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Most of you know how important collaboration is to me personally and to what we do at Flourish. Whether its collaborating with photographers for styled shoots or a calligrapher to create special details at our workshops, I love working with other local artists and creatives! So I was so excited to have the opportunity recently to interview local Asheville graphic designer Carley Lee, owner of Long Live Simple.


Carley reached out to me via Instagram last year, and asked if she could come to the farm in search of flowers to use in a photography color project of hers. I was immediately intrigued by her project to see what she was working on, but also because color is such an important aspect of floral design. I loved meeting Carley and seeing what she did with the flowers, and I wanted to share it with you. I think you’ll find Carley’s magical work very appealing and inspiring! And at the end she gives some tips on how you, too, can create something like her Pantone Project.

The Interview

Me/Niki Irving: Will you tell us a bit about your work, and what the Pantone Project is?


Carley Lee: I’m the Creative Director and owner of Long Live Simple, where we offer meaningful, custom design work for customer-driven and thoughtful brands. Most of our clients are entrepreneurs and creatives – I think you and I have some overlap, in fact, with our customers and audiences.


NI: I think we do! Many of my followers are farmers and gardeners - and many others are entrepreneurs and creative types with an appreciation for beauty.


CL: Exactly! Like me! I follow you on Instagram because I find such inspiration and beauty in your imagery. As a creative, I’m always looking for and nurturing my connection to things that feed my creativity – both online and in the “real” world. And when I visited your farm for the Pantone Project, I was struck by your beautiful process and your hoophouses.


NI: Thank you! I’m so glad. I think it can be easy to try to overperform and overperfect social media presences, and so I keep the flowers as the central focus. I think, in some ways, farming and design are the ultimate exercises in non-attachment. You can have great plans, but things are going to be different than planned.


CL: It’s so true! I think it encourages flexibility and valuing our connections to creativity. Nature is a source of inspiration for me, and it’s how the Pantone Project got started. Pantone is the gold standard of print and digital color manufacturers, and I spend a lot of time in the Pantone world of colors. Each color has a number and a name, and it’s how designers and printers make sure their colors match. It’s our language.

Designers all over the world use Pantone colors, and somebody somewhere first did a #pantonepost on Instagram – a post in which they take a photo of something natural or man-made along with the Pantone color swatch that it matches.

When looking for inspiration for clients’ color palettes, I like to look outside at naturally occurring colors. Back in 2016 during peak leaf season, I took my dog Kota on a walk around our neighborhood and I was mesmerized by the range and depth of colors around me. So I grabbed a bag, collected leaves, and went back to my studio where I matched the each leaf to a Pantone color. I snapped a picture of the leaves, and posted it on Instagram.

That’s how my #longlivepantone project was born, and since then I’ve used it as a way to collaborate with other local businesses, like you!

NI: What other items have you used?


CL: In addition to Flourish Flower Farm, I’ve done collaborations with Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn, Vortex Doughnuts, and Fifth Season Gardening Co. in Asheville. I have plans to do more collaborations this summer, but I’ll keep those a surprise.


I’ve also done treats from the farmers’ market, seasonal decorations, potted plants, herbs from my own garden – whatever catches my eye. Sometimes it’s more challenging than other times. Shape and size are a factor. The shell flat-lay I did, for example, last summer was tricky. Firstly, getting the shells to lay right was a production. Also, was very windy that day, so my sister and I were dashing around trying to hold things down and block the wind.

NI: What’s been your favorite post in the series so far?


CL: That’s hard to say. I love them all, really, for two reasons. One is that this project has changed the way I think about color. I feel like I see it more deeply than before, because I have such a direct experience with it. The other is the feedback I get from others about them. People say they’ve found them to be captivating, and have helped them to pause – and sometimes even pay attention to nature in a different way. So I especially love the first one, of course, because it’s the one that started it all for me. I’m also very partial to the ranunculus post, because of the range of colors within one flower.

Another of my favorites is the daffodil. I’m starting to play around with natural backgrounds instead of in-studio flat-lays, and that’s a fun added layer.

NI: Do you have any recommendations about how to do a project like the Pantone, or ones that "regular folks" can try out?

CL: Sure. It doesn’t have to be complicated. My set-up is very simple. My studio is an area of my home-office that is full of natural light. I just use it to its best advantage. I have an inexpensive light diffuser that screens and spreads the light, and a piece of white foam board to reflect it. In terms of camera, I just use my iPhone 8.

