Sarah Callow Fisher is growing along a beautiful wild garden path.
Now entering her sixth year as a flower farmer, Callow Fisher is blossoming into a seasoned designer. If it’s not wild weather playing havoc with the seedlings - long, wet springs and dry summers — there’s juggling the demands of growing a business, working a full-time job at a local coffee shop, and having a life beyond work.
Starting a floral business from the ground up may be a tough row, but she is making it work. A few years ago, she started A Beautiful Wild after trying her hand at a few different careers.
“I had studied interior design, but it wasn’t my path,” she said. “I saw beauty in the world and I realized I wanted to design with nature. Gardening has always been important in my family.”
Early on, her idea was to grow and supply flowers for other florists, but she soon realized that many floral designers favour only a few varieties and that, realistically, she could not meet the large demand for those few varieties.
She has a relatively small garden and has come up with some inventive ways to fill her orders by working with other gardeners and florists. Her motto is to work with whatever the season brings.
In the spring, she picks tulips; in June it’s peonies; midsummer brings lilies, daisies, and roses; by fall, it’s brown-eyed Susans, sunflowers and dahlias.
About four years ago, she began designing arrangements for weddings and, by last year, she had doubled her best season with a record number of brides lined up. Then, to make for an even more frantic pace, Lightfoot & Wolfville recommended her as the preferred florist for an event they were hosting for a secret special guest.
“They wouldn’t tell me who it was, only that they wanted show stoppers, arrangements with local varieties,” she said. “It was such an honour to be chosen to help showcase the province on the prime minister’s tour.”
Organizers were so impressed with her arrangements that they travelled back to Halifax with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be displayed at the next conference on his tour.
UPS AND DOWNS
Any gardener will tell you that for all the sunshine, there has to be rain sometimes. In late spring tragedy struck in the heart at the peak of her season when she learned that her father had suffered a massive stroke and was on life support overseas.
As his next of kin, Callow Fisher was forced to make some grim decisions. She added that it was probably her tears that kept her gardens watered during the prolonged dry spell that hit everyone last summer.
“My customers at the coffee shop were so encouraging, they were wonderful,” she said. “And the owners were so supportive during that time. And I know I couldn’t have gotten through without my mother’s support.”
Operating a year-round flower business presents seasonal challenges, but she finds ways to design through the long dark winter months. Her motto is to run a green business, leaving as small an environmental footprint as possible.
Many mainstream florists import out of season flowers from South America. These flowers travel to Canada in refrigerated shipments, wrapped in plastic. Flowers, like food, are perishable and have a best before date. Just before garbage day, Callow Fisher visits larger florists and buys their outdated flowers at a reduced rate.
Many of these blossoms are still viable, so she includes them as accent pieces in her arrangements that she wraps in brown paper. All of her wreaths and flowers are natural, with no plastic bows or bells.
Perhaps one of her strengths is the willingness to work with whatever is around her. Last year taught her that she had a few limits, she could only do so much in the run of a day and this summer, she has scaled back slightly on the number of weddings.
“I have no idea what I'll be working with from week to week, but this helps me to grow as an artist,” she said.