I may be optimistic in stating this, but I believe Spring is here! I am loving this weather, I even swept off the front porch, felt so good. If the sun would have been shining Saturday, I probably would have dug into cleaning up my flower beds. Maybe some of you have already dove into that. I love seeing the new life springing forward in my landscaping. Last year, I purchased 2 White Annabelle Hydreangas, my fingers are crossed that they survived. I am looking forward to having fresh stems in the house all summer long.
Anyone who knows me well, will testify to my love for fresh flowers. I love to have them sent to me for any occasion. I am not that woman who tells her husband not to “waste” his money sending me flowers that will just die. Heck, lately I have been picking up a fresh bouquet every time I go to the grocery store. It’s no wonder spring and summer are my favorite seasons. Everything outside comes alive <3.
Today, I am excited to feature my friend, Danette Johnson. She and her husband took a leap of Faith, and grew her love of flowers into a business last spring, called Nettie’s Petals. I was lucky enough to enjoy several bouquets last summer, and I look forward to displaying them again this season. I have asked her to be a guest author, sit back and enjoy their journey as you sip your morning coffee.
Two years ago, after teaching visually impaired children for 23 years, I “ran out” of students. While this was good, in the sense that it meant there were no visually impaired children in Ford and Iroquois counties, for me it meant an end to my career as I knew it. I was having trouble seeing where I was supposed to go and prayed for a giant billboard from God, telling me what to do. After a year of teaching special education, all of a sudden at the end of the school year, another job teaching blind adults in distance education opened up. I figured that if it dropped into my lap like that, then God was definitely telling me to take it. But it doesn’t end there. As I now work from home, a long about January, in the gloom of the winter, I began thinking of my flowers. I have always loved, loved, loved, flowers! My kids think that I’m insane, when I tell them that I get joy from pulling weeds. We have even hosted two weddings on our property, which I take to mean that others think our flowers are pretty too. I have always thought that a dream job would be growing and sharing these flowers, even having already come up with a name, Nettie’s Petals, but I never had the courage to give up the stability of a regular job. My theme for my children, that I always repeat when they question whether or not they should do something is from the song, “I hope you dance”. I decided that since God has granted me this opportunity working from home and giving me extra time in the day, I needed to heed my own advice and to stop “sitting it out, but dance”!
We had attended one workshop on small farms and got a few ideas of where to begin, but really we just jumped in with both feet. I ordered about a thousand seeds of plants that I knew: four varieties of sunflowers, zinnias, and cosmos. We plotted out an area in the yard for our new flower bed and spent hours tilling and pulling out sod clumps. It was great because the whole family got involved in this new venture. If there were tools involved, namely the tiller, my husband Daron and Cooper, our 17 year old, were all about it. We determined that a tractor would be most helpful, but we’ll need to sell a few more flowers before that’s a reality. We planted a few hundred seeds every week for 5 weeks, hoping to stretch out the season when they were in bloom and ready to cut. That meant laying out rows, and measuring every 4-6 inches to plant each seed. Whoever in the family was available on that day of planting was drafted to come help. Then we just waited and weeded!
About mid-July the flowers burst forth in bloom. Then it was, “Now what?” We decided to explore a variety of options for selling them. Our daughter Paxton, was the media specialist and graphic designer, creating business cards and starting an Instagram account. (insta: @nettiespetals, Facebook: Netties petals) To get the word out, I took sample bouquets around to people I thought would be interested in cut flowers. We began selling at several local farm markets; Rantoul, Gifford, Watseka, and Gibson City. Farm markets are such a great environment. Everyone is so excited about supporting local farmers and businesses. The vendors are all friendly and helpful to one another. We also took flowers to our local flower shops to see if they were interested and they were! Our youngest son, Ephraim, set up a Lemonade and flowers stand at the end of our lane and had a banner day of sales. He got hooked on making money by growing things, and now wants to start his own melon business! We have individuals contact us personally to make orders or just to come out and pick! I love that so much. Flowers just bring a smile.
Through all of these, we listened to our clients regarding what things they would like to see and have us plant. We were busy last fall creating new flower beds for expanding and getting them ready for spring planting. We planted over 500 bulbs, including tulips, daffodils, alium, and anemones. We started some seeds indoors this winter and will be transplanting them into the ground this spring, adding many new varieties. We are so excited about this new adventure. All of our families and friends have been so supportive. It has been a true learning experience and more of a blessing than I could have imagined. Just like in the song…whenever one door closes, one more opens.
Wasn’t this a breath of fresh air – ahhh 🙂 Makes me want to get my hands dirty and display God’s artwork.
Author – Martha Knake
Guest Author – Danette Johnson
Chief Editor – Emily Schunke
Photos contributed by Danette Johnson