Clare Day is living many a florist's dream; imagine the luxury of walking out to your farm garden to pick flowers for your arrangements, while being just 15 minutes away from downtown Victoria, Canada. After a career in planning, sustainability and business development, in 2007 Clare moved to her native British Columbia to live on the 12-acre farm where her partner and his son live. At the time, Red Damsel Farm was a 30-year-old organic produce and vegetable farm with three farmers working the land. Now, thanks to Clare, Red Damsel Farm has added organic flower farm to its repertoire.
Spurred by a lifelong passion for gardening and a concern about declining bee populations, Clare began planting flowers. Her desire to create a habitat for pollinator bees gave her the raw materials to open a business—Clare Day Flowers—where she creates luscious, garden-style arrangements with the organic flowers she grows. Clare realized early on that Victoria was lacking this sort of floristry and so she began focusing on flowers that she could not find at her local market but that do well in the area—peonies, dahlias, daffodils, fritillaries—and began offering local brides something unique.
Clare's work in her home garden inspired Shellie, one of the three farmers who work Red Damsel Farm, to start growing flowers for Clare and another floral designer in the area. Flower farming has since provided Shellie with a new business and a new source of income (in addition to growing vegetables). Clare's close communication with Shellie at the beginning of each season ensures that the farm will be able to sell its flowers and that Clare and her clients will get exactly what they want. While Clare focuses on growing perennials, including hellebores, and akebia, Shellie focuses on annuals: dahlias, zinnias, celosia, etc. In 2014, Red Damsel Farm will provide from 60 to 80 percent of the flowers and botanical materials used by Clare Day Flowers.
Photographs by Clare Day unless otherwise noted.
Above: The farm stand at the entrance of Red Damsel Farm is open year round. Clare and the farmers sell flowers, produce, eggs, baked goods, preserves, and more at the stand. The farm is divided into three sections: the upper field (between the market and the road); the lower field, which includes the house and outbuildings, and the seasonal flood plains which Clare plans to use for permaculture planting in the near future. A view of the lower field can be seen behind the stand.
Above: Sweet peas blooming in July.
Above: A mixed bed of seedlings in the upper field at the beginning of the season.
Above: One of the views from Clare's house onto part of the lower field.
Above: Scabiosa. Photograph by Red Leaf Studios.
Above: A dahlia bed in July in the upper field. Photograph by Red Leaf Studios.
Above: Clare picking dahlias. Photograph by Red Leaf Studios.
Above: A basket of dahlias and scabiosa. Photograph by Red Leaf Studios.
Above: A finished Clare Day arrangement, including dahlias and blackberries.
Above: Clare's cosmos, which Shellie—a farmer at Red Damsel—now grows for Clare.
Above: Garlic from the produce farmers at Red Damsel.
Above: Fruit trees line the perimeter of the upper field. Photograph by Red Leaf Studios.
Above: Another beautiful arrangement from Clare, this one with apple blossom, cherry branches (the dark purple foliage), hellebores, akebia, spirea and foraged branches.
Did Clare pique your interest in the local flower movement? Read more in Field to Vase: A Friend to Local Flower Farms and DIY Floral Arrangement: Magnolias and More, with Emily Thompson. See more from British Columbia in Remodelista's travel archive.