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December 23rd 2019

Year in Review 2019

Written by
Floret

Every year between Christmas and New Year’s, there is a wonderful stretch of quiet time when the rest of the world is caught up celebrating the holidays. In our house we keep things really simple and instead use this stretch of time for rest and reflection. I love this time of year because I finally have the opportunity to slow down and tuck away to reflect on the past season and plan out the year ahead.

2019 was one of the most intense, enlightening, overwhelming, and challenging years to date. Of all the years we’ve been in business, I started this year with the least amount of clarity about what I was intending to create, and the entire time I felt like I was running to catch up with myself and all the projects we’d committed to.

Really at no point in the past year did I feel as if I had a real handle on things. And while the experience was quite discouraging, as I look back, it’s an incredible reminder about how important it is to be intentional with my choices and what I choose to pour my energy into.

Every decision brings with it a different set of responsibilities and pressures, and even though 2019 was incredibly difficult, I learned so much about myself.

Before I dig into planning the year to come, I take some time to reflect on all that has happened during the previous year, since it can be so easy to just want to look ahead.

I thought it might be helpful to share some of the highs and lows of 2019 in hopes that it might inspire you to take stock of your own past year even if things didn’t go the way you planned.

January is always our busiest month here on the farm as we launch our full line of Floret seeds. Last year, we had high hopes that our shipping department would finally be moved out of the garage and set up in the barn at the new farm, but a series of issues with our construction permit prevented the move in time for the seed launch.

We crammed 16 people into a makeshift space, which topped out at 700 square feet. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, our wonderful team kept such great attitudes, and we managed to ship out nearly 16,000 packages of goodies in just a few short weeks to gardeners all over the world.

We were all running on adrenaline, imagining all of the excited people opening their mailboxes and the promise of so much beauty headed out into the world.

We spent the better part of winter packing and shipping out orders, and as the weather started to warm our trial field of bulbs exploded into bloom. Every day it wasn’t raining, we were out crawling around in the daffodil patch taking notes, measurements, and photographs of all the early spring treasures.

On drizzly days we were bundled up in the studio documenting each bulb variety. Jill and I excitedly wrote descriptions while Chris captured the flowers with the camera. After such a long dark winter, we were all so grateful to have flowers again.

After the weather warmed up we turned our attention back to the fields at the new farm. The red outlined section is our original 2-acre farm and the white outlined section is the new 24-acre property. This photo doesn’t quite include all of the new land but gives you an idea of just how much land we’re working with. When we bought the property two years ago, it was a very neglected conventional berry farm and the soil was in pretty rough shape.

We have been working closely with the soil lab, testing and amending the ground trying to repair all the damage that was done. In the spring we tilled in the winter cover crop and added tons of compost and manure, along with many truckloads of limestone flour and other natural amendments that were recommended by the lab.

While all of this soil work was happening out in the field we were also setting up a massive underground irrigation system so that we could run water out to all of the corners of the farm. We laid miles of electrical wires and pipe, and while the project was incredibly daunting to me, I have never seen Chris so excited about a farm project. After years of dragging hoses all summer long and never being able to leave because someone has to stay on top of the watering, we can now water individual sections of the field on a timer system. It has totally changed our lives!

Near the end of spring we got back to the galleys for A Year in Flowers, which is essentially a large mock-up of the book. Though the text was in great shape, I wasn’t happy with the first round of page designs, so we went back to the drawing board and reworked the majority of the book to give it a more lively, abundant, and organic feel.

It was a massive undertaking and came with a lot of tension since the project was on a compressed timeline to begin with in order to make a Valentine’s Day 2020 debut. While the process was brutal for everyone involved, I am so glad we took the time to get it right.

I can’t wait for you to hold it in your hands. This book was a true labor of love.

Days after we turned in the last photos and edits for A Year in Flowers, Chris and I hopped on a plane and headed to England for two glorious weeks. I have dreamed of visiting this magical country for as long as I can remember, and it was even more amazing than I had imagined. In addition to visiting all the famous gardens, we also had the opportunity to finally meet so many of my floral heroes.

I still haven’t fully absorbed everything we did and saw, but in the near future I am going to write an entire post about our journey and everything I learned. If you ever have the chance to go, take it; it’s so worth the effort.

Within days of returning home we dove head-first into interviewing dozens of candidates for some very important positions on the farm. The process was incredibly eye-opening; what we thought we wanted and who we ultimately hired for were two very different things. While skills and experience are incredibly valuable, we ultimately found that heart and passion were equally important qualities for our team. We were incredibly lucky to find the most amazing people who possess both!