If you don’t have access to the Pantone color postcards, but want to do something similar, you can go to a hardware store and help yourself to their printed paint swatches. You might find, like I did, that nature makes more colors than color companies do, and that you can’t find a match for some colors you come across. To me, that’s the beauty of this kind of project. It’s accessible in its process, and it also helps us see our world more deeply.

I'm grateful to Carley for sharing insight into her creative process and the Pantone Project. Its so fun and inspiring to discover yet another beautiful way to create beauty with our flowers! If you'd like to learn more, you can follow Carley's work @longlivesimple on Instagram and at Long Live Simple

I'm hoping to share more interviews with local Asheville folks (or non-local) so please share if there is someone or something you'd like to learn more about. xo Niki 

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Spring has brought a blend of great progress and heartbreaking setbacks. Not only has the weather been some of the worst on record, the process of moving a farm is exponentially difficult. Going into 2018, I knew that this year will likely be the toughest I've lived thus far, so back in January I taped the word TENACITY onto my desk and repeat it as a mantra. Tenacity is defined as "the quality or fact of being very determined; determination; the quality or fact of continuing to exist; persistence."

Persistence, determination and tenacity - combined with proper planning and intentionality - are the only way to keep making forward progress. Being your own cheerleader and taking inspiration in even the smallest places is survival 101 for an entrepreneur and especially for a farmer. So even though progress is slow at the new farm, progress is indeed being made.




The Foundation: Prepping the Soil + Laying Out Fields

Knowing that we wanted to begin planing at the new farm early in 2018, with a goal of fully moving the farming operation by mid-summer, the preparations began long before breaking ground. We planted all of our fall crops like ranunculus, tulips, anemone and cool flowers like snapdragons, bupleurum and foxglove at the old farm in Candler where we've been farming for the past several years. I initially hoped to fall plant (2017) at the new farm, but accepted the fact that this would mean rushing through soil prep and rushing typically leads to mistakes or poor overall quality. So I made the decision to fall plant at the old farm and to begin planting on our new land for the 2018 calendar year. 

Last July I had a soil test completed through the NC Extension Office and discovered that the soil had a slightly low pH (very standard for Western North Carolina). After mapping out the field locations, which entailed lots of measuring and remeasuring, I slowly begin breaking ground with our new tractor. After finally accomplishing a loamy tilled field, I applied the recommend amount of lime to balance the pH levels as well as some organic fertilizer (also applied based on recommendations from the soil report). I incorporated this into the soil and then sowed a cover crop mixture of oats, winter peas and rye. While ideally all of our fields would be the same dimensions, that is just not practical for the shape of our farm - I'm trying to maximize every foot of flat ground so we have 4 fields of different sizes.

Once the soil warmed and dried out enough, I tilled under the cover crop and the fields were ready to go for spring planting. We laid landscape fabric and began tucking plants into the ground. We do not direct sow any seeds because of the high weed/grass pressure. Typically lay drip tape for irrigation under the landscape fabric, however this year we will lay it on top of the fabric once it becomes necessary to irrigate. We've had more than enough rain so far and do not have a well on the property yet (or a road for that matter), so that was something that I have chosen to figure out only when it becomes necessary. We can irrigate out of the creek that borders the fields if/when things dry out.

We knew that deer pressure would likely be high because there's a large herd of whitetail deer living in the woods around our farm. So rather than waiting to find out if they would be interested in our flowers (we knew they would be), we installed a deer fence before planting. After much research, it seemed like an electric 3D baited fence would be the way to go. The folks at Premier 1 Supply helped us figure out exactly what we needed and we installed it over one weekend. So far so good on the deer, now if only the fence kept out turkeys too...


New Kubota Tractor
Breaking Ground
Deer Fence Complete
Fields Taking Shape Hoop House Building

We also built a new hoop house for crop protection and season extension. We have 3 of the same hoop houses at the old farm, but they are currently filled with ranunculus and the timing was going to be too tight for moving the old houses to the new farm. Knowing that we needed to plant the lisianthus and a couple of other crops in a hoop house before the ranunculus would be finished blooming, I decided to bite the bullet and buy a new hoop house for the new farm. We plan to move the older hoop houses from the old farm to the new farm at some point over the summer, but the extra expense of the new hoop house is so worth not having to rush the move. Plus we have enough space for all of them at the new farm and covered growing space is worth its weight in gold to a flower farmer. 

