Erin Benzakein's new book ‘Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms’ offers detailed instruction and colorful inspiration.
HOW OFTEN DOES a photo of an old pickup truck go viral? Even when the bed of the truck is filled to overflowing with buckets of dahlias in luscious colors?
Farmer-florist Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm in the Skagit Valley has a talent for marketing as well as for growing magnificent dahlias. So when she posted the photo of the truck, loaded for market, it was shared around the world, including by BuzzFeed and celebrities like Reese Witherspoon.
If anyone can bring awareness of seasonal, local flowers and the farm-to-centerpiece movement to a wider audience, it’s Benzakein — starting with her first book, which is due out later this month. Every page is a sheer abundance of beauty: vast armloads of candy-colored sweet peas; sherbet-tinted poppies; brilliant zinnias; and, oh, the ruffles upon ruffles of peonies.
“Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms,” by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai, photographs by Michele M. Waite (Chronicle Books, 2017, $29.95)
“Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms” offers plenty of detailed instruction as well as inspiration for growing and arranging your own flowers.
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The book is a feast of color interlaced with practicalities. Underlying all the beauty of the Skagit Valley, the luminous light and gorgeous blooms, is the hard work put in by Erin and her husband, Chris. Floret Farm supplies shops, grocery stores and florists around the Northwest with cut flowers. Benzakein offers sold-out workshops and classes, designs arrangements for weddings and events, and sells mail-order seeds and tubers of her favorite varieties.
And how did such a powerhouse of a young family end up running a flower farm? Benzakein describes it as a natural progression, starting with delivering her first bouquet of sweet peas to an appreciative buyer. “The following spring, I replanted the vegetable garden with flowers. The winter after that, I dug up the orchard to make room for more blooms. The summer after that, my husband built me a greenhouse, and then a few more. Every season since, the garden has grown, and along with it, my love for flowers.”
The season starts at Floret Farm with narcissus and tulips. Summer ushers in zinnias, cosmos and dahlias, followed by the grasses, sunflowers and chrysanthemums of autumn. We follow Benzakein from seed-starting to dahlia harvest, from pumpkins to wreaths and garlands of evergreens.
Here’s a sample of Benzakein’s advice:
• “One of the biggest newbie mistakes is selecting only pretty blooms, and not having greenery to mix them with … the perfect ratio is planting roughly half of the garden with mainstay foliage … including amaranth, bells of Ireland and scented geranium.”
• “When it comes to annual flowering plants, ignore what the back of the seed packet says in terms of spacing … we grow most of our annuals 9 inches apart.”
• “Because tulips have a tendency to bend and curve right after harvest, wrap the top two-thirds of the flowers in a funnel of paper, and stand them upright in water for a few hours. Once fully hydrated, they will stand much straighter in the vase.”
And then there are descriptive lists of Benzakein’s favorite varieties of bulbs, flowers, grasses and branches for every season, from ivory-colored ‘Petit Four’ daffodils for springtime, through Icelandic poppies, ranunculus and plenty of the most sumptuous dahlias.
You wouldn’t be disappointed if you bought the book simply to enjoy the gorgeous photos of farming and flowers. But you’ll end up reading it cover to cover to mine the rich vein of Benzakein’s wisdom, and how generously she shares it.