The question I get asked more than anything else is what types of flowers do you grow? When I first started growing I would immediately launch into a long, enthusiastic list of all the flowers I grow, but soon realized that listing the names of the flowers I grow almost universally elicits a glazed over look in the listener. The reality is that even those of us who love flowers rarely learn the names of more than the most common blooms. Last season I grew more than 40 different plants and even though I spend so much of my time surrounded by flowers I meet new ones every single day. The world of flowers is a very humbling one. I love that they are constantly beckoning to us, inviting us to learn more about the plant world.

With the early bird signup for my weekly flower bouquets ending on March 31st this seems like the perfect time to introduce you to some of the beauties that those of you who are signed up for my weekly flower bouquets (aka Community Supported Agriculture or CSA shares) will be enjoying this summer. I am retiring some things that did not do so well last season, continuing to grow the blooms that have consistently been workhorses for me, and adding quite a number of flowers that I will be growing for the first time this season! I share the seasonal journey on my Facebook page and Instagram feed, so follow me there to see regular updates on what is happening on the farm this season.

Here are some of the flowers you can look forward to seeing in your CSA bouquets this season:

1. Zinnias.  Zinnias are one of my workhorses. They take a while to get going because they like it super hot, but once they get going they churn out bright, happy flowers week after week all summer long. Zinnias are cool in that the more you cut them the more they grow and bloom. The key to having constant supply is to make sure you give them good air circulation (I find they often get powdery mildew as the season goes on if there isn’t enough space between plants), feed them (I apply foliar fish fertilizer every couple of weeks all summer long to keep my plants strong) and finally cut, cut, cut. Even if you don’t need every stem, cutting deep and often will guarantee that fresh blooms keep coming. If do you do all of these things they will only start to slow when the weather cools off in the fall.

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2. Snaps (a.k.a. Snapdragons). Snaps are another workhorse for me. They get started in early to mid-July and then crank out consistently long-stemmed, bright towers of colour all summer long. Unlike the zinnias, most insects avoid them for some reason, so I rarely have leaf, bud or blossom damage, which is always a godsend. I have been told by more experienced growers that if you literally saw off your entire zinnia row once you have harvested they will grow back. Maybe it is the shortness of our season or maybe it is something I have yet to figure out but even though I cut these babies hard all season long I have yet to have a second crop from the same plant. Some growers pinch their snaps to encourage the growth of multiple stems instead of one larger, taller stem. I tend to pinch some and leave some so I have a variety of stem lengths and sizes to work with. The pinched flowers also tend to bloom slightly later so even though I have multiple successions to guarantee constant blooming all season I find pinching staggers bloom time too.

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3. Foxgloves. Also known as Digitalis because the bells can be fit over the ends of fingers like a thimble, I fell in love with foxgloves while interning at Field of Roses in New Zealand. They had lots of varieties that had re-seeded themselves and grown taller than me. I love how they are creamy and elegant on the outside but if you peek inside each of the “bells” hanging from the stem you enter a world of rich and vivid colour and texture. The leaves of the Foxglove are super soft and silky. I find that Foxgloves like consistent moisture and slightly cooler temps than we have had on Prince Edward Island the last couple of summers, so mine hung out for a good portion of the summer before finally shooting up and bursting into bloom in August. It was worth the wait as those who purchased some of these beauties from me at the farmers’ market can attest to. I’m looking forward to seeking out other varieties of these in the years to come. For an interesting read about the etymological origins of the name Foxglove, click here.

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4. Frosted Explosion. I simply love the name of this grass, and how perfectly it captures the way it literally explodes like a firework come summer. I plant and use a lot of this grass and it grows and grows and grows, all summer long. The focus in any bouquet is usually the flowers, but in its own way, Frosted Explosion is a showstopper for me, and I get lots of comments about it and how magical it looks in bouquets. You can see the dreamlike green spray from the Frosted Explosion in the arrangements below:

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5. Nigella. Also known as Love in a Mist, this flower comes in various shades of blue, pink, white and purple. The plant is very hardy, so if being direct seeded it can go in earlier than many of my other plants. It has lovely airy, star-shaped flowers but I find they shatter faster than I would like in bouquets so I mainly grow it for its seed pods, which are to die for, and add pops of colour and texture to late summer and fall bouquets that I couldn’t do without. There are a number of varieties. My favourite is Love-in-a-Mist Starry Night which is a combination of Delft Blue, Midnight and African Bride. Here is an up-close shot of a nigella seed pod, followed by a bouquet that has seed pods in it.