A true low point for me this spring was when the new hoop house was destroyed by wind less than one week after we finished building it. These are the circumstances that are completely out of our control as farmers, but are truly devastating. So after shedding tears and feeling quite down for a couple of days, I did lots of research and ordered the necessary supplies to rebuild and reinforce. The whole east coast has been experiencing intensely unusual wind this spring, so this hopefully doesn't happen again, but it could be a new normal. We've had gusts of 40-50mph winds lately and it seems to be holding strong!


Sad Day
Rebuild Complete!
Gaining Persepective
Rare Warm Spring Day More Planting + Investing in Perennials

Being able to finally invest in perennials feels like a dream come true! I've kept a notebook full of plants names that I add to consistently over the years and this wish list is finally becoming reality. I'm slowing tracking down the perennial plants and attempting to prioritize since I could easily spend thousands and thousands of dollars. So I set a budget for this first year and have mostly adhered to it. A top priority was investing in peonies since they take several years to get established, but are also a great return on investment. So this fall we'll plant our first 300 peony roots. Another priority is foliage and flowering branches so I ordered about 300 bare root trees and shrubs from Lawyer Nursery in Montana. Ordering bare roots means that they'll take longer to become well established and harvest-able, but they are also more affordable on the scale that we need. 

While all of this exciting yet challenging progress is being made at the new farm, we're still hosting workshops and harvesting gorgeous flowers from the old farm. Balancing all of the work at different locations is deeply exhausting, but tenacity keeps me moving forward. Plus, I have an incredible Assistant Farm Manager. 


Planting Roses

Planting Late Spring Crops Meet Assistant Farm Manager Caris

Caris joined us last season on the farm and quickly impressed me with her strong work ethic and high level of professionalism. Without Caris, the farm would not be where we are today. Here is a little more about this amazing, invaluable lady:

“I am originally from the small town of Snohomish, Washington. This picturesque town fed my love of farming and I carried that interest throughout my education at a small university in Tacoma, WA. I worked on 2 different farms throughout college and was fortunate to travel around the world, to Ecuador, Peru, Spain and Bhutan. In between travels, I met my amazing husband Jerry and in August 2017 we packed our belongings (including our cat Phoenix) and ventured out to Asheville, NC to follow my dream of flower farming. I have truly fallen in love with the culture and community of Asheville. Aside from a love of farming, I find passion in practicing yoga and baking. ”
— Caris Jenkins

So despite all the many challenges and setbacks, I'm so excited about our new farm and the path that we are journeying on! Its truly a dream come true to be farming on our own piece of dirt and to be working towards all of the other exciting facets that we're incorporating on the property. More on those facets later! 

I'd love to hear what projects, large or small, that you're working on and what keeps you moving forward during those challenging moments.

 xo Niki





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Because today marks the first official day of spring and you're probably itching to get your hands in the dirt, I wanted to share my top 6 favorite summer flowers to sow now. Even though dahlias would definitely be near the top of my list, this list is focused on flowers you can easily plant from seed, whereas dahlias are grown from tubers. While in most areas its still too risky to plant any heat loving flowers outside yet, it is the right time to start these seeds indoors. To find out the frost date in your area, just enter your zip code in the Old Farmer's Almanac

If you plant all 6 of these flowers (well, 2 of them are actually foliage) then you will be able to create a perfectly balanced bouquet straight from your own cutting garden.

Benary's Giant Salmon Rose Zinnia

Zinnias are quite possibly the happiest flower that I can think of and this 'Salmon Rose' color just feels like summer. Plus they love the heat! Once your plants begin to flower, cut them deeply to encourage longer stems and more branching. To pick them at the proper stage, wiggle the stems just under the head of the flower - if they are floppy and very wiggly, wait another day or so. If the stem is firm, they're ready to cut! Zinnias are susceptible to powdery mildew (especially if you're in the hot, humid south) so I recommend sowing one round of plants now and another about a month later. These large zinnias will be the perfect focal flower in your summer bouquet.

Celosia 'Flamingo Feather'

Celosia is another heat-loving flower. They are very long-lasting in the vase and not prone to any diseases (at least not for us). Like zinnias, the deeper you cut them at first, the more branches they'll produce. Celosia do have a tendency to grow very thick stems if you don't cut them enough - so snip away! Celosia add interesting spikes and texture into bouquets and work great for boutonnieres + flower crowns. They are also a great flower to dry - just hang them upside down in a warm, dry spot for a couple of weeks. 

