Between the Rows: Dried Flowers Add Color and Character to Any Room
The Recorder, November 4, 2016, by Pat Leuchtman
While shopping at the Greenfield Farmers Market last year, I met Danielle Smith at her Wild Rose Flower Farm booth.
I found the name of her farm — Wild Rose — irresistible, and she was always surrounded by a bounty of lovely spring bulbs, and later an array of dahlias, zinnias, sunflowers, delphiniums and all manner of other annuals.
At the Winter Market, I bought a wonderful wreath to hang on our new front door.
All this summer, we tried to set a date to talk about her gardens, but we never pulled it off until the fresh flowers were pretty much frosted, and she was concentrating on her dried flowers, which are equally a delight. We finally got to meet in her studio, where she puts together bouquets and arrangements for weddings and other events, as well as for farmers markets and other outlets, like food co-ops.
Looking at the bright sunny room with dried flowers hanging from racks, and the floor covered with containers of dried flower bouquets waiting for the final farmers market of the year, it was hard to imagine that she had ever turned her face away from the color and excitement of the floral world, but she said she came late to flowers.
After graduating with an environmental degree from the New College of Florida in Sarasota, Smith began her career on organic vegetable farms. “I really thought it was not okay to love flowers. I disdained all frivolity,” she said. Even after a stint working on a flower farm, Smith had to fight what she came to call her internalized misogyny and kept “my attraction to all things bright and soft and frilly to myself, like a shameful secret.” It took years to acquiesce to her delight in flowers.
That acknowledgement led her to the founding of Wild Rose Flower Farm. She rents land in Florence, not far from the Art and Industry building, where she has her studio. Although she was ready to give up her total devotion to organic vegetables and embrace “the magical and miraculous, sensual and seasonal, riotously colorful and abundant world of flowers,” she was not willing to give up her principles about growing plants organically and healthfully.
Like any farmer, Smith works in her field, weeding and pruning, and then harvesting on early summer mornings. She then brings her harvest to her studio where she has a cooler. On a really hot morning, she may have to make more than one trip so that the blossoms don’t have time to wilt. Once the flowers have cooled and drunk their fill, she can put them together into arrangements.
Smith is an organic flower gardener, because she is thinking about the larger need to grow all plants, not only edibles, without poisons. She is thinking about protecting bees and other pollinators, about protecting the water systems and about protecting workers from the effects of dangerous chemicals on flower farms operating on a much larger scale than the acre of land she rents near her studio.
I first became aware of the threats Smith works against when I read Amy Stewart’s book, “Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful in the Flower Business.” Many flowers on florists’ shelves come from halfway around the world, where they may have affected pollinator colonies and water sources. They have also used immense amounts of energy to fly to our shores and around the world.
My Peace Corps daughter, Betsy Reilley, served in Kenya (1987 to 1989) and was stationed near Lake Naivasha, a large freshwater lake that now provides water to 127 flower farms around its shores. These farms produce 35 percent of all flowers shipped to the EU, plus they ship flowers to Russia, Japan and the U.S. Our Valentine roses probably come from Kenya. Just think of all the watering those roses and other plants require. These farms take an enormous toll on the environment. That is to say, it is as important to buy local flowers as it is to buy local vegetables and meat.
Local organic flower farms like Wild Rose are protecting our local environment and the world environment, as well. Wild Rose Flower Farm is a part of the nationwide Slow Flowers movement. Slow Flowers is the name of a new movement that promotes flowers grown in the United States and sold locally. The flowers reflect the seasons, although, through the magic of greenhouses there can be blossoms even in December. Winter also means evergreens and colorful natural ornaments, like winterberries, both red and gold.
Right now, Smith is preparing garlic and flower braids, small terrariums she planted with succulents that she has been raising since the spring, more dried flower bouquets, and starting to think about the wreaths she will make, like the one I bought last year. She will be selling these at this year’s first Winter Market in Greenfield today at Four Corners School on Ferrante Avenue.
She is also preparing to show off and sell her work at the 20th Art and Industry Open Studios Holiday Sale in Florence on Nov. 12 and 13. Smith and 49 other artists and fine crafters will be showing and selling their work, paintings, sculpture and all types of crafts. There will be music, as well. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., you can tour, shop and enjoy the creative buzz. For more information, www.artsindustryopenstudios.blogspot.com
Pat Leuchtman had written and gardened since 1980. She lives in Greenfield. Readers can leave comments at her Web site: www.commonweeder.com