and love learning new, more efficient ways to grow healthy plants!

xoxo Niki

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BIG News! We are moving + expanding!

We finally purchased land!

After over 2 years of searching for property, lots of ups and downs and heartbreaks (and definitly some tears on my part) we finally found the perfect piece of land to truly put down roots and call home. As you may know, we have been leasing the beautiful land where we currently farm from our friends at Southeastern Native Plant Nursery. While we are incredibly grateful to them for giving us a place to get started, we have BIG dreams that we can now finally start to build.

We purchased 28 beautiful acres in Asheville - the new farm is only 12 minutes from downtown. Our first priority is moving the farm operation to the new location. We will be expanding our fields (more space for more dahlias!) and also begin to plant perennial flowers and shrubs. We have already ordered hundreds of beauties like Japanese hybrid anemone and hellebores. We are so excited to expand our offering of specialty flowers like these to all of you, and of course to use them in our floral designs.

 

More workshops + an event space

Finding the perfect farm was a big challenge not only because its very difficult to find flat farm land here in the Blue Ridge mountains, but we also have big plans to host more workshops and gatherings. Yes, we plan to host intimate weddings and events at Flourish! We have LOTS of work to do to make this dream become a reality, so 2019 will be the earliest that we can begin hosting. We do plan to expand our workshop series and private sessions in 2018 and will have many more dates available - details and registration will be announced this December. 

We are so beyond thrilled about the future of Flourish Flower Farm and that we can expand to share more of the beauty of the farm, our flowers and the Asheville area with all of you! We certainly have a long way to go before this project is complete, but we're ready to get to work on finally building this dream into a reality. 

We can't thank you enough for your support as we grow this flower business - it truly wouldn't be possible without you, and we can't wait to host you at the new Flourish Flower Farm!


xo Niki, William + the Flourish team

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Fall on the flower farm

It can be very difficult to find time to document the beauty blooming on the farm. Most days are spent picking flowers for orders very early in the morning, getting orders out the door and doing whatever farm chores need to be done. But I wholeheartedly believe that its important to put a little time aside to document the season. So this fall, I convinced William to actually be in some photos with me (which was no small feat!). We invited our sweet friend Meghan Rolfe to come out to the farm and she captured everything so perfectly. 

I get a lot of questions about where I source my dahlia tubers and also about my hat (its from San Diego Hat Company). Now about the dahlias: We have such limited space to grow on, so I have to choose the varieties that we grow very carefully. They need to be productive bloomers with long stems and colors that I like to design with and that other local designers and shops like too. Burgundy, blush and white are perennial favorites all around. For larger quantities, I buy from Ednie Flower Bulb company - the minimum amount that can be purchased is 25 tubers per variety. I also love Swan Island, Floret, Sunny Meadows and Summer Dreams Farm for smaller quantities of special, hard to find varieties.

I can't encourage you enough to find a photographer whose work resonates with you and have them come document your flowers - and you too! People want to see the face of the person who grows the beautiful blooms. Even though it can feel cheesy, I promise you that the right photographer will make you feel comfortable. Take a minute to explain your vision - how do you want to see your farm, your flowers and yourself? Its so worth it to schedule some time away from harvesting and farm chores and really highlight the beautiful parts of your farm and farm life. While this is not what my farm (or me) looks like 98% of the time, its so important to be reminded of why we work so hard to cultivate beauty. 

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xoxo Niki, William, Stanley and Louie 

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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, but attending ASAP's Business of Farming conference provided me with the structure and encouragement to sit down and starting writing. 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 of my dad's office and picking wildflowers along the path to the beach. My parents are both plant-loving and growing people, so I suppose growing plants is in my DNA. My mom taught me at a young age the joy of picking lettuce from the garden to make salad for dinner. 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. I spent my time 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, but without the company of teenagers) 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 an outdoor program (Adventure Treks). But after about 10 years of traveling, I started to crave a home. I bought a house in the heart of Asheville, adopted a dog, a cat, some chickens and built a huge garden. I reconnected with a college friend who recently moved to Asheville and after a few months of renewed friendship, we fell in love. I married that sweet friend (its William by the way), added we another dog to our family and built an even 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 and me tending them. Throughout my life, I've carried with me my parents' love of flowering plants - drooling over dahlias at Pike's Place Market in Seattle, always having vases of fresh flowers in the house 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 everything that I could get my hands on, researching endlessly, writing a business plan and creating a financial projections. I spent every spare moment developing this dream. The biggest obstacle was that I wasn't sure that I could build a new business and really give it 100% while working a full time job off the farm. When I set my mind to do something, I go all in and will do anything possible 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 we 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 they hold a bouquet of fresh-picked flowers that I grew is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I love telling people the romantic names of varieties on the farm 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. 

 

 

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