Considered the country’s most influential farmer-florist, Erin Benzakein has shaped floral design trends, redefined micro-farming, and inspired thousands to grow and share seasonal flowers.
Erin has influenced the flower industry in big ways and small through her popular blog, books, workshops, social media channels, and specialty seeds.
You may recognize Floret’s stunning 2-acre farm featured in Martha Stewart, Better Homes, and Gardens, and today we’re excited to share more about Erin and her story in our latest Q&A!
One of our favorite moments via @floretflower
Erin’s flower studio via @floretflower
Years ago I got my start with gardening, first as a Master Gardener and then eventually as a landscape designer. It wasn’t long until flowers and gardening completely took over my life.
Photo taken by Chris Benzakein, Floret.
My husband, Chris, and I wanted to be able to raise our family surrounded by nature, so we moved from Seattle to the Skagit Valley. We tilled up our backyard to plant a huge vegetable garden. Tucked in with all the vegetables was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in memory of my great-grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers when I was very young. As a child, I was her “little flower girl,” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the garden’s bounty with friends, family, and anyone who crossed my path. When I delivered my first bouquet, the recipient teared up as she buried her face in the flowers. Right then and there, I knew I had found my calling and started planning how to turn my hobby into a career.
Floret farm via @floretflower.
I would say that nothing ever goes to waste. I have had so many ideas that I’ve pursued that didn’t work out the way I had imagined, but everything I learned on the journey of creating them, I used later down the line. Photos that were taken for a project that never saw the light of day have found their way into books, magazines, and blog posts. Articles I have written that were never published have become talks at workshops. Big ideas that I pursued but ended up not following through on (even though I invested months of work) still taught me so much about myself and what I don’t want, and ultimately helped me hone my craft.
I draw so much inspiration from the natural world, especially the seasons and the abundance of whatever is currently blooming. The flowers in my fields and on my table always reflect that particular, fleeting moment in time — whether it is lilacs and narcissus in the spring, or dahlias and heirloom mums in the fall, I love the ephemeral nature of what is in flower at that moment.
My personal creative process is really messy and always starts out with pages and pages of notes, sketches, and collages as I’m wrestling with a thing I want to explore and how I envision bringing it to life. I am sure if anyone was looking on, they would think that I was a little crazy, but for me, so much learning happens through my initial messy exploration phase, and it helps me know what ideas to pursue and what to set down. After I’ve done a deep dive into an idea and it’s taken shape and I think it’s worth pursuing, I share it out with the ladies on our team and get their insight and wisdom in the areas I still have questions about and open it up for further brainstorming.
Once the idea has gelled and the team has added their valuable input, we get to work on planning out the specifics of the project, working backwards through all of the important details to ensure that we’re considering the full scope of the project before we actually move forward. Once a solid project plan is in place, we divide and conquer, with each person on the team bringing their unique set of skills and gifts to the table. For every project that becomes something wonderful, like a book, or a product, or a program, there are so many that don’t make it through all the layers of creative evaluation. I find that all of that effort on the front end ensures that all of the best projects move forward and that we fully understand what we’re committing to before jumping in with both feet.
There have been quite a few over the years, but most recently the process of writing and launching my third book, Discovering Dahlias, was much more challenging than I had anticipated. I thought that writing a single-subject book would somehow be easier than my previous two books, which were focused on more wide-ranging topics like flower growing and flower arranging. In my mind, a book on a single flower variety seemed much more straightforward and easy.
But in reality, the project proved to be more complicated and layered than I thought, and the Variety Finder section of the book just about put us over the edge as we photographed and wrote descriptions for nearly 600 individual varieties, eventually narrowing down to the 360 featured in the pages. Making the book stretched me in so many ways — mentally, emotionally, and creatively — and there were many times all of us wanted to throw in the towel. But the day I held the finished book in my hands made all of the 4 a.m. writing sessions, weekend photo shoots all summer long, and endless hours of editing worth it.
One of our biggest achievements was when A Year in Flowers, my second book, made it onto the New York Times Best-Seller List. We got the amazing news when we were in the middle of filming a video for the Floret Online Workshop, and my husband Chris was able to capture our emotional response on video. The book made it to #6 in the Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous category, which is unheard of for a book about flowers.
Everyone told us that it couldn’t be done and that this book would never make it, but the Floret team and I worked really hard to promote and sell as many pre-order copies as possible. Making the best-seller list was a big-stretch goal for us, and we gave it everything we had. While making it onto the list was a big achievement for our team, it was an even bigger moment for the seasonal flower movement, as it sent a powerful message to the media, booksellers, and consumers, that local flowers and the people who grow them really matter.
Beautiful blooms via @floretflower.
I’m excited to share more about our farm and our journey through “Growing Floret,” a new documentary series on the Magnolia Network, Chip and Joanna Gaines’s new venture with Discovery, Inc. The four episodes of the show will tell the story of our growing business, our family, and the incredible team that works with us every day. We are thrilled to have been chosen to be a part of Magnolia’s new television network.
To learn more about Erin and Floret Farm, visit their website at floretflowers.com, keep up with them on Instagram, and be sure to check out their amazing books and online workshops!
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