Floral bliss retreat

Well, we had our first Floral Bliss Retreat this weekend and I have to say that it was totally amazing. We gathered together with a small group of people for a day of play and design on the farm. It was a drizzly day on the farm and created a calmly wonderful ambiance.

Adam and Jenn O’Neal - PepperHarrow farm  Photo By:  Andraya Stender

Adam and Jenn O’Neal - PepperHarrow farm

Photo By: Andraya Stender

We started the day with introductions followed by a personal tour of our farm. We then let everyone head out to harvest and forage at their leisure. It was cool to see what everyone gathered for their designs from the lovely perennials throughout our gardens to branches of unripened fruit and cattails.

With everyone’s amazing finds, Jenn began a session on the ins and outs of flower crown design. I think that was a sesh that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Jenn guiding a student with her design  Photo By:  Andraya Stender

Jenn guiding a student with her design

Photo By: Andraya Stender

Donning beautiful floral crowns, we sat down to a wonderful catered lunch provided by Catering By Cyd. That was personally my favorite part because we got to sit with everyone and really get to know each other. And the lunch was amazing! Thumbs up to privately catered lunches. 👍 Catering in took a huge weight off of our shoulders with this event and enabled us to participate more!

Lovely catered lunch for the floral bliss retreat. Flowers And food forever!

Lovely catered lunch for the floral bliss retreat. Flowers And food forever!

After lunch we headed to the centerpiece design portion of the retreat. We loved seeing everyone dive into a full buffet of flowers and also how they incorporated their unique garden finds into their centerpieces. Apple branches and grape vines with little unripened fruits? Yes!

Attendees enjoying the flower bar  Photo By:  Andraya Stender

Attendees enjoying the flower bar

Photo By: Andraya Stender

Adam guiding the design portion of the workshop  Photo By:  Andraya Stender

Adam guiding the design portion of the workshop

Photo By: Andraya Stender

And if the day wasn’t already full enough, Jenn put together a lovely traditional English tea service for the retreat. We were inspired when we went to England and visited Chatsworth Gardens. While visiting, we sat down for a nice tea service in the café on the grounds. We had to bring that special experience with us back to PepperHarrow!

Teatime at PepperHarrow  Photo By:  Andraya Stender

Teatime at PepperHarrow

Photo By: Andraya Stender

This retreat turned out amazing and we can’t wait to bring it to you again. We’re also excited with all the new ideas we have to make this experience even more special. Looking forward to the next one!

All About Roses!

It’s been a crazy week, full of lots of rose pruning and TLC. There as sooo many roses here at PepperHarrow, because they’re one of my favorite flowers. They don’t make particularly good cut flowers, because they just don’t have a very long vase life, but they just look absolutely gorgeous in weddings. They also have such a divine fragrance!

Admittedly, I have a lot of David Austin garden roses, here at PepperHarrow. I love all the varieties of old fashion, English roses they have available. Also, the fragrance is remarkable. David Austin roses are know for their romance and whimsy. However, now that I’m getting mature with my rose growing, I see that there are other cultivars that perform better for us, here in zone 5B, Central Iowa.

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One of these varieties is Kordes. KOR-anything, as a general rule, are welcome here on our farm. They are extremely disease resistant and do really well with our extreme weather—really, really hot and really, really. cold. One of my favorite Kordes varieties are Madam Annisette and First Crush. Not only do they produce a prolific amount of blooms, but I can also enjoy their gorgeous foliage. Also, the blooms feel thicker and less likely to shatter after they’ve been cut.



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Another favorite rose cultivar is anything from J Griffith Buck. These roses are known for their hardiness here in the midwest and perform amazingly! Quietness is one that I have growing at the flower farm. I have her front stage and center, outside of my house, in the cottage garden. Such a magnificent fragrance, fragile beauty, and great performer!

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Flower Farmer Winter Activities

People have been asking us, what does a flower farmer do during the winter on the farm? Most think we’re just relaxing, resting and preparing for the coming year, which does have a little truth to it. It’s been a little nice to get some extra sleep and not have to bust our tails from early morning to late at night. It’s certainly a welcome reprieve from the craziness of the typical growing season in all its bountiful glory.

