As I ring in the new year cuddled up at home with my new puppy, I reflect back on the events of 2018. It is difficult to believe this time last year we were studying flower farming at Florets Flowers, starting our first seedlings in the greenhouse and building the infrastructure for the farm. The year truly has flown by.
By the month of May, we were already expanding the fields to prepare for the fall planted spring blooms. And expanded a second time by early September.
We enjoyed farmers markets (okay, "enjoyed" might be a stretch, but it's fair to say we tested the market and met some very nice people who visited our tent), and hosted a buyer for a major grocery chain at the farm (more on that in another post). The launch of our online shop was a success, and in the summer we opened our flower stand at the farm.
Blessed we were to have sales avenues so early on, hard work truly pays off. We didn't make a profit, of course. It's expensive to get the operation up and going. However, the enthusiasm in this community has been phenomenal and really kept us going as we battled bugs and nearly 100 degree temps all summer. Never once did we consider "throwing in the towel," it was more of a "just keep swimming" type of vibe 'round here. And swim, we did. In sweat.
Ahh, the logo. What fun I had dreaming it up and having it created. I really wanted something that would stand out and be remembered. As most of you know, I love horses. If you are around me for more than eleven minutes you are sure to hear me mention my darling geldings, Mocha and Tucker. But this isn't a horse is it?
Nope, its a mule. Mandy-the-mule to be precise. Mandy was a darling of a mule that my husband fell in love with at another barn. She was there over a year waiting for someone to purchase her. After many months of thought, he did just that.
I originally wanted a horse in my logo, but having two of them proved to be too difficult to decide which to use. This is how the mule on the logo came to be, because I couldn't decide which horse I loved the most.
Flash forward, we no longer have the mule. After four broken ribs, a fractured pelvis, punctured lung and two days in the hospital, my family had an intervention and said it's time to bring her back to that barn we bought her from. You see, as darling as she was on the ground, she was not at all fond of having to work. And by work, I mean riding me around the arena for 30 minutes twice a week. I know, cruel, right? Long story short, I fell off twice and "got up three times" as they say. The last time I fell it was after she decided to smash me against a pole fence, breaking my ribs. Because she didn't want to work.
Ordered to discontinue riding for three months while my ribs healed (the horses, that is. NEVAH, will I ride a mule again), I sulked for quite some time. While healing, my dahlias were on fiyah. These beautiful angels really got me through a tough time. I'd hobble outside every morning to see who was ready to be harvested. I would place buckets and buckets full of them in the cooler. I gave most of them away to friends and family and made myself bouquets to cheer myself up. I was in too much pain to open the farm stand and sell the blooms. Or, so I said. Looking back, I think I was hoarding them.
Which brings me back to Apollo, my puppy.
Apollo - God of healing, light, sun and music. How very fitting.
The dahlias are taking their long winters nap. The mule has been rehomed. My logo is in the time-out corner until I decide if I should just crop her ears off or retire it completely, and Apollo and I are ready for everything 2019 has in store for us.
Peace, Love and Flowers, Y'all.
May your 2019 be everything you want it to be.
One of my very favorite designs to create. I'm not sure if it's the fact I love to say "Biedermeier" in my best Arnold Shwarzenegger voice or that the bouquet looks like a delicious pastry.
Originating in Germany in the 1800's, the Biedermeire Bouquet is a round bouquet, created with concentric rings with one flower color in each layer.
Starting with the center flowers held in your hand, you twist and apply, twist and apply. You are making sure the stems are twisted as such that the bouquet can ultimately stand on it's own. At the same time, taking care to properly align the layers. Takes a bit of practice (and several broken stems) to master it, but it is well worth the time and patience to see it standing proudly as you present it "Look at my Biedermeire!"
Seriously though, doesn't it look like strawberry shortcake? Such a beautiful and fun bouquet to make. Try it some time and let me know how it goes! I'll try to make a video on the next one I create and post it, along with my Arnold impersonation.
Peace, love and flowers, y'all.
It's incredible to think I'm working outdoors in December wearing sleeveless tops. Oh, how I adore Louisiana winters.
This has been an exciting week on the farm. Philip (the husband) finished building the flower stand for my self serve, road side flower offerings. And boy was it put to the test! The first night out we had horrific rain and wind from the frontal system Margaret Orr warned us about. The flowers were a wee bit wet, which they don't mind, but nothing was knocked over and all looked fab.
The husband doesn't know it yet, but a few little tweaks are needed. I'd like circles cut out to lower the buckets in for the flowers. (I wonder if he reads my blogs? ) All in all, I am in love with the stand, it is everything I dreamed of.
We are having a bit of a lull between the last of the Mums and the beginning of the Ranunculus, Anemones, Tulips and Daffodils. So, my beautiful stand is currently empty and awaiting their arrival. I will be sure to let y'all know when it is stocked again. If all goes as planned the stand will be continuously stocked until the end of November 2019, once we are passed this little lull.
