In the Field with Floret Flowers
When we head into the garden this spring, we'll be taking along three brand-new, terrain-exclusive collections of flower seeds from Floret Flowers. Based in Washington's Skagit Valley, Floret began as a flower farm and floral design studio. In 2014, they also began to offer their favorite seeds, bulbs, and garden tools. This spring, we teamed up with Floret for a trio of curated seed collections: Summer Blues, Summer Sunset, and Summer Peaches & Greens. Each set of six seed varieties will offer up beautiful, bouquet-ready blooms in coordinating colors. As we prepare for planting, we caught up with Floret founder Erin Benzakein to learn more about life on the farm and what she's looking forward to most this growing season.
terrain: You and your family left behind life in the city to found Floret. What inspired you to become a farmer and florist?
Erin: My husband, Chris, and I wanted to be able to raise our family surrounded by nature, so we moved from Seattle to the Skagit Valley. As the kids were getting older, we wanted to be able to spread out and let them run around. We started with a huge vegetable garden, but then we began growing and sharing some flowers and the reaction was incredible! Seeing the impact that flowers can have on others piqued my curiosity; I love that a bouquet can inspire tears, smiles, joy, or nostalgia. Flowers are able to transport people. When I delivered my first bouquet, the recipient teared up as she buried her face in the flowers. She was remembering happy childhood summers in her grandmother's garden. After that, I knew I had found my calling.
terrain: You live and work in Washington’s Skagit Valley—what’s life like on the farm?
Erin: We're located about an hour north of Seattle, and the landscape is truly beautiful. The land in the valley is flat, with the ocean off to one side and mountains on the other. You can see all the weather coming in. Right now, in early spring, it's flowering tree season!
terrain: What's happening at Floret this time of year?
Erin: It's very busy on the farm in spring! We're starting seeds, tending our greenhouse crops, and getting the garden prepared for planting. March through May are the busiest months for us, and it can be a challenge to juggle everything! We get up with the rooster, well before it's light, and get the day started with a team meeting before everyone heads out to divide and conquer. We're just starting with daffodils, and we have 11 unheated greenhouses that allow us to harvest flowers about six weeks earlier than we could from outdoor fields. Early spring brings ranunculus, anemones, Icelandic poppies, and around 10,000 tulips!
terrain: What are some of your favorite parts of being a flower farmer? What are some of the biggest challenges?
Erin: The best part of my job is being surrounded by so much beauty every day, and getting to share that with other people. A farmer's biggest challenge is the weather. You can never know what nature has in store, no matter how much planning you do. We've always got a lot of irons in the fire, and we work to fine tune the farm all the time.
terrain: What are you most looking forward to on the farm this year?
Erin: I'm really looking forward to our workshops! We're hosting seven workshops this season; half will introduce the basics for beginning flower farmers, and the others focus on floral arranging with seasonal blooms. We'll be welcoming attendees from all over the world.
We're also very excited to continue seed trialing for Floret Seeds. This year, we'll be testing out 200 new varieties on top of those we already grow. Every new seed has to fit our criteria: weather resistance, long stems, healthy and productive, long-lasting as a cut bloom, and unique coloring or some other aspect that makes it really special.
terrain: How did you decide to expand from flowers to seeds?
Erin: During the process of writing my upcoming book on growing and arranging flowers, I found that many cut flower varieties are only available in huge, commercial quantities, so they aren't accessible for home gardeners. I couldn't recommend a source of seeds for people interested in growing their own cutting gardens, so the longtime dream of offering seeds came to the forefront. We started by sourcing seeds from the best seed breeders across the globe, mostly those based in Europe. Now, we do variety trials for seed companies, rating the flowers and writing about them, too. This year, we're introducing a whole seed collection of English sweet peas with long stems and gorgeous coloring that usually aren't available in the U.S.
terrain: Can you share some details about each of the seed collections we’ll have at terrain this spring?
Erin: We focused on easy-to-grow varieties that could flourish anywhere in the country, then let the color palettes dictate our combinations. Summer Blues features cool periwinkle, ice blue and white flowers that will bloom early, in June or July. Summer Sunset is a collection of bold, bright, and vivid flowers that will bloom during high summer. Peaches & Greens features shades of chartreuse, salmon, and blush for a sophisticated palette. Every collection is filled with tried-and-true varieties that combine to make a perfect bouquet.
Images courtesy of Michele Waite, Joy Prouty, and Chris Benzakein.
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Viva la Mother Nature and all her glory! Happy frolicking in the fields!