From the Field: Farmgirl Flowers
This spring, we teamed up with the floral design gurus at Farmgirl Flowers for a very special Mother's Day gift-- fresh cut bouquets. Made with American-grown flowers, these incredible arrangements will change each week as new blooms come into season. We can't wait to see the beautiful surprises that arrive in every box! We recently chatted with Farmgirl founder Christina Stembel to learn how each bouquet comes to life. Christina says, "I'm a huge fan of terrain, which makes this collaboration even more special for me! When I was on the East Coast for a flower farming conference a few years ago, a good friend insisted on a pilgrimage to the Glen Mills store-- I've been hooked ever since!" The feeling is mutual, and we couldn't be more excited to share Farmgirl Flowers this Mother's Day. Read on for more with Christina.
terrain: How did you decide to start Farmgirl?
Christina: I drove my friends crazy for years with different business ideas-- a new one practically every week-- and my goal was always to have a successful business that also did some good in the world. I came up with Farmgirl while working in outreach at Stanford; I planned events for the law school, and always wondered why flowers cost so much. After doing some research, I noticed major issues in the flower industry, which really hadn't experienced any innovations since the mid 1990s. At that time, sourcing moved to South America, which meant that over 50% of American flower farmers went out of business. I wanted to fix the import issue, and also the waste issue. Traditional flower shops throw out almost 40% of their flowers, driving up prices. Offering a weekly bouquet of American-grown flowers helps us overcome both of these challenges.
I started Farmgirl in 2010, and for the first two years I worked out of my dining room-- I'm lucky to have a very understanding husband! We had a modest beginning, and what might seem like an overnight sensation on the outside was actually a long process. When we moved to the San Francisco Flower Market in 2012, we really started to gain traction, largely by word of mouth. I'm really lucky that so many people have responded positively to our model and our flowers, and that I have a wonderful team that cares so much. They put the heart and soul into what we do.
terrain: How do you find your flower farmers?
Christina: I really love this part of the business! Finding farmers was tough at first; growers hadn't heard of us, and they thought our mdoel would never work. Now, the farmers come to us-- which is great! We started by working with farms within 200 miles of San Francisco, then expanded the radius to 400 miles, then to central California, then all of California and beyond. Right now, we use about 95% California flowers, but we want to support growers across America-- all 5,900 farms. Because of the climate, California produces about 80% of US-grown flowers, but there are flower farms in every state. We source from Oregon, Washington, and even Alaska, where an amazing group of female farmers grows peonies late in the summer, when they've finished blooming in the rest of the country.
terrain: What’s the process for designing the daily bouquet? In your opinion, what makes a great bouquet?
Christina: Everything is done in-house, and we put a lot of love into every bouquet. We always aim for an elevated design element; no roses and baby's breath here. In the landscape architecture world, they say there are "thrillers, fillers, spillers, and killers." You need every component to make a good bouquet.
Thrillers are favorite flowers, like ranunculus, peonies, roses, and tulips. They provide a focal point and help the eye move throughout the bouquet. Fillers are the greenery that makes the bouquet lush. That might seem less exciting, but it's actually key to a beautiful arrangement. Spillers, like jasmine and vines, keep the design from feeling too uniform and help to lead the eye around the bouquet. Finally, killers are intriguing or lesser-known blooms that offer an element of surprise, like poppy pods, protea, and scabiosa.
terrain: Can you share a bit about the terrain bouquet inspiration? What kinds of flowers can customers expect to receive?
Christina: I'm so excited about the terrain bouquet! For this one, I designed what I would want to receive myself. A little classy, a little wild, with a smidge of whimsy thrown in for fun. Effortless design, but thoughtful and elevated. Each bouquet will be purposefully asymmetrical, made for the nature enthusiast with a sophisticated palette. The flowers will change based on what's freshest each week, but we'll be using some fantastic blooms, including Italian ranunculus, tree peonies, whimsical poppy pods, and protea. The bouquets will also include really amazing, wild foliage, like branches, vines, and hardy greens.
terrain: What’s your advice for keeping a bouquet looking fresh as long as possible?
Christina: The most important thing you can do is change the water daily. You wouldn't drink yesterday's glass of water, and your flowers don't want to either! Make a fresh, angled cut at the base of the stems every couple of days, 1/4 -1/2" from the bottom. This helps the flowers drink more water and prevents them from sitting flush against the bottom of the vase. Flower food can be helpful, but it can also hurt if not used correctly. We include a packet with each bouquet. Empty it into lukewarm water and make sure it fully dissolves before adding it into the vase. Any leftover granules can clog the bottom of the stems and prevent the flowers from getting adequate water.
Make sure to put your flowers in a vase that has been washed with soap and water to get rid of any bacteria from past uses. Flowers will die quickly in sunlight, so keep them somewhere cool and shady. You can even place the bouquet outside on cool, dry nights. My last suggestion is to remove individual stems as they expire. Flowers have different lifespans, so pull out any that look brown and wilty when you're adding fresh water. This prevents bacteria from spreading to other flowers, and keeps the bouquet looking its best.