On her two-acre farm in the Skagit Valley of Washington State, Erin Benzakein of Floret grows organic flowers, designs romantic arrangements, hosts workshops, and writes openly and honestly about her experiences as a farmer-florist, entrepreneur, and working mother of two. No wonder her business is blossoming.
Jasper, 12, and Elora, 15, help their parents pick Icelandic poppies. For the past five years, Benzakein has been writing about their life on her blog. She and Chris take all of the photographs. “The family has been on board since the beginning, but it’s nerve-racking,” she says. “You’re really making yourself vulnerable.” Her honesty has connected her with many people around the world. “We’ve developed a great online community of growers and designers. Everyone is so generous. There is nothing off-limits.”
“I love walking in the garden first for inspiration. I like to see how closely I can mimic in the vase what I find there,” she says. In this tall glass urn, she started with a base of copper beech and ninebark branches, anchored by a large flower frog, before adding ‘Coral Charm’ peonies, ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ roses, sweet peas, nasturtiums, raspberries, and Sanguisorba.
Sky-blue delphiniums, coral Icelandic poppies, and salmon-pink sweet peas are the stars of this abundant arrangement housed in a galvanized French flower bucket. Benzakein extols the merits of buying domestically grown flowers. Not only is it more ecofriendly (less fuel is needed for shipping, and imported flowers often use more chemical fertilizers and pesticides than ones grown in the U.S.), but it helps to support small family farmers and keep money in the local economy. Plus, they’re fresher. “It’s just a win-win situation,” she says.
During the growing season, Benzakein offers several flower-arranging workshops at the farm. Students are given access to cut whatever blooms they want from the fields: “We try to think of the farm as a living classroom,” she says. Here, she has combined garden roses, peonies, astrantia, sweet peas, ninebark, copper beech, and Sanguisorba in varying shades of red and pink for an exuberant, romantic arrangement.
While working on weddings and events, Benzakein meets with the client to discuss the color palette. For this yellow-and-white arrangement, she packed a tall glass vase with peonies, foxgloves, chamomile, Icelandic poppies, ‘Ghislaine de Féligonde’ and ‘Windrush’ roses, sweet peas, and blueberries. When she’s not working on events or workshops, Benzakein is busy with a new challenge: writing a book about growing and arranging flowers, which is due out in the fall of 2016.