We’re big fans of the visionary floral designer, Ariella Chezar. She was among the first to abandon the uber modern, tightly-bunched floral style ubiquitous in the 90s for a looser, more natural approach to arrangements. Some might even say that her 2002 book, Flowers for the Table, single handedly changed the entire industry. In any case, her signature look has now been admired (and often imitated) for well over a decade. Ariella took her process to the next level a few years ago when she and her husband Christopher Gregory purchased 90 acres in upstate New York to start their own sustainable flower farm. Now the property is covered in blooms that supply Ariella’s design work and workshops. We spent an afternoon driving around Zonneveld Farm in a sprinter van with Ariella and talking about what it really takes to maintain a farm. This is one property you’ve got to see to believe!
We’ve seen your floral design work everywhere, from Martha Stewart to Town & Country and so many gorgeous real life weddings around the web. How long have you been working with flowers?
Tell us a little about your flower farm in Columbia County. When and why did you decide to take the leap into growing flowers yourself?
I’ve always grown on a small scale — augmenting my wholesale purchases with what I could snip from the garden, and always longed to grow more. About four years ago that became possible when my husband and I purchased 90 acres in Columbia County.
What did you look for when purchasing the right piece of property for your flower farm?
A diversity of fields, forests, good soil and a beautiful setting.
What types of plants do you cultivate on the farm? Are they all flowers or do you do any fruits and vegetables too?
The cultivated areas are divided in two sections- perennials and woodies (flower farm lingo for shrubs like mock orange, hydrangea, etc.) grow with fruit trees. Here we’ve planted peonies, tree peonies, Japanese anemones, bearded iris, hellebore, solomons seal and narcissus. The annual field where the hoop house sits is where we grow veggies and annuals- including the dahlias, foxgloves, zinnias and sweet peas to name a few. I love to cook, and eat! So we grow quite a lot of vegetables.
How much time do you spend on the flower farm?
It depends on my other time demands — in truth, at this point it’s really just a glorified hobby — I spend as much time as I can. Farming, with its small triumphs and many miseries has become one of my favorite things to do.
What’s your current favorite flower growing on the farm?
The frost just took the dahlias — and I’m missing them! So I wouldn’t say the dahlias. The Japanese anemones are right up there though as an equally loved autumnal favorite
What floral combinations are you loving right now for fall?
More than flowers, it’s the fruit on the branch and the foliage in all it’s glorious tones that makes my heart beat a little faster at this time of year.
What’s the hardest thing about maintaining a flower farm?
The physical labor required, the heartbreak and the weather.
Describe your floral design style in 5 words or fewer:
What are a few of your must-have gardening tools?
Clippers, my delicate little strong pitchfork and hand trowel.
What’s your go-to outfit when you’re visiting the farm?
Sun hat (usually a dirtier one than this one) long sleeve button down, jeans, lace up work boots and my tool belt/holster.
What types of animals and insects live on the farm?
So far just deer, turkeys, bees and beetles and the bane of our existence — the woodchuck and its many friends and relations.
Do you ever entertain on the farm? Tell us about that!
Yes — all summer we have rustic wonderful parties in the upper field — we have a grill up there — no electricity or running water yet! And all the sides/salads made from the produce from the farm.
What do you love about your job?
My first thought was EVERYTHING! which, though not entirely true, comes close. Particularly, I love the diversity of what I get to do. Between farming, teaching, designing events and collaborating with my flower colleagues. So much opportunity for creativity and cultivating relationships. Currently, as artistic director or Flower School NY I am helping establish their new outpost in LA, and that is very exciting.
What’s your favorite thing about spending time on the farm?
The simplicity of it and the rhythms.
hat from the collection of patricia fox
Where do you see the farm/your life in 10 years?
My plan is to create a space where people can come to the farm to learn and to connect with others through workshops, classes and retreats. To combine food, flowers, learning and community.