Blissful brides pick their own locally grown bouquets and boutonnieres from this flower farm.
By Thea Folls
Owasco, New York
Raising flowers here in the Finger Lakes region of central New York is a labor of love for me. Brides tell me a highlight of their wedding week is coming to our flower farm and strolling through rows of colorful blossoms, selecting ones they want for their ceremony and reception. We grow about 180 varieties, from the rare and unusual to traditional favorites like peonies, tulips, lilies, sunflowers and old-fashioned roses.
Folls Flower Farm is far from a huge greenhouse operation. Instead, my husband, Hal, and I have made our home double as a plant nursery. In winter and early spring, our decor features shelves of seedlings under grow lights. Come spring, I move the transplants out to our 1-acre flower field. As a young mom, I started growing vegetables to sell at a local farmers market for extra income. Then a friend gave me a book about growing and marketing fresh flowers. I decided I was meant to grow food for the soul—blooms by the bunches.
My educational background is in technology and art, so floral design seemed like a natural way to combine them. I started thinking of flower petals as my palette and bouquets as living paintings in vases instead of frames.
Saying “I Do” to Green
These days, the green wedding trend is growing fast. Many people want their ceremony to express love not just for each other but for the earth. Local, organically grown flowers like ours appeal to them. And it’s always fun to take them on a flower farm tour. Hal has mown paths around our garden and hiking trails through the surrounding woods. I introduce couples to our three horses, our main sources of flower fertilizer. Then I show them our irrigation system—a spring-fed pond full of koi and goldfish. They can also see hundreds of wild birds we depend on to be our bug catchers. We pay them in black-oil sunflower seeds.
For a full-service wedding package, I harvest the flowers the Wednesday before a Saturday ceremony. Usually it takes my helpers and me a full day to cut as many as we need. On Thursday, I work on centerpieces and cake toppers. Friday is reserved for personal flowers—corsages, boutonnieres, flower girl baskets and bouquets.
Too Pretty to Toss
The bride’s bouquet really lets me get creative. I want it to be as individual as she is. I’ve incorporated Bibles and rosary beads into handle treatments. One woman asked me to work the dog tags from a beloved pet into the trimmings. Spring through fall, I’m busy with orders for weddings, showers, anniversaries and parties. But I make time to offer on-farm workshops on floral design to individuals, groups and garden clubs. People are eager for tips on creative flower arranging and how to keep cut flowers fresh.
Beyond how to use floral foam, tape and vases, I try to teach the importance of loving and respecting each flower. God’s the Creator, and we’re the facilitators. Few things please me more than the look on a bride’s face when I present her bouquet and it’s everything she’d imagined. One couple even called me from the airport, before leaving on their honeymoon, just to tell me how happy their flowers made them. It’s an honor for me to contribute to so many bright, new beginnings!
Learn more about Thea’s flower farm on her website, follsflowers.com.
How to Go Local
ascfg.org The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers has a home page “flower search” option that categorizes flowers by type, and lists growers of each by state.
localharvest.org This organic and local food website maintains a nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets and sources of foods, flowers and other goodies.