But as an extremely introverted person, I’ve found the continued growth of our team overwhelming. I am used to working alone or with just one or two people, and sitting at the head of a long conference table leading a team meeting has been way outside of my comfort zone.

While this new normal has had its challenges, building a team of such caring, thoughtful, and talented people has been so inspiring.

After pitching the idea of writing a dahlia-focused book in late 2018, we designed and planted a massive dahlia field of more than 700 varieties in rainbow order for the project. Organizing and cataloging all of the varieties was an incredible undertaking, and we didn’t realize how much we had actually taken on until we were in the thick of it.

Toward the end of summer, the dahlia fields came into bloom, and we worked around the clock to document, harvest, and photograph hundreds of varieties for the dahlia book.

We seriously underestimated just how complicated it would be to cover so much technical information in a beautiful and down-to-earth way. It was one of the most challenging creative projects to date.

On top of writing and shooting an entire book in a few short months, we were also knee-deep in our seed breeding projects and new seed variety selection. The daylight hours during the week were spent documenting all of the new additions to our seed line, and then I spent every weekend working on breeding projects. It was a thrilling and completely exhausting summer.

While I was sad to see the flowers go when the first frost arrived, I was so relieved to finally get some sleep. Note to self: Don’t work on two books in one calendar year!

In early October we shifted gears and turned our attention back to the shop for our annual fall bulb launch. Thankfully the barn was finally finished just in time. The response to the bulb launch was amazing, and we spent the better part of two weeks shipping out thousands of boxes of spring-flowering bulbs to excited gardeners all over the country.

Planting bulbs in the autumn is one of my favorite annual tasks because it’s the ultimate gift to your future self. We tucked a staggering amount of bulbs into our trial plot, and I cannot wait to see all of the new treasures next spring.

In early November we opened up registration for the Floret Online Workshop. This season marks our third year of running our 6-week flower farming course online. It has been such a thrill to watch so many budding and established flower farmers pick up the torch and help change the flower industry for the better.

Our team has poured so much time, love, and intention into both the program and the students’ experience, and I’m so excited about going through the course together in January. It gives me so much hope for the future for both the local flower movement and the planet.

December has brought a bit slower pace as all of our big creative projects have finally come to a close. The dahlia book manuscript and photos have been turned in, and nearly all of the seed packets have been filled and are ready for our January launch. All of the new varieties for 2020 have been uploaded to our website, and our amazing team is off for the holidays getting some much-needed rest. I can’t think of a time in the last few years that the farm has been so quiet.

I’ve got a huge stack of magazines that I’ve been squirreling away for months to create my vision board, and a fresh batch of notebooks and new pens. I’m taking full advantage of this quiet time to get as clear as possible before mapping out the year to come.

We have spent the last 10 years working so incredibly hard to build and grow Floret, and I cannot believe all that we have accomplished. What started as a tiny cutting garden in my backyard has grown far beyond my wildest dreams, and I’m still trying to catch up with all that has happened.

But as I’m looking ahead to the future, I’m trying to figure out how to navigate the next chapter as intentionally as possible while staying true to myself. I don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I’m so excited for what the future holds.

I’d love to hear how your year went and what you’re looking forward to creating in 2020.

39 Comments

  1. Patricia Ridgeway on

    I just received my new book today and I am so excited! I raised the flowers for my daughters wedding last year and although exhausting, I loved it! I hope to expand this year. I love your story and honesty. I would love to visit your farm someday!! Thank you, Trish

    Reply
  2. Viv Herman on

    Erin-my goodness how far you have come!! I found you in the winter of 2012..at a time when I needed a new direction to go in my life of early (not intended) retirement. I looked into farmers markets in the area and no one had flowers. This will be my 8th season growing for 2 markets. Small–1/2 acre–but very rewarding. I love the way you share all the ups and downs;putting it all out there for us to see and learn from.
    A freelance wedding florist,-worked @ 2 floral shops–and a hospital;and now real retirement has arrived. I only wish I were a little younger and started this a little earlier in my life. I will watch for more ways to make watering and other chores easier for the (senior) farmer florist. Love the 1st book, as I will all the others to come.

    Reply
  3. Rosi Aspin on

    Wow. You have a Big Destiny!!!

    We all love to hear your journey, the ups and the downs… and it certainly resonates with me. A wild mixture of love, hard work, joy, generosity, hope and good fortune all coming together and radiating out to us all..

    All for the love of flowers.

    Thanks Erin.

