Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network has been in the works for years and one of its first series, “Growing Floret,” began filming in the Skagit River Valley two years ago.
Announced in April 2019, Magnolia was supposed to launch as a linear cable channel in 2020, replacing DIY Network, but the pandemic delayed that to January 2022. In the meantime, streaming service discovery+ came online and Magnolia’s shows, including “Growing Floret,” will stream on that platform beginning July 15 (the first episode of “Floret” and other Magnolia shows have been available there since January as part of a Magnolia preview).
“Growing Floret” follows Erin and Chris Benzakein, who moved out of West Seattle in 2001 and now reside just outside Mount Vernon (Floret Farms is not open to the public).
Chris worked as a mechanic and Erin tried out different possible career paths before settling on growing flowers around 2005.
“I was doing landscaping on the side and actually planting flower gardens for people in their backyards and then was trying to figure out what I could do at home with the kids,” Erin says, “something creative, something to do with gardening.”
By 2008, the flowers she grew were being sold through grocery stores, including Seattle Whole Foods stores and Metropolitan Market. That continued until 2018 when Floret shifted from selling fresh flowers to growing flowers for seed, sold via mail order.
Chris transitioned to full-time farm work about five years ago. In 2017, the Benzakeins got an unexpected opportunity to buy an adjacent farm from neighbors. That same year, Erin’s first book on flowers, “Flower Garden,” was published. Two more books followed: “A Year in Flowers” in 2020 and “Discovering Dahlias” earlier this year.
“When we got the [additional] land, the first year and a half we didn’t even do anything with it. We just were so overwhelmed,” Erin says. “When Magnolia approached us about the show, that was just when we were starting to figure out what do we want to do with this?”
The four-episode “Growing Floret,” filmed over a full year beginning in 2019, follows the family as they embark on growing their flower farm from 2 to 24 acres. Starring in a TV show was not on the couple’s bucket list.
“What really drew us to the project was Chip and Jo’s vision for the network,” Erin says. “Nothing manufactured, not reality TV, but really wholesome quality stories about real people.”
Most unscripted series are made by an outside production company for a network. The Benzakeins worked with Blue Chalk Media, which has offices in Portland and New York. Blue Chalk mostly makes documentaries, not reality TV shows, which may help explain how different “Growing Floret” feels, beginning with its small episode count.
“Most networks pick up shows in orders of 13 or you see a one-off special or documentary,” acknowledges Allison Page, Magnolia Network president. “[With “Growing Floret”] it’s not the intent of being different, it’s more the intent of what does the story tell you it needs to be. The fact that it was going to be a year in the process of expanding the farm, and also the seasonal element of that — fall, winter, spring, summer — felt like it was telling us like there [are] four chapters here.”
In addition, “Floret” avoids the going-to-commercial/back-from-commercial format that teases what’s coming up and then rehashes what viewers just saw.
And then there’s the use of silence, almost unheard of on any TV program. “Growing Floret” occasionally lingers in quiet with natural sound but no music.
“It’s [about] following the heart and soul of the story and being true to that,” Page says, “whether that [means the show] moves at a faster pace or a slower pace. And here, the heart and soul of it was a little slower and sometimes quiet.”
In addition to the series, there’s also an Erin-hosted, seven-episode “Flower Growing Guide” workshop available July 15 to discovery+ subscribers only on the Magnolia app.
In success, what would a second season of “Growing Floret” look like? Page said it would likely focus on Erin and what she does next.
“We want the shows to come out of your real life, not the other way around,” Page says. “With Erin, we’d probably tell a different story next time.”