Love ‘n Fresh Flowers farms just over two acres divided between three fields, all located in the Andorra/Upper Roxborough neighborhood in Philadelphia. While within the city’s limits, this section of Philadelphia has a long standing agrarian tradition and remains surprisingly “rural”, sitting on bluffs above the Schuylkill River and boasting a silty clay loam that supports abundant growth. The exuberant flower fields play host to countless wild birds, bees, butterflies, lady bugs, four-legged furry friends and a badelynge of ducks who are on constant slug and grasshopper patrol. Large plantings of perennials and shrubs, especially native varieties, provide unusual cutting material and boost biodiversity. The fields are organically-managed, meaning lots of compost and natural fertilizers like kelp are used to nourish the plants, and no toxic chemicals are applied anywhere in the field or growing houses. An extensive drip irrigation system waters the field at the most effective moment (early dawn) with just the right amount so there is no waste. Cover crops are used to manage weeds, support soil biology, and stop any erosion when the flower beds are fallow. A greenhouse for starting seeds in winter and unheated hoop houses for growing in early spring and late fall keep the farm busy 11 months of the year. Farm staff work hard to nurture each individual plant and harvest every bloom at the peak of perfection.
The flower farm is not open to the general public. Special open house days are scheduled annually for clients and farm friends to tour the fields. On-farm floral design workshops are another opportunity to see the fields.
Love ‘n Fresh Flowers started out as more of a “market garden” than a farm when Jennie rented several plots – about 6400 square feet in total – at the Schuylkill Center Community Garden. The fallow plots had to be cleared by hand, digging out the deep and stubborn roots of invasive wild roses and sassafras trees. Fencing and gates to keep out the deer had to be built. A few neighbors needed to be won over with bunches of free flowers and surplus plants. What emerged from a thicket of waist-high weeds was an extremely efficient and productive cutting garden that churned out enough blooms to start a business.
After a year in the market garden, it was evident that Love ‘n Fresh needed more land to produce even more flowers to keep up with demand. An invaluable connection was made through a friend, and Love ‘n Fresh was granted the use of a flat, sunny acre+ field less than a quarter mile from the original garden. This privately owned land had been previously used to grow potatoes and came with a tractor, a strong well, and an electric deer fence! Even with its perennial crop of large rocks, it was an incredible match made in heaven. This field sits high on a plateau where, when the trees are bare, you can see the I-76 expressway down below. Surrounded by mature dogwood trees that bloom prolifically in the spring, the field was dubbed Dogwood Hill and has been the main hub of Love ‘n Fresh farming operations ever since. Two large hoop houses were constructed at this field and our popular floral design workshops are hosted at this site.
Shortly following the addition of Dogwood Hill, a partnership between Love ‘n Fresh and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE) was forged. SCEE already had a 2 acre farm in operation, but the existing farmer wanted to downsize. Rather than let the unused land go fallow, SCEE asked Love ‘n Fresh to lease a portion of this farm. It is now planted with hundreds of shrubs and trees for cut flowers and foliage as well as a large, mature patch of thornless blackberries that are equally superb for floral arrangements or a tasty snack while weeding. Love ‘n Fresh works cooperatively with two other farming entities at this site, Urban Girls and Teens 4 Good, and shares a beautiful modern greenhouse with them each winter to start seeds. Auspiciously, this field and the greenhouse are located half way between Dogwood Hill and the original market garden, keeping all three Love ‘n Fresh fields within a quarter mile of each other.