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6. Poppies. My relationship with poppies is an ever-evolving one, but the more I learn about these beauties the more I plant. Poppies are interesting in that they have to be harvested when they are just beginning to open and long before the flamboyant unfurled phase, which, if I am doing my job well, should happen after they get home with you in the vase. Another trick of making sure that poppies have a vase life is to singe the bottoms of the stems. I use a blow-torch, but for a smaller quantity a lighter will do the trick too. When I do this they can get a vase life of a full week before dropping their petals. I have tested out a few varieties. The ones that do best for me are Icelandic poppies, which look like whirling dervishes in arrangements. I also grow a Breadseed Rattle Poppy. It looses its petals too quickly to use in arrangements, but its enormous seed pod is a great addition to my late summer and fall bouquets.

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7. Ranunculus. I have been wanting to grow these for a while, and 2019 is my first foray into finally doing so. I have yet to find a Canadian source for Butterfly Ranunculus (my favourites, and one I will most definitely be adding to the mix at some point) but this season I am growing a few ranunculus that those signed up for my CSA are going to love. The multiple layers of fine petals in many ways remind me vaguely of small roses, and the variety of hues is truly breathtaking. This year I am growing Elegance in a range of colours including Salmone, Viola, Pastello, Bianco Sfumato and Bianco. Keep your fingers crossed for this new adventure! I cannot wait to share these with you once the weather warms! this is a photo of me holding some of Kori’s ranunculus this spring.

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8. Mums. When we hear the word Chrysanthemums in Atlantic Canada, most of us think of the humdrum bedding flowers we see in pots at Home Depot. This past fall and winter I have been volunteering at Dawn Creek Farm, owned by Kori Hargreaves. Kori is an heirloom Mum whisperer, and spending time with her has introduced me to Mums that I never could have imagined existed. I have been in search of a Canadian source for heirloom mums ever since and finally placed an order this week, so if things go well I will have a beautiful crop of fall heirloom mums to share with you this year. Below are two photos: one of me holding one of my favourite varieties (River City) at Kori’s farm and another of an arrangement I made with some of Kori’s mums.

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9. Sweet Peas. I have had a long-standing love affair with sweet peas ever since Erin at Floret introduced me to them back in 2013. Having grown up in the Mediterranean, this was not a flower I had been familiar with until then, but now that I live in a climate that is conducive to growing this vine I have been growing an increasing number and variety every year. Last year we had a very cold spring so my sweet peas really struggled to get started. I had just barely started harvesting them when it got so hot that they basically stopped growing. They did very little for the remainder of the season, but then in September as the temperature cooled they started blooming again! I had never planned on offering fall sweet peas, but this year I have two sowings planned — one in the spring and a second in the late summer. Fingers crossed you will see sweet peas in your bouquets in September as well as in June!

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There are so many other flowers that will be blooming in the garden this year, but I will share more about them in future posts. If you have any questions about the plants I have mentioned above, about my CSA, market bouquets or individual arrangements please leave me a comment below this post or send me a private message. I hope some of you will join my CSA this summer by signing up for either five or ten weeks of fresh local flowers! You can do so in the online store. Remember: Early-bird prices end on March 31st!

I won’t lie — it has been an incredibly challenging week on the farm. Just like every profession, there are times when the sun shines just enough and the rain falls in perfect amounts and the flowers look happy and healthy and I feel incredibly blessed to be doing something so beautiful with my life…..and then there are times when I find myself wondering if I am really cut out for this calling after all. This week I asked myself many times over if I am going to make it as a farmer. I still don’t have a definite answer.

