Erin Benzakein Sniffs Out Delicate Treasures
First in a series about the power of flowers and the memories they evoke…
Ever wonder why those flowers you got at the grocery store the other day smell like the paper they were wrapped in?
Yea, so did Erin Benzakein. She runs Floret Flower Farm in the Skagit Valley, a rural haven in the northwestern corner of Washington State.
Generally the more fragrance a flower has the shorter its vase life. To counter that, many seed producers bred the smell out of the flowers ages ago, in favor of longer lasting blooms.
Like many of us, Benzakein missed that intoxicating smell. Her farm experiments with rare and heirloom flower seeds in search of that lost scent.
“That’s been a huge mission of mine – finding those delicate treasures, those scented varieties that might have been forgotten or that are hidden or obscure – that’s what I go digging for,” said Benzakein.
Growing up, Benzakein’s grandmother taught her how to grow flowers. Every summer the pair would cut fragrant sweet pea blooms for the bedside. Years later when her Grammy passed, Benzakein scattered the ashes in her garden, then planted some sweet peas of her own.
“They bloomed so abundantly, I mean they were just going crazy!”
One day someone offered to pay for a jar of those luscious blooms. So Benzakein drove 45 minutes to make her first flower delivery.
“When I dropped them off, the woman started crying, telling me stories of her childhood picking flowers.”
That’s when the light bulb went on. Benzakein realized growing flowers spreads joy – and it’s what she was meant to do with her life.
Not that it’s been the Garden of Eden. One obstacle is climate change. The weather is so unstable it makes every season an adventure of unknowns.
“We’ve had seasons where it was 30 days of rain in June and we lost 40,000 sunflowers in the field,” said Benzakein.
Then there was the marketing. Benzakein is generally shy and introverted – making cold calling ineffective.
On the advice of a fellow farmer, she ditched the fancy farm logo and slick shots of product. Instead, she commissioned some candid pics of her family and posted them on the farm’s website. That’s when her business exploded.
“Our potential customers could actually see the people who were growing the flowers…we were real people.”
One of Floret’s top items is the dahlias – the fresh cut kind or dahlia bulbs, so you can grow your own.
Or try out some of the 200 other varieties of flowers and seeds – including of course those sweet pea blooms that started her whole journey. Check them out here.
Coral Gypsy Dahlia
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We invite you to send us your favorite flower memory. We’ll publish the best in the next newsletter. The winning entry will receive a Bear Creek Farm T-shirt! (No purchase necessary, of course.) Send memories to [email protected]. We can’t wait to devour them.
Special bonus: Send your email to the email above and we’ll send you a coupon for a 10% discount on our dahlia bulbs in honor of Erin/Floret Flowers. Your email will be kept completely private and not shared, sold, rented or authorized to any third party for commercial purposes.