SUBMITTED BY THE BOCA GRANDE GARDEN CLUB – Jennie Love, a founding mother of the “farmer florists” movement, comes to Boca Grande for the Boca Grande Garden Club’s “Flower Week.” She will speak at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at the Boca Grande Community Center. The following morning, Thursday, Feb. 6, she will teach a flower-arranging workshop at 9 a.m. at the Power House on Gulf Blvd. in Boca Bay.
The “farmer florists” activity is a slice of the urban farming trend spreading rapidly around the world. From Auckland to Bangkok to Cairo and throughout the United States, on city fringes and in city centers, farmers are sowing their seeds in corners of land left behind by urban development. A little bit about food security, a lot about efficient use of land, urban farmers serve the needs of residents, restaurants, shops and other businesses. Shorter distances and lower transportation demands make for fresher, better crops. An unanticipated benefit is crops free of pesticides and pests.
Jennie Love’s crop is flowers. In fact, she is credited with being a sparkplug for the “seed-to-centerpiece” movement. All planting, caring and harvesting takes place on her farm. In addition to cutting flowers, Ms. Love grows specialty herbs, foliages and fillers. Central to her methods is small space/low impact farming.
In 2019, she initiated a 100 percent no-till regenerative process for all her flower beds, even for tulip bulbs. Tucked into the heart of northwest Philadephia’s Andorra/Upper Roxborough neighborhood, the two-acre Floral Design and Flower Farm is organically managed.
A 14-point manifesto serves as the backbone for the Love n’ Fresh farming credo. Four key elements are to:
1. save rare open green spaces in urban environments (starting with our farm) and safeguard ALL life that lives there: big, small, even microscopic;
2. create a small-farm example here at home in Philly that can be leveraged for big change further afield;
3. focus on our local community but look to solve “big picture” sustainability challenges, be gritty, not glossy, and embody in all tasks the can-do, get-it-done spirit of a farmer;
4. have the time of our lives on this journey and be grateful for every single day.
Her rigorous standards allowed her to win the coveted “Certified Naturally Grown” designation, a self-described “grassroots alternative to ‘Certified Organic’ programs” run by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Flowers of uncommon beauty and lushness are the result of her thoughtful, methodical and agriculturally sound practices. Apres harvest, she designs, creates and delivers flower arrangements for weddings and special events. Ms. Love is well known for permitting only sustainable elements into her work. She also forages materials such as the citron-green blossoms of Philadelphia’s remaining chestnut trees, wild ferns and masses of wild flowers.
These arrangements are known for striking color palates and texture. She is insistent that vases not be used, rather vessels. “We use the term ‘vessel’ rather than ‘vase’ because we love piling beautiful blooms into unexpected, often vintage and one-of-a-kind containers, especially tarnished metal,” she explains on her website.
A hallmark of her designs is an arrangement that stretches outward rather than upward. This horizontal style gives a warm, even embracing look. It also has the advantage of allowing one to appreciate the whole but also notice more intently individual blooms. And it answers the question of many a dinner party guest, blinded by a towering bouquet, about just who it is sitting on the other side of the table.
Her original work has won her callouts from the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Bride’s Magazine. Notably, the exacting Martha Stewart organization named Jennie Love among the nation’s “62 Top Floral Designers.”
As for the rest of her work life, somehow Ms. Love shoehorns workshops, online classes, webinars, public speaking and even a unique flower strategy for the do-it-yourself bride into her jam-packed life. She is vice president of the International Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ascfg.org) and a columnist for Cut Flower Quarterly.
Check out the Love n’ Fresh website at lovenfreshflowers.com; not only is it pretty but highly educational, as well. Her drool-producing Instagram account is lovenfreshflowers, and she is on Pinterest.