The Curative Power of Flowers
While there are enormous gifts that arise from owning a flower farm, none are greater than the friends I have made that are borne of a mutual love of flowers. I’m fortunate to engage regularly in amazing conversations with Bear Creek Farm’s always-fascinating clients via phone, email, text and in person. I want to shine a spotlight on two of these incredible women. Here is each woman’s story in her own words.
Spotlight #1: “This is my calling in life. Flowers chose me.”
Rachel, 35, is a nurse who lives on a 3-acre farm in Brooksville, FL with husband, Lonnie, 4 boys, 4 dogs, chickens, one rescue horse, and a potbelly mini pig “who’s not so mini.”
“My addiction began innocently. I had an infected tooth, and my mom gave me a huge handful of Percocet 10 painkillers. I didn’t know anything about addiction then. What started as an addiction ended up spiraling out of control and I ended up doing heroin and crack for a year or 2. I lost my kids. I built a strong relationship with God after this because I trudged through the pit of Hell. The state had me get on methadone or they would take my children, so I had to take liquid methadone. I was on 287 milligrams of methadone. I discovered that it was essentially the same thing as heroin. It was another form of addiction.
“On my birthday I told the methadone clinic, ‘I won’t be in tomorrow because I’m getting clean.’ I was also going to Narcotics Anonymous. I got so sick that I ended up in the ER because I stopped cold turkey. It took a couple months to feel better and I wanted to get out of the house so I went to Winn Dixie and looked around. There were potted hellebores in the flower section, $11.99 for a gorgeous pot. When I saw those flowers, it made all my pain go away. I brought it home, set it on the coffee table and just stared at this flower. It made me feel so much better. I ended up killing it because I always killed everything back then, but it sparked an interest. Why did I kill everything that was living? I refocused my attention and started reading books and googling and ten years later, I still find plants and hybrids that I learn something about. Recently I took the Floret Online Workshop and would love to invest in a greenhouse. I’m obsessed with flowers. I feel like flowers reached out to me as part of my recovery and healing process.
“WHERE DID MY FLOWER OBSESSION COME FROM? My mom says my great grandma had a green thumb. I remember picking tons of tangerines and flowers from her garden—that has something to do with my deep love for flowers. My mom had 60 rose bushes and 70 peonies bushes. In spring they would bloom for a short period and I would pick all of them. I would dig my face in them and couldn’t wait until they bloomed the following year.
“I grow a little bit of everything and would love to be a flower farmer here where I live on 3 acres in Brooksville, FL, just outside of St. Petersburg, but the heat and humidity makes it difficult. Besides the soil problem itself (Florida has dead sugar sand), it’s very challenging growing here because of the high humidity and excessive rain—we’ve had a gazillion inches of rain this year. Now, I grow hydrangeas, roses, seedlings, sweet peas, columbine, lilies, dahlias—I have 240 dahlias in my closet. I put the drugs down and picked up the plant.
“As I look back, I wouldn’t change anything because it’s almost like recovering from stage 4 cancer on one’s deathbed. You get a second chance and don’t take little things for granted and appreciate friends, life, kids, the birds sound sweeter, the sky is bluer, the flowers seem prettier. As I’ve gotten further in my recovery I’ve gotten deeper into my plants. When I’m working in the garden with the wind and sun on my face, my hands in the dirt and the birds overhead—to me it’s very healing. All my stress from the day, all my troubles melt away. Besides my kids and animals, flowers are my life. There is something so healing and heavenly about flowers. I’m connecting with God through nature. Flowers came out of the woodwork when I needed healing the most.
“Flowers just fascinate me. There is something so miraculous about putting a tiny seed in dirt and it transforms into beautiful flower. I did the same thing. I traveled through the nasty mud and finally I have germinated, grown, and blossomed. It was a long, hard road, and I did 18 months in outpatient intensive treatment. Now, I have 9 years sober.
“SPIRITUAL ASPECT. You cut yourself, it heals, you cut into a tree and it heals, just like we do. Plants and flowers are alive. I feel like if I was an atheist and I really look into the dynamics of a flower and how it grows I don’t see how life like that could exist without God. It’s too complex and too miraculous. Like Astrantia, which is my favorite flower, doesn’t grow well in Florida because we get so much rain. And in Brooksville we get 30 percent more rain than other cities in Florida. In summer it rains so much the soil never dries. And this year Astrantia is growing!!!! I screamed when they got stems and buds because every time I tried to grow it the rains killed it.
