10 Floral Designers Creating Fresh from the Farm
The field-to-vase movement is doing for wedding flowers what the farm-to-table food movement did for food.
When Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers receives a request from a bride and groom to arrange their big-day blooms, she heads out to two verdant acres behind her studio in Skagit Valley, Washington, to choose among an array of roses, peonies, dahlias, and some 300 other varieties growing from the soil she and her team tend. Erin is unique, but not alone. She is among a group of emerging "farmer florists" going back to the roots—literally—of their craft.
"In the '30s and '40s, most florists had their own gardens," says Jennie Love, the farmer florist behind Love 'n Fresh Flowers. "With the advent of jet engines in the '70s, it became easy and affordable to fly flowers into markets from areas where the weather is always nice. It nearly wiped out U.S.-grown flowers. Now the pendulum has swung back."
What does that mean for the couple heading down the aisle? Bouquets, centerpieces, and more comprised of local, more sustainable, more unique cuts in the prime of their freshness.
Here, meet the top farmer florists working on weddings across the country.
Founder: Karin Woodward
When Founded: 2008
Website: Haute Horticulture
Located: Outside of Memphis, Tennessee
Size of Farm: Her Seventh Hand Farm is located on 4.5 acres
What You Would Find Growing There: A lineup of greens, ornamentals, vines, and flowers, including cosmos, columbine, rare double narcissus, gomphrena, 'Flemish Antique' poppies, astrantia, clematis, and unique dahlia varieties
Style of Floral Design: "My style is a reflection of nature's seasonal offerings," Woodward says, adding that she enjoys creating a connection between the bride and groom with their flowers that resonates deeply in the soul.
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: For many years, she has delivered events almost every weekend.
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "There is no substitute for a sun-ripened flower harvested at just the right moment," Woodward says. "The resulting arrangements highlight a flower's true qualities, perfect by their own standards."
What Woodward Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "In terms of creativity, it opens up infinite possibilities for my designs because I am not dependent on products that others choose," she says. "Even items traditionally labeled as weeds, berries, vines, nonedibles, and ornamental varieties will all be considered as long as they are safe to use."
Chica Bloom Farm
Partners: Daniele Allion and Ariana Reguzzoni
When Founded: 2011
Website: Chica Bloom Farm
Located: Petaluma, California
Size of Farm: 0.5 acres
What You Would Find Growing There: About 60 varieties, including dahlias, zinnias, roses, snapdragons, sweet Annie, craspedia, cosmos, and eucalyptus
Style of Floral Design: "Our style can vary, based on the flowers available and the aesthetic of the client," Allion says. "On some days, the flowers seem to give off a classic English countryside feeling. Sometimes we go foraging and we come up with something more woodsy. And sometimes the flowers can be modern and sleek."
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 10
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "Because we grow the flowers and follow them through their life cycle, we get to know them really well and all their little quirks in terms of what they can do and how they will hold up," Allion says.
What They Love About Being Farmer Florists: "Ariana and I really care about wanting to make little environmental impact," Allion says. "That's what we want to contribute to our local movement, and we enjoy sharing that value with our clients."
Love 'n Fresh Flowers
Founder: Jennie Love
When Founded: 2009
Website: Love 'n Fresh Flowers
Size of Farm: Just over 2 acres, which is divided between three fields. Love plans to add another acre of growing space in the coming year.
What You Would Find Growing There: More than 300 varieties of flowers and foliage, including shrubs like oakleaf hydrangea, fragrant herbs like broadleaf sage, and heirloom spider mums in rare mocha hues
Style of Floral Design: "My aesthetic is very natural and very textural. I call it 'earthy elegant,'" she says. "Because I grow all my own materials, I get to design with things that no one has ever seen before."
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 71
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "Because they know exactly where the flowers are grown and that they are grown just for them, they often have a very deep personal connection to them," Love says. "We have many couples return to the farm for workshops after their wedding or join our CSA, and end up becoming a part of the community that comes and goes around the farm."
