Sustainable Florist and Flower Farm in Portland, Oregon: Small Yard Flowers

I am a strong believer that the best of things take time. Flowers are no exception. Meeting Arielle of Small Yard Flowers and learning about her flower farm and business has been such a wonderful opportunity. Her mission statement is indeed "providing happiness through flowers in a sustainable and ethical way". It's just amazing how she has been using every inch of her small yard and all the while is also building a community around her. Her next door neighbor has not only welcomed but is also giving her access to their front yard for raised beds. Then during our visit, her other next door neighbor told her that he had a pile of leaves ready for her to compost. How amazing is that? You can't fake kindness nor hide how passionate you are about something without attracting others who are like-minded and Arielle is no exception. I can't wait to go back in Spring and Summer to see all the blooms!

How and why did you start your own flower farm?

I've been a gardening nut since I was younger, and I've been growing veggies and flowers for fun for several years. So it was a natural choice to want to grow as much as I could for my own floral design business. I've expanded the amount I grow so I can supply other florists with beautiful local blooms as well. Local florists love knowing where their flowers come from, and that they are organic and extremely local.

Tell us a little bit about the Name of your business and your flower farm:

I started growing veggies and flowers in my literal "small yard", so it felt right to call my flower business Small Yard Flowers. I grow as much as I can in the space I have so I can supply myself and other florists with organic, specialty blooms.

Small Yard is located in the lovely neighborhood of St. Johns, Portland, OR, and is the size of any normal residential lot. I use every inch of the front and back yards to yield as many flowers as I can, leaving only a small patch of grass for the ducks to graze. This year, my neighbors are letting me use their front yard, so I'll have another 10 raised beds for spring blooms, which will make way for summer zinnias and dahlias. Small Yard is an extremely micro flower farm, but its lack in size is made up for in quality and environmental consciousness.

What flowers are you growing?

I try my hardest to limit the number of varieties to grow because I need lots of a few flowers, not a few of a lot of flowers. But it's hard to narrow it down! I choose flowers and colors that are popular wedding and event colors for the year, what other florists are interested in, and simply what I find beautiful.

Here are some varieties you'll see coming from SYF in 2019: double tulips, ranunculus, daffodils, anemones, garden roses, china asters, zinnias, sweet peas, dahlias, cosmos, strawflower, scented geraniums, foxglove, and more. Colors include: white, blush, peach, coral, pink, lavender, and a little yellow.

How and why did you get started with floral design and what is your favorite type of arrangements to make?

I started growing veggies and flowers for fun and for my husband's restaurant, and then I decided to try and start a lil business where I could do flowers for other restaurants. People soon started asking about wedding florals, so now my business serves both restaurants and weddings.

Large centerpieces are my favorite because I love choosing a beautiful vessel with the right shape, and creating a sprawling, dynamic arrangement that would be lovely on any table. Large, wild, and dramatic bridal bouquets are a close second.

What has been the most valuable lesson you've learned this past year?

I've learned how to use the space I have wisely. There are many varieties of flowers I would love to grow, but some of them are a one-cut kind of crop, and for the amount of time and love and space they require, it isn't worth it for such a small farm. I've learned the hard way by growing several varieties that I didn't use a single bloom of, simply because they either bloomed too fast and I didn't have an event that could use those flowers, or because I didn't grow enough of them and there wasn't a substantial amount of blooms at one single time. I've also learned that the farming side of my business is my favorite side, so I'll be putting more effort into it.

What is your biggest goal and change for the coming year?

My biggest goal is to have a successful amount of beautiful blooms to offer Portland florists and to have a beautiful rose garden (90 rose bushes will arrive next spring and they will take up the entire front yard). The biggest change is the expansion into my neighbors front yard, which gives me the extra space so I can use my own front yard only for roses.

In what ways are you promoting sustainability in your business?

I work hard at keeping my small farm 100% organic, sustainable, and earth friendly. I compost almost all my scraps (food and flowers), I keep ducks as friends but also as slug eaters and grass cutters, I collect rain water and I use organic fertilizers like kelp and compost. With my floral design, when I buy flowers for events and restaurants, I buy from local flower farmers and use what's in season, instead of promoting the shipping of flowers from all around the world, which has a humungous foot print. Also, shipped flowers are often treated with chemicals, and I don't like to use any flower that I wouldn't feed my ducks. I want the world and the weather and the ocean to be beautiful for my children and generations beyond them, so it's important that I do my part in limiting my own foot print and make the world beautiful with local, organic flowers.

I'm really excited to see the wedding industry focus on more sustainable practices. I do believe that weddings can be both beautiful and ecofriendly.

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