Meryl Gartside of Blue Lobster Flower Farm
What made you want to get into this business?
It’s definitely a passion. When I retired from my real job, I had the energy and passion to explore this opportunity. I had specialized in growing perennial flowers and designing perennial gardens. I worked in a garden center for many years selling perennials, and then was captivated by the American grown flower movement that has gradually started to pick up steam. I found a plot of land and basically taught myself all these different techniques on how to grow specialty cut flowers for production. Six years ago, I spent the whole first year of production donating my flowers to a group that was bringing them to nursing homes and patients in hospitals. I didn’t sell anything, I just donated everything to them. That gave me the confidence to launch into actual production and sales.
How do you decide on designs or styles of wreaths, bouquets or varieties?
My growing season is only as long as it’s warm here. I have no greenhouse or tunnels to really give me season extension. As another sort of avenue of extending my flower sales, I began drying things. This year, I tailored my grow list towards flowers that are enjoyed fresh, but also hold up well when they are dried. Once we have a hard frost, I’ll focus all my energies on production of dried flower wreaths and bouquets, and other things that I’ll be offering in the offseason. Regarding design, I go more on instinct than on demand. I have a strong background in graphic design; I went to college and graduated as a graphic designer, and I worked in that field for about 15 years. So I have a good artistic feel for colors and combining textures in design. It’s just a natural extension for me of things that I love to do.
How did you come up with the name “Blue Lobster?”
Well, I love the Cape. I just wanted a name that somehow, in a subtle way, was Cape-specific. And a blue lobster is a rare thing. I like to think of my flowers as rare. Not that they’re that unique, but that they’re unusually beautiful. Also, lobsters mate for life. That is a very touching fact for me; that made me feel a sense of longevity.
Speaking of the Cape, was there anything surprising about growing flowers in Brewster?
I think this is a great climate for growing. I’ve lived in the Boston area, in the Jersey area, and even Texas; I also lived a while in England. Of all the places that I’ve lived, I think the Cape has demonstrated that it’s a great place to grow flowers. At night when the fresh sea air comes in and sweeps out the humidity from the day, that’s really great for the flowers. We have relatively sandy soil, but that makes roots not have to struggle so hard to grow. I would say the soil and the climate are excellent. I do wish it was warmer for even longer, but I embrace the offseason.
When does your off-season start?
Whenever we have a hard frost. But then there’s the whole process of digging up the 350 Dahlia tubers that are in the ground, storing them and dividing them–and then we have a huge online tuber sale every year that comes up in March. Typically, by the end of October, we’re finished selling fresh flowers and we’re moving on to the next phase of the season.
I sometimes find that people who work inside often talk about longing for a job that keeps them outside for most of the day. Is that something that you found yourself wanting years back and are finally living that dream?
One thousand percent yes–even though there are days when I’m out there and I’m getting pelted by rain, or my feet are wet and I wish I could go home and take a shower. But those days are few in comparison to the absolute total joy that I get and how fulfilled I feel spiritually when I am at my farm. It really just feeds my soul.
Keep up with Meryl and explore all her delightful blooms on Instagram, @bluelobsterflowerfarm.
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