This spring on Prince Edward Island has been very long and very cold. We had frost after what was supposed to be the last frost date, and after many days in the teens and 20s. The temperature has been up in the double digits and then plummeting down to almost freezing on and off for weeks. Those of you who have been following me on Facebook will have seen my dollar store plastic cup TLC strategy — going up the field in the evening and covering each sweet pea plant with a cup and burying it in soil, returning in the morning to pull the cups up again, and then back to the field in the evening to put all the sweet peas back under their little plastic domes. Miraculously, in total I only lost four plants. The others are all finally starting to climb their trellis, and I am really looking forward to being able to share some gorgeous sweet peas with you in the coming weeks.

Due to the crazy weather and heavy rains I had to delay tilling the field later than usual this year too. I finally got my first babies transplanted on June 18th. The rest of the crop went in between the 19th and 25th. This week we have had a lot of heat followed by lots of rain, and my zinnias and now many other flowers on the field have started getting attacked by what looks like earwigs. This afternoon I went around the field setting homemade earwig traps — jars filled with vegetable oil and soy sauce. Apparently earwigs are nocturnal, which would be why I have not seen any of them on my plants when I am in the field. They have been shredding my seedlings, which has been very hard to watch. Initially not being sure what was causing the damage, I sprayed my plants with fish fertilizer to help strengthen them, and tried a number of other home remedies. Unfortunately nothing has worked so far, so when it was suggested to me that it might be earwigs I decided to set some traps and see if I make any progress. I will go back tomorrow to see what I catch. I have always believed that if things are in balance insects will get what they need without wiping out what I need….but having invested significant time and energy in adding compost to my plot this spring and planting a cover crop in the fall that I tilled into the soil this spring, this week I have begun to wonder if my theory about balance was simply wrong.

Today I woke up to a torrential downpour. In general I love a heavy rainfall — both because I find it incredibly peaceful, but also because it gives me a reason to slow down and get caught up on computer work or even reading whatever my current novel is (at the moment ‘The Weight of Ink’). But today as I lay in bed looking out at the wind throwing the branches of the trees this way and that what I was thinking of was my flowers and how much stress they have been subjected to over the last couple of weeks. The more stress they have the more susceptible they are to being attacked by insects. Insects seem to just know which ones are most weakened by the weather conditions and choose those ones to feed upon.

After setting the earwig traps at the farm today I took a walk around, checking each row to see how each variety is doing. Some are doing really well — thriving really, while others have sustained a lot of insect damage — so much that I’m not sure they will recover from it. This is the first year I have had so much insect damage on so many plants. As I was walking back to my car I noticed that the two (still far too short to be blooming, but nevertheless healthy) poppies that I had noticed just starting to crack through their skins yesterday had burst open. Up close they were short-stemmed but in truth also absolutely perfect. I have them in a vase next to my computer as a type this. They make me smile every time I look up.

My farming mentor told me that you have to take time to look up when you farm. You have to find the miracles in the every day experiences on the land, and that if you don’t, you have no business farming. Some days I have to admit that I forget his advice. I am soaked and cold, or tired, or in a rush to get something done so I can get to my other job, but then a yellow-centred white poppy stops me in my path and reminds me to find the signs of hope and beauty. Today it was the poppies. A few days ago it was a robin on a power line chirping down at me as if in conversation. Farming has a way of doing this. It extends constant invitations to connect if we pay close enough attention. Have you had an invitation like this recently? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below. Have a beautiful Canada Day weekend, friends!

For the past couple of weeks I have had a simple piece of yarn tied around my wrist. To most people it no doubt just looks like a ratty grey string. But when I look down at it I am reminded of my strength. The other day at yoga I was doing a pose that involves balancing on one leg. As I teetered there with my arms outstretched attempting to find my balance my teacher reminded the class that just as focusing the eyes on something steady in front of us helps us find steadiness in our physical balance, noticing when we are feeling unsteady internally and finding something that IS steady in our lives to focus on can bring strength and balance during times when we feel overwhelmed or uncertain about what comes next.