My daily walks around the farm checking for sprouts has been a real highlight. It is so satisfying to see the babies I tucked in this fall suddenly awake and waving back at me. Sweet peas, ranunculus, chocolate daisies, lisianthus and anemones are waking up. I am not 100% sure, but I think I saw a few lavender peaking at me with one eye! Time will fly and it'll seem like tomorrow I am typing a post and sharing photos of the farm bursting in blooms. I truly love my work at the farm, there wasn't any other time in life I could say "there isn't anything I'd rather be doing." Life is good.
It seems funny to roll from 'life is good' to a photo of dormant dahlia's topped with horse manure. But, only when I stop to think about it from the outside looking in. To me, this means progress.
There are some jobs on the farm that are more difficult than others. Fighting weeds and grass growing up in my dahlia beds tops the list. You see, Dahlias really don't care to have landscape fabric covering their roots. They prefer cool feet, if you will. My grandchildren can attest to the amount of weeding needed to keep the dahlias feet cool and bellies full (big shout out to the grands for all the great work).
Not only are the weeds painful to look at, they also rob the soil of valuable nutrients the dahlias need to remain healthy and producing. I use this time in the winter for the final weeding and mulching. With manure, no less (thank you Tucker and Mocha).
Until next week, stay dry with all the rivers rising. As one of my favorite musicians used to say, "Peace, Love and Empathy," Y'all.
There is so much work to be done on the flower farm, and winter is the ideal time to catch up. You'd think it would be time to put my feet up and relax in front of the fire after a long growing season. On the contrary, you'll find me out in the fields from sunrise to sunset.
Tucking in the dahlias for a long winters nap, for instance, is very much a winter chore. I'm leaving the dahlia tubers tucked in this year and will pull up and divide every third year. They are so nicely rooted, the 2019 bounty will be phenomenal after overwintering in place. If they survive the winter in the ground, that is.
The beds will be covered with a layer of craft paper, this doubles as insulation and weed control. After wetting down the paper, a layer of horse manure, followed by a layer of fall leaves will be applied, wetting down once more. This should provide enough warmth for the tubers to survive our mild Louisiana winters. Additionally, the manure, leaves and paper will have several months to break down into black gold to feed the dahlias prior to their awakening.
Planting bulbs that didn't get planted in the fall. With good intentions to have all bulbs and corms planted this fall, there's still more to be planted. What was I thinking when I placed those orders?
Along with the bulb order, I also got a little carried away clearing the fence lines this fall. Falling a bit behind planting the bulbs. We are nearly at the two year mark of having purchased the property. I have been plucking away little by little since we moved in. This fall, as I began to remove a few weed trees, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew if I could keep the momentum going I'd get there.
And, right I was! I am over the moon excited about this two year project. I have cut the jungle back, pruned all of the azaleas that had crept 10 feet forward and cleared the majority of dead branches and fallen trees. Moving forward it'll just be maintenance. (For the next two years I'll be repeating this process on the back portion of the property).
My ranunculus and anemone corms were planted this fall and my tulips, hyacinth and daffodils will be coming out of the cooler and planted in the coming weeks. This puts me about 2 weeks behind schedule. But let's look at the positives. It's been a pretty mild fall, if I would have planted these beauties out as planned, it is possible the unusually warm weather would have encouraged them to bloom prematurely, on short stems.
So, there you have it. I cleared the fence lines and saved the tulips, yay! :)
Keeping the Mums going and tucking away when they tire. So far, the Heirloom Mums are still producing. Albeit, slowing down quite a bit. The last of the blooms have been harvested, however they have budded up again and appear to want to produce another flush.
As the last flowers standing on the farm this season, these ladies have earned a great deal of my time and attention. Weekly feedings, weedings, and prunings will continue this winter until they go dormant. After, they will be tucked in using the same process as the dahlias, as well as dug up and divided every third year.
Additionally, winter is a great time to take chrysanthemum cuttings for rooting, increasing stock of my favorite varieties. They are very hardy plants and can easily be rooted from a cutting and blooming by next fall.
I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of my life on the flower farm in the winter. I'll continue with a part two as we progress. Please leave a little comment and let me know you're out there. I'd love, love to hear from you!
We are a full service florist in Covington, La. Not your typical florist, we are one of the few who can call ourselves farmer-florist. Not only do we arrange the most beautiful, lush, unique and perfectly balanced arrangements, we grow all of the flowers, fillers and woodies used in those arrangements on our farm right here in Covington, La. You won't call us for flowers only to receive a silly cookie cuter arrangement from that 1-800 place. Your flowers will be cut-to-order. Your order comes in, and we literally go out to the field to hand select the ingredients, take them into our studio, turn on the music (most often Nirvana) and creatively design your custom arrangement. Seriously, why would you order from anyone else? For you or for your loved one, you deserve the best, and we provide that for you. Call us, we are a full service Florist in Covington, La and also serve the surrounding areas. We often can not offer same day service, which is due to the fact that we are not a fast food (flower) joint. As we explained, everything is custom. So be sure to give us advanced notice. Everything that goes out of our door has to be up to our standards, rushing things is not our style.