Scabiosa ~Pincushion Flower

Scabiosa are one of my absolute favorites! They grow well practically year round - they're very cold hardy so you can plant them in late fall for early spring blooms and they are heat tolerant. We plant them practically every week on the farm in a wide range of colors. Scabiosa are a staple in practically every bouquet that we create, whether for a wedding or grocery store since they add the perfect amount of whimsy and movement. To get the maximum vase life, harvest when the first petals begin to form on the edges of the pincushion.

Cosmos 'Double Click' Mix

These are not your average cosmos! With ruffly, fluffy petals theses beauties will make your heart skip a beat. Like zinnias, cut cosmos deeply at first to encourage longer stems and more branches. Pick cosmos when they first petals start to unfurl from the bud. Cosmos are a great filler for bouquets and this mix comes in shades of white, light pink, dark pink and white with pink picotee. Their fern-y foliage adds a lovely texture to bouquets too. 

Shiso 'Britton'

 

Shiso is actually an edible green, but we use it as foliage for bouquets throughout the summer and fall. Its another tried and true farm staple for us. While slow growing at first, the plants will get over 5' tall towards the end of the season. Shiso is ready to cut once the stems become a little more woody and thick. Then, cut the thickest center stem first to encourage the other stems to continue branching and toughening up. Because its a leafy green, its best to harvest in the morning or evening so the greens don't wilt in the heat. But once properly hydrated in clean water, shiso will last for well over a week in the vase. 

Lemon Basil

Lemon basil has the most incredible scent! Its another edible plant that we use a filler and foliage and couldn't do without. The key to getting a good vase life from basil is to wait until the plant has woody stems and is starting to put out buds. We do cut the stems before this stage in order to promote more branching and heartier stems. Keep cutting basil until its done flowering or the leaves start to brown - basil is a very prolific bloomer! 

While I could go on for days about summer flowers, I'll just leave you with these 6 that are tried and true varieties for us on the farm, which are perfect for growing a cutting garden at home. Seed for all of these flowers (and so many more!) can be found through Johnnys Seeds. What are some of your favorites that I didn't mention or that you're trying for the first time this year?

Happy Spring, flower friends!

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Flourish Flower Farm Blog by Nicolette Irving - 2M ago

Spring is teasing us here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After an unseasonably cold and wet winter, we had a couple cherished weeks of warm temps and sunny skies. It felt like you could literally watch the plants grow overnight! Here are some scenes from around the farm over the past week or so . . . 







The ranunculus and anemone are SO happy this year. I was really worried about all the extended cold periods we had this winter, but keeping them tucked inside row covers in the hoop houses really kept them cozy. I even had to roll up the hoop house sides last week because we had highs in the 70's! 





The tulips are shooting out of the ground and I swear they grow an inch a day. I'm still experimenting with tulips and getting good stem length here in the south, so I only plant about 1200 total because the bulbs are very expensive. Tulips in the south may be a separate blog post - for the future once I get them figured out ;) The fritillaria persica (3rd photo from left) are getting huge, as are the italian poppies. The poppies are starting to put out buds so it won't be long now until the flowers are pouring in!



For now, we're back to the usual deluge of rain and even expecting a couple of freezing nights. So even if I'm tempted to remove the row covers from the fields during warm spells, I keep them ready until all chances of frost are past. In the meantime while spring keeps teasing us, these hellebores and anemones are tiding me over. How are you holding up? How are things growing in your garden or on your farm?

  xo Niki

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Flourish Flower Farm Blog by Nicolette Irving - 3M ago

I love reading! Give me a good book over TV any day and I'm a happy gal. But sadly I don't have (or make) the time during the busy farm season to do much reading - probably because I fall asleep as soon as I sit down. So winter is my chance to catch up on all the reading that I daydream about during the summer. While historical fiction is probably my "escapist" reading of choice, winter reading is also about researching and learning too. So here are some recommendations from this winter, plus all time favorites for inspiration and reference that have a permanent place at my desk.  

