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December 30th 2013

Sweet peas were the gateway

Written by
Floret

Floret Sweet Peas
 
Have I ever shared with you the story of how I became a flower farmer?

Floret Sweet Peas
 
Growing up, I bounced back and forth between the city and the suburbs a lot since my parents were divorced. I loved all of the choices that the city had to offer. Wonderful food, art museums, massive libraries that stretched on forever and the ability hop on a bus, practically anytime of the day and within minutes be somewhere completely new. But it was always so loud and crowded and intense.

Obviously the suburbs were much, much different. While I liked how things were quieter and the fact that almost everyone had a yard, there wasn’t an ounce of uniqueness or soul to be found for miles. Neither felt quite right or much like home.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
But summers, they were my saving grace. Sometimes I would get to stay on my aunt Debbie’s farm for a week or two and help with the animals, and her overflowing garden. I would collect fresh eggs for breakfast and pitch in while she canned and preserved everything in sight. We mucked stalls, chased chickens, ate homegrown bacon and listened to country music from sun up to sunset. While utterly exhausting, those fleeting days are some of my favorite childhood memories.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
Every summer my sister and cousins and I would make the five and a half hour trek across the state to our grandparents house. They lived in a small town, bordering a slightly bigger small town that was surrounded on all side by nothing. Well not nothing. There were wheat fields and onion farms and a sky that went on forever. The days were hot, and boring and perfectly wonderful.

During working hours we were often shuttled down to my great grandparents place for the day. We played in the creek, drank warm soda pop, ate way too many caramels, bickered back and forth about nothing important and watched hours and hours of murder mystery t.v.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
My great grandmother, Grammie was somewhat of a legend, or at least her old garden was. I’d hear stories of how she’d built it, one wheelbarrow at a time from the ground up on completely barren land in the desert of Nevada. Back in the day she poured her heart and soul into that little plot and everyone who knew her then would smile as they recalled the blue morning glory covered fences and overflowing flower beds.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
By the time Grammie came into my life, that little oasis was just a magical memory. She and my great grandpa Tater Dear had been moved north to be nearer to family as they aged and the garden didn’t make the journey.
Grammies’ health had declined to the point that she was pretty well bedridden by then. On those long hot days she would tell me tales of her flowers and then send me outside with scissors to pick a bouquet for her bedside table.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
While nothing like her old garden, there were still a few treasures to be had if you dug around enough. Leggy snapdragons, a few hybrid tea roses here and there and always a rainbow of sweet peas scrambling up the carport posts. Ahhh, that smell, it still totally reminds me of her.

I took my flower picking job very seriously! After gathering a collection of slightly wilted blooms from the yard, I’d dig through her stash of old dusty bud vases and find just the right one. Those bouquets must have been a sight but she always cooed and doted over them as if they were diamonds or fine china.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
Grammie passed away when Elora was just a baby, the very same year we bought our house. I was able to bring a few of her and Tater’s ashes home with me and spread them in my new garden. I planted two long rows of sweet peas down the center of the plot in their memory. They bloomed better than any crop I’ve grown since. So well so that I ended up sharing the abundance with anyone and everyone I came in contact with!

Floret Sweet Peas
 
During that abundant season, word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and then so awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and immediately tears welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden…and right then and there I was forever changed.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
Witnessing the profound impact that such a small thing could have on a person, I knew I had found something worth exploring. The following season I replaced all of the vegetables with flowers, the season after I dug up our orchard and put it into more, the season after we built our first greenhouse and on and on from there flowers have taken over my life.

Floret Sweet Peas
 
I love to think I’m continuing the legacy that Grammie started almost a century ago. My secret wish is that someday they’ll tell stories of my garden and its magic with the same twinkle in their eyes as they did about hers.

 
** In celebration of the New Year, I’m devoting the entire week here on the blog to sweet peas. We’re going to dig into growing, the best seed sources, post harvest handling tips, my favorite varieties and more. So stay tuned!

45 Comments

  1. Sweet Life Garden.com on

    You have single handedly brought sweet peas to the fore front of the flower world! Bravo!

    Reply
  2. Shelley on

    What beautiful memories. I ordered some of your sweet peas and can’t wait to watch them grow!

    Reply
  3. Laurraine Rakes on

    My stomach did flip flops like on a roller coaster when I saw those words ” Sweet Peas Were The Gateway” ! Wonderful reading and thank you for sharing your tips. I love sweet peas but the only ones that grow in my field currently are the wild vetch type and as pretty as they are they are just not the same! :) Thank You for the inspiration!

    Reply
  4. Ashley on

    How lovely to find yourself a profession that you love and that means something to you!

    Reply
  5. The Trials of a Sweet Pea Addict - Floret Flowers on

    […] so magical about these delicate little blooms that have put a spell on me.  It was, after all, sweet peas that were the “gateway” flower that propelled me on this flower farm adventure.  I simply can’t get enough of […]

    Reply
  6. sherryxj on

    Thank you for sharing your story and those memory.
    By the time I read yours, it reminded me share the massive amount of sweet pea flower with my friends in London.
    I end up with too much flower in the peak season, and I keep cutting them, and share with neighbors, every friends that I visit over the weekend.

    Reply
  7. Sarah H on

    What a lovely story. I’m glad the world has you in it.

