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Two-and-a-half months. I had just two-and-a-half months between spring and fall frosts when I first tried my hand at growing anything in the mountains of Colorado. One can imagine it was not altogether satisfying. Moving to Northeast Pennsylvania with about five months and a blank piece of land was entering a whole new world. Twelve years later, after much learning from others and many worn shovels, the gardens are a bit out of control, but the satisfaction is palpable. Somewhere along the way I realized I needed to offset the cost of my obsession (fellow gardeners, I know you understand) and started to sell bouquets at local farmers markets. I now grow, design and deliver floral arrangements for weddings and special events both here at Fox Hill Farm, and throughout the area.
The farm is home to our small family, a herd of grass-fed beef, a flock of busy chickens and horny roosters, the aforementioned crazy gardens, and a late 19th-century bank barn. This year will be the third season of weddings here on the farm. After all those projects and worn shovels later, it is extremely rewarding to see people enjoying the farm as they celebrate a fabulous couple. No offense to the couples, but if the photographer uses a row of flowers or a perennial garden as a backdrop, I cry with happiness for the flowers.
My favorite piece to design for weddings is, not surprisingly, the bridal bouquet. I love being a part of a couple’s celebration through flowers, but the bridal bouquet is the “cherry on top” of it all. I am certainly able to order roses aplenty, but if given license to go beyond the traditional, nothing in the garden is off-limits. Flowers, yes, but also grasses, shrubs, fruits, and sometimes even trees can be a part of the recipe. Every year I seem to have a few new favorites depending on the season, but this past year, Solomon’s seal, black currants, curly willow, and heuchera were on the top of my list for greenery. Dahlias, old-fashioned zinnias, astilbe and love-in-a-mist topped the list of flowers. I cringe as I write this list because so many others come to mind. It’s just not possible to make a short list!
Ask any of my family members; I have much more luck with a recipe of flowers than a recipe of foodstuffs. A bridal bouquet recipe includes a few “big deal” flowers, several smaller coordinating flowers, different hues and textures of green and bits and pieces of something interesting. As the stems of each of these ingredients are worked together in a spiral fashion, the bouquet begins to take form. Threading the bits and pieces back through the main body of the bouquet gives it a wild, natural look which can easily be tamed with a pull or a snip. With a tie and a ribbon, the bouquet is complete.
Though I wish I could say 100% of each arrangement is grown right here in our area, I’m not there yet. Fellow gardeners are not surprised when their phone rings with pleas for a special flower I know they grow. There are amazing men and women who are growing vegetables and flowers to keep local what we eat and what we use to beautify our tabletops. Food tastes better and flowers last longer when they are from over the hill and through the woods rather than over the oceans and across many countries. For a list of these fantastic farmers, start with your area’s farmers market.
Here in Pennsylvania, a longer growing season allows time for pruning, transplanting, and starting over. It is a lucky person who can use this process as a means to beautify someone’s wedding day. I hope you’ll keep up with the growing, arranging, events and projects here at the farm via Facebook, Instagram @foxhillfarmexp, or our soon to be revamped, foxhillfarmexperience.com. Happy growing to all!