When I arrive at Little Triffids micro flower farm, Sophie Kurylowicz is putting the finishing touches on a beautiful blue flower crown ready to adorn a precious baby on her Christening Day, and carefully places it in a special gift box filled with delicate tissue paper.
There’s a real farmhouse feel as biscuits bake in the oven of the cottage kitchen and from the soft glow of an early morning sunshine glistening on the garden beds, which are dotted in colour.
It had been a hectic week in late spring for Sophie and her business partner Bethany Saab who have established Wagga’s first micro flower farm. They’d picked flowers for regular floral subscriptions, created bridal bouquets, flower crowns and decorative arrangements, and are also providing wholesale flowers to brides opting to craft their own pieces.
And, finally, the culmination of weeks of planning, the task of styling the woodland themed decorations for the Artlands Conference dinner function in Dubbo – a design that incorporated 120 Cypress trees using a scissor lift into a large scale ceiling installation.
But today, it’s back to the floral heart of their enterprise located in North Wagga, with more blooms and foliage set to be hand-picked to be arranged into other creations – whether it be a bespoke posy or even a uniquely designed and handcrafted Christmas wreath.
“The farm itself is a constant planting and harvesting process, but I just love it. I meant to start calculating how many hours I spend in the garden but it’s impossible because I think I am going out to feed the chickens and I’ll start weeding or picking,” Sophie laughs. “But with some of the flowers like sweet peas, you’ve got to keep picking them so they’ll keep on flowering,” Sophie explains her passion as she slowly leads me through the garden beds, tending to the plants as she trawls through budding blooms.
Five years ago the micro flower farm was somewhat of a pipe-dream, as Sophie and her husband Tim were affected by the 2012 floods that swept through Wagga just after they had bought the home after they returned to the region after living in Sydney. In the 10 months that ensued, amongst lengthy discussions with insurance companies, Sophie and Tim began changing their outside space from a grassy area to one that housed a large plant variety. They planted a number of vegetable garden beds, and then, after growing various bulb varieties, have since transformed the garden to focus on flowers.
Whilst Sophie is always trialling various flowers, ranunculus, roses, amaryllis, foxgloves, sweet peas, bearded irises, freesias and black pearl lilies, give pops of colour among other ground covers, plants with textured foliage, and succulents.
“One thing I definitely noticed was that the soil is so fertile here. I’ve always loved to garden, my mother also loves gardening and my grandmother has a gorgeous garden in the United Kingdom, but nothing was growing in our little plot in Surry Hills despite the weather being great, so it is really good to be able to plant our vegetables, fruit trees, and now flowers, and have them flourish,” Sophie says.
Bethany, who is also a psychologist, joined the business earlier this year in collaboration with her close friend to manage the administrative and marketing duties, as well as share the floral design, while Sophie, who is a lecturer of lighting for stage and screen, still relishes the opportunity to get her hands dirty digging in the garden, her event design skills also proving beneficial when they plan large-scale arrangements for weddings and formal functions.
“(The business) really started with Sophie being a keen gardener and she’d gift people posies and they’d comment on those, then she started to get asked to create floral arrangements for weddings, and it’s really taken on a life of its own,” Bethany says.
“I think the real point of difference that we’ve got to other florists is that we are using seasonal flowers that grow well in our region. With the growth of the seasonal food movement locally, it made sense to starting a business like this in the Riverina because we are living in what is really known as a ‘food bowl’.
“I think some people might not be aware of where flowers come from and the effort that goes into growing them. Some have been grown overseas, and may not be grown in eco-friendly conditions… Our flowers are all grown outdoors, are pollinated by bees in the natural environment, and we only use eco-friendly pesticides that I have brewed myself, as well as using compost waste, trying to be as sustainable as we can. We also use chicken wire and floral frogs to make our arrangements, rather than florists’ foam which we know is harmful to the environment.”
And, what started off as an idea to provide flower subscriptions on a regular basis over a season, a service that the girls have seen become popular in the United States, has now grown into a venture that is being embraced by the wider Wagga community.
“It’s got some momentum and a flavour of its own now, you’re choosing flowers that have been grown locally and because it’s of a micro scale, we can think about what’s trending in floral design too. I grow things that aren’t normally grown for wholesale because they are too delicate. White and green is always popular, and at the moment deep coloured foliage and burgundy tones are very in, and we are predicting an emergence of lilac as a popular colour choice.
“Even for very large functions and weddings, people are trending away from the traditional round bouquet styles and arrangements. At high-end events we are seeing beautiful large arrangements with lots of different foliage and wildflowers, like the various grasses found in laneways and on roadsides. It’s all about using fresher, sustainable produce and we hope that continues as a growing trend.”
The girls also tell me that they have also extended their offering by saving their own seed that they package to offer as wedding favours.
The interest for a seasonally fresh flower movement is certainly one that is growing, with many local people even dropping in to give them a selection of plants they have grown themselves.
“We’re definitely all about sharing that gardening spirit.”
Words & Pictures: Rosie O’Keeffe