Last year was certainly another one for the books. If I had known last January just how many crazy, big, amazing things would have been experienced and created by our little team here at Floret, I never would have believed it. We worked our butts off last year, like never before. But not in the way we usually do.
In 2015, we focused on a lot of internal work and bringing dreams all the way from ideas into form. I wrote a book, we created a seed company, and in addition to hosting six workshops, we were blessed with an abundance of the most beautiful press features any business could ever hope for. I am completely blown away by everything that transpired.
Today I’m sharing a look at the past; tomorrow I’m going to let you in on what’s in the works for this year (and be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter to be among the first to learn some exciting news next week).
Instead of my typical general round up, I thought this year I’d break it down by month because there’s just so much to cover. Be warned, it’s a long one! But I felt super inspired to lay it all out.
I finally started writing my first book. Even though I signed the official contract back in the fall, it took a few months before I was able to overcome my nervous jitters and crippling writers block. I spent the better part of the month camped out on the couch tackling the first big block of book text.
We packed and shipped hundreds of specialty sweet pea collections imported from some very special growers in England. While there were a few big challenges on the tech front, it was a successful first foray into the online seed business.
Victoria magazine ran a beautiful story on heirloom flowers and Floret in their special gardening edition. Growing up I used to spend hours leafing through my Mom’s old Victoria issues, dreaming up business ideas (do you remember their business card spreads?) and imaging what my life would look like as an adult. How fun to have my business included in their pages.
After a few false starts, we finally got our ducks in a row and started shooting the photos for the book. The weather was incredibly mild here and we had to really work to find winter. It was tricky trying to capture shots that reflected the feeling of the season. As we were photographing holiday garland, the early magnolias were bursting into bloom!
In between farm chores and photoshoots I wrote and wrote and wrote. Having only ever written a few thousand words at a time, devoting a few days a week to focused writing was mind melting. I think clocked 15,000 words that month!
Our Floret family grew! After an extremely difficult pregnancy, Jill (our customer service queen and office manager) gave birth to a beautiful, healthy little boy named Felix.
I was able to break away from the craziness for a few days to attend the Make Things Happen conference in NC. It was exactly what I needed to get recentered. Listening to Lara Casey share about her journey was very inspiring. It can be tough to find examples of successful businesswomen who juggle having a family, a thriving business and a purpose centered life!
Our field narcissus and early hoophouse tulips all bloomed in abundance and we delivered thousands of bunches to florists and grocers throughout the PNW. What a perfect way to welcome in Spring!
Construction began on a farm shed to hold all of our equipment and tools. After years of having everything stored all over the farm, the guys created a simple space to hold it all.
After a year of waiting, our Martha Stewart Living story finally came out. Keeping the article under wraps for so long was one of the hardest secrets I’ve ever had to keep. For as long as I’ve been in business, being featured in Living has always been what I considered “making it”. I never truly thought it would happen though and still can’t quite wrap my head around the whole thing.
We hosted our first Farmer-Florist workshop of the year. Budding flower growers from all over join us to learn more about small scale, high intensity flower production.
We harvested thousands of bunches of beautiful spring flowers from our hoophouses including ranunculus, anemones and Icelandic poppies.
After years of eager requests, we shipped out hundreds and hundreds of boxes of dahlia tubers from our farm to gardeners across the US. It was a pretty massive undertaking, having never done anything like it before, but we learned so much.
We were lucky enough to be featured in the debut issue of Rodale’s newest magazine, Organic Life, in a story on slow flowers and the growing movement of sourcing flowers locally and seasonally.
We hosted our second Farmer-Florist workshop and another group of amazing attendees joined us for three life changing days.
Our family took a much needed vacation down to Oregon. No trip is complete without a few flower field trips, which included visiting Schriner’s Iris Farm, Peterkort Roses and Adleman Peonies..
In Oregon we loaded up on bearded iris and with them I was able to lure Amy Merrick and Siri Thorisson to come and play with flowers. We visited my favorite local peony farm and made a whole mess of beautiful bouquets. It was so great to finally catch up with Amy and hear all about her world traveling adventures.
We hosted our third workshop of the year, this time with a focus on seasonally based floral design. The class revolved around one of the most luxurious flowers of all time, the peony. Students created overflowing Dutch masters inspired arrangements and on our final day together we set a grand, Victorian garden themed table. All of the magic was captured by photographer Heather Payne.
Right on the heels of the workshop, my dear friend Nina and I rallied from our utter exhaustion and pulled together an incredibly special inspiration shoot with Heather before she had to fly home. I can’t wait to show you what we created after it gets a special spotlight later this spring!
By mid month the early, warm weather coupled with zero rain started to take its toll on our field flowers. The abundance of goodies we had planted for our wholesale accounts and workshop, began to wither in our dry sandy soil. We had to cut back on deliveries started turning off irrigation to sections of the field because our water bill was over $1,700 that month!
Even though the drought situation was getting out of control, our local flower friends came to the rescue and the wildflower themed workshop came off without a hitch. We used a lot of weeds and dried seed heads to round out our other product. The final dinner was actually one of my all time favorites and students got to learn firsthand how to pull together a beautiful finished product using what you have locally.
After a lot of heartfelt deliberation we finally decided to take the leap and start the process of creating a Floret seed line. Jill and I wrote variety descriptions while her kids napped and Chris and I spent evenings shooting the flowers. Little did I know just how MASSIVE the project would end up becoming.