    Reply
  4. Jenn on

    Thank you SO so much for sharing. You put into words exactly what I’ve been trying to. Having a clear plan moving forward is exactly what is needed. Also, I am thrilled to have found you. There’s always been an interest in growing but my fear stood in the way. Maybe this year :)

    Reply
  5. Pam Williams on

    I am so happy for you making the trip to England to tour the public gardens! I wonder if you were there the same time I went; did you get to the Chelsea Flower Show? Hope you came away with as much inspiration as I experienced.

    Reply
  6. Laura on

    Erin, thank you for sharing your year in review. It has inspired me to reflect on my own year and to think about how I can be more intentional with planning 2020. I too felt like 2019 had little clarity and I am thinking if I continue like I am now, I’ll bring that blurriness with me into the next year. Hope your quiet time is proving restful and restorative, and that you and your family have a very happy New Year!

    Reply
  7. Jason on

    I enjoyed reading your year in review. Gave me a new appreciation for what goes into a successful flower farm.

    Reply
  8. Lucy Berkoff on

    What a beautiful year in review, Erin. I’m hoping to be a more intentional gardener in 2020, as well. Like you, I am using this quiet time to draw a path through the garden year. I’m truly looking forward to your seed launch and wishing you and Chris, your family, & team, an amazing year. Warmly, Lucy

    Reply
  9. Hillary Hatfield on

    WOW – what a year! Congratulations on all of your many accomplishments. You’ve really become an inspiration to so many. Thank you for your continued efforts to bring beauty and happiness to the world, through flowers. I cannot wait to begin the Workshop in January. Happy New Year to you, your family and Floret crew.

    Reply
  10. Alicia on

    As a first year graduate of the Floret Online Workshop, I’ve had so many moments where I felt less than for not being ahead of where I am. But then I remind myself to stay in my own lane (and I literally hear it in my head in your voice) :) I immediately became interested in soil science when I got to the soil testing and amendment portions of the course. For my future success, I knew I’d need to learn a lot more than just basics as it applies to my personal piece of property. In the meantime, I’m happy to say that I had my biggest year yet for the practice of growing dahlias. I say practice, because it’s just that, a practice run to see what it takes to do it well alongside working my full time job and with the help of my husband and mother in law. With over 1,000 tubers in the ground (in gopher infested NorCal no less!), it was more than double what I grew last year and a great learning experience. I’ve reached out to a few local florists and was well received. I can feel things are slowly turning in a direction I am hopeful about.

    Reply
  11. Christina Katz on

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I like it when you talk about where you started because it makes me feel better about where I’m at. The beginning is a humble place to be, but your example gives me patience and hope at the same time. Happy holidays!

    Reply
  12. Gina Schley on

    Great post Erin! I’ve been reflected on my last year also and have been contemplating sharing it or not. But after reading this, I think I should. Reading about your unstyled side of chasing a dream, running a business, working with a team, is so helpful to me where I stand today, so perhaps my place in this journey will help others. Curious on why you didn’t mention anything about wholesale accounts, bridal customers, etc….Wondering if you still sell to them or if Floret is transitioning to primarily research/seed company? Love your dream board too.

    Reply
  13. Lynn Galloway on

    Wow, Thank you for sharing your inner thoughts and experiences about the life that you have created on Floret Farm. I was surprised to have tears well up in my eyes as I read this post, but then again, it was so heartfelt, how could I not be touched. Thank you for all you do for the farm to vase movement, for the planet and for being an inspiration in the ways that you interact with your customers and employees. Thank you for taking the time to share all of your experiences and insights. Thank you to your team who obviously are very dedicated and hard working.

    Reply
  14. Kelly Ann Myers on

    Your blog gives me so much inspiration. I am thrilled to know so many other people are inspired by flowers like me. I couldn’t afford to pay for your course this year, I began saving right after the admission closed. I already have $450! I have tested my soil and will “fix” it in the spring. I ordered some of your recommended daffodils and tulips which are happily cooling for the winter in a small fridge. This will be my first attempt at serious gardening. The sky is the limit!! Thank you for the detail and effort Floret!!!

    Reply
  15. Margaret Z. on

    Love to know I’m not the only one that uses a vision board.

    Reply
  16. Summer on

    There is beauty in the struggle.

    I found so much inspiration from this blog post, Erin. Your candor gave me the feeling that you must be an introverted/visionary kindred spirit. (Anne of Green Gables reference… yes, I’m reading it with my children.) This makes me all the more excited for the upcoming workshop!

    I am just embarking on my journey as a flower farmer/florist. This is the year that I begin! I am so grateful to have you as a mentor, through your books and your workshop!!