New to me this winter

Compact Farms b

y Josh Volk

If you grow on 5 acres or less, this book is priceless! It offers details from 15 farms across the country about field layout, tools and infrastructure, soil fertility, method of spreading soil amendments, seed starting process, planting, harvesting and more. I gleaned so much information that will absolutely save us time, tears and stress as we're setting up our new farm. Its all about maximizing space and efficiency! I seriously cannot recommend it enough. 

The Complete Color Harmony by Leatrice Eiseman

I've just scratched the surface with this book, but already can't wait to dive in more. It has everything from color moods to color messaging to fun combinations. Being a floral designer, I love playing with, blending and understanding color - this book provides so many examples of combinations that I can't wait to explore. It includes information about what your personal color choice says about you (how fun!) and how color affects marketing. I know that I'll be referencing this book over and over again.

books that have a permanent place at my desk

Elliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower"

I've been referencing this book for over 10 years now and it truly is a master's manual. If you don't have it, buy it. I promise you won't regret it. 

Specialty Cut Flowers by Armitage and Laushman

Its basically the bible for cut flower growers. I couldn't live without this book.

Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler

If you are interested in growing hardy annuals, this book is a must-have. It changed the way I grew spring crops and helped me to increase quality and production tenfold. Another must-have. 

Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers

There aren't many resources available (yet) specifically for flower farmers, but many of the planning sheets and organization methods in this book are easy to adjust and invaluable. While it did take quite a bit of time to set up in year one, this book helped me get organized with detailed spreadsheets in place from the start. Now I simply make small adjustments each year and I'm ready to go. This book provides an excellent framework. Organization is so important for farming!!!

books that are great references + pretty to look at 







What are some of your favorite books for design inspiration, cut flower reference or farm planning? I'd love to add them to my library! I'd also love your suggestions for any favorite escapist reads too! :-)

xo Niki

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Winter in Western North Carolina has been no joke this year. Here in zone 7a/6b we usually get a couple days of snow, which quickly melts, and maybe a few nights with lows in the teens. This year we've already had several stretches of fairly severe winter weather, with daytime highs only in the low 20's, 2 snowstorms and 1 ice storm. While I only plant crops to overwinter that are cold hardy for our zone, the fortitude of these little plants are being put to the test! Besides tucking them in with row covers and whispering words of encouragement, there's not much else do except wait and hope for spring. 

Of the field planted crops, the ammi, larkspur, poppies, campanula, yarrow, bupleurum, foxglove, bells of Ireland, chocolate lace flower, nigella and some scabiosa varieties look no worse for the wear. Super tough! Others such as snapdragons, some scabiosa varieties, delphinium, dianthus and stock are questionable at best. I'm fighting the urge to pinch back the dead growth on the damaged plants in the field, as pinching gives the plant the sign to explode into new growth and I'm just not sure that winter is over yet. While I'm hoping that these plants all have nicely established root systems that will support new growth eventually, I've ordered extra seeds and plugs just in case to add in another early season, cool weather planting. 

Keeping the hoop houses cleared of snow since they're not built to withstand too much weight. Field crops are all insulated under a layer of agribon row cover and snow is actually a great insulator too. Photo cred: farm helper extraordinaire Caris. 

So even though winter has been more severe than anyone predicted or hoped, I'm still full steam ahead with preparing for the coming season. The very first flowers that I seed in the winter are sweet peas. I have tried for the past 2 years to overwinter them in the field and in the hoop house, and both methods were unsuccessful - the vines were too damaged by wind and cold to recover, even under a layer of row cover. So this year will only do 1 sowing in mid-January (which is when I did a successful 2nd sowing anyhow). I can't encourage you enough to try out a few different methods to see what works for you. Just because another, perhaps more seasoned, farmer or gardener does something one way, this does not mean that you're a failure if it doesn't work for you! Each of us has a unique growing climate and situation and the fun is in discovering what works for YOU.



About Soil Blocking + Supplies

I use a soil blocking technique to start all of my sweet peas seeds. Even though I start about 90% of my seeds in trays, I soil block any varieties that tend to grow large very quickly or have more needy/expansive root systems, such as sweet peas, sunflowers, zinnia and cerinthe. For all of these I use a large soil blocker. Soil blocking has many benefits, including less root disturbance at the time of transplanting and taking up less space in the greenhouse, however soil blocking is extremely time-consuming as compared to just filling trays with soil. In the past, I have used the small 20 block version to start all of my seeds (except the types mentioned above) because I have very limited greenhouse space. However, now I'm partnering with another local grower to use his greenhouse and seed in plug trays for the sake of time. I use Pro-Mix with mycorrhizae for both soil blocking and plug trays.

