What a flower farm looks like in January

This month I have been ordering and beginning to receive boxes and envelopes stuffed with seeds. Seed ordering is both an exciting and overwhelming process. Exciting because I get to spend time browsing photographs of hundreds of different varieties of flowers choosing what I want to grow in the coming year, and overwhelming because there are so many gorgeous flowers out there and my farm is so humble in size that I am going to have to select just a few of these beauties to nurture and share with my customers in the coming season.

I live in Charlottetown, which is the capital of Prince Edward Island. I have often joked that perhaps I should re-name my farm Rootless Flower Farm because thus far it has not been in the same location for more than one season. The year I began growing flowers I planted everything at a community garden in Charlottetown where I had six beds. The next season I expanded to half an acre on the organic farm of some close friends in Springfield, PEI. I decided to look for opportunities to move my farming operation back into Charlottetown in 2017 because as long as I am living in town I did not like the amount of time and energy I was spending getting out to my flowers. Since most of my customers are in Charlottetown, basing my operation in town made much more sense. Through the grapevine I heard that there might be an opportunity to grow my flowers at the Mount Continuing Care Community. The Mount used to be a convent, and sits on a beautiful piece of undeveloped land right in the centre of Charlottetown. It was purchased by pharmacist and businessman Paul Jenkins a number of years ago and has been turned into a community for the elderly with the Sisters residing on the top floor.

Although the area I decided to begin planting on used to be the Sisters’ vegetable garden, it had since grassed over, so my first task was to find a creative solution to growing a small quantity of flowers while at the same time killing the grass so that I could expand production in 2018. My solution was to truck topsoil in and build my first two beds up on top of the grass. I lay enough cardboard down on the grass for two 60 foot long by 4 foot wide beds, piled the soil on top of the cardboard, added compost and a few other additions that were lacking, and then rolled my landscaping fabric out over the top to suppress weeds. I wasn’t sure if this plan was going work, but I took a leap of faith. Overall my leap worked out much better than I had hoped. Despite the super dry summer I produced a small but healthy crop of flowers in 2017 and hosted my first floral design workshop for the residents at the Mount, which was a fun and joy-filled event that I cannot wait to repeat many times over in 2018. I ploughed up the remaining area and planted my first ever cover crop of oats and field peas, which miraculously grew and thrived before dying with the frost, leaving me with a lovely ground cover for winter.

In the spring of 2018 I plan to plough up the area where the cover crop is, roll out my landscaping fabric and plant this year’s flowers. But for now I am ordering seeds, in awe of the potential within each tiny little vessel. I am feeling a mixture of unbridled joy at the beauty that lies ahead along with an equal amount of fear. Owning your own business takes a lot of courage. Running a farming business requires courage and more optimism than is probably healthy for one individual. I am not at the stage in my business where I am able to support myself solely on what I make from my flowers. I have two other jobs that take up a considerable amount of my time and energy right now. Since I am not willing to allow this to prevent me from pursuing my passion to the best of my ability, this means that my flowers fill my early mornings, evenings and weekends, and even so I often wish I could give them more undivided time and attention.

I love living on Prince Edward Island. I love the full-on intensity of the summers and how the island landscape swells with the bounty of the land and sea as well as people from all over the world who pour onto our red shores to savour the distinctive beauty this island has to offer. I love the crisp falls and the flaming collage of the foliage. I even love the cold, snowy winters, and how the weather put us in our place in the natural order of things, insisting that we slow down, reflect, and take time to connect with each other over strong cups of tea around the wood stove before we hurtle into another cold, muddy spring that is instantly forgotten when everything bursts into fullness again come summer. People often ask me why I stay here since I do not have family in the area. My immediate reaction is that I cannot imagine attempting to farm anywhere else. Farming requires a super supportive community — one where people surround you with encouragement and hold you to your commitment when the going gets tough. It also requires an investment in staying put and building life-long relationships with people and a life-long commitment to the land. I have both of these things with this place and people, so in all truth I only feel able to contemplate farming because I am here.

As I open one package of seeds after another and start lining everything up for the summer ahead, I feel excitement for all the beauty and joy that I will get to share with you this season. I am excited to share the journey with you. If you continue to read my blog you can look forward to learning about seeds, soil and rain, and nurturing, patience, colour, texture, connection, sweetness and abundance. Whether you join me by purchasing a CSA membership this spring or summer; by sending an individual bouquet to someone in need of love or healing; by picking up some of my flower greeting cards, or simply by following me on instagram or Facebook and reading my blog, I hope you will follow along this season. I love farming because it is a constant learning process, and one that is a never-ending source of humility and patience. It is also a reminder of the essential connection between each of us and everything around us from the tiniest seed to the people in our lives. I hope to use this blog as a place where I can share the learning that I am immersed in with you, and that you can ask questions, share insights and ideas, and hopefully learn new things about flowers, farming, the land and my humble efforts to build a business!

Here’s to a new year, friends! And to growing and learning together. I look forward to sharing the 2018 season with you!

1 Comment

  1. Delicious to read about your flower growing journey, Ariana and hear how you are continuing to steep in its passion and pleasure. And sharing the full-bodied flavour of your experience with us. Just yesterday, I was reading late at night in a book I imagine you must know and love (The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett) and decided, due to the amount of joy I was feeling in reading this book about an unhappy orphaned girl who comes alive through finding an abandoned rose garden and learning to cultivate it and see it thrive, I decided everything I would read in 2018 would be about gardens.
    And here is your blog, promising to provide exactly that.
    How sweet it is to be inspired by you!

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