Flourish Flower Farm spreads joy through seasonal bloomsAug 25, 2023 05:08PM ● By Randee Brown
For Niki Irving, Farmer and Florist at Flourish Flower Farm, owning a flower farm was a vision that turned into reality.
Irving frequently traveled while working in a previous outdoor education career, but she soon found that she wanted to spend more time at home with her dog, garden, and husband.
“I did some brainstorming and literally had a vision of myself tending to a field of flowers,” Irving said. “I dove in head first and started doing research and created a business plan while I was home from my day job. All the pieces were in place when I jumped in and gave it a go, which was amazing because I did all the work and really followed my dreams to get here.”
Irving said there is a resurgence of small flower farms in the region as the local food movement has paved the way for local flowers. “It’s about knowing the farmer and how much fresher that is,” Irving said. “These movements are melding together really well. Food feeds the body, but flowers feed the soul.”
A self-proclaimed “plant hoarder,” Irving grows more than 300 varieties of flowers on her farm. She said she is known for growing a little bit of everything special. There are a few tried and true crops that are reliable and low maintenance, and each year’s crop plan will include those. She also experiments with a variety of perennials to see how they will perform on the farm and how well they hold up as a cut flower.
“Each year there’s a little budget for experimentals,” Irving said. “There is lots of research involved to determine what grows best here and what is available for purchase. Some are grown via tissue culture and take three years to get, and some, like sweet peas, are beautiful but don’t do well because it gets too hot, but can do well in a mild spring. I just keep trying new ideas and keeping the good ones.”
In WNC, several popular varieties grow really well. Irving said zinnias are great in the summer, and she always has a place for special unique varieties of cosmos in her crop plan. She said snapdragons are always a staple; they are planted in the fall and are waist-high by the middle of spring. Dahlias grow well and she is happy to support the trending dahlia craze by growing them in several varieties of shapes and colors.
Flourish Flower Farm has evolved over its eight years in business. Irving said she is shifting away from a wholesale model and honing her business to make her farm accessible to people looking for an experience. A farm stand has been added, which provides a way for locals and visitors to get a snippet of what is happening on the farm.
A variety of workshops have grown in popularity, according to Irving. She said people want to be outside in nature, hold the flowers, and look around the fields. Guests are able to design their own centerpiece using a variety of flowers depending on seasonality. Workshops are small with only 15 available slots per session, allowing Irving to get to know everyone and allowing her guests plenty of time to ask questions.
Many of her repeat workshop attendees asked for more, and this year Irving began offering an in-depth flower arrangement class. She said these classes are priced for quality as she only grows premium flowers and the cost has to cover the designs created by students as well as other materials. By offering her expertise and professional development, she can help educate aspiring florists and help them hone in on their craft.
Another focus of Flourish Flower Farm is creating arrangements for events such as high-budget dinner parties, corporate events, rehearsal dinners, and weddings. Irving offers two main choices for weddings — custom-created full service packages, or an “Elopement + Micro Wedding package” that allows clients to choose from a color palette and trust her expertise on exactly what the arrangements will look like depending on the season.
“We are really honing in on attracting people who care about seasonal flowers,” Irving said. “While we have one hoop house that protects from frost and extends the season a bit, our flowers are primarily field-grown and we don’t grow year round. I can sometimes supplement large weddings with a local farmer friend or order from a local wholesaler, but I’m not ordering roses from South America.”
Social media has created an additional aspect of Irving’s business. She said when she started, she knew nothing about Instagram. She changed her handle to her business name and started sharing photos of flowers, and people loved it. Sharing photos of her fields of flowers on Instagram has earned attention from brands who want to use her space for their photoshoots.
Irving said people need beautiful places to take photos, and while this is a fulfilling and fun side of the business, it is still a working farm. Some big brands are willing to cover the cost of days of harvesting that would otherwise happen to ensure the fields are full of blooms for their shoots. She said she sometimes leaves a couple of sections for a local family photographer as well.
Farming can be a solitary and lonely endeavor, according to Irving. She said she is grateful to have opportunities to connect with others in the community through these opportunities, the Flourish Farm Stand, and support organizations like ASAP as well as enjoy her favorite flowers like ranunculus and dahlias.
“I feel really lucky in my business; it’s flowers, not life or death or dire consequences,” Irving said. “I get to make the world a little bit more beautiful and bring people joy.”
Flourish Flower Farm is a nine-acre boutique flower farm near Asheville. Niki Irving is also the author of Growing Flowers: Everything You Need to Know About Planting, Tending, Harvesting and Arranging Beautiful Blooms. Learn more at FlourishFlowerFarm.com.