Soak the Seeds

The first step to planting sweet peas is to soak your seeds overnight to soften the hard outer shell. Some folks score their sweet pea seeds with a knife or gently in a coffee grinder and some even soak them in paper towels for a few days to sprout before planting. I've had great results and germination simply by soaking them overnight, so that's what I keep doing.



Mix Soil + Make Soil Blocks

Next, I get the soil nice and wet - about 3 parts soil to 1 part water. It needs to be more sloppy than you would think! Fill the soil blocker full of the mixture - really dig in there an scoop and press it in there tightly because you want the soil to be very compact in the blocker. Scrape off any extra soil that's built up on the bottom, then press the blocker into your tray to release the blocks. Use trays without holes since soil blocks need to be bottom watered. I like to use these flats since the taller sides support the blocks nicely, and I can fit 100 large soil blocks in each one. It takes a little practice to get the right consistency and technique.

Sorry for the rough, one-handed video, but I find that a visual is often helpful, so here you go!

Sowing Seeds + Watering

I like to make all of the trays of soil blocks first and then start sowing seeds. This way my hands are clean for picking up the seeds since they get very muddy from the blocker. The soil blocker punches a small divet in the middle of the block, which makes for quick seeding. Then, I take a big handful of the wet soil and cover the sweet pea seed, pressing gently to give good seed to soil compaction. I bottom water the soil blocks so they don't fall apart. Only water as they start to get dry. 






If you're interested in learning more about soil blocking, there are some wonderful resources available through the Gardener's Workshop and from the master of many things organic farming, Eliot Coleman

GIVEAWAY | now closed | the winner is Katie snyder!

Because we all need a little brightening up in winter, I am giving away 1 set of Flourish goodies! Here's what to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment below about what you're most looking forward to this spring (be sure that you're commenting on this particular post!) 

2. Sign up for our newsletter 

3. Follow us on Instagram  and/or Facebook 

I'll choose the winner on Wednesday 1/31 and announce it here. At this time, our giveaway is only open to residents of the USA and Canada. 

xo Niki





P.S. More of these dahlia notecards and Flourish tanks + tees are available in our Store

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I am a researcher by nature, always wanting to figure out how other people do things and seeking out the best way to approach something new. But I'm not one of those people who just researches endlessly and never takes action. I'm all about getting my hands dirty (obviously!) and a big believer in the "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good" philosophy. I've spent countless hours researching the myriad of ways to grow ranunculus and anemone. As they are some of the earliest spring blooming flowers, I am determined each year to have an amazing crop. After a few years of trial and error, I finally believe that we've arrived at a great system. 

Growing Conditions + Where to Plant

The soil on my farm has a very high clay content and tends to hold moisture for a long time. This can be good in dry seasons or super challenging any other time. We also have widely varying winter weather here in Western North Carolina (zone 6a/7b). It can be in the upper 60s during the daytime one day and then reach a low of 25 the following night. So I only plant ranunculus and anemone in hoop houses to have a little more control over the environment. 

In years past, I have closed up the hoop houses sometime around early December and left the sides down and end walls open for the duration of the winter. When it gets below 20 degrees (which is not too often and usually in January), I close the end walls and also cover the rows with a layer of remay. This year however, I intend to leave the sidewalls rolled up as much as possible. Even though we're still early into the winter, the plants already look remarkably happier and healthier. With the sides up, I cover with remay fabric when it drops below 30 and then uncover in the morning as soon as it starts to warm up. 

Soil Prep

The soil on the farm is pretty well balanced, so my field prep consists of adding some organic compost and fertilizer. I strongly recommend having regular soil tests done on your farm too so you know what you're working with. Hoop house space is limited and in high demand here so as soon as last fall crop is done blooming, I flip the beds. I start by ripping out the old plants, pulling up landscape fabric and removing the drip lines. Once the soil is dry enough, I go through with the walk behind tiller - starting with a shallow till first, then do a deeper pass and finish with a light till to smooth the bed.

The hoop houses are 12' wide so I can fit 3 rows in each, leaving 2 very narrow pathways of about 18" each. I would rather have narrow pathways and maximize the amount of growing space, so I settle for feeling slightly awkward in the paths. After tilling, I lay down landscape fabric in the pathways so that there is no weeding or maintenance required. 