The past two years have felt a bit like someone is attacking me with a machete. If the losses had been physical it would have been a bit like watching as a number of what I have until now considered essential body parts were hacked away one by one. First my father passed away very unexpectedly after a brief and very aggressive battle with heart cancer. Three weeks after he passed away my best childhood friend from back home in Cyprus lost her battle to cancer, leaving her two sons with no mother. During this time I also met the man I thought was the love of my life and married him, surrounded by my friends and family, only to have him decide that I was not the love of his life after all less than a year later. After every loss I noticed myself desperately trying to adapt to losing someone I loved so deeply that it felt like a little part of myself had just died too. And while they say that trials and loss make us stronger, the immensity of the losses that I have experienced over the last two years has been so tremendous, with so little time between them for healing or processing the grief, that I started noticing an increasing sense of losing balance and pulling further and further from my centre with each wave of loss.

I have just returned from four months in New Zealand. I spent the year after all of these losses just trying to stay afloat. By the end of the year I felt so emotionally and physically exhausted that I knew that I was not going to be able to keep going without taking some time out from my normal day-to-day schedule to do something to re-fill my tank. I have always dreamt of visiting New Zealand, and for the last couple of years I have been following fellow flower farmers at Field of Roses on Instagram and wishing that there were a way that I could go learn about growing roses with them. I wrote to the owners, Zoe and Sue, and, surprisingly to me at the time, they said “yes–come ahead.” Since New Zealand is so far away from PEI, I decided that if I was going to take the time to visit I might as well take advantage of the fact that I was going to be there during what would no-doubt be a rather brutal winter on PEI and spend a few months exploring after my internship.

I will write more about my time at Field of Roses and in New Zealand in at least one if not a series of separate blog posts as it was such a transformational learning experience on so many fronts that it deserves more attention than I can give to it here without turning this post into a book. But I noticed that apart from learning about how to cultivate roses and exploring one of the most powerful countries I have ever visited, there were a few essential things that I learned about balance on this trip that I thought might resonate with others.

Back to balancing on one leg. If you had asked me what balance looks like a year ago I would have talked about what stability looked like to me on the surface: Owning my own house; a car to get me from place to place reliably; with any luck, maybe some land. About having a partner to share this journey with and possibly the bounty of giving birth to and raising children. Stable income. A combination of physical and intellectual work. All of these things can be a reflection of balance–don’t get me wrong. But my trip to New Zealand taught me that real balance happens at a much deeper level.

Shortly after I arrived in New Zealand they had a magnitude 7.8 earthquake off the east coast of Kaikoura in the South Island that ruptured 21 faults — possibly the most number of faults ever ruptured in an earthquake according to recent reports by seismologists. The earthquake was so powerful that it actually created new land areas that had been beneath the sea before they were thrust upwards during the quake. Earthquakes are nothing new to New Zealand obviously. Christchurch is still in the process of re-building after their devastating 2011 earthquake. Having grown up in Cyprus and lived for periods in California I am used to the idea of regular quakes, but being in New Zealand made me reflect more deeply on the role they play in disturbing and creating balance.

Photo by Iain McGregor

The effect of the Kaikoura earthquake was tremendous. There was widespread infrastructure damage–the coastal highway that is usually the main thoroughfare for traffic traveling south along New Zealand’s South Island was so badly damaged that anyone wanting to travel south had to take a detour through the heart of the centre of the island–a beautiful, but nevertheless more circuitous route. Communities along the north eastern coast of New Zealand are sustained by tourism, so the challenge of accessing them easily had a severe financial impact for those living there. Out of interest in what was happening beneath my feet while I was there, I often visited the website Geonet, which shows all the earthquakes happening in New Zealand every day. Today alone there have been eleven. Most of these are very mild — likely barely felt by the population. But I began to get the sense that that the ground I was hiking on was constantly shifting and moving beneath me as opposed to being an immobile source of balance and stability. If you speak with the residents of Christchurch many of them will tell you that they used to live in a great city, and that some day it may be great again. Walking around the city in 2017 and seeing construction site after constriction site; derelict and abandoned buildings and road works everywhere I looked, it is easy to understand why the residents would be feeling frustrated and even a little discouraged. When I first arrived in the city to visit my friend Pascale, whose family lost their home twice in 2011 due to quake damage, she was telling me that often she will leave home to run an errand along a particular street in the morning, but when she goes to use the same route in the afternoon it is under construction. There were a number of times when we were out that I noticed her hesitating before deciding which direction we needed to head in. When I asked her about this she explained that the last time she was on that particular street half of the buildings that I was seeing had not been there. With so much of the city being new and unfamiliar to those who have lived there their whole lives I was thinking how disorienting it must be to feel so uncertain about where you are. When you base your whole sense of direction on landmarks and they are suddenly all gone, how do you orient yourself in space?