    My thoughts and prayers will be with you, your family, and your team as you begin this new year! May it be full of clear vision, wisdom, health, beauty, joy, peace, and many, many blessings!!!

    Reply
  17. Dee on

    It was an incredibly fruitful year for you… No wonder you feel spent at the end of it! I’m glad you’re taking time to rest. I always enjoy your comment on Instagram.

    Reply
  18. Beccy on

    Thank you for sending me seeds and inspiring me to try growing flowers from seed for the first time. I learned soooo much in the midst of a challenging year. And thank you for the beautiful bulbs – I am so excited to see the beauty emerge next spring. I so appreciate what you have created and done that has directly benefitted me and so many others!!!

    Reply
  19. Sharon Schwenk on

    Wow! What a year. Thank you for documenting it. And for inspiring so many new floral farmers. I just enjoy observing this since my serious gardening days have come to an end and your writing and photos have taken its place..

    Reply
  20. Linda on

    I absolutely love to read everything you put out. I’m starting my Dahlia farm in the spring. I would love to see a video on how to put up a hoop house and what materials you use. Thank you so much for sharing what you do!

    Reply
  21. Petra Matthew on

    It is so good to hear the realistic side of your story as well. Thank you for that. And thank you for inspiring me to do something new. Your book and the book from Clare Nolan, in Bloom, made me want to start a flower picking garden. Here in Holland we all have very tiny gardens. So I have put myself on a waitinglist for an allotment. Can’t wait to het started! Fijn kerstfeest from Holland!

    Reply
  22. Amy Green on

    Erin, the heart and soul you put into your craft is truly inspiring. The way you capture your process and put it out to the world has moved my soul. I live on a little 7500sf urban lot in Burien, WA and I cannot not wait to turn it into a flower filled oasis. You have shown me what is possible, a passion I never knew was there or even could be there. I have always had a vegetable garden but never even considered having a cut flower garden. Who wants another tomato when you can have Dahlias! I’ve spent this fall reading and watching everything I can find on flower farming, I can’t stop ordering seed packets and my excitement for this spring and summer is hardly containable.
    I want to be a flower farmer because of you. ❤️
    @amysgardenjungle

    Reply
  23. Marly Surena-Llorens on

    First, I’m very happy to see vision boards are still popular! And doing the ‘old-fashioned’ way, with scissors! Second, you consistently stepped out of your comfort zone. Thank you for sharing your year in review.

    Reply
  24. Helen Noren on

    Love this ❤️ Congratulations on irrigation and two books – wow!! And for staying true to yourself, that is quite possibly the most inspiring piece for me 🙌✨ 2019 was my best year yet! Kicked it off with your course, which really set my soul on fire, and had such a fun summer of trials and tribulations in the garden. We got pregnant in May and unfortunately it hasn’t been as easy as my first, but on the home stretch now and can’t wait to meet our little babe 💙💙 Excited for our growing family and for our second growing season on our land! Wishing you and your family a peaceful Season of Light and a magical new year ❤️

    Reply
  25. Shannon on

    I am so inspired by your work!! I gave a small flower garden and large veggie garden and I love the growing and harvesting seasons! I hope to expand one day and even take a class from you!! I love the thought about intentional living!! May your new year be awesome and product!!

    Reply
  26. Gail Shevlin on

    Thanks for sharing your difficult year with us! I love reading your posts and look forward to reading your new books. My year was difficult as well due to illness . I am better so am looking forward to a healthier 2020 where I will be able to be in my garden again! Many blessings for the holidays and for the new year. ❤️

    Reply
  27. Jenny Fetchko Mohnke on

    As a fellow introvert, I applaud you for setting your comfortability aside and carrying out your mission despite the toll it may take. Thanks for inspiring me to also be true to myself when developing my career/passion in gardening & nature education. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others’ expectations are. You have already started such an important movement, and I think it’s a domino effect at this point for those who are introduced to Floret. At the end of the day, feel at peace knowing you TRULY are cultivating beauty all over the world. Beautiful reflection. #gardenrenaissance

    Reply
  28. Amber Rhodes on

    I’m in Gippsland in Australia on a farm. We have mostly sheep and some cattle. I have wanted to start a flower farm on a few acres but convincing my husband is something I’m still working on! I have, however, turned our large veggie patch into a mostly flower patch, with almost sixty dahlias growing beautifully, a couple of beds of sunflowers and one of zinnias. I’m going to give selling them ago locally and try some farmer’s markets in the hope of proving to hubby it’s a worthwhile side venture. Would have loved to have enrolled in your course.

