My husband and I started this farming venture in 1992 when we were both working full time down in Los Angeles. We put in 200 Syringa Vulgaris (Common Lilac) our first planting. We continued working our full time jobs and added more lilacs each spring. In 1997, the apparel company that I worked for moved to The City of Commerce, increasing my commute to 75 miles, one way. I was also expecting a baby that year. I knew that there wasn't much demand for Pattern Makers in the Acton area and like all new mothers, I was determined to try and stay home, raise our children and earn an income, even if that meant reinventing me. We then made the decision to aggressively pursue the flower operation we had been nurturing the past several years.
The first spring I sold, I had no idea how I was going to get rid of all these flowers, before this, my only concerns were water, gophers and weeds. It did start out slow, selling at the corner, out of my Nissan hatchback, handing out business cards to get our name out there. I still wasn't moving enough flowers so I decided to make cold calls down at the Los Angeles Flower District with sample bunches. Many of the venders were receptive and gave me their cards, some would say no before I could even get the words out. I left that day with 10 business cards and one order for 50 bunches. Once I got my foot into the wholesale market, I wasn't able to do the corner sales anymore. I had to be at the farm, supervising the crew to get the flowers off in a timely fashion.
We now sell hundreds of bunches to wholesalers in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. The majority of our cut flowers are available in two varieties: The Common, also known as Old Fashioned, has the traditional lavender color with single florets and is considered the most fragrant and a dark reddish purple variety with broad clusters of large single florets, this color is extremely popular with floral designers. We also have a pinkish violet variety with double florets that are quite fragrant, available by special order because of limited supply.
I feel very fortunate to have been blessed with this opportunity to have a career in the flower industry. The most satisfying aspect of farming lilacs is the chance to share the love of the fragrant flower with the public. When I would sell at the corner, people would get so excited about them, usually relating them to a special person, place or time in their lives. I wasn't just selling them flowers. I was reminding them of a happy memory. Many of those people who bought from me on the street have found their way to our farm and continue to come every year to visit and buy flowers and potted plants.
I am excited to say that last spring we started our official collection. I call it official because it is in a designated area. In the lilac world, things aren't always what they seem to be. We have had several surprises when our three-year-old lilacs would bloom and we would end up with some stray varieties in the fields. So when I wanted to show these to someone, I would have to walk them all over the farm. Now we have an area were we planted with more than 125 different varieties, given to us by our dear friend and lilac collector Reva Ballreich. Some of the plants are already producing flowers, and I can't wait for the display when they all come of age in about three years. Needless to say, I love these flowers, and now I won't have to wear people out looking for that one exquisite specimen that will melt their heart.