Throughout the summer I continued to write the book and Michele traveled to the farm every few weeks to capture the magic in the field. I’m still in total shock that we somehow pulled off making a book in between all of the other craziness.
For our biggest wedding of the season, we had the pleasure of making flowers for a beautiful berry toned wedding featuring all local blooms and foliage at the grand Union Station.
Despite all of the warm weather, the dahlias actually bloomed behind schedule because of the oppressive drought. We started harvesting enough for deliveries by early month and the field came into abundant bloom just in time for our final floral design workshop of the summer.
After months of doing rain dances, our prayers were answered and the sky finally opened up. But along with the much need rain came 60 mile and hour winds and our poor dahlia field was literally flattened. It was the worst summer storm we’ve ever had and the devastation made me just about want to throw in the towel on farming.
Chris and I steadily documented every flower variety we planned to offer in the seed line up. We found a fantastic artist to draw out each one for the packets and Nicole Yang came onboard and brought the entire project together with her amazing design eye.
Inspired to create a Floret Wall Calendar with our favorite photos and monthly garden reminders, Jill and I dove into writing the text while Chris and I took the missing photos. It was a real push to finish it with enough time for layout, proofing and printing before the holidays, but we managed to squeeze it in between book writing and the little ones naps.
Country Living ran a huge, beautiful feature story on our workshops. It was so fun to see the photos they captured the following summer in print!
Two days after the workshop ladies flew home, we started the overhaul on our garage studio. It got a new level floor, new siding, new windows, running water, plenty of electricity, heat and French doors.
Book writing and shooting continued. We had to get really creative when it came to making the flower field look lush and abundant after the killer storm.
Flower Magazine ran a wonderful story on chrysanthemums that we shot for them with Joy Prouty the fall before. It was so fun seeing a flower that has fallen out of favor in recent years be back in the spotlight where it belongs.
Following in his sister’s footsteps, Jasper started his first official school year. Both of our kids have been homeschooled since they were small, but after wanting to experience a bigger world, we finally conceded to letting them enroll.
Our final farming workshop of the year was a humbling experience, walking the group into our weather-ravaged field for a farm tour. I had remind myself that it was good for the “dreamers” to see the other side of the dream.
While Chris and the crew tried their best to get the dahlias cut back and restaked, they never fully recovered or produced like expected. Walking out to the field left a pit in my stomach every single day.
Even though we didn’t get a hard frost until the end of the month, we were so fried from the relentlessly dry season and stopped making deliveries early. It was a tough call, but the crew was spending so much time cutting back curved stems and trying to save plants, that our productivity was at an all time low. We instead decided to focus on putting the garden to bed early and looking ahead to next year.
We finished up the last of the photos for the book and Chris and I decided to get off the farm for a much needed vacation. With the kids safely tucked into school we had our first solo getaway in over five years. We headed out east and visited Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Five Forks Farm, I took a class from Sarah and Nicolette of the Little Flower School and we toured downtown NY.
While we were gone the crew finished putting the farm to bed and planted about a quarter of the field into new perennials and shrubs. After the crazy growing year we decided it was time to rework our approach and put in some things that once established, could handle bigger weather extremes.
After months of thoughtful preparation we opened up our third annual workshop scholarship program and received a record breaking 700 applications. On the heels of announcing the three lucky winners, 2016 workshop enrollment opened and within minutes, our website crashed. The inbox was flooded with hundreds of emails and it took an entire weekend to clean up the mess. We had to open up extra dates to accommodate the massive waiting list and still weren’t even close to getting everyone in.
When we returned home from out east, our new seed packets were waiting in the carport. After months of work selecting varieties, writing out all of the packet information, working with our graphic designer to lay them all out and then having an artist draw out each flowers, it was so exciting to finally have them in our hands!
After a solid year of work I turned in the final manuscript for the book. 53,000 words about cut flowers! You know how they say writing a book is like growing a baby? Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Everyone who’s been there tells you how hard it’s going to be and how much work you’re in for, but until you experience it for yourself, you really have no idea. The same goes for the good parts too. I caught myself so many times over the season thinking out load, Is this really happening!? Am I really finally writing my dream book!?
With the garden finally asleep and the book off to the publisher we all turned our energy to getting all of our ducks in a row for the online shop launch. Our garage was finally finished, and we set about stocking it with holiday goodies and getting prepared to start shipping things out.
With every intention of hitting “cyber Monday”, we instead had to push back our holiday launch because our online shop was still getting major surgery.
I finally got to see the first book design layouts!!!
The first few weeks of the month were spent shipping out tons of holiday goodies. What fun to see all of our hard work finally going out into the world!
Winter break brought lots of cozy, family time and we had our best Christmas ever. The kids were so happy to have a long stretch of mellow, relaxed days and Chris and I were so happy to have them all to ourselves.
2015 was certainly a full year. Actually quite a bit more full than I ever want to try and manage again. I’m still working to finalize our 2016 plans but I can say this, they are looking quite a bit less ambitious. Tomorrow I’ll share what we’ve got in the works.
I’d love to know how your year turned out!
Hanne Schrødter on
I think Dahlias is the one flower i really, really miss growing her in my Texan garden compared to my Scandinavian one. Lovely pictures!