    Reply
  29. Katie Pence on

    My year has been creating and refining my large house into an Airbnb for groups surrounded by my flower farm. My flower farm has finally gotten more attention, with a large greenhouse, about 1000 yds of wood chips, better irrigation systems and the ability to grow more annuals to compliment the perennials and shrubs. We’ve built all our buildings and houses, cut trees to mill our wood, cleared our forest land, and fenced and amended the sand to make soil. Now, twelve years into it, the shrubs, trees and roses I’ve made from cuttings, grafting and seed, are growing larger. I also grow over 120 fruit trees here and spent over two months processing the fruit. This year I feel emotionally exhausted from a separation but proud and happy to look at all that has been manifested.

    Reply
  30. Alice Siebecker on

    Just love your posts, so inspirational and at the same time realistic. I bought a bunch of your seeds for the first time last year, and had some good starts going inside but the weather outside didn’t cooperate here in high elevation MT – so I ended up putting the starts in earthboxes in a warmer part of the yard and began getting some beautiful flowers by mid August. So excited, I will probably do more earth boxes next year, and create some for clients who want blossoms for the two weeks they are at their vacation house. Then I will take them back to tend and care for them. So thank you for getting me started on this journey.

    Reply
  31. Kay Davis on

    Thank you for honestly sharing your experiences, dreams, and exhaustion. Just don’t push so hard that you lose the joy. I admire your commitment, smarts, and goal-driven character, but most of all, I love seeing your beautiful flowers. All the beat in 2020!

    Reply
  32. Katie H on

    Beautiful post! It’s very inspiring! Can’t wait for the books, and the seeds! Enjoy your time off!

    Reply
  33. Judith Broadhurst on

    I’m just a gardener, no ambition whatsoever to become a flower farmer. I loved your tale of how the year went, your candor about the tough parts, and the beautiful photos. Thank you. May next year be easier but successful and rewarding in all ways to all of you on the Floret farm.

    Reply
  34. Paula on

    This past year was our first growing season and I am so looking forward to learning as much as I can from the floret workshop and expanding our little farm as it’s only 60 by 20 foot plot. Growing a flower farm is certainly an investment and the Very hardest part of it all is cutting out about 70% of my desires because of the financial hold back. My biggest goal for this coming year is to be able to grow as much as I can in the most efficient way possible and to put smiles on even more faces all the while doing it with my three little girls ages 4 and under :-)! The biggest encouragement to me is watching so many other moms doing it with their children as well! We are not alone! God bless you!

    Reply
  35. JaneAnn on

    Thank you for such an honest and inspiring post!

    Reply
  36. Sophie on

    I have so enjoyed reading this – it’s really refreshing and informative to hear the struggles too.
    I am one of your new students for January and am so looking forward to getting my head down and just learning and absorbing as much as I can so that I can create some floral magic here in West Sussex, England.

    Reply
  37. Cindy S Smith-Putnam on

    Consider that the year ahead might be time for less, not more. A time to let the momentum of a decade of hard work be enough. Sustainability isn’t just for farming. It’s for life. Our lives. In every full trip around the sun, there are seasons for hard work, but also necessary stretches for rest and replenishment. Rest and replenish, Erin. You have earned it. You are beautiful, you make the world beautiful, and you are enough. 💜

    Reply
  38. Carol on

    Wow what an amazing year for you all, thanks for sharing sadly I have come to the realisation that due to kangaroos, wallaby’s and hares constantly eating or destroying a lot of my favourites in our garden I made the decision to only plant native species from now on but I have still got some protected dahlias in our garden as I found for the first time growing them last season that they were tough enough to survive our long hot summers of high 30’s to mid 40’s and I fell in love with their stunning blooms . We did build a Japanese teahouse and a labyrinth in our garden which gave me much joy …let’s see them eat them! So I am eagerly awaiting your Dahlia book when it becomes available 😊
    Hope you all have a safe break and reenergise for a happy New Year .
    Carol
    Rushworth
    Australia

    Reply
  39. Deanna Petit-gas on

    I loved reading this instalment of your blog! Like many flower lovers out there, I can’t wait to read your next two books and learn more about the techniques and cultivars Floret has been developing. Your passion, appreciation of beauty in all its forms, and unique approach to cultivating flowers sustainably are an inspiration. Your focus on teaching and sharing is creating a movement of sustainable gardening that is expanding exponentially. You are truly an inspired industry leader. Many thanks to you and your team for all the hard work you do and learning you share. Happy Holidays and much deserved rest.

    Reply

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