    Reply
  8. Kelly on

    What a wonderful story! My own love of sweet pea is connected to the memory of my grandmother. the fence along their driveway was full of them and alwasy greeted us whether we came by car or by foot. I grew up in Montana, and have since moved to the South. I hadn’t seen sweet peas in years and years, and on a visit to New Orleans (of all places!), I came upon the prettiest of purple sweet peas, hanging ever so delicately on a wrong iron fence. In that moment, words escaped me, but tears sure did not! I was overjoyed at seeing this sweet pea, and a flood of memories came rushing back. I think it was my grandma’s way of showing me she was still there, always, with me. I hope to marry one day and you can be sure I’ll be carrying the biggest bouquet of sweet peas! They’re y favorite flower, and your images are like a little bit of childhood for me. Thank you for sharing your story, photos, and hard work.

    Reply
  9. Roseann on

    Your story made me cry! Beautifully written. I don’t even know you and I am so proud of you, and inspired. Thank you for sharing and wishing you and your family the best of luck in the new year!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Ahhh, so sweet. Thanks!

  10. nanne on

    i am so excited about your sweet pea series! love sweet peas, but whatever variety (cannot remember) i planted a few years ago, while being extremely hardy, is mostly vine with little flower. the vines tend to totally take over the space in which they were planted.

    looking forward to your posts on this lovely plant.

    Reply
  11. Michelle on

    A wonderfully beautiful story. I, inspired by you, will be putting in one hell of a sweet pea patch this year.

    Reply
  12. Ariana on

    Gorgeous post Erin. And telling your story seems like such a perfect way to plant the seeds for the new year, and bring everything you have planned for this year to fruition. Looking forward to your next post! :-)

    Reply
  13. Kris P on

    A beautiful story and nicely told. I’m sure your great grandmother smiles down on your current endeavors.

    Reply
  14. Georgianna on

    How beautiful in every way, my dear. Can’t wait for more, and can’t wait for spring! Loved your card so much. Did Elora paint it?

    Happy New Year to you all! x

    Reply
    • Floret on

      I can’t wait spring either. Already have sweet pea plants going into the hoop houses so we’ll be swimming in blooms sooner than ever.

      Elora did paint it. She remembered that you love snowdrops : )

  15. Foxberrytales on

    I was never quite attached to flowers, never thought how something that I can get so instantly and got to dispose of in a few days, can have any profound meaning. Over the years as I grow older, I saw how flowers can mean so much about life. Your story is but one of the personal ones that tug at the hearts of many.

    Reply
  16. Kristy on

    What a beautiful story!!

    I went and bought a bunch of sweet pea seeds after one of your earlier posts this year, … I can’t wait to hear all about how to grow them and learn from your expertise.

    Happy New Year!

    Reply
  17. wasabi honey bee on

    What a wonderful story!!! Sweet peas are such a special, humble flower : ) Looking forward to what you post about them and all the beautiful photographs that always fill your blog!!

    Reply
  18. sonrie on

    Makes me wish for spring to come sooner!! Happy New Year!

    Reply
  19. Cara on

    Your words and images are a winter treat.
    I am grateful to be reminded of my memories around growing flowers and grandparents.
    xo

    Reply
  20. Danielle on

    Beautiful memories and images. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to reading the sequel!

    Reply
  21. Sarah on

    Oh, I loved reading this story. You had me hooked at sweet pea…they are my most favorite flower.

    I, too, long to be a flower farmer, on a much smaller scale though. We’ve been house hunting for the perfect space…I tell my husband that I have to have a secret area where I can garden and pick flowers in my nightgown. ♥

    I am so excited to learn more from you. I wish you could do a different flower each week. But I love your dedication to her memory. ♥

    Happy New Year!!! Sarah

    Reply
  22. Cindy Creps on

    As soon as I saw the sweet peas I knew it would be a beautiful story and it was, thank you for sharing. My own beloved mother passed away while I was reading the Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog to her and talking about the sweet peas she used to grow. They bring a tear to my eye and a smile to my face each time I see them.

    Reply
  23. Kait on

    What a beautiful story, Erin! I’m sure you will leave the same legacy in your children’s eyes as well as the whole community!

    Thanks for the gorgeous pictures!
    -Kait

    Reply
  24. Nancy Cameron on

    Lovely story Erin!
    I will try to grow better sweet peas in honor of of all our special garden grandmothers.

    Reply
  25. martin and the magpie on

    Hi Erin, Just so you know…we are already telling stories about your garden!!! Your Grammie would have been proud..xx

    Reply
  26. Heather on

    What a beautiful memory to share. It is absolutely my dream to become a flower famer. Until I get started on a large scale I am growing and learning as much as I can in my suburbs yard :)

    Reply
  27. Nina on

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! And all the wonderful pictures… I’m so much looking forward for this week and all the sweet peas!

    Reply
  28. Rondi Anderson on

    Thank you! From my grandma I found my love for garden and wild flowers. Those memories are precious. I appreciate the walk through your’s.

    Reply
  29. Corina on

    Ahhhhh, yes! Heaven!

    Reply
  30. Melissa on

    Absolutely beautiful! I speak of my grandparent’s garden in the same way! I only wish I had been as into gardening as I am now when they were alive. I’d love another walk through their garden!

    Reply
  31. Jen on

    I love this story. Thank you so much for sharing it. The geography of childhood is powerful, and you have wonderful family stories too–it’s all connected.

    Reply
  32. Maureen deBruyn on

    I loved this story Erin. It reminded me of time spent on my Grandma Robert’s farm in Missouri. She grew the best hollyhocks, every color and type. I have tried to grow them here but have not succeeded against the wind! Your sweet peas are beautiful, so long and healthy, much better than what we get at our market here!

    Reply
  33. Ingela on

    Thank you for sharing such lovely memories! I wish you and yours all the best in the New Year, with loads of floral happiness!

    Reply
  34. Lisa A on

    Absolute heaven. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  35. Renita on

    Everything old is new again. Love how certain things and the emotions attached to them never go out of style :)

    Reply

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