Photo from GNS Science

My friend Pascale told me that before the Christchurch earthquake the residents were far more insular. They were less connected to their neighbours and communities and more inward-looking. The scale of the destruction caused by the 2011 quake meant that there really was nothing stable to rely on. In her neighbourhood liquefaction had even turned the streets viscous. Pascale and her family turned to the only thing that was stable — relationships with those around them — helping their neighbours and connecting to their community in any way they could. She explained to me that although the emotional impact of losing their homes is still very real for many residents, the shift in consciousness that has taken place as a direct result of having experienced so much physical loss has transformed the city into a place that is far more community-minded. Neighbours now know and support each other. I got the sense that this deep sense of mutual support and collective action may not have developed had it not been a necessity.

I am noticing that I am gradually becoming aware of what my time in New Zealand taught me since I got back to North America and embarked on the personal challenge of figuring out what comes next in my own life. Knowing that the transition back into life in North America might not be entirely smooth, my first port of call upon returning was Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.

If you have been following my adventures for a while you will know that my dear friends Ahava and Gregory live on Butterstone Farm, a sweet little farm nestled into the side of a mountain off of a dirt road among the clouds on Salt Spring Island. This visit was a special one because Ahava was celebrating her fiftieth birthday. It is hard to believe that Ahava is fifty. She looks not a day over thirty five and has far less white hair on her head than I do at thirty eight. Ahava has redefined many things for me from friendship to what love looks like to the many different ways that we take care of ourselves. This year she also redefined what fifty can look and feel like for me. I have never seen anyone so excited about turning fifty! A couple of days after arriving from Auckland her husband Gregory wisely escaped to the mainland leaving Ahava and I and 16 of her close female friends to honour and celebrate the beginning of this next chapter of her life.

The party was held in Ahava’s yoga and writing studio which stands separate from the house next to a creek and surrounded by gardens. The space has a wood floor that is perfect for dancing, and during the day is flooded with silvery light. On this particular evening the sun was setting as the guests began to arrive. The guests were women that Ahava had met all over North America through her many creative initiatives. They were all ages and came from all walks of life. Some she had danced with. Some she had written with. Some had met her at a performance that she had given. Others had worked with her on choreographing movement pieces. Her oldest friend present was a woman that she had originally moved to British Columbia with many years ago when she was first striking out on her own.

I had been a little bit uncertain about how the evening was going to go since I had not met many of these women. Ahava had asked each of us to come planning to share a little bit about how we had met her and something that we had done together that had impacted our lives in some way. While I thought this all sounded wonderful in theory I was also a little bit uncomfortable with the idea — wasn’t it going to be awkward both for her and for us to sit in a room of people and listen to everyone share what they appreciate about her?

After everyone had arrived we all settled in a circle on the studio floor. Someone pulled out a ball of yarn and Ahava explained that the person with the ball would share how they met her and share something that they had shared together or that she had brought into their life that was meaningful. When that person was done they would hold onto the end of the ball of yarn and toss the ball itself on to someone else in the circle, allowing the yarn to unfurl the distance from one person to the next, effectively weaving a slowly-spun relationship web as the ball was passed from one woman to the next.

Despite the fact that I did not know any of the women in the room when I walked in, from the minute people started sharing it was as if our common bond with Ahava made us all old friends almost instantaneously. I had assumed that that the exercise would yield many new gems about Ahava, but in truth I learned a lot of very intimate things about each and every woman present because as they shared how they had met Ahava or how she had touched their lives they also shared what they did for a living; where they came from; what their passions were; who they had loved; stories of children and parents; work and struggle; triumphs and losses.

