Words and photos by Olivia Bauso
We’ve all witnessed the farm-to-table movement grow rapidly over the past few years as consumers become more and more interested in buying locally farmed food, but what about buying locally farmed flowers? Jenny Rae Siplo of Flowerwell hopes the farm-to-vase movement blooms just as quickly.
Originally from a small town on the west side of Rochester, Jenny attended the College at Brockport and received her degree in Spanish and International Studies. She intended to spend her life traveling, eating good food, and seeing the world. After studying abroad in Spain and Costa Rica, and backpacking Europe twice, Jenny found herself in an office-related profession. She says, “Traveling just opened my eyes to the world. I was lacking something in my job, but couldn’t figure out what it was.”
Throughout college Jenny had taken a number of art courses, but wasn’t encouraged to pursue an artistic career. She says, “I’ve always wanted to be creative and have found myself doing ‘creative’ things, but we’re not taught to believe that it’s a good lifestyle financially. I wish people would have told me that it’s so possible to be creative in your life and your career while I was in school.”
Jenny’s need to put her creative energy to work combined with her love for the outdoors really drove her decision to found Flowerwell. She adds, “At the same time, I realized there was this movement-- similar to the farm-to-table movement-- that revealed the majority of flowers that are sold are grown outside of the United States.” In 2011, about 70% of flowers sold in the United States were from Colombia alone. Jenny explains, “Local flowers are just as, if not more beautiful. They smell beautiful and we don’t have to use harmful pesticides or chemicals on them.” Local flowers also work great with less traditional designs and arrangements. Her designs are one of a kind, often showing off her unique flowers with a modern, garden-fresh style.
Starting any kind of business is difficult, especially when there is a learning curve. “The first year was brutal. I thought things were easier than they really were. I thought I could just plant seeds and things could grow- which they did, but so did weeds,” she laughs. Jenny spent a year and a half beforehand reading books, blogs, and any other flower farming materials she could get her hands on to educate herself on the process. She continues to use the winter months to research new flowers and techniques so that the farm is able to grow, too. This is Flowerwell’s third year of business, and Jenny is currently growing on about a half acre of land (double what she farmed last year!).
Flowerwell sells wholesale to florists and to the public at their booth at the Brighton Farmer’s Market. Jenny also designs full service weddings and sells flowers in bulk to DIY brides. In addition to doing research during the winter months, Jenny spends her time educating Rochester on floral design techniques.
Jenny's gardening techniques from the farm:
A lot of times people will find that their flowers are brown and dead by the middle of summer. This usually has to do with soil, water, food and not cutting the plant.
Be good to your soil.
“People think that just throwing something in the ground will work, but that’s not always the case. You really need to be good to your soil. Adding compost is vital, because you need to make your soil nutritious for the flowers to eat (especially if you live in the city!)."
Plenty of H2O.
“We have an irrigation system, but a farm is a little different than a backyard garden. Either way, you need to be giving enough water to your plants. Plants get thirsty, too!"
Cut, Cut, Cut.
“Cut your flowers! I really, really encourage everyone to do it, because the more you cut, the more the plant will produce. Even though you feel bad taking away the best part of the plant, it really will benefit you in the end.”
Jenny's decorating tips from the studio:
Out with the old, and in with the new! Enough with store-bought fillers and boring color. Be bold with your designs.
Clean those vases.
“Having clean vases is a big one-- we’re all lazy about it. I know you just want to go and shove the flowers in, but when bacteria is in the vase, it will degrade the life of your flowers very quickly. A clean vase is really the start to anything.”
Shop in your backyard.
“Really use natural looking, local foliage. Add in natural greens, natural fillers. They’re all around you! Look at your natural surroundings and embrace them instead of running to the grocery store or the craft store for materials. For example, grapevine (used for wreaths) can be found everywhere! There’s no need to buy it anywhere else.”
Don’t be afraid of color.
“Go outside of your realm of comfort, which is usually blush pinks and light yellows. Adding pops of color will make a big difference to the design.”