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!

Many people don’t realize that for farmers, production begins in December. While most of my friends are shopping for Christmas gifts and celebrating the holidays, I am pouring over my notes from the previous season to decide which crops were well-loved by customers, had a good vase life, long stems, and provided the best colours, textures and perfumes to make it onto the following year’s seed order list. Some tried and true flowers I will even purchase in December. But come January 2nd the online flower seed shopping arena is a battle of the fittest — one in which only those with a well-organized and executed plan come out on top. The last few years I had my list organized alphabetically, and the minute online seed shops opened I was a mouse clicking machine! Despite my wicked finger clicking skills however, every year by the time I make it to checkout someone else has gotten there before me and I receive the groan-worthy message when I try to pay: “this item has sold out and has been removed from your shopping cart.” It is always seeds that are in high demand, and I always kick myself for not splitting my order up into smaller groups that I pay for along the way even if it means that I have to pay more in shipping just to make sure I score the seeds I most want to grow.

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This year I developed a new strategy: Organize my seed order list with the seeds I couldn’t do without at the top, divide my order in two, and have someone (in this case it was my dear mother) help me with placing the order. She had her list. I had mine. When the shop opened we both went into a clicking frenzy, calling out whenever we finished ordering something and cheering for each variety successfully added to the order. This year my strategy worked pretty well. I only had two things removed from my card at checkout! It wasn’t perfect. I’m still waiting for Floret to restock the things I didn’t manage to score the first round, and that means more shipping, but I got most of what I wanted and I’m looking forward to another bountiful season overflowing with swoon-worthy flowers to use in my arrangements and bouquets in 2019.

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By the end of January I have spent a pretty penny on seeds. It is expected, but it leaves the barrel pretty empty at a time of year when I have almost nothing to sell. By February I am beginning to organize my seed-starting plan and budget for seed-starting soil, trays, and heating for the greenhouse. Especially on Prince Edward Island, my seeds need to be started and grown in heated greenhouse space from the end of March through the middle of June. Once we are finally past last frost I have to prep my field. This means doing soil tests to see what my soil needs to yield a healthy harvest this season, purchasing and spreading compost and any other soil amendments that are needed, transplanting my babies out into their new beds, and then babying them with row cover and water and whatever else they need until they are strong enough to stand on their own stems (with netting support!)

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Bulbs like narcissus begin to bloom some time in June and, depending on the year, can bloom into early July. A few perennials like lilacs start blooming in early summer too. But unless we have an unusually warm spring (which has not been the case the past couple of years) my seeds often don’t start blooming in any great quantity until mid July. This means that I have been investing in my crops for over six months before I begin to see any return on my investment. Why am I sharing all of this? Because I want to communicate what you, my customers are investing in when you purchase your Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share in December, January or February. The idea behind a CSA is that customers are invited to invest early so that the farmer has the income necessary to be able to invest in seeds, compost, heat, irrigation, and everything else that guarantees that you receive gorgeous flowers come summer. Your early investment makes a world of difference in the quality and health of the flowers I am growing for you.

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I am very excited to be embarking on my 3rd season of growing at the Mount Continuing Care Community this spring. In 2018 you told me that you loved my Sweet Peas, so this season I am going to attempt two rounds of sweet peas: one in the spring and a second in the fall. The Foxgloves (one of my all-time favourites) and Icelandic Poppies were also a hit at the farmer’s market, so there will be more of those beauties this season, as well as my old faithfuls, Zinnias and Snapdragons. A couple things did not make the cut this season. While Cerinthe has always been a favourite of mine in bouquets, it did not hold up well in market bouquets last season, so I have decided that until I am doing more design work in air-conditioned spaces I am going to have to put that beauty on hold. Another flower that did not make the cut this year unfortunately is Stock. I love love love this flower, but we have been having some super cold springs that then turn into super hot, dry summers overnight, and this past season my Stock sat in the garden all summer taking up valuable space and doing very little, and then burst into bloom in the fall. I may give it another go in the future, but given our long, bitterly cold springs lately, it won’t be for a while.

