Beauty has the ability to open hearts, bring up a good mood, create harmony. It is a very powerful catalyst of positive energy that is increasingly needed to build a future together where respect for people and nature are at the heart of every action we take. Everyday. The term Bloom itself, part of the title of our magazine, indicates our deep love for the environment and all its precious inhabitants. It explicitly refers to the action of blossoming characteristic of flowers. Bright colors, sinuous shapes, enveloping scents follow one another in seasonal wonders that each and every one of us can enjoy around us. Flowers also remind us of memories, sensations, ties. They are the ornament of our splendid Planet, its maximum expression of poetry. Taking care of them, appreciating them, not experiencing them as our property but as a gift offered, treating them with kindness, getting to know them thoroughly and learning to stay in deeper connection with the whole ecosystem that revolves around them, this instills so much happiness. After falling in love with her flowers and inspired by the love with which she grows them, I interviewed Niki Irving, florist and founder of Flourish Flower Farm in Asheville, North Carolina.. Zero chemicals, just devotion and a lot of passion. Here are the ingredients of a truly exceptional project that opens our eyes more and more to the global climate challenges we are experiencing and to feeling that we are all decisive protagonists in creating a better future.
I’d like to start from your dream to become a flower farmer. On your website you wrote that one day you had an intense vision that you needed to be growing flowers. You saw so clearly in your mind: fields full of flowers and you tending them. What was happening in your life and what do you feel at that moment?
Just going back to that moment excites me because that vision is real now. And it’s so amazing. When I was a child, my parents had a landscaping company where they planted gardens at people’s houses, so the livelihood of my family has always been plants. I always thought about running the family business, but then when I was at university my dad sold the company, so I did a lot of different jobs before deciding to open my own business. I worked on other farms and then I worked for a teen adventure company and traveled all over the US and Canada, and I loved that but after 10 years I decided to buy a house, adopt my dogs, make a new step with my partner, and I felt I was ready for a big change. He had a job opportunity to move somewhere, and I really didn’t know what to do. One day I went trail running and suddenly I saw in my mind a picture of myself just surrounded by flowers and I was taking care of them. I thought “That is what I want to do”. I didn’t know how but I had this feeling. I shared this dream with my partner, and we decided to pursue this dream and see what would happen. At that time, I was working as a business manager. It was nice, but I didn’t love it. So, every day when I went home, I started to work on the farm project, planning everything. And I was very lucky to have already had experiences with operating a small business. I made a business plan and put everything in a budget. For the first six months, I made plans and then I found a place to grow the flower, thanks to a friend who leased me land. Now I look out the window of my home and I see all the flowers and I know that my dream has come true.
You also inherited this passion for nature and flowers from your parents. What is the most beautiful memory that you have in your childhood about that?
I remember near the office of my father there was a giant magnolia tree. It was huge with white blooms and so amazing. I would climb the tree and feel a feeling of magic… It was like a secret place for me.
You are dedicated to growing only specialty and heirloom varieties producing high quality, organic, fragrant blooms. How many varieties do you have, and which is the most particular one?
I probably grow over 300 different kinds of flowers. People ask me what my specialty is and my answer is growing a little bit of everything and creating special designs for weddings. For example, I grow 60 different varieties of Dahlias alone. I just love plants and helping them grow.
I love nature and I feel this deep connection with her. When I’m in the garden or in the woods, I feel that we are the same thing. What do you think about this period, this lifetime where we destroyed and we’re destroying everything? How do you feel?
Great question. I feel like it’s a gift to me to have the opportunity to take care of my small piece of land and then give back to the world. Every time I plant something, and I see it grow it makes me excited. The birds, the rabbits, the bees, the bugs… they make me aware of the ecosystem in which we live and also, they give me the opportunity to preserve it and make sure that it can be safe for all the creatures here. It makes me proud that we don’t use pesticides; I want to preserve this place. All the flowers, the mountains, the birds… Sometimes I stop and think: the birds are so happy! And that it makes me happy. It makes me feel small but in a good way. I know that I can’t change the world, but I can change my little piece of it. When we host the workshop and people visit our farm, I get to share with them all these things and give them a small experience to enjoy the beauty of nature. I feel I’m doing my little part hopefully to have an impact on a bigger scale.
Do you have a favorite flower?
Yes. Sometimes it changes but it always comes back to ranunculus. They are blooming now, and I just love them. They have a slightly sweet smell. If you buy them from the wholesaler and they have already traveled a far distance, they don’t have a scent. It’s so lovely to see them fresh and enjoy the smell.
Growing flowers needs so much caring and patience and attention… Which kind of change happens inside of you thanks to your job? So thanks to this deep connection with the nature that you have every day?
For me the flowers are a very personal thing and I try to take care of them. When we started the farm, the plans were to start a family and try to have a baby. And for different reasons, that didn’t happen. I was very depressed and sad. I was wondering why having a baby was so difficult for us, and then I turned all my energy and all my attention to growing the flowers. I channeled that energy and nurturing towards the farm and the relationships around me. Even though we don’t have children, the farm is our legacy and I put my efforts, my care into it. The farm and flowers have nurtured me and given me energy. It’s about moving your body, being outside, creating something beautiful. Now we are seeing what we have instead of what we don’t have. It’s hard to come to a place of acceptance, but when it happens, you can bring a lot of joy to what you already have.
Has climate change had an impact on your business?
In a huge way. This is the third property where I have operated my farm. The property that we had previously was flat, but where the river can overflow. There was a tiny creek that ran alongside the farm, and every time there was a lot of rain it would wash through my flower fields. It was unbelievable to see the amount of water that would flow through. The city near our farm didn’t create the proper protections for the development up the creek from us, and so all the water went into the roads and flooded my fields. Also, in summertime everything is becoming extremely dry. When it does rain, the rain is torrential, not soft like we had in the past. So when we moved from the other farm that flooded, we chose this new place thinking about the quality of the soil and the position… We’re on the top of a hill. It’s challenging to farm on a hill, but overall it’s better because we have a lot of benefits in terms of safety from flooding. We’re trying to have a minimum impact on the environment. Now for example we’re using solar panels instead for electricity. Again, it does not change the world, but I hope it can help a little bit.
What do you most love in your work?
Most of all I love watching the flowers grow. Then when I prepare to design for a wedding, its so special when I pick the flowers especially for a couple. It creates a very intimate connection with the person involved in the wedding and I feel all the cycles of nature and the dedication of my work. Growing flowers, picking them, creating beautiful designs with them to be a part of a happy marriage. It’s a really gratifying feeling.
Do you have any advice for women who would like to start their own business?
I hear often that people are too afraid to invest in themselves. They have other things to take care of, or they think that their dreams are not important. It’s a lie that we tell ourselves. In order to be the best version of yourself, you have to follow your dreams. I also hear that people are afraid to spend money on themselves. I think that once you have a dream, you have the chance to realize it and share with the world your happiness and then encourage other people to do the same. It’s so important, it’s vital. Happier you are, the more joy you can spread in the world.