Episode 314: The Flowering of Toronto with urban farmer-florist Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard
September 13th, 2017
In 2011, I traveled to Toronto to give a Slow Flowers presentation at the Garden Writers regional meeting held at Canada Blooms, the mega indoor flower and garden show. And although that was during the frigid month of March and I knew finding locally-grown flowers would be challenging, my fellow GWA members foraged from their gardens for the greenery and branches I used in my demonstration.
But one of the main items on my agenda for that trip was to meet Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard, today’s guest. Her unique approach to urban flower farming first caught my attention when My Luscious Backyard’s story appeared in a feature article in one of Canada’s national newspapers.
Sarah studied film-making and spent her student summers working on a certified organic farm in British Columbia called Nanoose Edibles. The daughter of flower gardeners, she learned to love the rhythmic farm rituals of weeding and harvesting, not to mention the importance of sustainable growing practices.
Armed with a B.F.A. degree from Concordia University in Montreal, Sarah moved to Toronto to create documentary films, train as a yoga instructor and plant her own first garden in the city. Little did she know that growing a cutting garden would turn her into an urban flower farmer.
“I was growing so many flowers that I started giving them away,” Sarah recalls.
The notion of starting a flower CSA took root and she launched My Luscious Backyard in 2002.
Early on, Sarah’s 30-by-50 foot patch of ground yielded annual sunflowers and zinnias, flowering shrubs and lots of perennials. She shopped seed catalogs for new varieties and gained knowledge and inspiration from The Flower Farmer, Lynn Byzcynski’s essential guide to small-scale cut-flower farming.
Weekly subscriptions expanded into requests for Sarah to design wedding flowers, and soon, My Luscious Backyard was at capacity. Sarah asked a few friends if she could plant cutting gardens in their yards. “Then I put an ad on Craig’s List, and now people usually approach me,” she says.
It’s certainly a fair swap: Sarah gains planting space and the homeowner gains a flower farm. “People seem to be eager to have someone else garden for them,” she points out.
With more than 50 varieties of everyday and unusual blooms, My Luscious Backyard is known for producing the freshest, most romantic flowers around. Sarah harvests, designs the bouquets and delivers them to customers on the same day. She uses organic principles, reminding customers that “no environmentally damaging pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers are used.”
Here’s a fun video clip produced by a local newscast, which introduces you to Sarah’s passion for seasonal, organic and locally-grown flowers:
On her web site, Sarah emphasizes the value-added of buying local:
“Many varieties available through us are impossible to find at a conventional florist due to the arduous travel requirements (of imported flowers). And because they are grown locally they haven’t used a lot of fuel to reach you, unlike most commercially available flowers which travelled thousands of miles before arriving in Toronto.”
Her wildflower- and nature-inspired bouquets satisfy weekly subscribers between the months of May and October to customers who pay $45 to $85 per arrangement with a 4-bouquet minimum. Sarah also supplies bouquets to restaurants, offices and area grocery stores.
And picture this: Sarah often utilizes a low-carbon-footprint bicycle, complete with a trailer. ”It holds six flower buckets,” she points out.
I hope you are as inspired as I am by Sarah’s “intentional” story. She lives with integrity – and beauty. And I hope more of us can do the same – even in our own backyards.
Here’s how you can find and follow Sarah:
Follow My Luscious Backyard on Instagram
See My Luscious Backyard on Pinterest
Find My Luscious Backyard on Facebook
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Thank you to family of sponsors:
Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers. To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.
Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com
Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com
Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.
I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.
The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.
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