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There are a number of flowers I have never grown before that I am going to give a try this season, like Geum, Astrantia, Sicilian Honey Lily, Tuberose and a variety of Gladiolus that I have fallen in love with this winter in California (I had never been much of a fan before). I look forward to receiving your thoughts and feedback on my selection this season!

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I will be selling at the Saturday Charlottetown Farmers’ Market for you to pick up individual bouquets, but if you are at all intrigued by the idea of pre-ordering and receiving a weekly CSA bouquet this season (or gifting one to someone else) I hope you will hop on over to my shop and place your order now. A few good reasons for joining my CSA:

*CSA bouquets are larger and fuller than market bouquets. More bounty for your table or desk!
*My CSA customers are guaranteed flowers every week (I will not sell that gorgeous bouquet to someone else before you arrive at the market)
*Starting this year, CSA customers will receive early-bird discounts on Christmas wreaths and design workshops
*CSA customers are the first to receive news on upcoming seasonal floral events and workshops
*CSA customers can pick up their bouquets at the Saturday Farmers’ Market or from convenient downtown locations during the week

All that to say that I hope you will join me! If you have any questions feel free to shoot me a message via my contact form

Wishing you all a great weekend!

I am in Sacramento, California, and it is currently 39 degrees celsius outside. Don’t ask me what that is in Fahrenheit. I don’t do conversions. The important thing is that it is hot as hell. Fry an egg on the asphalt hot. Yesterday I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a sweater and boots, and today the paper thin sundress and sandals feel like too much.

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If you read my first blog post you will know that I have just begun what I hope will be a year-long flower journey. What that means in human speak is that I am taking time away from my own flower farming this season to learn from my fellow flower farmers and designers around the world. When I am not on round the world journeys, I call Prince Edward Island home. If you do not know where that is, you are not alone. It is actually Canada’s smallest province, and I am always surprised at how many Canadians have no idea where it is. It is a small island located off the east coast of Canada in what we call Atlantic Canada. Geographically it is just off the coast from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. North of Maine.

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I moved to Prince Edward Island in 2004 to do my Master’s degree in Island Studies. Usually when I tell people that I have a Master’s degree in Island Studies they stare at me blankly. There are lots of cool things you can study about islands. I chose to focus my graduate studies research on sustainable agriculture and fisheries on islands. In other words I got to study and interview some of the most incredible island farmers and fishers about their farming and fishing practices. Islands are fascinating places. Many of the things that happen on islands happens on larger land masses as well, but on islands the effects of many decisions are more immediately felt because they are so small, and resources are much more limited. The interconnectedness between systems is also more clearly visible on islands than it is in larger places. They also have extremely fascinating cultures, language particularities, and usually have a rich history because many islands have been conquered by one power after another in their lifetime.

When I was a child my family moved to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus from the United States. We stayed for 16 years, so I call Cyprus home. My father’s ancestors are from the Italian island of Sicily. I have been fascinated by islands since I was a child, and the more I study them and explore them the more interesting I find them.

But back to the flowers! I graduated with my Master’s degree in 2008. I had not intended on remaining on Prince Edward Island, but in the process of interviewing farmers I realized that farmers are inspiring, empowered and incredibly creative problem solvers. My friendships with the farmers I interviewed led me to get a job with Raymond Loo, an organic farmer on Prince Edward Island who was actively farming and re-shaping the industry by finding and developing new markets for organic produce. I worked with Raymond for two years growing fruit and veggies, and helping him to develop his marketing strategy. Between 2008 and 2014 I had many different farming experiences on a diversity of farms — mostly growing food. In 2014 while surfing the internet I came across something I had never heard of before: flower farming. The website I landed on that day turned out to be none other than Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm. Fascinated by the idea of growing flowers as a cash crop, I started following her blog. Shortly after that I heard that Erin was hosting a flower workshop in Philadelphia with her colleague and fellow flower lover Jennie Love of Love ‘n’ Fresh Flowers. Knowing almost nothing about growing flowers, I registered for the workshop, and dove in at the deep end, immersing myself in the world of flowers surrounded by a crew of experienced growers and designers.

