For the Love of Flowers

Harvesting summer dahlias at Floret Family Farm. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Harvesting summer dahlias at Floret Family Farm. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Floret Flower Farm is a small family farm just north of Seattle specializing in crops of sustainably grown cut flowers and hard-to-find seeds—along with valuable growing tips—for gardeners who want to tend their own cutting garden.

A conversation between editor Lorene Edwards Forkner and Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm:

Long stemmed, fragrant sweet peas launched Floret Flower Farm. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Long stemmed, fragrant sweet peas launched Floret Flower Farm. Photo: Chris Benzakein

LEF: tell us a bit about Floret Flower Farm

EB: Floret started as a tiny cutting garden with a double row of sweet peas tucked into our big vegetable garden. Since those humble beginnings, our flower company has blossomed and grown into a thriving farm, design studio, and training center for flower farmers and designers. We supply flowers to specialty grocery stores and wholesalers across the Pacific Northwest, and create fresh-from-the garden floral designs for a select number of weddings and special events each year. We also host on-farm workshops where we teach small scale, high intensity flower production and the art of natural floral design to students from around the world. These workshops are an extension of our commitment to supporting and cultivating a global network of farmer-florists to supply the growing demand for local, sustainable and seasonal flowers. Over on our website and blog, we feature lots of information, inspiration and resources for flower lovers and just this January we launched Floret Seeds, a curated line of specialty and heirloom flower seeds!

LEF: When did you launch the online store ?

EB: In December 2014 we launched the Floret Shop with a small collection of tools, supplies, and garden-themed gifts geared towards farmer-florists and home gardeners. A few weeks later, we dipped our toes into the world of online seed sales by offering a selection of heirloom sweet pea seeds and some specialty zinnia seeds. We wanted to test the waters and I’m happy to report that the response was overwhelming. My family hand-packed and mailed each and every one of those little seed envelopes and we sold out almost immediately.

Floret Flower Farm searches out choice colors and forms of their favorite cutting flowers like these salmon colored zinnias. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Floret Flower Farm searches out choice colors and forms of their favorite cutting flowers like these salmon colored zinnias. Photo: Chris Benzakein

LEF: I’m such a sucker for seeds. How did you select the varieties you offer in your online store?

EB: I’ve grown a lot of flowers over the years and not all of the varieties made the cut. The best varieties for cutting (those with long stems, unique coloring, a delicate appearance, strong fragrance, easy-to-grow, etc.) aren’t widely available unless you’re willing to wade through text-heavy professional catalogs, and even then most are only available in bulk and you have to meet a supplier’s minimum order. Most gardeners only need 50 to 100 seeds of a particular variety, not 1,000.

Floret now offers dozens of varieties of my tried-and-true favorite flowers that perform consistently well and come in the prettiest, most coveted colors. You’ll find unusual varieties, gorgeous custom color blends, and perfect packet sizes for stocking your home cutting garden. Some notable highlights include a blush pincushion flower, inky purple sweet peas, apricot foxgloves that flower the first year from seed, giant tangerine poppies, and adorable peach and blush scabiosa zinnias.

Dahlias are queen of the summer cutting garden. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Dahlias are queen of the summer cutting garden. Photo: Chris Benzakein

LEF: I’m so impressed with your generosity. In addition to the enticing descriptions of all your seed varieties you include the expected instruction for seeding and getting the plants off to a good start AND you include post-harvest instructions for maximizing vase life.

EB: As a grower, I know and appreciate how useful these little bits of info are, so I compiled and condensed years of field notes to include vital info not only on the packets, but also on the product descriptions on our website for easy reference. Details such as the number of days to maturity and when you should pinch back plants to encourage branching and lots of blooms are key pieces of information that a lot of seed companies skip.

I will dive even deeper into all these techniques plus all my favorite varieties and growing tips in my new book— watch for that to publish in February 2017.

A profusion of summer dahlias. Photo: Chris Benzakein

A profusion of summer dahlias. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Scabiosa form zinnias are a Floret favorite. Photo: Chris Benzakein

Scabiosa form zinnias are a Floret favorite. Photo: Chris Benzakein