Scandinavian summer at the Shedd Aquarium

full round purple and yellow cp

blue blue lake

turquiose wave spraymiami vice

The Shedd Aquarium called us last minute for flowers and decor for their summer trustee party with Chicago’s best view. As sustainability is such a priority for the museum, we were happy to provide organically grown flowers from our farm to brighten up the space. I was shooting for a summery, Scandinavian vibe with palest blues and yellows…

vibirnum leafpainted cosmochi viceDSC_0094

 

Notes from the Flower Field

paws and rose of sharon

IMG_0335

centerpiece lilac and orange

Midsummer is here and we are dividing our days between hyper-manicured floral photo shoots and the wild imperfection of our flower farm.  Sunstroke can be mildly exciting but today I had my first, “let’s-find-the-car-keys-in-the-field-day”.  Thank goodness that game only lasted 15 minutes!  We’ve begun battling pests organically and I applied my first super batch of compost tea today…hopefully the insects will find the fragrance an unappealing as I do.

DSC_0018

up close rose of sharon

sosque and lilac orance cp

Big Table Dinner at Garfield Park Conservatory

DSC_0190

Some clearly brilliant women from Green City Market’s junior board are hosting a series of farm dinners in honor of urban farmers this summer in Chicago’s most incredible parks.  Our friends from The Chicago Honey Co-op were on the list of course and by donating flowers from our farm we were lucky enough to tuck in the napkin alongside them. Standouts included wildflower honey candy in the Growing Power salad and poached whitefish garnished with Queen Anne’s Lace from Farmhouse as well as Bang Bang pie shop’s biscuits.

DSC_0203

DSC_0139

DSC_0061

DSC_0179

Built in 1907, Garfield Park conservatory is a cathedral for nature worship which lost two if it’s main show-house spaces tragically when in 2011 a freak hailstorm shattered most of the glass. Just this month, after years of fundraising, the show house repair was completed. This was my first visit to the re-opened space and the energy was electric!

DSC_0184

DSC_0195

DSC_0182

whipped frosting flowers for sale!

closeup of dahlias

Dahlias have started at the farm! I feel as if I must be some kind of wizard, like I need to shop for a trailing navy blue robe with golden crescents and stars on it, and don a pointed hat to match. DAHLIAS!!! I can’t even spell the word!! They are my all time favorite flower because when you say that they are your favorite flower you are essentially cheating…. they come in every color under the sun, and in a million different shapes and patterns.  They literally sparkle, AND they look like whipped frosting, there simply isn’t anything more you can ask for…

cakeshot3

closeup dahlias_Snapseed

cakeshot

Mud madness

 

staking flowers

Our plants were all knee high by the fourth of July! Some of them were so tall that they were snapping off at the base and a mad staking party in a flooded field was held. We started out with mallets up on ladders, then post drivers and finally figured out that the ground was wet enough to just sort of hang on them using our body weight, then finish with a few masterful strikes with the post driver…

mischel sample

kristin staking

rained out farm

Our brilliant Summer internship is ending soon and it is so sad.  The greatest thing about this business, even greater than the flowers themselves, is the kind of people attracted to it and the collaborative nature of our process. Adeline, (pictured above), transitioned effortlessly from sewing french lace for chuppahs to swinging post drivers knee deep in mud. Mariana, ( harvesting white cosmos below) effortlessly charmed her way through hotel load-ins, securing refreshments and carts with a wink as well as tirelessly de-thorning garden roses, trellising clematis and hipping us to the best Columbian music. Hopefully, they will return as free-lancers as we have a lot more to learn from each other…

DSC_0148

adeline hemmingDSC_0291

flower farm news flash

issycosmos

We had our first harvest this week! We cut all white cosmos including this one above that thinks it’s a dress designed by Issey Miyake. We’ve had stellar luck with regular rain, which has been key because it turns out you are supposed to put landscape fabric down after the irrigation tubing. More on that later….