We can not wait to design your flowers for you!
As we wrap up our first year of flower farming with a big hooray, I thought it appropriate to share the many lessons I have learned this year.
Flower farming is hard work - weeding, feeding, harvesting, planting, dodging insects, shoveling manure, and oh my the sun.. the heat can nearly bring tears to your eyes. And yes, I even harvest in the rain and sometimes in the peak summer heat, I actually welcome it. My nails are a mess, hair is way past due for a cut and condition and I have truly forgotten how to dress to go out as I spend most days in farm clothes.
As our very wise local AG agent said to me "Louisiana is the place where insects and pathogens come to vacation." There are no truer words. We tried very hard to use neem oil and all organic insect control and fertilizer. We lost the battle along with thousands of plants. I mourned the death of each of them and lost many hours of sleep trying to find the most environmentally friendly pesticides that actually work. We have since found a system that appears to be working - alternating organic and conventional products and using only as needed.
Plant Spacing in Humid and Hot Louisiana:
Zinnias must be planted with an abundance of spacing here in Louisiana, we tried the 9 inch spacing method and found that there simply was not enough airflow in our heat and humidity. We spent way too many hours harvesting only to throw out 2/3 of the crop due to the blooms not being up to our standards. Our 2019 plan includes spacing nothing closer than 12 inches and zinnia will be spaced 24 or more.
While we love our annuals, we wish we would have planted more perennials this year. 2019 will include many, many more perennials and we are over the moon excited about this
Selling at the farmers markets is not our cup of tea. Setting up the tent and lugging our bounty over to the market is a tremendous amount of work and stress on the blooms, and the farmers. If we find a few markets who will allow us to do pop-ups rather than signing on for every weekend, we will send out social media announcements to let you guys know we will be there. Instead of the tent, we will arrive with a little flower cart for ease of set up and hopefully small enough that we are allowed a shady location. The heat and sun is just too much on the blooms, and being a newbie at the market equaled a not so shady spot.
Flower Stand at Our Farm:
We loved, loved having the flower stand open at the farm, however we are working on a better system to come up with dates that our clients can count on. Perhaps the third weekend of each month. We will make an announcement once we have a solid plan. It's on the short list.
Flower arranging is my absolute favorite thing to do, and there is no better venue to do this for. Providing farm-fresh, locally grown flowers, arranged in our on-site studio adjacent to the flower fields is most definitely a niche market. I am proud to be one of the very few farmer-florist in our area!
Renovations are nearly complete on my flower studio. I can not wait to share with you all the photos and have you over to enjoy a glass of tea and chat about our flowers.
Subscription Service for Local Businesses:
We are now offering flower arrangement services for local businesses. Custom arrangements delivered each week.
We are expanding our wholesale accounts to local florist. We will spread the love with many more florist who can benefit from having our locally grown blooms for their valued clients.
We are so very excited to have several seasons under our belt and a better understanding of our crop availability. With this, we are now offering subscription service to individuals who enjoy having fresh cut, locally grown flowers in their home. Hop on over to the Flower Subscription Page for all the deetz.
My favorite crop this year - Lisianthus! I have quadrupled our crop for 2019!
Least Favorite Crop:
My least favorite crop - Zinnia. As pretty as they are, the vase life breaks my heart. It's not necessarily the vase life that gets me, it's the fact they do not die gracefully. The tips will brown prematurely. Really, it gets to me. They could actually continue for nearly 10 days without petal drop or melt, but those brown tips, ugh. I will continue to grow them, but have eliminated white, yellow and green. I have chosen ones that I have found to be the least conspicuous about the brown tips so they can be enjoyed longer.
Some of our New crops for 2019 :
Bridal wreath spirea
Bells of Ireland
And many more! You can find a complete list on Our Crops page.
A flower truck to pop-up around town is high on the long list. It may be several years before we can accomplish this but it is a huge desire. Not only will I immensely enjoy this, I really feel you guys will love this option as well!
This is another long-list item, but definitely on my mind. I am working out details and plan to offer nationwide delivery of our farm-fresh blooms. Perhaps 2020, if I can manage to get it together in 2019 that would be fabulous.
I love flower farming! Heat, insects, sweat and tears, bring it!
Here's to an exciting 2019 flower season!!
Farmer, florist, lady with the feed bucket. Horses and flowers make my heart go pitter-patter. Or sometimes clippity-clop.