Seed and Dahlia Ordering

It’s so invigorating and magical to sit down and look through seed catalogs and dream about the amazing flowers your’re going to grow the following growing season. I compare it to reading a great book, which I may also be doing a bit of at the moment. It takes me away from reality and let’s me have a little slice of the dream. This is a little part of my bliss during the winter, sitting back and picking out the most interesting, beautiful flowers that I want to grow. There are so many different ones to choose from and they’re all so wonderful in their own way. Many times I have to have Adam come in behind me and take some out, because admittedly, I get a little out of control. I want them all!

I look at ordering flower seeds and dahlias a differently than most (I think, anyway). I tend to look at the type of flower seeds would add a little sparkle or something unique to a bridal bouquet or in massive floral installation. Typically, I know the event work that I already have planned for 2019, so I start growing special little floral details that will enhance what I have planned to put together.

Who do we order seeds from? Retail seeds places I order from include: Renee’s Garden, Swallow Tail Gardens, Botanical Interests, Select Seeds (love their heirloom varieties), Johnny’s Select Seeds, Seed Saver’s Exchange and Baker Creek.

Who do I order dahlias from? Well, we have our own stock and sell tubers online, but for new ones I look to add, I generally to to: K Connell’s, Kelly Flower Farm, Little Farm House Flowers, Summer Dreams Farm, Swan Island Dahlias, SkyFall Flowers, Hidden Hive Flowers, and so many more. Someone needs to stop me! If Adam only knew how much money I’ve dropped on adding new, beautiful varieties to our farm…

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Dahlia, Chrysanthemum, and Scented Geranium Cuttings

I have a little secret. Is it okay that I tell you this? I couldn’t completely let go and relax too much over the winter. I had to have some green plant goodness in my life to get through the winter. It just gets too brown and gray here and I need something to keep myself occupied and also something to keep my spirits uplifted. It works!

Every year we dig up our dahlias and I always keep a few back to put up and keep inside under grow lights. Same thing holds true with our heirloom chrysanthemums (mums), and scented geranium. I just dig them up, stick them in pots and put them under grow lights. They keep growing their little hearts out, while I trim them back and take a little cuttings off, sticking them in soil and keeping the soil moist. I have hundreds of little babies growing and it just makes me so darn happy!

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Planning and Setting Goals for the Growing Season

This is the time we take to re-align and re-set ourselves on what priorities will be for the next year and how we want to grow our business and focus our time for 2019. Unfortunately, this is tied heavily to the business side of the farm, including the dreaded taxes. One of my least favorite, but necessary tasks.

The garden bed mapping and seed schedule is setup and planned out during this time. This helps keep us on task with the plants that need to be started and when. Harder than you would think during the height of our growing season, especially as we get into the June seed sowing.

We also use this time to meet with other creatives to stir up new ideas and work on possible collaborations, set our class schedule for the year, speak with a lot of prospective brides and hold several consultations, and participate in speaking engagements at area garden clubs. These activities are some of my favorite, because I love classes and I love speaking with others about things I’m passionate about.

Floral Design and Photography

Winter time is when I really have some great opportunity to play with flowers. Even though I’m not growing them at this time, I indulge myself by buying them from our local florist and put together beautiful designs, bouquets, flay lays, etc. This gives me a great opportunity to be creative and to also play with my camera as I’m taking photos of the things I make.

I use this time to brush up on my photography skills, playing with my ‘good’ camera. Adam and I shoot with a Cannon Digital Rebel. We love it, but we get a little rusty during the summer and often are busy, so we just use our iPhones for quick pics.

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Farm Clean-up and Organization

Occasionally we get a very warm day in the middle of winter. It’s always a fluke and we never know when it’s going to happen, but it always does. A few weeks ago, over holiday break, we had a warm, 50 degree day. We used it as an opportunity to clean-up our seed starting area, pick up tools that were left around the farm before the first snow hit, and also tidy up the event space. Not gonna lie, it was a mess, but from what I hear, we’re not alone.

It’s crazy how little things laying around in a disorganized manner can make you mentally feel untidy. Such a great feeling to get it all neatly arranged and little bits of things picked up. We also use this as a ‘family day’ and get the kids in on the action too. Not saying the kids like it, but lots of hands make the the work light and it actually turned out to be a great way to spend time together. Who knew!?

XX Jenn