harvesting

farmshot

gladiola closeup

dahlias

gladiolas

DSC_0096

DSC_0080

DSC_0108

DSC_0112

Shanghai Terrace

DSC_0061

tip top tap_Snapseed

DSC_0028

trumpeter_Snapseed

We had the happy luxury of jamming tea tins full of blooms in fluorescent shades on Friday. Exotics like long stemmed Rothschild lilies, Icelandic poppies and parrot tulips mixed well with old-timey bee-balm, begonias and geranium on the Shanghai Terrace at the Pennisula where our spectacular bride greeted guests for cocktails on the eve of her wedding. DSC_0049

DSC_0057

hancock reflection_Snapseed

DSC_0066

 

West Side Goats

photo

DSC_0065

photo

DSC_0005

photo

We met Carolyn Ioder’s Goat‘s, from which she provides fresh milk and artisanal cheese. We helped walk them from her yard in Austin, here on the West Side of Chicago, through the alley to the Root Riot pasture. The pasture is a few open and connected lots a block away. In the mix were two-week old kids, one of which I got to hold! She chewed on my hair! Also pictured are more beauteous harbingers of the season, mock orange blossoms, young plum foliage, viburnum and garden roses…

DSC_0158

photo 3

Slow Flowers

DSC_0041

We are living the dream of starting our own flower farm this year.  We’ve been growing flowers for ourselves at the Chicago Honey Co-op for a while but this is a whole new scale. Successful farming necessitates super-human amounts of savvy, physical endurance and years of dedication, but our primary aim is just to make a beginning.

Bordered on three sides by subdivisions and on the fourth by a highway, there is something poignant about our little farm. The Meier across the street is bursting with exotic orchids from Thailand, tulips from Holland and roses from Ecuador, so, why Slow Flowers?

About 85% of flowers sold in the U.S. are grown thousands of miles away, mainly in South America and Africa, where pesticides which are illegal in the states are used in largely unregulated methods and child labor is still common. The carbon miles used in transport are multiplied by “cold chains”—refrigerated warehouses and trucks at every point along the way, and the elaborate packaging used to ensure that flowers remain pristine. Locally grown flowers are a much more beautiful, heart- happy solution.

DSC_0111

DSC_0047

Carlo Pertrini, author of the Slow Food movement says in his manifesto…

“A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life. May suitable doses of guaranteed sensual pleasure and slow-long-lasting enjoyment preserve us from the contagion of the multitude who mistake frenzy for efficiency.”

At first the Slow Food movement was confusing to me, what about the working family that has negative -$200 in the bank and just 15 minutes to feed their kids between two jobs? Why wouldn’t they feed them 3 hot burgers for $1? How is “slowing down” going to work for them?

But gradually I began to understand that the movement towards sustainable food ( and flower!) culture needs to be about pleasure rather than penance, or else no one will be interested.

DSC_0068

photo (2)

farmer foxes

Our brilliant farmer friends friends, Katie Prochaska and Mike Bollinger start seedlings for us on their River Root Farm in their unheated mobil high tunnels. I met them a long time ago at The Good Life Center in Maine- where they were the annual stewards. With lots of humor and relaxed humility they were my first glimpse of the new face of farming. With naturals like these two leading the way, it doesn’t look like such a tough row to hoe after all…

DSC_0088

photo

DSC_0036

DSC_0044

 

 

Song of Spring

peonies and campanula

It’s suddenly Spring. I,  like many Chicagoans, am stumbling around pasty and shell-shocked, blinded by this gigantic alien orb in the sky. This handful of garden greens heralds as a kind of victory flag over this intensive winter. I’ve heard of massive defections from Chicago due to last winter and I’m fine with it.  Fare thee well namby pambys! Go, begone!

I adore the drama of the seasons, the thrill of the first Festive Maxima peonies exploding in wonderous, unbridled and fragrant songs of spring! Do  you have these in Tampa? Los Angeles? Hmmmm…….?

handful of bounty

DSC_0057

lavender and green