A Bouquet Grows in WellsboroDec 31, 2020 09:00AM ● By Lilace Mellin Guignard
There’s a new and really local florist in Wellsboro, which means even the flowers are local. Sow Flora, started by sisters Sarah Reese and Cheryl Hall, has been around for three growing seasons. “Cheryl is the main green thumb,” Sarah says, “and a majority of the flowers are grown at her house in Wellsboro.”
They started out selling bouquets and table arrangements at the Wellsboro Growers Market on the grounds of First Presbyterian Church (Thursdays from May through mid-November), creative combinations of wildflowers and sweet peas, augmented with the textures and colors of cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, and globe thistles. Dahlias are one of their specialties. “Flowers bring people so much joy,” Sarah says. “Our regulars come up to the booth saying, ‘I’m here for my weekly bouquet!’” And these bouquets last longer than average. Perhaps the varieties they use are hardier. They’re definitely super-fresh.
In 2019, Sow Flora rented and started renovating the barn at Animal Care Sanctuary, across from Weis Markets at 11765 U.S. Route 6. Now they plant a sunflower field right out the door. You won’t see the barn easily from the road—it’s the big red one behind the kennels. Behind the shop (closed now for the season), ACS put in trails for members of their dog park, with lovely views that include the barn and flower patches. Veterinarians have long asserted that dogs see the world in black and white. But, according to the American Kennel Club, dogs can see yellow and blue—which means they can enjoy the sunflowers, too.
Cheryl works part-time at ACS and Sarah works full-time at Elmira College, so a seasonal business is a good fit for their lives. They both grew up in Wellsboro and returned to be near family. This year the store was open June through November. “We were planning some holiday sales,” Sarah says, “but with the COVID-19 cases on the rise we cancelled them. We plan to open the store in May.”
In addition to fresh flowers they sell dried flower arrangements, wreathes, and other locally crafted items. Sarah makes natural gemstone jewelry she sells as Hidden Gems Designs. Additional unique local finds include Cheryl’s precisely painted mandala rocks, birdhouses and feeders made by Cameron Clemens of Wellsboro, and home décor and laser-engraved gifts made by Smith Woodworking of Covington. “I wanted to start a community-based business,” says Sarah, who liked the examples she saw when she lived in Asheville, North Carolina. They hope to add more local artists next year.
With the barn renovated and store open, Sarah plans to hold workshops and classes on various aspects of growing and arranging flowers. “Figuring out how to run a business takes most of my attention right now,” Sarah tells me. One of the most interesting services the sisters offer is a Community Supported Agriculture membership. Since they grow their own flowers, they are technically flower farmers. Your CSA membership allows them to expand their small floral business and aids in the cost of seeds, fertilizers, infrastructure updates, and other necessities they may need to prepare for the season. In return, you receive a personal share of the flowers they grow during the months of summer. A share costs $200 for ten weeks, and runs July 13 to September 14, 2021. Pick-up is every Tuesday at the shop between 11:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Each week, they also provide members with information on the varieties in bloom, gardening tips, and growing techniques. The bountiful share will include flowers, herbs, foliage, and forage items found on their land. These arrangements will be wrapped in paper and a hydrating wrap to keep them as fresh as possible until you can get them home and into a vase of your choice. Their dahlias come in various sizes, from pom poms to dinnerplate types that look lovely in large arrangements. Their names are as beautiful as they are: Bracken Sarah, Brown Sugar, Midnight Moon, Café au Lait.
If ten weeks is just too much joy to handle, they are also offering a three-week bouquet subscription next season for $40. The subscription bouquets will be slightly smaller than the CSA bouquets and can be purchased at any point during the growing season (with consideration of frost) and can be picked up on Fridays or Saturdays. For other special bouquets, it’s best to call at least a few hours ahead so they have time to prep what you want.
If you have a wedding or other special event, be sure to contact them months ahead of time—the sooner the better. They’ve already done some weddings and are a unique option to consider, especially for couples getting married in August and September who want a real Tioga County feel and look. “Smaller weddings are best for us,” Sarah explains, though they have worked with other florists, such as Mann’s Country Gardens in nearby Gillett, to meet larger demands.
Cyndie and Steve Bortz got married at Red Barn Hollow in Wellsboro last August with Sow Flora flowers. “We wanted to keep everything as local as possible,” Cyndie explains. “I met with Sarah a couple times in person early on, where I showed her pictures of what I liked. Then she bought and planted seeds based on my choices. If she couldn’t grow the exact flower in the picture, she was able to come up with a substitution that gave me the look I wanted.” The blush tones of the Café au Lait dahlias were a favorite of Cyndie’s.
Weddings and flowers are definitely joyful, even if joy is a little harder to come by lately. The pandemic was less of a hit to Sow Flora’s business than the early frost. But having to be flexible with weather and growing conditions means they’re also ready to adapt to whatever comes along. “We didn’t know if it’d take off,” Sarah admits. “Wellsboro is kind of a small town.” Clearly it is also a town that appreciates joy and beauty.
Check out Sow Flora on Facebook and ;Instagram, or contact them at [email protected] or (570) 846-0498. If you are interested in planning a wedding, set up a consultation over the winter so they can plant seeds with your special day in mind.