On Jennie Love’s two-acre farm in Philadelphia–a rare rural outpost within the city limits–you will not see any long stemmed roses fresh off the plane from Colombia or Ecuador or Thailand or Kenya. Her flowers are grown here on land that William Penn once cultivated.
Love, the proprietor of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, is anything but a conventional florist: the flowers she sells are also grown by her. Love acquired a lot of her gardening skills and knowledge of plants at Longwood Gardens, where she also took courses in floral arts. Much of her business is providing flowers for weddings.
Most of her bridal clients–she estimates 70 percent–come to her through word of mouth and already understand that the flowers she provides will be determined by what is in bloom, not what will fit in a pre-designed arrangement. For the other 30 percent, who are not so familiar with the idea of locally sourced flowers, Love sees her role as an educator, explaining why local is important and better and wooing them with her unique creations.
Above: Dahlias thrive in one of two greenhouses on the farm.
Love not only has a green thumb, she also has farming in her blood. She grew up on a fifth-generation dairy farm in central Pennsylvania, then left for college and a career in corporate marketing. But the love of farming stayed with her, and she says she always knew she wanted to grow flowers.
Above: Perennials are an important part of the mix of plants grown on the farm.
Above: A stem of tiny tomatoes can add interest to a bouquet.
In addition to what she grows, Love often adds foraged elements to her arrangements: wild clematis, sweetpeas, and goldenrod are favorites.
Above: Flowers in fields at Love n’ Fresh.
The farm’s motto is “from seed to centerpiece” and she strives to live up to that, growing as wide a variety of flowers and plant materials as possible in all seasons.
Above:Poppy seed pods combined with narcissus in a spring arrangement.
Love sees the local flower movement as similar to the local food trend. Last year she participated in an online bouquet-making smackdown called the Seasonal Bouquet Project with Seattle farmer Erin Benzakein of Floret Flower Farm. While she is hopeful the commercial floral industry will change its practice of importing flowers grown by underpaid third world workers using chemical fertilizers, she knows it will take time and says she hopes to see progress in the next decade.
Above: White anemones in an antique pitcher.
For now Love says she is happy with her life as a farmer-florist. Cultivation is relentless and physically demanding work. She says she farms from sunup to sundown and then, after dark, creates her arrangements. (Sleep? What is that?) But she is nurtured by the people who buy her flowers. Neighbors who are customers have become friends. And Love believes that when people see that local flowers are kinder to the earth and naturally hardier, longer lasting, and more varied than imported blooms, they will share her passion for the blossoms that she nurtures.
Have you ever seen two acres of sweetpeas in bloom? See Ask the Expert: 7 Tips to Grow Cut Flowers in a Tiny Garden from Floret Farm.