“I buy every bulb, tuber, seed and I find so much healing in it. I enjoy growing and cutting bouquets and giving them to my neighbors, my son’s teachers, my in laws, bringing a vase of flowers to them and seeing their face light up—handing it to them you can see the gratitude and excitement—that’s what gets me.
“FUTURE PLANS. Right now I am looking to build a walk-in cooler and get some greenhouses, but I am not a grower yet, although I want to be. If I go in a shop and see poor plants that are root bound with roots hanging out of the bottom and bulbs in bags that have sprouted and literally suffocating, I feel like I have to rescue them and I have to save them all. Who knows how long they will sit on the shelf if I don’t take them home with me? Last year I grew 46 varieties of dahlias bulbs last year, this year growing under 55 percent shade. Last year I did everything wrong—did mulch, didn’t put in irrigation, planted in August, but they ended up growing anyway.
“Currently I have two small gardens, I have an oak tree bed, and a bunch of annuals, like larkspur, baby’s breath, nigella, poppy bed, dahlia bed. I have 3 rose trees to plant, 44 mums to make a bed for, a bunch of seeds that I’m starting—like aster. I’m trying to get my old rose bed going. I just finished painting three trellises and putting gladiolas and annual flowers in it on the south-facing wall.”
Spotlight #2: “Daisies reflect a simpler time. This fresh business takes me back there.”
Maggie Oldfield is the 49-year-old co-owner of Thayer Nursery in Milton, Massachusetts. She has just launched her own second business, The Olde Field.
“To be sure, there are many more beautiful and complex flowers, but my favorite flower is the white daisy with the yellow center because of its simplicity. I have such deep, happy memories picking daisies with my family, so that might be the root of my love for them. Growing up, my dad was just starting his nursery business and it was more financially feasible for us to go camping on our family vacation, so we would pull over to the side of the road to go wandering, and my four siblings and I would end up picking daisies that were growing wild. I also like them because they’re not very particular, are easy to care for, will grow in all types of conditions, can be even somewhat neglected, and don’t need a lot of care or attention and yet still thrive and bring a lot of cheer in their simplicity.
“I think my florist was in shock that I chose daisies for my wedding bouquet, especially because I have the knowledge and ability to create the most complex bouquets given my background. I think I was hoping for an easy, carefree marriage and I thought daisies would bring us good luck moving forward.
“HOW I GOT IN THE BIZ. I am a second-generation nursery owner, so I sell a lot of perennials, annuals, and shrubs for landscapes, and this year I have decided to stretch out and am going to expand a bit. I’m going to grow flowers to cut and sell in bouquets at our local flower markets. To that end I have planted daisies in hopes they’ll grow in my field. I grew up on our 5-acre farm, then after graduating college 25 years ago, my brother Josh and I went into our family nursery business together. The last couple of years we’ve had to change our complete business model to appease our new neighbors, who haven’t grown accustomed to living next to a farm. This is a new battle that farmers are going through now—people don’t like living next to constant work trucks and the smell of the compost, the running of farm equipment and machinery. This 4-year battle with the neighbor, along with the long struggle of going to the town meetings and board meetings, it took my joy away. I needed a new outlook and I felt I could get that by going back to the flowers themselves—starting something of my own from seed and then growing it. It was nice to strike out on my my own, I’m 49 and it’s just mine, it’s positive and pretty and everyone’s excited about it. It was time to start something new, and I went back to the simplicity of my childhood, it’s like picking daisies on the side of the road again—a throwback to a simpler time.
“Last year we created the beds and planted perennial flowers—peonies, echinachea, beckia, delphinium, hydrangea—and this year have potted up dahlias in the greenhouse now and have started other annual cutting flowers by seeds, which are also in our greenhouse. So we’re at the start of our season but it’s been so cold here on the East Coast in Milton, Massachusetts, that we’re about three weeks behind schedule. My plan is for my former farm to start with peonies, delphinium, Echinacea, dahlias, cosmos, and some flowers, which will be the end of June through September. I’ve pre-sold 25 shares for a stem share, so people sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) at $200 a share, and that entitles them to 10 bouquets for July-August-September. Roughly every other week they’ll get a big bouquet. I create the bouquet for them. We over planted because I don’t want to disappoint those 25 to 30 people who have supported me in the beginning. They’re taking a leap of faith with me and I want to over-deliver to them. If I have leftovers, I can sell it at the local farmer’s market.
“A NEW START. My flower stem is called The Olde Field. It’s a play on my last name, Oldfield. If you go to our nursery website at www.thayernursery.com you’ll see a header that says, “The Olde Field CSA.” Click on that to read an intro letter.
“Hope to see you there!”
Tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org