When I first started farming, a friend turned me on to the publication Growing For Market, a fantastic resource full of great advice for growers.  I was immediately drawn to to the flower articles written by Erin Benzakein of Floret in Washington State.  They were bursting with information about new varieties, wedding design work and growing tips–you name it. But most of all, they gushed beauty and conveyed an utter love for growing flowers.  Erin’s enthusiasm and passion for her work was contagious. The stunning photos of beautiful blooms she included in each article were breathtaking. What an amazing job!!! I pretty much wanted to be her when I grew up. For years, I read her column, gobbling up every bit of knowledge I could, experimenting and expanding the varieties in our own flower fields.
A few years ago, Floret started offering workshops at their farm.  The thought of traveling to that mystical land seemed like an epic flowery pilgrimage too good to be true. It also seemed lavish and out of reach.  What right did I, an amateur flower geek from Gainesville, have to sit amongst flower goddesses?   But my husband said, "why not?!" He encouraged me to follow my dreams and make it happen. He convinced me. Plus, it was a great excuse for a delayed honeymoon!   So just like that, last September, we found ourselves on a plane to Washington.
The workshop began in a beautifully restored barn on a historic homestead down the road from Floret in the Skagit Valley.  About 30 women from around the country gathered in a circle and awaited Erin's arrival.  I was about to meet an epically inspirational figure in my life and was doing my best to play it cool. Erin arrived and introduced her team for the weekend, which was an all-star cast from the flower world including Mandy O'Shea of Moonflower Design in Georgia, Susan McLeary from Passion Flower, Erika Stephens of Junes Blooms, and Stephanie of Sassafrass Fork Farm in North Carolina.
From the very beginning Erin made it clear that she and her team were there to do everything they could to give us the tools necessary to make our flower business dreams a reality.
On the second day, we caravanned to Floret.  We talked about nitty-gritty flower farming work, building soil health, efficient harvesting techniques, farm planning, variety selection, propagation, and season extension.   Hearing Erin talk about efficiency made my heart swoon.  I like to work FAST and love seeing systems that make sense.  She demonstrated how they fly through their grocery bouquet assembly line with a quickness–a woman after my own heart.

In the afternoon, the whole group was turned loose in the fields to cut whatever our hearts desired for the design portion of the workshop.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! Erin's farm is only about 2 acres, but she packs a tremendous amount of blooms into that space!  We cut foxglove, feverfew, lisianthus, celosia, rudbeckia, ornamental grasses, and zinnias to name a few. It was interesting to see so many of the same varieties that we grow in Florida in bloom in the Pacific Northwest.  The belles of the ball were definitely the Dahlias. So. Many. Dahlias.  I could have stayed there snipping stems until the end of time.


Everything we cut was trucked to the barn and added to the sea of flowers that had already been harvested.  It was a sight to behold.


The third day was all about design.  Sue of Passion Flower taught us her technique for floral crowns and living corsages and then guided us through creating our own. She is such an incredibly talented designer and sweet and personable woman!  It was a real treat to see a master of her craft so effortlessly in action.


I have so little experience with this type of design work. I felt like an ogre attempting such dainty, delicate, detail work, but somehow managed to somewhat successfully create a demi-crown.


Next, Erin demonstrated her technique for  formal centerpiece design and a hand tied bridal bouquet. It was awesome to see how she selected her color palate, established the shape of the arrangement and incorporated each element seamlessly into the design.

IMG_1658After we watched Erin work her magic, we were set free in the sea of flowers to make our own creations.  It was a bit overwhelming to choose what to work with from such a bountiful selection.  As we worked, the team gave us suggestions, tips, and guidance.  I was so inspired by the generosity and support of everyone there.  It was amazing to be surrounded by so many badass successful women in my field.

I left Floret feeling so pumped for our upcoming flower season! I learned so much, most of all that I still have so much to learn! Regardless, I and can't wait to put it to use.  It was wonderful to realize that even the wildly successful Floret was born of humble beginnings. You have to start somewhere.