Sarah Nixon demonstrates how she uses locally grown flowers in a casual arrangment.

My Luscious Backyard

I’m in Toronto, Ontario for the annual get-together of garden lovers who write online about gardens and gardening. This is the eighth Garden Bloggers Fling — and it’s an exhausting and exhilarating few days of garden visits and garden talk.

Our program started earlier this week with a visit to a downtown Toronto garden where Sarah Nixon operates a small business growing flowers in her own backyard and in ten other yards in her west Toronto neighbourhood. She calls herself an urban farmer, or a floral forager. I’d call her a savvy soul who knows what she wants to do and has figured out a way to do it.

 

Sarah Nixon demonstrates how she uses locally grown flowers in a casual arrangment.
Sarah Nixon demonstrates how she uses locally grown flowers in a casual arrangment.

 

As you can read on her website, since 2001 Sarah has been using Toronto residential yards as micro farm plots, intensively growing over 100 varieties of flowers.  In searching out unused land to grow on in downtown Toronto, she accidentally became a pioneer in the urban farming movement. Starting out with a few jars of flowers to sell at farmers’ markets she now has a wide variety of customers to whom she sells her sustainably grown blooms.

In her own tiny backyard, she raises a variety of vase-worthy plants.

 

Sarah uses the foliage from this ninebark as a cushion to hold other flowers in place.
Sarah uses the foliage from this ninebark as a cushion to hold other flowers in place.

 

On another ten sites nearby, she plants out and tends annuals she has started from seed, From this network of cutting gardens, she gathers sustainably grown flowers and sells arrangements to businesses, individuals and florists.

 

Sarah's garden includes a tiny shed where she starts seeds.
Sarah’s garden includes a tiny shed where she starts seeds.

 

It’s an interesting and innovative concept. I’m not sure how she makes it work in an area where the growing season is as short as it is in Toronto, but the entrepreneurial aspect of her business earns my respect.

 

In this neighbouring front yard, Sarah grows some of the flowers she uses in her arrangements.
In this neighbouring front yard, Sarah grows some of the flowers she uses in her arrangements.

 

 

  • Robert Richardson

    Seeing lawns getting taken up and replaced with gardens is not so uncommon anymore! It is also a great hobby and pastime!

    • siteandinsight

      Sarah puts a lot of effort and hours into her business. Having local flowers available for weddings and selling to florists may be the trick. The gardens she tends give her growing space while eliminating maintenance for the home owner, and adding some beauty and interest on the street. It seems a win all around.

  • Robert Richardson

    Great trade-off in maintenance for garden space!

    • siteandinsight

      I agree. But I still wonder about the economics of it.

  • Jason

    Very creative strategy, I was most impressed.

    • siteandinsight

      I loved her approach — made me feel I was back in the 60s. It is a creative strategy and supplying non-commercially grown flowers to florists seems a particularly good way to make it work financially.

  • I admired how creative, clever, and resourceful she is. I’d love to see her completed arrangements.

    • siteandinsight

      The one she made while we were there was simple and attractive. Not at all like the sort of arrangements you see in up-scale hotels or restaurants, more the sort of thing I might make myself, if I had the time, the materials and the interest.

  • barbarapc

    I was surprised also that her business was internet-driven as opposed to selling at the markets around town. Wish we’d been able to visit later when these gardens were closer to harvest. Just shows what you can do, if you really want to do something.
    http://barbarasgardenchronicles.blogspot.ca

    • siteandinsight

      I agree, Barbara — she has managed to do what she wants to do, in an interesting way. Going to lots of local markets would be more time consuming and probably less profitable.

  • Her business is ingenious, isn’t it? Unfortunately, our group didn’t get the opportunity to see her in action putting together an arrangement – we were running behind so we missed out on that.

    • siteandinsight

      I’ll see if i have a decent photo of the finished arrangement and post it on my Site and Insight facebook page.

  • PlantPostings

    I really like your photo at the beginning of Sarah in action. She and her garden and business were definitely inspiring. I agree with your comment about her being a “savvy soul.”

    • siteandinsight

      Like Loree, I would love to visit when her plantings were farther along. Can you imagine what that street front would look like — sheer exuberance!

  • Loree

    I do wish we had visited when we could’ve seen her “farmed” plantings further along. You got some great photos Pat!

    • siteandinsight

      Thanks, Loree. I agree with you, it would be great to visit again later in the summer to see what everything looks like — probably one huge mass of flowers in bloom. And how nice would that be!