Tag Archives: cut flowers

bulbs

Autumn In The Garden Of The Winter Of Our Discontent

It’s December. October was really the time to put my summer vegetable garden to bed, really. To pull out the dying tomato vines, the bitter overgrown lettuce plants, the fall peas I planted that didn’t really grow in time to produce any peas. But, that didn’t happen. Who can even remember why?

So for the past week I was checking the forecast, hoping for a mild enough, dry December day where I could get to my plot and at the very least plant the bulbs I went on a shopping spree buying. Thursday it was! Low forties, no rain on the forecast, and I was going to steal a chunk of my freelancer’s lunch hour to get in, drop some bulbs, and get out.

Of course, the ground was cold and wet from all the earlier rain, and it soaked right through my gloves, and my jacket kept dragging in the dirt, and gross half-rotted fallen tomatoes were scattered around like tiny boobytraps. But, I persevered!

I just hope I did it right. Five inches down? Three? Oh who can remember! Here’s a photo of my Gypsy Princess hyacinth, Mount Hood daffodil, and Angelique, Sun Parrot, Black Parrot, and Lilac Perfection tulip bulbs all nestled in nice and cozy. (So I can refer back to this later and see where the heck I put them and if they all grew!)
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That took long enough that I didn’t really have time to deal with all the dead or going-to-freeze-and-die-soon plants still in the ground, so … I just left them. But I still seemed to have un-picked carrots with healthy green leaves coming out of the soil, so I pulled them all up at once for my final harvest of the season. Pretty great because one of these is actually the biggest carrot I grew all year (maybe it needed five months to fully develop? What the heck variety did I plant?). And just one weird carrot grew a crazy beard of roots. So, that’s cool.

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But back indoors, cozy and warm, are these amaryllis bulbs. They’ve been in my apartment, un-potted, for so long that they’ve started to sprout shoots anyway, even with no soil or water. Damn! That must be a good sign, right?

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The Backyard Bouquet

The backyard bouquet is everything that the florist’s bouquet is not.

Where the corner florist’s bouquet is full of identical, stick-straight stems, the backyard flowers bend and swerve like cursive letters.

Where the local deli’s bouquet has plastic-smelling carnations, the fresh-cut dianthus from the backyard still carry a spicy fragrance. I never knew these flowers to smell good until I smelled a fresh one.

Where the florist’s bouquet is patched together from flowers that flew in from foreign countries, often raised with pesticides and chemicals and by the hard labor of those not making upscale-florist salaries, the backyard bouquet is what you cut from everything blooming under your own hands. And maybe some tall, frilly weeds to fill it out.

The backyard bouquet is simple, unpredictable, haphazard, and lovely.

And it’s a pretty nerve-racking business model, as I’ve designed it. See, about a month ago, I arranged with a local coffee shop to plant a container garden in their backyard and sell bouquets from their counter. I loved cutting my own bouquets from my garden plot all last year, and I was so inspired by Tara’s backyard bounty, that I thought I’d try a low-stakes “slow flower” business experiment. At best, I’ll make back my tiny capital investment and a little extra cash to blow on cold-brew coffee or fancy cheese this summer. At worst, I’ll get to make pretty bouquets and learn a thing or two (at a price B-school can’t beat) about entrepreneurship.

If you find yourself in Brooklyn, swing by Primrose Cafe. Venture into the backyard and smell the anise hyssop or the Siberian wallflower, and especially the dianthus. It’s delicate and you have to get your nose real close, but when you do, it smells sweet and spicy, like nutmeg or cinnamon, and you’ll wish you could carry it with you all day long.

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Getting the business IN the ground.
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Natural beauty for sale 
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A teacup-size bunch I just made

When “Diversify Your Portfolio” Means Adding More Daisies

I first saw her when I happened across the book The 50 Mile Bouquet. It described her as a woman running a flower farm in her backyard in Los Angeles. My heart raced. I backed away slowly and put her out of my mind for six months. But when I was back in L.A., I looked up Silverlake Farms online, and there was a phone number to call, right there on the homepage. I hesitated. Should I tweet at them first? Should I try to sneak in as a WWOOF volunteer?

Forcing myself to dial, I mentally prepped my pitch to the intern I expected to reach. But Tara Kolla, flower farmer and entrepreneur, answered right away. Not only did she answer, when I told her I was a fan and wanted to see the farm, she said Sure, no problem, when’s good for you? When I hung up I did several victory wriggles of excitement.

The idea of selling local, cleanly grown flowers just hasn’t left me alone since last winter, when I found myself anxiously but helplessly buying bouquets (ranunculus from Norway, poppies from Japan, who-knows-where-from Trader Joe’s mixed bouquets) to break the gray monotony of, well, everything in the winter. I wanted to see if this was a realistic idea, and “backyard” sounded like the best place to start.

 

Silverlake Farms gets extremely tempting on Instagram
Silverlake Farms gets extremely tempting on Instagram

 

Tara is a calm, strength-radiating, funny, and generous wonderwoman. She showed me her backyard setup—just getting ready for the next planting—and over a good British cup of tea and a blood orange shared her experience with me, doling out tips and names of other people to know. I scribbled quickly and gratefully. Her experience, which has been that she needs to be working several small businesses at once, was no surprise. Diverse income streams are a smart move and an increasingly necessary one during these years of economic suckiness. It seems like the idea of running just one small business might be a dream, a thing of the past.

If you want to know more about her cut-flower business, her help-you-grow-your-backyard business, or the multi-farmer CSA she runs, you can read to your heart’s content on the Silverlake Farms site or any of the many articles written about her already. Did I mention she helped change the urban agriculture laws in Los Angeles? To say she’s got hustle would be a gross understatement.

At no point did Tara promise me that going into the urban farming business would be a rose garden. In fact, like any kind of farming, you probably have to be a little crazy to choose it in the first place. But if I ever do start up my own backyard enterprise, I’ll have her to thank. Here are my snapshots from the visit, which I have to say cannot do her genius any justice. After all, it’s January! You’ve gotta check out her site and her Instagram for a real treat.