What Love Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "I am a big plant nerd," she admits. "I love getting to try and share new varieties."
Three Toads Farm
Partners: Elizabeth Hendricks, Charlie Hendricks (Elizabeth's father), and Val Schirmer
When Founded: 1998, with wedding floral design taking off in 2012
Website: Three Toads Farm
Located: Winchester, Kentucky
Size of Farm: 1.5 acres, plus two 30-by-60-foot greenhouses
What You Would Find Growing There: In the greenhouse, Oriental lilies grow year-round; seasonal varieties include French tulips, sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias, anemones, zinnias, lisianthus, celosia, and Icelandic poppies.
Style of Floral Design: "This is not your typical farmers' market bouquet," Elizabeth says. "It's more exquisite, refined, and elegant."
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: "We had more requests than we could fill this year," she says. "And we've grown more than we ever have."
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "I have a hand in the flower throughout its entire existence," Elizabeth says. "Because we grow the flowers, I end up with more respect for them and more pride in them. I also end up knowing what is the cream of the crop, which is only what will do for a bride."
What Elizabeth Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "There is a lot of trial and error involved in being a farmer florist," she admits. "Because Kentucky weather is so unpredictable and you can't control the elements around you, for example, what you might get one summer may be entirely different than what you get next summer. But because you are constantly working in a beautiful field of flowers, you have no choice but to be inspired every day."
Founder: Erin Benzakein
When Founded: 2007
Website: Floret Flowers
Located: Skagit Valley, Washington
Size of Farm: Around 2 acres
What You Would Find Growing There: About 300 varieties of flowers, including roses, peonies, dahlias, ranunculus, and sweet pea
Style of Floral Design: Romantic and timeless bouquets inspired by old Dutch still-life paintings
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 20
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "Because the flowers are not traveling halfway across the planet, a bride and groom will get super-fresh, one-of-a-kind arrangements that are tied to a season and a place," she says.
What Benzakein Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "Often when you share flowers, people begin to cry," she says. "Flowers are not only beautiful, but they have an emotional impact. That is the part I love."
Max Gill Design
Founder: Max Gill
When Founded: 2002
Website: Max Gill Design
Located: Berkeley, California
Size of Farm: About 8,000 square feet
What You Would Find Growing There: "I have been working on the garden for about seven or eight years now, and it's just undergone a major overhaul," Gill says. "I had a ridiculous number of vines—clematis, jasmine, honeysuckle, pandorea. It's really hard to have such a vine-intensive garden. So moving forward, I will have less vines and the garden will serve more purposes—for example, there will be fruit trees that weren't there before."
Style of Floral Design: "It is the cornerstone of my aesthetic and reputation to use vines," he says. "But branches have always served as a foundation for my arrangements. When it comes to apricots, plums, cherry, and apple tree branches, I would have been lucky to come across those by accident before. And now I will be growing them myself!"
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 15
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "What is commercially available is many years behind what is in the nursery in pots," Gill says. "By growing your own flowers, you can work ahead of the floral design curve."
What Gill Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "The garden is sort of both my church and my gym," he says. "I get a great workout and I do love to do it. Once you roll up your sleeves and get into it, it encourages you to have more of a community-informed perspective on things."
Founders: Sarah Ryhanen and Eric Famsian
When Founded: 2006
Located: Brooklyn, New York, with their Farm at Worlds End located in upstate New York
Size of Farm: 107 acres. "We grow flowers on about three acres, and the rest is for the animals—Icelandic sheep and our brood of Black Laced Wyandottes, Buff Orpingtons, and Araucana chickens," Ryhanen says.
What You Would Find Growing There: 100-plus varieties, with Ryhanen's favorites including 'Café au Lait' and 'Seattle' dahlias, love in a puff vines, paintbrush celosia, 'Chocolate Smoke' nicotiana, martagon lilies, 'Pink Champagne' currants, foxglove, and hellebores
Style of Floral Design: A wild, asymmetrical aesthetic that is very seasonally oriented
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 19
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "In the recent past, we've been able to grow specific flowers for a couple—sometimes even to match a bride's dress!" Sarah says. "We spend an incredible amount of time on making sure we'll have our hands on the most exquisite blooms. Our couples quickly understand our passion for details and know that their gathering is going to be lush, with many flowers they've never seen before."
