Interview with Fieldstone Flowers
When I was a kid, my afternoon routine was the stuff of ritual. I dropped my book bag at the back door, grabbed a handful of Chocolate Teddy Grahams from the pantry, and planted myself in front of the TV just in time for the Oprah Winfrey Show. I know I gained a lot of wisdom in that after school hour but I only remember two lessons distinctly. Lesson one - if you ever find yourself stuffed in the trunk of a car, kick out a tail light and wave to passersby for help. Lesson two - an elegant home features fresh cut flowers in every room. Fortunately, I haven't used that first lesson but the second has influenced my sense of home for years.
The Oprah Episode was legendary - at least in our household, where I quoted it constantly to my patient mother, stressing the importance of investing in florals. Oprah guided a tour through her magnificent home, each room decorated with a perfect arrangement of blooms plucked from the garden that morning. The general extravagance of Oprah's lifestyle felt unreachable but fresh flowers in every room felt like an attainable goal.
As an adult I have experienced varying levels of success with this goal based on the availability of blooms in my garden. When we bought our current home last winter, we almost didn't go inside before making an offer. We stepped onto the terrace on a misty thirty degree day, surveyed the garden, and called our beloved realtor (Robby Brady with Allen Tate) to at least write an offer and show us the inside of the house if convenient. A stunning black walnut reaches with massive branches to touch the corners of the rolling lawn. Thousands of day lilies bloom in Spring. Stone paths lead you beneath trellises of jasmine, past banks of azaleas. Magnolias, dogwoods, cherries, and Japanese maples anchor every corner. It is the garden of childhood dreams.
Image Above: Our garden in Upstate South Carolina
My only disappointment has been the lack of cut flower options in our garden. Camellias are plentiful in Winter so I proudly display a multitude of varieties throughout my house all season. These flowers top the list of inspirations for my love affair with the American South. In shades of pink, blush, and cream, they are the bright spot in even my dreariest December day. In Spring, I get three extravagant Peony blooms from plants that look like volunteers if Peony volunteers were a thing in South Carolina. In Summer, our hydrangeas produce a handful of ragged flowers, insufficient to satiate a certified hydrangea nut. With such limited options, my arrangements have been disappointingly few and far between since we moved to our forever home. My vast collection of cherished vases has been woefully underutilized and I'm sure I can feel Oprah's disappointment from a far away estate. Instead of cursing the darkness again this Spring and Summer, I thought I would shed some light on the situation by tapping a knowledgeable resource, my favorite flower farmer.
Image Above: Deby showing off some of her gorgeous blooms.
Fieldstone Flowers is a local farm in Upstate South Carolina, owned by Deby Wright, my awesome mother-in-law. After the last of her six children moved out of the house, she started the farm, fueled by a passion for growing things and a commitment to the local flower movement. I asked her a few questions this week about gardening for cut flowers in the hopes that her wisdom might help me and others develop home gardens to supplement interior decor with fresh cut florals a la Oprah.
Becky: How much space you you need to grow enough cut flowers for your own household?
Deby: It's amazing how many flowers you can grown in a small space. One raised 4x10 foot bed would be enough if you are succession planting. As soon as something is fizzling, rip out and replace!
Image Above: Seed pods make beautiful architectural elements in floral arrangements.
Becky: What flower varieties would you recommend for the amateur gardener who wants to plant a cut flower garden?
Deby: A cutting garden of your own is such a delightful treasure! It is important to recognize it as a CUTTING GARDEN intended to bring beauty inside your home. It's often hard for home gardeners to want to cut from their lovely flower beds. Eventually, you'll want to plant a cutting garden that has something for you to bring inside all year but let's focus on Summer flowers here for brevity! Zinnias are easy to grow and great producers. The blossoms come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Other heat-loving prolific flowers include Cosmos, Globe Amaranth, and False Queen Anne's lace. When you do plant shrubs in your yard, try to choose plants that bloom or have interesting foliage that you can use in your arrangements.
Image Above: The zinnia crop at Fieldstone Flowers is just beginning to pop!
Becky: What are your secrets to gardening success?
Deby: Spend a few minutes every day just looking at how everything is doing. That's how you'll catch problems - bugs, fungus, weeds, watering needs. You could dead head spent blooms for just a few minutes to keep the flowers producing. Nurturing for just 15 minutes per day instead of ignoring all week prevents having an overwhelming mess to deal with all at once.
Image Above: Summer crop coming in at Fieldstone Flowers
Becky: What are your tips and tricks for flower arranging?
Deby: You need to have focal flowers, supporting flowers, and foliage. Then, it's fun if you can add something airy, textural, or fragrant.
Image Above: Flowers and greenery from Fieldstone Flowers with seed pods for texture and lemon mint for fragrance.
Becky: Do you have any tips for increasing vase life?
Deby: Clean vessels are super important. When bacteria get into a flower stem, it inhibits the ability to take up water. A flower farmer I've learned so much from says that your cutting buckets should be clean enough to drink from! Harvest into a clean container and then arrange in a clean vase. Use clean, sharp snips. Floral preservative keeps the water clear and prolongs vase life.
Images Above: Lilies from Fieldstone Flowers in found blue and white porcelain vase beside Berkshire Single Sconce from Rejuvenation. Billy balls in mini mint green double gourd porcelain vase by Middle Kingdom Porcelain sourced from Society Social.
If your schedule or lifestyle isn't conducive to growing your own flowers, don't fret! Like many flower farmers, Fieldstone Flowers offers a seasonal subscription service. Subscribers can pick up a wrapped bouquet from the farm biweekly. The Summer subscription is 6 bouquets for $100. Bouquets can also be purchased at the Traveler's Rest Farmers Market and Winslett's Produce Market in Easley, SC. Deby also sells wholesale to floral designers and cut flowers by the bucket for DIY events.