Native Poppy's flower garden is growing strong!
We were so pleased to take some beautiful photos of our micro flower farm in El Cajon over the summer, and we can’t wait to share more about this special place. Join our Head Gardener Margaret as she leads us on a tour of Native Poppy’s flower garden, where we’re growing over 100 varieties of flowers for our signature flower wraps and arrangements.
Q: Hey Margaret! How are things growing in the flower garden?
A: The garden is great! Growing flowers is super fun, even in the winter. Right now, we are in that transition time when all the fall crops are just about wrapped up and the early spring crops are establishing so harvests are quite light. There’s a little bit of strawflower, scabiosa, bachelor’s button, sunflowers, celosia and a handful of cosmos in bloom at the moment while our anemones, ranuncs, sweet peas, snapdragons, stock are getting healthy root systems going for an early spring bloom.
We also have lots of seeds germinating and on their way to their garden bed homes within the next 4-6 weeks. These are still our cooler weather crops like corn cockle, nigella, clarkia, phlox, second successions of snapdragons, stock, sweet peas, sunflowers, and anemones.
Q: Can you tell us about your farming practices?
A: We’re not technically certified organic, but we’re using all organic methods in our garden. In terms of building up soil health, we’re using tons of compost, which helps us retain moisture in the soil.
One of my favorite things about flowers (besides the fact that they’re just gorgeous) is that they invite in a lot of beneficial insects. There are monarch butterflies in the garden, the bees are happy, there are praying mantis, the birds are happy… It’s supporting some nice biodiversity in what used to be an old tennis court!
We actually built an owl box on the property, but the honeybees took that over! There are still owls around — I see them when I do evening harvesting sometimes, which is very cool.
The bees are super stoked, there are bees everywhere. We’re seeing tons of monarchs coming through the garden. We’ve got lots of ladybugs, some of which I imported. Another cool beneficial insect that came in recently are praying mantises, they’re so cute!
We use organic pesticides like Monterey Bt and Neem to keep the nasty bugs at bay, but we’re also trying biological pest management. We brought in ladybugs, lacewings, and pirate bugs to help control the gnarliest pests through the heat of the summer. Dealing with pests is one of the hardest parts of my job. I’m kind of a Buddhist at heart. I don’t wanna kill anything, but if pests are killing our baby flowers, it’s gotta go.
Q: Can you share some stats about what we grew in the flower garden in 2021?
A: Last year we grew 15,689 stems of flowers! Those flowers represent 25 crops (different types of flowers, like Scabiosa, Snapdragon, Sweet Peas, etc.) and 92 different varieties! Varieties are the variations of genetics within each crop; all the different colors or variations for stem length or strength. For example, for Scabiosa we are growing Snow Maiden, Fata Morgana, Blue Cockade, Black Knight, Salmon Queen, Summer Sangria, Candy Scoop Series, etc.
Q: What’s the long-term goal for the garden?
A: The dream is much more space! I see this as a pilot project, to see what thrives, and crunching the numbers to know how much each bed of each variety can produce for us. Once we move to a larger space, and have a bit more land, we’ll know what we’re getting ourselves into.
Building out infrastructure in this space is complicated, because it’s not a farm… it’s a tennis court. We’ve had to come up with crafty solutions to fit the space. Purchasing things like shade sails for professional greenhouses is very expensive, so we’ve had to get creative here.
Farming is a low margin endeavor, so the more creative we can be with infrastructure, the more budget we have to trial new stuff. We eventually want to get into seed breeding, so that down the line we can create our own special varieties.
Q: Wow! Like special flower varieties, just for Native Poppy!?
A: Yeah! For example, last year we grew some Corn Cockle Ocean Pearls – it’s a pink variety, normally, but we’ve found a few rogue peach color blooms in the mix that we absolutely love.
Ideally, we could begin selecting and saving seeds for our favorite “Native Poppy” colors, and we could breed our own varieties of flowers. There are SO many beautiful flowers out there, but annuals are one of the easiest to save seed and breed. If I had the space, we could dedicate a whole section to select for the varieties that do best in the heat and our soil, as well as selecting for our most desired colors. Breeding seeds that are specialized for our particular climate and space is a big long-term goal.