Disturbing the Flower Wagon – Winnipeg Free Press

Disturbing the Flower Wagon – Winnipeg Free Press

This week, Erin Benzkin, owner of Floret Flowers, took a giant, transformative step in a new direction. Floret Flowers is a family-run flower farm and seed company in Washington’s Skagit Valley. There is no flower grower in North America who has not been influenced or inspired in some way by Benzken’s visionary approach to building a successful flower business. Her creative vision has influenced flower growers and gardeners not only in North America but also in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Benzkin is more than just a seed seller. It specializes in breeding new varieties of cut flowers for gardeners, farmers and designers. This week Benzquin launched its first offering of farm-grown seeds called Floret Originals. The new seed varieties have never been available to the public and are not grown anywhere else on Earth. As exciting and unique as this sounds, it also means that the flower varieties that Floret Flowers offered in the past will no longer be available. Floret Flowers is at the peak of its success, so why would it make a change now in the seed varieties it offers? Why switch to breeding and developing new varieties of flowers, which has become the largest and most ambitious project in the farm’s eighteen-year history? Some of the answers lie in Benzine’s passionate drive to support small businesses. Pioneers are destined to shake things up and take the lead in innovation.

“Breeding new flower varieties is usually done within giant companies,” said Benzkin, who I spoke to recently by phone. “There are actually very few independent plant breeders who do any kind of breeding work. There is such a disconnect between the breeder and the end consumer – the home gardener and the flower grower. Benzkin saw a better way. I skipped all the middlemen and went directly to the growers. I talked to the flower growers American and Canadian flower growers and flower growers around the world.

Erin Benzakein with Dahlia Petite Florets – These soft pastels can be grown easily from seed and at a great savings compared to tubers.

“We asked them what they needed, what kind of flowers and colors would make a difference on their farms and in their business,” Benzkin said. “We have a very large global network and we have all been frustrated for many years with the lack of flowers being raised with a small local flower farm in mind. We went to work trying to create different types of flowers to fit that need.”

It took seven years of cultivating and refining hundreds of flowers, and now twenty-six varieties that Benzkin put her heart and soul into developing are available for purchase. They are unique varieties of zinnias, celosias and dahlias. “While we are only seeing 26 varieties as part of this first offering, we have nearly 500 unique varieties being developed at Floret as part of our breeding program,” Benzkin said. “This new offering represents a turning point for us in the business, as we retire older varieties.” Let’s take a closer look at what makes the new Floret Originals products so special, not only for flower growers but also for home gardeners.

Mass-produced flowers are usually hybrids, and major seed companies don’t devote resources to educating farmers about saving and raising flower seeds, Benzkin said. “If you save seeds from a hybrid variety and plant them the following year, the plants you get from that seed will not go back to the plant you collected them from. That can be very frustrating.” All varieties bred by Florette are open-pollinated which means the flowers are fertilized by bees, birds, etc., and even wind and rain. When you save and grow seeds from an open-pollinated plant, the same plant is produced the following year.

Why focus on zinnias, dahlias and celosia and what makes these new varieties unique? “Zinnias are one of the most popular cut flowers you can grow in the summer. Every flower farm I know has zinnias produced in their fields, but the big complaint has always been that they’re all too bright and bold, although that’s great for farmers markets or selling to grocery stores But brides and florists wanted softer colors and softer colors. “More pastels so I went to work on that,” Benzkin said.

Zinnia Golden Hour is a new variety with large flowers that come in soft shades of watermelon, warm honey and cantaloupe. “I named this variety after the last hour of the day on the farm when the light turns golden and covers almost everything in sparkles. In September, when the flowers are in full glory, they are exactly the same color as the golden light.

The new Celosia Rose Gold brings subtle antique color to the garden and is more versatile for flower arrangements.

The new Celosia Rose Gold brings subtle antique color to the garden and is more versatile for flower arrangements.

Zinnia Little Flower Girl is another collection close to Benzakien’s heart. When she was a little girl, her nickname was Little Flower Girl. Small button-like flowers in colors of blush, soft pink, pale peach and champagne are borne on long, sturdy stems perfect for flower arrangements.