By Emma Kent // Photos by Lauren Wood
What began as a few raised beds and growing produce for her family has become a full-blown flower farm for Vanessa Jackson.
She and her husband, Jimmy, built their home on a small piece of land in Mooreville nine years ago, with plenty of room for gardening. They started by growing all kinds of vegetables and herbs for their family before shifting their focus to flowers.
In the summer of 2017, Vanessa started a local subscription flower delivery service under the moniker Seven Acres Farm. She puts together bouquets of what they have in season from their garden and delivers them to subscribers each Monday.
Now the land surrounding their home is overflowing with flowers and other plants that make up the arrangements they produce for their business. In the front of the home, they’re working on a large rose garden.
Seven Acres offers weekly, biweekly and monthly delivery subscriptions. In the fall, they had 8-9 weekly subscribers. The rest of their business consists of orders and arrangements for special occasions. Vanessa said she hopes to begin doing more wedding florals, too.
Everything Seven Acres grows is done so organically, without the use of pesticides.
Most of the flower seeds are planted in the spring, giving Vanessa blooms to work with all summer long, and some — Zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, marigolds — even lingering into late September and early October.
“Mid-summer is when everything is really full,” Vanessa said.
In October 2018, they began planting bulbs for spring — 700 tulip bulbs.
Seven Acres does continue to offer subscriptions through the winter, which means they have to get creative using what they have during the cold winter months.
Vanessa has learned that certain flowers keep their color really well, making them just as striking when dried. So she often dries flowers and uses them to fill in bouquets during the winter when she has fewer blooms to work with.
She turns some of the dried blooms into flower confetti, a colorful assortment of petals, which she plans to start selling soon.
Flower farming isn’t without its challenges, though, and Vanessa’s process has been to learn as she goes. She said herself she hasn’t always had a green thumb.
“But I’ve read a lot,” she said, laughing.
She recently planted peonies in the yard, hoping that they’ll settle in and produce blooms. Much of the work she does in the garden has rewards that are more long term — richer soil, fuller plants.
“We may not have a lot of flowers this year because they need to get established,” she said of the peonies.
Part of that learning process has also been experimenting with ways to start the flower seeds. Through a lot of trial and error, Vanessa said she’s found the best way is to use a soil-blocking tool.
The seed-starting process goes something like this: They mix their own soil, made of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite, and that’s what they start the seeds in. Then, the seeds germinate for a certain amount of time, depending on the flower. For example, sunflowers spend 3-4 weeks germinating before being planted. Once the seeds are ready, Vanessa takes them outside to be planted in the ground.
The Mississippi heat prevents her from planting certain flowers that bloom only in the spring, because our spring is so short.
There are some flowers that do grow very well in the summer heat, which makes them perfect for beginners who want to try their hand at growing flowers at home. Vanessa recommends growing zinnias and sunflowers, which can be planted from seed from mid-April to May, and easy bulbs like tulips and daffodils, which should be planted in the fall.
Others, like dahlias, are a bit trickier.
“You have to do a lot to keep them cool,” Vanessa said. “I’m still trying to learn some of the best ways to do that.”
The amount of available blooms in the winter should be more plentiful next year, thanks to a greenhouse the couple is building on their property. Their hope is that the greenhouse will allow them to grow flowers year-round.
In early February, the greenhouse was up and running after almost a year’s worth of work to get it ready. Rows of white and pastel anemones were starting to bloom, just in time for Valentine’s Day orders. Vanessa has worked diligently in the greenhouse since planting them in October. Now, she steps back to admire her work.
“I’m happy with the way they’re growing,” she said. “I’ve always liked flowers, but I haven’t always been good at growing them.”