We laughed and cried. We sang. We danced. We made collages. We stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning. And before everyone left we cut our yarn web up and each of us tied a piece of it around our wrist. To remind us of the power of sisterhood. Of friendship. Of the strength that we have access to when we draw on our collective wisdom, determination, focus, creativity, passion, joy, grace and faith.

Right now I am staying at my mother’s house in California preparing to return to Prince Edward Island despite having no sense of where I am going to live or how I am going to support myself once I get there. I have been saying a lot of prayers about it all as well as working very hard at searching for for more stable work to help me re-gain my footing. This past week I received an email from a dear friend letting me know that if I do want to return to PEI she and her husband would love to have me as their guest for the month of April. The kindness of the invitation and the knowledge that she could tell I needed something stable from which to take my first steps out into the world as a single woman again brought tears of gratitude to my eyes. A few days ago another friend sent me a job application. On Monday another friend sent another job listing that matches up perfectly with my skill set.

When I first got back my mother was dealing with having had her home broken into and her jewellery stolen. Fortunately she was not home at the time, and was not injured, but the experience really shook her up. It is very violating to not feel safe in your home. I was relieved to hear that a number of her friends had stepped up and helped reassure and support her through that first week of living alone after the break-in until I arrived.

Last week one of my mother’s close friends fell and broke her foot. Yesterday mom and I headed over to cheer her up with a ridiculous get-well card and a box of Ginger Elizabeth chocolates. She is waiting for a ramp to be built so that she can get out of her house, and is house-bound until that happens. While we were there we helped her to feed her cats since bending over is challenging with only one functional leg.

When my yoga teacher asked us to notice what we are focused on when we feel unsteady I found myself gazing down at the reminder around my wrist, a smile playing on my lips. Circumstances will vary during our lives and across the globe. Sometimes we may lack external stability. Sometimes we may have lost that internal balance. But it does seem that one thing that is universal no matter what we are experiencing in our lives or where we are located on the planet is the common spiritual journey we’re all on together. We have each other. I can think of no greater source of strength and balance than this. And in truth, it leaves me wondering if without a constant and deep awareness of our common connection to draw upon, true balance is even possible?

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All images in this blog post belong to Christin Geall of Cultivated by Christin. They have been used with her permission. 

As you know if you read my last blog post, I left Prince Edward Island on May 18th for British Columbia. First stop was in Victoria, on Vancouver Island. A few months ago I came across a flower farmer/designer whose design work I love more and more every day. Her name is Christin Geall and her company is Cultivated by Christin. In one sentence, according to her website, Christin owns an urban flower farm and design studio in Victoria BC, and writes a literary gardening column. But it was clear to me from reading the about section of her website that there was a lot more to Christin’s story…

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Christin’s love for growing and tending plants began almost thirty years ago when she was a teen in Toronto. She apprenticed to herbalist Heidi Schmidt on the island of Martha’s Vineyard growing medicinal and culinary herbs and flowers, make teas and tinctures, and developing a nursery, as well as educating others about the healing power of plants. Christin completed a double major in Environmental Studies & Anthropology at the University of Victoria, studied ecofeminism at Schumacher College in England with Vandana Shiva, and ethnobotany with Dr. Nancy Turner in Victoria and Dr. Richard Ford in New Mexico. She also became the editor for her university’s environmental magazine. 

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At twenty-four, with a small inheritance left to her by her mother, Christin planted her first garden of her own on an acre land on a remote island on British Columbia’s coast. When she wasn’t growing, harvesting and selling the fruits of her labours she took time to travel and intern in other parts of the world. One of her internships was at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in England. 

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After having a child and taking her first creative nonfiction class, Christin got involved in green politics and took on the editorship of a museum’s magazine. Over the course of the following ten years she got her MFA in creative nonfiction, traveled extensively, and gained spent time learning and gaining experience working with plants and in gardens wherever she went.

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Now married and back in her old stomping ground, Christin launched Cultivated by Christin in 2015 after studying floral design with Floret in Washington and Zita Elze in London. Her goal is to bring together her main loves: plants, flowers, writing and environmentalism. She also teaches two courses at her alma mater: creative nonfiction and environmental writing. 