What Ryhanen Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "My hope is that our work at Worlds End will connect more florists and floral designers with nature and spark their interest in sourcing quality locally grown flowers," she says.
Nicolette Camille Floral Design
Founder: Nicolette Owen
When Founded: 2006
Website: Nicolette Camille
Located: Brooklyn, New York
Size of Farm: 40 by 60 feet
What You Would Find Growing There: 30 different varieties. "But I only grow one or two of each," Owen says, adding that clematis, roses, currants, campanula, heuchera, foxglove, and akebia are among them.
Style of Floral Design: "My work is flowing, lush, very romantic, and still a little wild," she says.
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 25
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "I'm a plant hoarder," Owen jokes. "Every time I go to a nursery, I think, 'Oh, I can plant these in the garden.' That ends up allowing me to create bouquets with special finishing touches."
What Camille Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "I find all of the farmer florists I know are doing this for the same reason," she says. "We love flowers and plants, and we love sharing them."
Moonflower Design Studio
Founders: Mandy and Steve O'Shea
When Founded: 2011
Website: Moonflower Design Studio
Located: Comer, Georgia
Size of Farm: 3 Porch Farm, where they grow, is 3 acres
What You Would Find Growing There: "Everything that is difficult and rare to grow around here, I seem to be drawn to! Yet we also grow a lot of the essentials, such as zinnias, rudbeckia, gomphrena, celosia, etc.," Mandy says, adding that dahlias and ranunculus are among her specialties.
Style of Floral Design: "The arrangements are very warm, whimsical, and nature-inspired," she says. "I have a field of flowers, and I still get excited about foraging and finding those gnarly branches and crazy leaves and vines that can create a natural aesthetic."
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 35
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "One of the most wonderful aspects of using local and seasonal flowers for your wedding is that each year as your anniversary comes around, your wedding flowers will once again be in bloom," Mandy says. "As you walk through the woods, a garden path, drive down the highway, or stroll through a farmers' market, you will have very visceral reminders of that happy day. We still grow sweet peas from the seed that was in my bridal bouquet, and every year we have a beautiful and fragrant reminder of our best day."
What They Love About Being Farmer Florists: "It was really important for me and my husband to be working on something that is beautiful and creative—and sustainable," she says.
White Magnolia Floral Designs
Founder: Sue Prutting
When Founded: "I launched the business about four years ago, but I have been doing flowers for family, friends, and weddings for years," Prutting says.
Website: White Magnolia Floral Designs
Located: Potomac, Maryland
Size of Farm: "I'm not a farmer by any means, but I do consider myself a large gardener," she says. "The growing space is less than an acre, and it's laid out to look like a garden because we are in a suburb."
What You Would Find Growing There: 45 varieties of perennials. "I grow a lot of things that are the glittery touches you put in the end, like peonies, bleeding hearts, fairy wings, and Solomon's seal," she says.
Style of Floral Design: "I really want people to interact with my arrangements and see something new every time they look into them," Prutting says. "I like to have little treasures tucked within."
Number of Weddings Worked on in 2014: 22
What a Soon-to-Be-Married Couple Will Adore: "When I design and I am pressed to have enough product, it's amazing to run outside and grab something to round out the arrangement," she says. "It really sets me apart to create a look that is overflowing and full."
What Prutting Loves About Being a Farmer Florist: "I am constantly inspired by the transformation of the perennials over the seasons," she says. "Blueberries, for example, have the most beautiful fall foliage, and then it's powder blue before it fruits. Crab apples can go from a yellow to orange to an incredible burgundy. If I didn't grow these myself, it would be difficult to come across them in these seasonal variations."
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