Farm-to-Bouquet: Local Florals with Coriander Girl

Posted by Tellie Hunt, September 15, 2015

We may only have four months of summer to be growing our own blooms, but that means we've only got four months to take advantage of some amazing organic, locally-grown, specimen flowers. Luckily, Coriander Girl knows sustainable flowers. The Toronto + Prince Edward County-based flower shop's wedding coordinator, Tellie Hunt, hooks us up with some flower farmers who really know their stuff. Read on.

We all know that the green movement is here to stay, and with that, an ever-growing emphasis on the importance of supporting local farmers. Even in the city, farm-to-table ingredients are becoming more and more readily available with the abundance of farmers’ markets and community gardens. And just as foodies are going gaga over local, organic, heirloom fruits and veggies, we florists have become equally obsessed with local, organic, specimen flowers - and the super-cool ladies who have been growing them.

Now, with our Canadian winters, sometimes it’s just not possible to grow the kinds of roses and ranunculus that brides want. But during the summer months we try to work with local farmers as much as possible to source things like spirea, dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, foxgloves, and sweetpeas that are ten times fresher and more robust than any of the imports we can get our hands on.

Farmer-florists like Saipua and Floret are taking over Instagram with their garden-inspired design style. The modern and compact look of ball-shaped bouquets is becoming less and less coveted with every passing wedding season. Brides are taking to Pinterest and blogs to get inspiration for Dutch Masters-inspired arrangements that use specimen blooms and unique foliage, and this is where our local farmers come into play.

To give you more of an insight into the rewards and challenges of flower farming we have interviewed two of our favourite local farmers, Sas Long of Floralora (who supplies our Prince Edward County location in Picton), and Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard, (who supplies our Toronto shop and studio in Parkdale).

Coriander Girl

Photo Credit: Laura Dart

Coriander Girl
Coriander Girl

Photo Credit: Johnny Cy Lam

Sas Long of Floralora

How did you get started as a flower farmer and learn the tools of the trade?

I started working on organic vegetable farms after cooking in Toronto. I wanted to get out of the city, be in nature and learn more about how to grow. The first farm I worked at in B.C. grew cut flowers and that's where my love affair began. I've learned a lot through working on other farms, workshops, lots of research and trial and error!

What drew you to move to Prince Edward County?

I came to Prince Edward County to work for Vicki's Veggies and fell totally in love with the County. The people here are incredible, the community is very strong and unique to anything I've ever been a part of and the physical beauty is exactly what I left Toronto to find. I've never felt more at home anywhere else.

Can you tell me about the WOOFING program that you have offered?

This summer I started an internship program here at the farm. An opportunity for one or two people to come live here for a season and learn about flowers, farming and design. This summer I was lucky enough to have Jaime McCuaig (pictured in one of the pics) as my intern and I could not have been luckier- it's been better than I could have ever imagined! Stay tuned on my blog this winter for next season's intern posting.

What are your favourite late-summer blooms?

Right now, I am totally in love with Dara Ammi, all of the amazingly different varieties of Salvia we are growing and of course limelight hydrangeas! Though beautiful at every stage, if you cut limelights while they are quite small still, they are the most beautiful, delicate bloom.

Coriander Girl
Coriander Girl

Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard

Your method of farming is so unique, what can you tell us about being an urban farmer?

The micro-farm is comprised of residential yards in my neighbourhood. People let me use their front or back yards and I bring in lots of compost, organic soil amendments and plants I have started from seed. They enjoy a lush colourful garden filled with flowers and I come by to harvest and maintain them several times a week throughout the growing season.

Where are the bulk of your gardens located?

This year I have 10 gardens all located in the Parkdale, Roncesvalles and High Park area.

Can you tell us about some of the challenges for farming in the city?

The first challenge is finding available land with full sun that has decent soil. Working with many small spaces rather than one larger area has it's drawbacks and lack of greenhouse space imposes certain limitations. It is also difficult to find suitable space to grow roses, shrubs and perennials. I'm always on the lookout for large flat, sunny yards that we can secure for at least 5 years so the plants can mature.

What are your favourite late summer blooms?

Dahlias, Japanese anemones, foxgloves, + scented geraniums.

Yours Truly,

The Coriander Girls

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