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Entering the World of Flower Farming

By: Hannah Hegdahl, IBG Greenhouse and Nursery Coordinator | 09/12/2022

Have you ever experienced that romanticized idea of a flower farm? You’re picking flowers at sunset on a warm summer night, and everything is amazing. Behind those beautiful rows of flowers are people working around the clock to bring you fresh blooms. The truth is that flower farming is farming – and farming is blood, sweat, and tears.

This year at Idaho Botanical Garden, we introduced a new project taking on an entire new garden, our own flower farm. We opened a bouquet subscription program to 30 of our garden members. Every week we create arrangements for them to take home and enjoy for the week!

This project came to thought last growing season as flower farms became more and more popular. Our purpose was to get the Garden into more homes across the Treasure Valley and to raise money for our horticulture department. Unfortunately, all people do not have a green thumb; so, it seems like a great solution to just bring in fresh blooms from the Idaho Botanical Garden to liven up your home.

Idaho Botanical Garden flower farm is a bit smaller than some of the others across the valley. We have a variety of flowers from zinnias, cosmos, celosia, snap dragons, and amaranth. Since this is a new project for us, we wanted to grow what we know does well here. Zinnias thrive in the heat and celosia are slow growers, but definitely showstoppers. I believe the best cut-flower is a zinnia. There are so many different varieties of zinnias it is hard to keep them straight. Our best performing and best-looking zinnias are the Queen Lime Series. All of them have an ombre effect with colors including red, orange, and peach. They add enough color to any arrangement without overpowering the entire container.

If you’re up for it, you can have your very own cut flower garden at home! The landscaping around most houses includes perennials throughout the front and backyard. A fun and experimental thing to do is start mixing annuals in between your perennials to have for cut flowers. Or creating a small bed just for cut blooms to be able to enjoy during those hot summer months. Once you start a cutting garden, you won’t be able to resist growing them every year. The best tip I can give you is that starting small is always the way to go, especially if you are new to gardening or getting a green thumb.

I’ll be honest, when I started this adventure into the flower farm world, I romanticized it like everyone else does. Fields of flowers, bees buzzing, and pedestrians enjoying the blooms. What you don’t see is how much planning and hard work goes into one. My process started on choosing what flowers to grow and colors of those. Once I got that completed, it was now time to figure out how many plants I needed to grow to fill this space. We grew over 1,000 plants to occupy our flower farm.

Another roadblock to the romanticized flower farm is crop failure. I had three different crops fail from not germinating, mice, and my clumsy hands dropping them. Once you get those problems solved, you’d think it would be smooth sailing, right?

Not quite. Then comes the planting, irrigation, and fertilizing. Planting comes and goes quickly. Getting plants into the ground at the right time is a game. The soil needs to be warm enough but not too hot, while the weather plays tricks on us in May. All seems great until something breaks or chews through your irrigation line. Now you forgot to start fertilizing because of all the other chaos that happened. Even with all the chaos, it is all worth it to see a kid with his mom smiling at all the bees pollinating, or an elder gentleman telling us his wife’s favorite flower is a zinnia.

Lessons have been learned during this growing season. Flower farmers are no joke; there is no question that they are some of the hardest working people. It is dangerous to romanticize any garden project you haven’t done before, but try to enjoy the small moments that come along. Here at Idaho Botanical Garden, we want to make sure you enjoy every minute of your experience. Come see our new garden, the flower farm!

 

*First published in the Idaho Press on September 11th, 2022.