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I reached out to Christin and arranged to visit her mini farm in Victoria the day I landed! My dear friend Ahava actually picked me up from the airport, we threw my suitcase in the back end of her station wagon and headed straight to Christin’s farm. Those of you who are familiar with Victoria will know that her neighbourhood — Oak Bay — is a maze of beautiful older houses surrounded by lush, well-tended gardens. The perfect spot for someone with a green thumb and experience with landscaping. Not being familiar with the city at all, I had no idea what to expect. Needless to say, although Christin had told me that she had an “urban” farm, I was not expecting it to be right in the middle of such a gorgeous residential neighbourhood. By the time we pulled up outside her house I was already in awe from having watched house after house slide past the window — a steady, uninterrupted flow of the type of home you see in home and garden magazines — each framed by enormous bushes and shrubs covered in blossoms and flowering vines climbing walls, spilling over fences, winding around chimneys and arching elegantly over doorways.  

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Christin’s home and business is located on a corner property. Her farm is quite literally the garden that surrounds her house. My first impression of Christin was that she is a no-nonsense, highly creative and incredibly astute business woman. It also immediately became clear that she does not shy away from hard work. She met us in the garden in her work clothes, and invited us to take a stroll around the farm with her. She has taken what, admittedly, is a relatively large yard, and utilized every square inch to create her little urban farm. Her garden is surrounded by high bushes that give it a private, secret garden feel. She has landscaped it to maximize space while at the same time creating a visually beautiful space to inhabit and work in. In the middle of the garden, in between raised flower beds she has built a trellis. She is patiently training vines to wind their way up the supporting posts to create a green canopy of shade beneath which she plans to host floral workshops. Her design space is a renovated garage — a work bench set up along one wall and a photo shoot backdrop set up in the corner. As she showed us around she described the vision that she is slowly implementing on her property over time. I could clearly envision what it will look like in a year or two. I cannot wait to see how her vision materializes.

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With the international flower movement being led by so many creative women I love seeing how different floral business owners are building their businesses to better fit their busy lives as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and entrepreneurs. It is interesting to notice how this generation of female flower farmers and designers — for whom family is a priority — are shattering the traditional notions of what a business looks like. While recent trends in agriculture have been towards larger acreage planted with one or two main crops, so many of the women I have been meeting through my floral work are working with extremely small plots of land, planting a wide variety of plants, and finding creative ways to maximize their income by developing diverse income streams. Instead of farming in a rural area and having to ship flowers into the city, Christin has decided to grow in the heart of the neighbourhood that she is serving. Her neighbours are her target market. By building her farm within the community that is home she is able to take advantage of her location by inviting florists and customers to come to her instead of having to invest time and money in transportation and delivery. 

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My visit to Christin’s was too short. She was preparing for a trip to the Chelsea Flower Show (you can read about her experience here) and needed to pack, and Ahava and I had a ferry to catch. Her vision and enthusiasm was so infectious that all I really wanted to do was pull on my rubber boots and help her. I also really wanted to have the chance to watch her design because I am a big fan of her romantic aesthetic. Her floral arrangements use foliage to add a weightless, graceful flow to her designs. I am not entirely sure how she does it, but the light always seems to be dancing lightly through the petals. Whether using vibrant hues or a paler pastel palette, her bouquets combine a diversity of texture and shape that I love. They make me feel as though I have stepped back in time into a historical fiction novel taking place in Europe in the mid 1800s to early 1900s. At the same time there is a timelessness to her work that defies any attempt to place it within a particular era.

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I left Christin’s reluctantly, with a silent promise to myself to return at some point. I hope to have the opportunity to work on something with her in the future. In the meantime I continue to follow her on instagram and be inspired by her columns and blog posts. If you live in Victoria I highly recommend ordering flowers from her for your next special event. Or just treating yourself to a garden bouquet. If you are a florist this is one woman you need to add to your speed dial. You won’t regret it! Thanks so much for welcoming me to your farm Christin! I hope this second season is a terrific one for you! I look forward to watching your vision unfold, and very much hope that we find an opportunity for creative collaboration in the future!