Erin Benzakein on growing beauty, gardening essentials, an unconventional career and the soul of soil
Erin is the founder of Floret, a small flower and specialty seed farm based in Washington's Skagit Valley. Erin is considered the nation’s leading farmer-florist, a term used to describe those skilled at both flower farming and floral design. Floret provides training and resources to flower lovers. Our total crush!
Q: You live a beautiful life lled with nature and color. You also have one of the most beautiful, inspiring feeds on Instagram. What inspires you?
A: Thanks so much! My inspiration always comes from the seasons. I love the different colors, tastes, textures and temperatures that define each day and capture that moment in time. My designs draw directly from the natural world and the abundance of whatever is blooming. The flowers in my fields and on my table reflect that particular day—whether it is tulips and lilacs in the spring or dahlias and heirloom mums in the fall, I love the ephemeral nature of what is in bloom at that moment.
Q: Gardening essentials? What are your favs?
A: My Farmer-Florist tool belt is hands-down my favorite tool. Seriously, it changed my life! Now I never lose my phone, my jeans no longer have holes in the back pockets, and I can always find a pen or Sharpie when I need it. Sounds silly, but it really was a game changer for me. A close second favorite tool would be my garden snips. After using and testing dozens of different pairs in the flower field, I finally found the perfect pair. They are lightweight, stay super sharp and are a great size for women. No more aching wrists and sore hands at the end of the day.
Q: What would you say is the core of your success, and your happiness?
A: I love being able to do what I love alongside my family. There is nothing better, really. I also love sharing the beauty of what we are growing and creating through photographs and stories. There’s no sense hoarding all these pretty flowers for ourselves, so every day we share snippets of our flower filled life on the Floret website and through social media. Over the years I’ve shared my experience and my family’s story on the Floret blog, which I think really resonates with people. I find that for far too many people, conventional career paths have left them feeling emotionally and creatively empty, so they are drawn to opportunities to connect them to what really matters. For many, that is having a closer connection to earth and their families.
Q: You grow beauty. How did it begin for you?
A: My husband, Chris, and I wanted to be able to raise our family surrounded by nature, so we moved from Seattle to the Skagit Valley. We tilled up our tiny two-acre plot to first create a huge vegetable garden. Tucked in with all the vegetables was a double row of flowering sweet peas planted in memory of my great-grandmother. Grammy had introduced me to gardening and flowers at a very young age. As a child, I was her “little flower girl” and she tasked me with making bouquets for her bedside table. Flowers were a source of great joy and connection between us. So, when the first flush of sweet peas bloomed in our new garden, it felt as if she were there with me. I shared much of the garden’s bounty with friends, family and anyone who crossed my path. When I delivered my first bouquet, the recipient teared up as she buried her face in the flowers. Seeing the impact that flowers had on her and so many others who received our flowers was tremendous. After seeing the all the tears, smiles, joy and memories evoked by my flowers, I knew I had found my calling.
Q: Why is the soil so important for the soul?
A: In our everyday lives, especially during tumultuous times for our country or in our own personal lives, we must find activities—like gardening and connecting with nature—that bring us peace. I’m constantly amazed by the power that flowers have to tap into our deepest emotions. Flowers have a remarkable ability to make us smile and bring us joy. They provide comfort and help heal broken hearts. They spark memories and stir nostalgia. The joy in growing, sharing or receiving flowers is pretty remarkable, really. For me, few other things in life provide such simple satisfaction.
Q: What is a truth you know for sure?
A: There are so many reasons to grow, share and enjoy seasonal flowers. Whether you plant flowers in honor or in memory of a loved one, to provide food for bees or other pollinators, for a business or exclusively for your own personal pleasure, flowers are a beautiful balm for the soul.