Before
During
After

After tilling and laying fabric in the pathways, I spread organic compost and fertilizer in each bed. I use a 7 - 5 - 10 organic fertilizer and mix them into the soil with a rake.



Presprouting

About 10-14 days before I'm ready to plant, I soak and presprout the corms. I'll usually prep the beds after I've started this process. There are many different ways to presprout your corms and I have had great success by keeping it simple. This year I lost no corms to mold - horray! Because I know that my soil tends to be too wet, and thus lead to bacterial issues, I soak my anemone and ranunculus corms in an Actinovate solution. Actinovate is a concentrated beneficial microorganism that establishes itself on the plants' roots. I also use it to drench all lisianthus plugs before planting and have eliminated fungal issues. Even though I shy away from using any chemicals, this product is approved for certified organic production and helps protect my large investment in the corms.  

I soak ranunculus corms for about 12 hours and anemone for 4 hours, until they start to plump up and double in size. After soaking, fill large seed starting trays (the bottom trays without holes) with a blend of ProMix and vermiculite. This is the same mix that I use for all seed starting. I "plant" each corm into the tray so that the legs or "bananas" are facing down and the corms are touching, but not overlapping. Cover with a light dusting of the mix.

My basement is the perfect spot for presprouting as its about 60 degrees with medium humidity and minimal light. I check the corms every few days to make sure the soil is slightly moist, but not damp. Err on the side of too dry rather than too wet. After about 10 days, the corms grow little white rootlets and they're ready to go. Oftentimes I am so busy during this time that by the time I get around to planting, they have 1/2" sprouts growing. No need to worry - they continue growing in the soil just fine. 



Planting

Although I grow almost everything at the farm in landscape fabric, I do not plant ranunculus or anemone into fabric. I've found that the leaves and blooms of anemone get stuck under the fabric and that the ranunculus do not appreciate the extra heat and moisture retention caused by the fabric. Also, I have more time in the winter and early spring for a few rounds of weeding before the plants mature. I aim to have the plants in the ground around October 31st.

I typically plant 4 rows per bed of ranunculus and 5 of anemone with 6" spacing. I made a super high tech planting spacer out of a conduit pole and flagging tape. One person uses the spacer to lay the sprouted corms along the rows and another person follows behind planting them about 1-2" deep. My favorite planting tool is also super fancy - a butter knife from Goodwill. Its amazing how quickly you can plant a few thousand plants using this method! 



Depending on how damp the soil already is, I may give it a light spray after planting. Again, our soil stays so wet that this year I'm not even laying drip lines for these crops. They usually don't need water again until spring anyhow, so I'll run drip or water overhead if need be later. 

They really do grow so quickly and don't require much maintenance throughout the winter except occasional weeding and protection from those super chilly nights. 


4 weeks after planting

I'd love to hear if you have any tried and true tips for growing ranunculus and anemone! I am by no means an expert, but love sharing what I've learned and love learning new, more efficient ways to grow healthy plants!

xoxo Niki



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We finally purchased land!

After over 2 years of searching for property, lots of ups and downs and heartbreaks (and definitly some tears on my part) we finally found the perfect piece of land to truly put down roots and call home. As you may know, we have been leasing the beautiful land where we currently farm from our friends at Southeastern Native Plant Nursery. While we are incredibly grateful to them for giving us a place to get started, we have BIG dreams that we can now finally start to build.

We purchased 28 beautiful acres in Asheville - the new farm is only 12 minutes from downtown. Our first priority is moving the farm operation to the new location. We will be expanding our fields (more space for more dahlias!) and also begin to plant perennial flowers and shrubs. We have already ordered hundreds of beauties like Japanese hybrid anemone and hellebores. We are so excited to expand our offering of specialty flowers like these to all of you, and of course to use them in our floral designs.



 

More workshops + an event space

Finding the perfect farm was a big challenge not only because its very difficult to find flat farm land here in the Blue Ridge mountains, but we also have big plans to host more workshops and gatherings. Yes, we plan to host intimate weddings and events at Flourish! We have LOTS of work to do to make this dream become a reality, so 2019 will be the earliest that we can begin hosting. We do plan to expand our workshop series and private sessions in 2018 and will have many more dates available - details and registration will be announced this December. 

