I love gardens. Nature has a way of calming me, with its peaceful gardens and robust forestry. I’m drawn to the serenity, as if the tall trees’ resolute statures could cover me—keep me safe. So it came as no surprise when, earlier this summer, I fell in love with a flower stand.
I had decided to explore the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. Rested near the end of the line of vendors, was a flower stand with the banner: Sego Lily Flower Farm. Upon visiting, I was transfixed with the unique blend of colors and textures in the bouquets. They were simple yet striking. Peaceful yet wild. It wasn’t long after that I learned this flower farm was a family business led by Fawn Rueckert, who is a flower herself. I craved to see her farm in person. Then I learned it was in her backyard. What kind of life would allow you to LIVE in an Eden? How great would that be?
Upon visiting her garden, I was impressed with the planning and staging of her plots and their economic use of the space. They have a mix of produce and flowers. By the time I’m writing this, it is the close of the flower season, and her garden reflected the emptiness of selling living charms to the community. And yet, it was still beautiful. Dreamy even. Colors crawled out of the dirt in all shapes and sizes: Zinnia’s, Dahlias, burgeoning Celosias, among other flowery friends. The garden was stationed in ascending levels of plotted flowers and crops. It featured a picket canopy with dripping tresses of vines and produce, including a large zucchini dangling from the top. As we strolled through the little paradise, we both agreed that we had a girlish longing for the fantastical settings of “The Secret Garden” or “Anne of Green Gables”. The idea that someone could capture that in your backyard is conceptually delicious.
Her garden is her enterprise, and not without an uphill battle. A flower farmer, like anyone in agriculture, has to gamble with God. She explained: “My business partner is mother nature. The hailstorm this May hit me hard and I was just like ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna have dahlias.’ I could have planned all winter and done everything right and it could be gone just like that. I had a couple big crop failures this year. I had some snapdragons with tiny worms and my zinnias got powdery mildew. This is my second year selling, but last year was at a much smaller scale, just selling to friends and family. This is the first year at the farmer’s market.” And yet she’s still standing, marketing those beauties to a grateful community.
Fawn is a utilitarian farmer, hands sunken in earth, but she’s also an artist. It’s clear that her flower arrangements manifest an eye for design. She studied art, specifically color theory in college and is drawn to a certain aesthetic: “I like flowers that are ‘full and fluffy’. I look at balancing bigger and smaller flowers, as well as the different textures of soft vs. spiky flowers. I love garden roses, dahlias, peonies. My roses got way less likes on my Instagram, maybe people think they’re passé. I don’t sell them, because I love them. I want to grow and sell carnations next year and people tell me ‘you don’t want to do that’, but I want to try it and they smell great.” It’s obvious that these plants are a vibrant medium of creativity.
But who could do this? How did this come to be?
In part, she saw a need in the community. Upon relocating her family to Utah, she was saddened not to see flowers for sale in local farmer’s markets: :“I looked at blogs and I thought: I could do that. The idea of growing/selling to other people is new. 20 years ago the idea of growing a cutting garden was like—that would be the coolest thing ever! Growing your own flowers! It’s always been an interest. I’m surprised sometimes looking back I’m surprised that I didn’t come to that conclusion sooner because I love doing it and when I moved to Utah I was really sad there weren’t any flowers at the farmer’s market.”
But interestingly, the greater spark of her venture came from a place of loss, a drifting from the Self: “I was living sort of in a box of motherhood, where I didn’t know anyone outside of family and church. I was in this box and kind of depressed and I was trying to figure out who I am. I thought about what I should do when all the kids were in school. I’ve talked to my friends and they feel the same thing, sort of ‘lost’.” She decided to enroll in the Master Gardener program through the Utah State University extension service. She experienced a new kindling of confidence, an inspiration to dream bigger. “It was very new to do something that wasn’t really for my kids or my husband or my church calling, just for me. I didn’t know I was going to sell flowers. But deciding to start a business in my name was huge. I like that my kids are seeing me living my dreams.”
This bravery activated her life and uprooted her zest to the surface. She found an outlet that fed her active spirit: “I like the physicality of it. I was the girl with a bunch a brothers. So whenever there was a bunch to dirt to move or lawns to mow my brothers did all that. I got to mop the floors and clean the bathroom. On my mission I was doing a service project just hauling dirt around and I just felt like ‘I LOVE THIS, my muscles hurt but I love this.’ I like the challenge of it. There’s always something new to learn. I’m just drawn to plants.”
She takes a scholarly approach to her garden, it is her art space and her scientific experiment. “Wordy people love to read the dictionary, I love to read reference books about growing. I love plant identification. I love research. You really can learn anything from books or credible sources from the internet.”
As I mentioned earlier, this is a family affair. I remarked that it must be rewarding to see your kids learning business skills. Her eyes lit up: “YES. I like that they can learn with me. They’re learning skills and we talk about business and marketing…My kid knows all kinds of things”, she laughed, “like how to compost! My boys say when they start dating and get girlfriends they’ll be all set to bring flowers to them!”
But what if you’re like me and have a dark gift for serially killing plants? Fawn offers this advice: “The USU extension office has fact sheets on growing plants. Find a magazine you love and looks interesting in it…The best way to learn is to do it.” She recommended a book by Virginian flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler, titled “Vegetables Love Flower!” I told Fawn about my flower manslaughter and she generously responded: “Honestly, I’ve killed many plants, I would bet way more than you have.”
I ended my time in her garden with this question: “What does all this—the garden, the business, the pursuit—- tell me about you?” She thought for a moment, and answered: “I look at it like an act of rebellion. This choice of career is off the beaten path. I tell people what I do and they’re like ‘what?’ I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom. The logical thing to do would have been to work at my kid’s school cafeteria or work at Walmart or something. I’m a dreamer and a giant plant nerd.”
Can people really choose to please passions instead of paradigms? Maybe it’s okay to be brave. Maybe it’s essential.
Every time I’ve interacted with Fawn, I’ve sensed of her peace. She radiates grace. As I mentioned earlier, she is a flower. She has grace about her. Her shine is unobtrusive, but present. She is open to the world around her, symbiotic to other living things, and ready to burst. There’s a poised strength accompanied with the self-discovery of lessons learned: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to NOT WAIT. This business has expanded my circle to meet people. The gardening class taught me to think ‘why not?’ and to just go for it. You get this one life.”
A garden can make you feel like you’re in a wild or exotic place worthy of exploration, but it can also feel like home. I can’t help but feel like it is the same for Fawn. This business is a bold adventure but also a way she has come home to herself. Maybe the point isn’t to live in your own traps. Maybe the point is claw at the dirt and dust of your perceived limitations and plant a garden.