FLOWERS SOW URBAN is a tiny but bountiful commercial cutting garden. Located on a modest city-sized lot in a residential neighborhood in southwest Seattle, the urban farm was dreamed up and dug by Agnes P. Cwalina.
Originally from New York City, Agnes and her husband moved to Seattle, without jobs, in the midst of the recession. With no previous gardening experience and time on her hands, Agnes began volunteering with Tilth.
“I have no idea what led me to Tilth, but I decided I wanted to be a farmer,” she says. In time, Agnes’ passion for growing shifted from food production to growing cut flowers. Without a garden of her own, she devised a backyard share program where, in exchange for growing space for her young business, she supplied homeowners with weekly buckets of fresh flowers. And so she became an urban flower farmer.
Longing for more land, but committed to living in the city, Agnes and her husband, a public school teacher in Burien, purchased their home in White Center in 2015. They immediately began turning the entire lot over to producing cut flowers. Today, Agnes sows, tends and harvests fragrant blossoms and herbs, along with interesting foliage, vines and seedpods from around 50 different seed crops; an ever-expanding perennial border; and a variety of trees, shrubs and bulbs.
When I visited Agnes in April, the busy growing season was already well underway. Several tidy beds were filled with starts of cool-season annuals interplanted among blooming daffodils, tulips, ranunculus and anemones. Pregnant buds on peonies and a lilac signaled the next round of bloom. Around back, a small greenhouse was filled with robust seedlings of warm-weather crops waiting on stable weather to be set out into the prepped beds. All told, Agnes manages around 5,000 square feet of intensively planted growing space.
As the season progresses, the garden generates 10 to 20 buckets of flowers and foliage each week. Agnes harvests daily to cut stems in peak condition and keep plants producing new blooms month after month until frost. In addition to growing and harvesting, throughout the growing season she sells hand-tied bouquets at local makers markets and seasonal pop-up events. Retail stores, wedding designers and event planners order off a weekly availability sheet, and anyone who wants to DIY a bouquet can purchase a mixed bucket of seasonal flowers and foliage.
Flowers Sow Urban is a business, and growing is Agnes’ primary focus, but cultivating community and expanding access to fresh flowers to everyone are personal priorities as well. Agnes has made it a practice to supply a flower to each of her husband’s students on their birthdays. “It’s a sweet gesture, and it’s something I hope they’ll remember and value,” she says. Fresh bouquets that don’t sell at market are donated to a neighborhood shelter and, in the less-busy shoulder seasons, Agnes teaches at local nurseries, offering classes on seed starting, cultivating a home cutting garden and holiday wreath-making.
Visit flowerssowurban.com to find out where you can connect with Agnes, purchase blooms and bouquets, and check out upcoming events and classes.