We are so beyond thrilled about the future of Flourish Flower Farm and that we can expand to share more of the beauty of the farm, our flowers and the Asheville area with all of you! We certainly have a long way to go before this project is complete, but we're ready to get to work on finally building this dream into a reality. 

We can't thank you enough for your support as we grow this flower business - it truly wouldn't be possible without you, and we can't wait to host you at the new Flourish Flower Farm!


xo Niki, William + the Flourish team

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Flourish Flower Farm Blog by Nicolette Irving - 7M ago

It can be very difficult to find time to document the beauty blooming on the farm. Most days are spent picking flowers for orders very early in the morning, getting orders out the door and doing whatever farm chores need to be done. But I wholeheartedly believe that its important to put a little time aside to document the season. So this fall, I convinced William to actually be in some photos with me (which was no small feat!). We invited our sweet friend Meghan Rolfe to come out to the farm and she captured everything so perfectly. 









I get a lot of questions about where I source my dahlia tubers and also about my hat (its from San Diego Hat Company). Now about the dahlias: We have such limited space to grow on, so I have to choose the varieties that we grow very carefully. They need to be productive bloomers with long stems and colors that I like to design with and that other local designers and shops like too. Burgundy, blush and white are perennial favorites all around. For larger quantities, I buy from Ednie Flower Bulb company - the minimum amount that can be purchased is 25 tubers per variety. I also love Swan Island, Floret, Sunny Meadows and Summer Dreams Farm for smaller quantities of special, hard to find varieties.











I can't encourage you enough to find a photographer whose work resonates with you and have them come document your flowers - and you too! People want to see the face of the person who grows the beautiful blooms. Even though it can feel cheesy, I promise you that the right photographer will make you feel comfortable. Take a minute to explain your vision - how do you want to see your farm, your flowers and yourself? Its so worth it to schedule some time away from harvesting and farm chores and really highlight the beautiful parts of your farm and farm life. While this is not what my farm (or me) looks like 98% of the time, its so important to be reminded of why we work so hard to cultivate beauty. 

xoxo Niki, William, Stanley and Louie 

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When William and I got engaged, we talked about eloping (briefly). We weren't overly concerned with the wedding itself because we were just so happy to have found the person that we wanted to live life and grow old with. I was 31 and he was 36 when we got married, so by the time we tied the knot we'd both been in a lot of weddings and had attended even more. While eloping sounded like a fun idea, realistically we knew that we wanted to have a big party and celebrate with our friends and family. We were only engaged for 3 months before we got married, so I suppose that having a relatively short engagement was our way of eloping.

Here's a little photo journey of us for all you lovers of cheesiness :)


Our Engagement

Our Save the Dates
Wedding Day

Honeymoon in New Zealand

The real reason that I'm sharing our little love story, is that I've had the pleasure of providing flowers for lots of elopements lately and they have a special place in my heart. These couples have been so much fun to work with and I must say, the photos are some of the most spectacular that I have seen from 'wedding' days.


Amelia Fletcher Photography

Its just a different vibe than a wedding day with lots of guests, planning and preparation - which I also obviously love! I suppose that I just adore celebrations of love in any form. Here are some favorite shots from this summer. We have so many special places  here in the mountains with amazing views to hold a small ceremony.

These are from an elopement at Craggy Gardens and the photos are by the talented Amelia Fletcher Photography







This Balsam Knob elopement was photographed by my amazingly talented friend Meghan Rolfe Photography. How beautiful and unique is the bride's dress?!







Meghan shoots for weddings, engagements, portraits, maternity and elopements. She also offers elopement packages for the ultimate one-stop-shop experience. She knows all the best places with those killer mountaintop (or waterfall) views. Check out Elope Outdoors for more details. 

This elopement took place at a scenic overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just love the way the pink dahlias pop against the Blue Ridge Mountains. 





There are so many spectacular options for tying the knot here in Asheville. And the bottom line is that I just love being a very small part of helping people celebrate and declare their love. 

“We know they’re right when they say we’re not ready
But all we care is how we feel right now
We’ll go ahead just the same
Prepare to take the blame
We’ll run away and get married anyhow
They warned us that we can’t live on love forever
But we just tell them we’ll get by somehow
Our problems will be greater
We’ll worry ‘bout them later
We’ll run away and get married anyhow
If other kids went through it
Then I know we can do it
If our love is that much stronger
It will last that much longer”
— Beach Boys - We'll Run Away

xo Niki

 

 

 

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