Things are heating up in my floral farm world and it’s not even Christmas yet! I’m not ready to talk about it as nothing is quite set in stone, but let’s just say I’ve made some really amazing, serendipitous connections here in Metro Buffalo over the past few weeks. Things are looking up for my flower farm that doesn’t even exist yet… Yippee!
Meanwhile, in every other waking moment of my life, I’ve been perusing through books, Instagram, seed catalogs and online seed merchants for the fun stuff: The flowers, herbs, shrubs and grasses that will grace my fields. The proverbial meat of my business.
Choosing flower varieties to grow on a brand new flower farm is NOT an easy task. I sat for weeks just scrolling through websites, not really knowing how to determine WHAT to plant. Flowers are a lot more complicated than vegetables, turns out, because I’m providing a product to DESIGN with, not just to consume as food. Nuances of colors, shapes, textures, and bloom times come into play… and that’s only scraping the surface.
A few weeks ago I had a genius idea to copy a color palette into a Google spreadsheet. I tweaked the palette by adding more colors (extra layers of light and dark per color, plus some in between). The outcome is a visual representation of all the flowers I want to grow, and where they land on the color spectrum. Because I know flowers well, I’m able to read through the 2 million pink blooms I’ve picked and imagine the rest of their qualities in my head. I can then determine that yes, I really need all 2 million of the pink varieties I’ve chosen because while a cosmo is light and airy, the strawflowers and statice are stiffer and can be dried for crafting/wreathmaking, the red soba buckwheat is a nitrogen fixer, and The Ancient Mariner Shrub Rose bred by David Austin is pure MAGIC.
Let me tell you, this chart has changed my farm planning game. In the future, I will probably figure out a way to utilize this chart for designs!
POINTS OF CONSIDERATION WHEN CHOOSING FLOWERS:
1. Color, obvi
- The fact that we need to plant a flower (and a wide range of foliage!) for every color is obvious. What takes more thought and research is figuring out what is trending for 2018. I consider all forms of design (weddings, interiors, fashion, Pantone colors of the year, architecture, landscape design, etc). Thanks to architectural history 101, I’ve learned every design niche is intertwined with the next. I haven’t let myself become obsessed with trends, but I do nod to them and understand they affect what I should grow on my farm to some degree.
2. Bloom Size & Shape
- Bigger blooms = Bigger bucks. As in $$$. This is generally true across the board, from designing pieces to selling stems to florists. Knowing I want to base part of my business on selling blooms to local florists in Buffalo, I’m careful to choose the focal blooms I know (or at least I can predict) will be a hot sell. I have gathered this information from endlessly scrolling through Instagram feeds of popular florists… there are many repeats and patterns across the board.
- Meanwhile, it’s entirely necessary to grow smaller blooms for fillers and “special moments.” Small flowers, when layered in different planes in an arrangement or bouquet, can bring magic to the whole shebang.
3. Bloom Time
- It’s so important to make sure that every flower I’m picking doesn’t bloom for 2 months in summer then it’s gone. Succession planting plays a huge role in making sure I have product for the entire growing season, but there are strategic plants I can choose that I know will bloom first (peonies, besides the bulbs) and last (fabulous heirloom mums). If I don’t have constant blooms I’ll be buying from a wholesaler, which defeats the whole purpose of being a flower farmer. When I get this whole seed starting, succession planting plan figured out, I’ll share it with you.
- Though I will be growing many ‘obvious’ blooms (think: zinnias, sunflowers, celosia, etc), I also want to focus on very unique, special heirloom varieties of flowers. I plan on growing exciting varieties of plants that have traditionally only been grown in the South (heirloom tobacco and cotton, one of which grows incredibly unique flowers, the other with an endlessly useful seed pod). I also plan on incorporating many different types of edibles in my designs as well, nodding to my original roots as a veggie and herb farmer. So many plants we consume for food on a normal basis have a gorgeous flowering cycle!
- Related: 20 Medicinal Plants to Grow in Your Backyard + How to Use Them
- Another thing I ask myself when choosing flowers is: What other use can I get out of this plant? For instance, many plants I’m choosing can be dried for crafting and wreathmaking (strawflower + luffa gourd). Others I’ve chosen to grow as cover crops to enrich the soil (crown vetch + red soba buckwheat). So many plants I’ve chosen are edible and can be used to make teas, infused oils and honeys, and body products. And guess what, I’ll actually have time to do these sorts of things in the winter! 🙂 Another consideration is a plant’s life cycle – does it not only produce a beautiful flower, but also interesting seed pods in case I don’t get to harvesting it in time? (cilantro + scabiosa)
5. Ask yourself: Do I truly Love What I’m growing?
- If I don’t love a flower, I don’t grow it. I hate cleome, not growing it. I really dislike asiatic lilies and I probably won’t grow them even though I might get some requests. I refuse to grow what I don’t love because I know I won’t take special care of it. I won’t successfully use it in designs. It will be a waste. There are too many flowers to choose from, so don’t grow something if you hate it!
I’ve still got a lot of work to do on this color chart. So far, I’m about 3/4 of the way done considering my annuals. I haven’t even thought about perennials yet, mostly because I need to figure out if my future farmland will be accessible for years to come, or if I’ll have to move. If I have to move, buying thousands of dollars in perennial plants will have been a big waste of time and money.
Here are some really helpful books in choosing flower varieties: