Well, here we are in the New Year. That sense of hope that the months ahead will bring success, stability, health, and wealth is still fresh in the crisp, cold air. As I sit on the couch at my parent’s house down the Cape, across from a quiet salt marsh, nestled among the twisting, narrow roads and wild hedgerows, I have a moment to reflect on the past and set my own hopes and dreams for the future.
One thing I have wanted to do for a long time is write a monthly blog post for those who visit my website, as well as those loyal followers who have supported me from the start. I have general ideas of the sequence of 2024 topics I’d like to focus on, but I also know that things can change rapidly and I am giving into the idea of impermanence this year. My hope with this blog is that I strike some sort of inspiration or connection in you, my supporters. I hope it brightens your day if you’re feeling low, inspires you if you’re feeling caged, or even just acts as an easy “beach read” when you just need something real. For now, I’ll focus on January, as it in itself lends the perfect stage for new beginnings, new thoughts, new worries, and new aspirations.
A while back, I asked my audience on Instagram what topics they’d most like to read about from my perspective, and one that came up a surprising amount of times goes something like, “How did you find flowers?” Such a simple and seemingly obvious question, yet it’s one that I haven’t given as much thought as I should have. My journey to flowers. Yes, I think I’ll start there.
Growing up in suburban North America, in an almost painfully quintessential New England small-town, Americana, what-have-you, I had the unique opportunity to witness the cultivation and mastery of flowers firsthand. My mother kept stunning perennial gardens at my childhood home at 129 Dover Road. A long bed of English roses, complete with a huge wooden trellis, lined the long edge of our turn-of-the-century garage. Along the back of the property, a huge old oak tree stood guard, allowing itself to become covered in wild climbing hydrangea until it seemed it would be swallowed up for good. On the opposite side of the property were hostas, coneflower, Jerusalem artichoke, bleeding heart, astilbe, and a vast array of English-cutting garden perennials. As the wooden gate that separated the backyard from the front squeaked open, winding beds of giant hosta, ornamental trees, lush groundcover, hydrangeas, and more created the feeling of an ancient, shaded garden in the heart of suburbia. Curving paths cut through the thick carpet of grass, and tender vines and blooms tumbled over the sides of her antique iron planters and window boxes. When I was really little, I’d take a book over to the giant hostas, and hide underneath their enormous leaves, spending many an afternoon with the snails and slugs and moths that called this loamy space their home. Anchoring the entire front space was an enormous maple tree that had many secrets woven into its gnarled, old bark.
In the summer, the house would be filled with bud vases of fragrant roses, old ceramic crocks of astilbe and coneflower, and whatever else was in bloom that week. Each bedside table had a fresh posy every week, as did the bathrooms and any little side table or bookshelf that had a nook. For my entire life, I was surrounded by the beauty of flowers, and yet, they never interested me a bit until I entered adulthood.
After college, I traveled afar to Southeast Asia, where I lived and worked in Thailand for a year. While there, I was surrounded by a different set of flora and fauna. Heavy, humid nights would be filled with the clinking of bells and tendrils of smoke rising from the temples near my apartment. The endless buzzing of cicadas and other insects never ceased; every so often, an elephant would call out from the fields just a few hundred yards away. A place most people only read about in storybooks, I was able to live it. Inspired by my favorite book, “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney, I traveled to the land of the lotus-eaters, rode on elephants (and motorbikes), and made lifelong friends with unusual people. I climbed tall mountains where the snow never melts in Nepal, and walked through jungles and rice paddies as I swatted mosquitoes away from my face. I wandered mindlessly through the dripping orchids and tropical plants of the Singapore Botanical Gardens and found respite among the winding jungle roads in northeast Thailand.
Upon returning to the United States, I sought to make the world a more beautiful place. Like Miss Rumphius, I worked with children, teaching for ten years in a variety of towns and cities, across many demographics. While I knew I was making a difference, I was miserable in my position as an educator. I loved the children, and I did love teaching, but I felt trapped by the endless red tape, standards, and expectations that I was expected to follow and teach. I felt like a caged bird with no way out. I knew I would need to discover the next way I would make the world a more beautiful place, but for many years, I had no idea what that could be. In the meantime, life rolled on.
Meeting my husband in the winter of 2016 changed the trajectory of my life significantly. We met one night while I was walking Indie, our older dog, and while he was on duty in his prior position as a police officer. I was ready to leave Vermont for good. I missed my family, I missed my friends, and I felt there was nothing for me in Woodstock. After that school year, I was going to sell my condo and move back to Massachusetts where I’d figure out my next steps. The universe had different plans, however, and soon we were dating.
I threw a lot of things at the wall- watercolors, pen and ink drawings, and yoga teaching; nothing lasted or felt genuine. Certainly, none of those options were financially feasible in the long run. Then, the pandemic tidal waved into the United States, and we all suddenly found ourselves in a strange sort of purgatory for years. In the beginning, I didn't mind the lockdowns. As an introvert, I finally had an excuse to stay at home (and not feel guilty about it). However, as the days turned into weeks, weeks into months, I grew restless and frustrated. I couldn't cross state lines at that point to even see my parents, and when I did decide to go against my school's rules and visit my parents, I had to essentially get permission from my superintendent. What a strange time that was for all of us.
However, just as a wildflower can burst through the cracks of a broken city sidewalk, I pushed through the darkness that was the pandemic and discovered the world of flowers. While I had previously unalived many a houseplant, I decided to read blog posts, books, articles, magazines-anything I could get my hands on in the name of not killing every plant I touched. I figured, if I've been able to keep a dog alive for three years, I should be ready to graduate to plants. I started with the tiny lot in the front of my house. For years, our HOA had simply dumped rocks and gravel to keep the weeds at bay and make maintenance almost zero. However, it was an eyesore on our street filled with gardens and beautiful homes, and I decided to do something about it.
I dug up an entire side of the plot by hand, down almost two feet, until I hit actual soil. It was backbreaking work and took weeks, but I felt a sense of accomplishment I'd never felt before. I backfilled everything with compost and new topsoil and headed to the local nursery for a few perennials I knew would be able to handle a curbside home. I watered them diligently, and that summer, I fell in love with gardening. Each subsequent year that I was at that condo, I added more plants, amended more spaces, and with the help of a new neighbor who happened to be a master gardener (Jill!), our forgotten, ugly yard blossomed into a quiet, sacred haven, not unlike the one I mentioned here at the start. I was officially hooked.
It was during this time that my husband started building our little home on the side of the mountain just outside of town. He and his father built the entire house by themselves, with a little help from a few local folks for electricity and plumbing. Once covered by thick, dying hemlock, the property was essentially clearcut save for a few maple trees, and I was given carte blanche to do whatever I wanted. It was like a blank canvas, and I was the painter. It was all mine, and I had never felt more free.
YEARS ONE + TWO (2020-2021): During our first year, still a couple of years away from Blue Door Flower Co., I planted a small perennial garden under our kitchen window. The rest of the land was scrub and mud and a few weird-looking maples, but I was going to transform that little plot into something beautiful. I planted three Shirley Temple peonies, a bleeding heart, a few astilbe, a lady's mantle, and irises, many of which were gifted to me. In the fall, we dug up a few small beds (literally 2'x6' each, maybe 4-5 of them; it looked pretty much like a true crime episode). We ordered lots of seeds for the following season. Then, we waited.
Year two is when I kicked things into gear in terms of growing things and experimenting. I did multiple soil tests, planted thousands of sunflower seeds, and had my first year of starting flowers from seed. I ordered pretty much solely from Floret, because I honestly didn't know about any of the bigger wholesalers. I can still remember the excitement when those first seeds arrived in the mail!
I also decided to set up a piece of plywood on two old sawhorses a few times throughout the summer and sell mason jars of flowers. Indie was a huge help, as you can see in the pictures below. I think I sold roughly $20 worth of flowers that whole summer, which was fine with me. I knew it was still early days, and I was teaching full-time still, so that was okay.
YEAR THREE (2022): This year was filled with so many amazing firsts and experiences! I will list them here, but I'm sure I'm missing a few. I hope this inspires someone, somewhere to chase that dream and to not give up. It's going to be hard/dirty/scary/sad/frustrating/joyful/painful, but most of all, it's going to be life-changing. The only failure is giving up.
I officially registered as an LLC with the State of Vermont under the operating name "Blue Door Flower Farm."
I grew my first successful dahlia crop.
I did the bouquet and boutonniere for my first wedding; it was an elopement in another part of Vermont. The bride was overjoyed, and it lit a fire underneath me!
I had my first logo created by Elyse Denige out of Pomfret, Vermont. I am still in love with this design, even as I rebrand myself and my business!
My sunflowers made a name for themselves; they really took off this year and I harvested thousands.
I was part of my first-ever styled shoot with my wedding florist-turned-friend, Adriane from Anaphora Flowers. It took place in Wells Beach, Maine.
We planted our first 100 peonies. Roots purchased from Alaska Peony Cooperative.
We also planted our first large-scale tulip crop (by large scale, I think it was about 900 bulbs. We are up to 3,000 in 2023-2024).
Provided flowers all season long for a local restaurant. Though I realized it wasn't really for me, it was an amazing experience working with a local business. I made a lot of mistakes, and I learned a lot of things.
I received my first business debit card! We're officially-official!
YEAR FOUR (2023): Possibly the most important year for me and my business was 2023. In addition to having two amazing CSAs (Spring and Summer), I also flowered eight weddings. Working in education for many years gave me many transferrable skills that allowed me to utilize and rely on a team of skilled freelancers and per diem employees, rather than trying to do it all myself. I truly believe that success lies not in going it alone, but in those who support you. I've had florists tell me that it's a competitive industry and that I probably wasn't ready to work in that kind of environment. To that I say, thank you. Thank you for showing me that you are not the type of person that I want to emulate or work with. I want to work with team players, compassionate souls, hardworking individuals. I do not want to work with doubters, people who choose competition over collaboration, people only out for the glitz and glamour of being in the wedding world. Longevity exists in taking it slow, learning from those with more experience than us, and listening to your truest self. It doesn't exist in cutting other florists down, talking badly about colleagues in the industry, or going it alone.
In year four, I also completed two floristry courses: The Wedding Process by Jennie Love of Loven'Fresh Flowers in Philadelphia, and The Floret Online Workshop by Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers. I'll talk more about these courses in a separate post. Both are related to flower farming, but The Wedding Process dives deep into high-end weddings, profitable pricing, and so much more. I highly recommend these courses if you're looking to invest in your floristry business. Here are some more of my 2023 highlights:
Completed not one, but two, large-scale floral arches in one day at two locations over an hour apart.
Successfully led multiple teams in executing a collection of high-end weddings.
Netted $50,000 between 2023 weddings, 2024 deposits, my CSA, workshops, and more. Most of this money (pretty much all of this money) was reinvested into the business (supplies, seeds, employees, flowers, etc).
Was awarded an NRCS high tunnel grant, and built our first high tunnel. This quite literally almost killed me, but I have my husband to thank for making this happen while also working full-time.
Curated and executed eight weddings and elopements.
Led floral workshops throughout the Upper Valley.
Built (well, Joe built) my first walk-in cooler for flower storage.
Gave back to farmers through NOFA Vermont in support of losses from the July floods.
Won a coveted spot at the 2024 Shean Strong Floral Workshop to be held at Grace Rose Farm in Santa Ynez, California (April-May 2024).
Made countless people happy through my flowers.
If you've made it this far, thank you for reading. I would love to hear your feedback, comments, questions, or even just your "Hellos." You can find me on Instagram @bluedoorflowercompany or you may reach me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't wait to hear from you! Thanks for following along on my journey.