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I had no idea when I decided to register for that initial workshop what I was getting myself into, but I do believe in following my intuition, and that was what it was telling me to do, so I went for it. I was in WAY over my head that weekend. As we toured Jennie Love’s fields and she shared about all the different varieties and growing methods I tried to say as little as possible because I was utterly lost, and didn’t want anyone else to know just how little I knew about flowers.

Fortunately feeling lost did not prevent me from realizing that I LOVED what I was experiencing and the company of the community of (in this case) female farmers and designers that are leading the re-birth of the American local flower industry.

I returned to Prince Edward Island that fall, ordered way too many seeds that winter, and planted 25 trays of seeds that I germinated in my attic that spring. I rented six garden plots in a new community garden that was being developed that year, transplanted all of my babies out into my plots, and learned a tonne about growing flowers. I also started a small CSA with a handful of customers that I supplied with fresh local mixed bouquets and edible flowers for the season.

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In 2015 I decided I wanted to scale up, so I gave my farm a name — Red Roots Flower Farm (inspired by the red soil of Prince Edward Island), registered my business, and rented about 1/2 acre of land from friends that own an organic farm. With help from my friends, I ploughed up eleven 300 foot long, 4-foot wide beds, and covered half of them in landscaping fabric that I burned holes in to suppress the weeds. My second season was more successful than I had bargained for. I succeeded in producing a massive quantity of flowers. Too massive. I ran my CSA for the second season in a row, had a growing number of individual bouquet orders, dried hundreds of stems that I used to host a successful dry flower wreath-making workshop this past winter, and made flower confetti for weddings, but I still had a lot of flowers that I just didn’t have the time to sell. Lesson learned. Just because I can grow 1/2 acre doesn’t mean I should. I expect I will grow 1/2 acre again some day, but next season I will scale back to 1/4 acre — at least until I have field help. Doing all the field work and the marketing and deliveries on my own was a little bit too much to keep up with and succeed on all fronts. You have to make choices when you are working alone.

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After a number of unexpected personal losses in the fall and winter of 2015, I decided that I needed to refuel, and that I was also at the point where I could really benefit from learning with and from some other flower farmers and designers. Taking time away from my own venture felt scary, but I realized that the further I got with my own business the harder it would be to take time away to work with others, so I decided to take the risk and commit to one full year of learning with and from others before I take my next step.

I packed up my belongings and put them in storage, got rid of most of my furniture, and kicked off my year of learning May 18th. This blog will be where I share with you what I am learning along the way. If you have any questions for me or any of the farmers or designers I am visiting, please let me know, and I will make sure to get answers!

So far I have visited three farms. I stopped at Cultivated by Christin in Victoria, BC. On Salt Spring Island I visited the lovely Molly at Bullock Lake Farm. And this past weekend I spent three days immersed in flower growing, designing, marketing and networking at a Floret Workshop in Washington with the woman who inspired this crazy journey — Erin.

In my next blog post I will share my experiences at Cultivated by Christin and Bullock Lake Farm. The post after that will be all about my magical weekend at Floret Flower Farm. I have just landed in Sacramento, California, where I am visiting my mom and hope to connect with a number of growers and designers. In July I am planning to head to Michigan to spend a few months learning from Jennifer at Bloom Floral Design. And in November I am very excited to be heading to New Zealand to be immersed in the world of Roses with Zoe at Field of Roses on the North Island.

I am calling this blog ‘Where the Flowers Are’ because I have realized this year that home is where my heart is, and my heart keeps leading me to flower fields. If you are interested in flowers, travel, tea, culture, colour, texture, adventure and pursuing dreams, and want to follow along this year, this is where you can do it. I invite you to join me on my flower learning trail, ask questions about methods, varieties, the places I am visiting, and anything else you are curious about along the way. I am aiming for three blog posts a week. You can support me by keeping me accountable. If I start slipping with blog posts I give you permission to give me hell!

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Join me for my next Where the Flowers Are post on Thursday. You can also find me on instagram at @flowerconnection or search the hashtag #wheretheflowersare See you Thursday!