Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.

Candice Woloshyn prepares her flower beds for the next season at her ‘Dirty Girl Flowers’ farm in Merville. Despite the pandemic, Woloshyn was able to sustain her homegrown business as community members opted for regular deliveries of fresh cut flowers. Photo by Binny Paul/ Campbell River Mirror.

Vancouver Island flower farmers were blooming as the pandemic wilted everything else

Floriculturists saw increased subscriptions as fresh flowers became a ‘sight for sore eyes’ during isolation

In March when the Dutch destroyed millions of their highly sought-after tulip bulbs, it was evident that the pandemic had sucker-punched the global flower business.

But even as Canadian flower shops shut and flower farmers battled uncertainty, a very different scenario was unfolding for two east Vancouver Island farmers.

Candice Woloshyn’s Merville based operation, Dirty Girl Flowers (DGF), is just a year old but her family kitchen had turned into a “flower hot spot” during weekends as the pandemic progressed. Mason jars filled with wildflowers were lined up for deliveries.

This year was “busier” for the danseuse-turned-horticulturist as she took up a regular spot at local farmers’ markets in Campbell River and Comox and continued with door-to-door deliveries.

“I guess, people wanted something pretty to look at during the period of isolation,” said Woloshyn, as people in her neighbourhood placed orders for weekly deliveries of fresh flowers.

Bouquets of wildflowers, dahlias, sweet peas and heirloom narcissi became “a sight for their sore eyes” and kept Woloshyn busy throughout the season.

When the pandemic began she, like most flower growers, was “terrified” that all the investments done from the previous season would go waste.

“As a farmer you are investing thousands of dollars up front as all the bulbs are purchased the season before,” said Woloshyn.

But the response this season was “overwhelming,” as people responded to to DGF’s Instagram post that they were offering free weekly deliveries.

After moving to the Island from the Lower Mainland a couple years ago, flower farming became a passion project for Woloshyn. She slowly turned it into a business last year. Her clientele now includes young girls from Campbell River as well as upscale families from Comox.

Typically a business year begins in April with tulips and daffodils, then leads to peonies and dahlias and cosmos until the first frost hits in October.

Comox Valley based flower farmer Lydia Jackson saw her business double during the pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Last week, the first frost of the season marked the end of fresh flowers for Comox Valley-based farmer Lydia Jackson, who runs Hazel Bloom Farm & Flowers.

As she turns her attention to dry floral arrangements for the winter, Jackson looks back at 2020’s fresh flower sales and said her business “doubled” after the pandemic.

Early on she incorporated health and safety guidelines and introduced “contactless deliveries” and expanded her subscription program to Campbell River as well.

For people, the delivery of fresh flowers was like having “something to look forward to” during social distancing. A lot of customers were also sending flowers to their family and friends during this time said Jackson. Along with fresh flowers, she also a witnessed a spike in the sales of seeds and tubers as a lot of Island folks took to gardening and attending to their flower beds.

Jackson – who calls herself an “accidental farmer” – ventured into the flower business in 2018 after she earned the reputation of “being the girl who came to parties with fresh-cut flowers.”

“A lot of people began asking me to make bouquets for them and I realized there was a huge market here,” she said. And since then she grew her business from a single 15×4 foot flower bed to 75 of them.

Both the women attribute their successful season partially to the number of customers who opted to shop local.

“People are very well-educated and aware of the organic food movement, and why buying local is very important,” said Woloshyn. “Customers now understand that flowers that are not grown locally and travel across thousands of miles have severe environmental implications.”

The pandemic also changed the monopoly of imported flowers in the Vancouver Island market as more buyers started opting for seasonal flowers and delicate blooms, said Jackson.

According to her, strong, durable flowers that could withstand travel had a monopoly in the market over delicate blooms. But as their supply dwindled during the pandemic, “delicate” flowers began showing up on the shelves of flower shops as the trend shifted to accommodate flowers that were readily “available.”

Buying directly from a local flower farmer also eliminates the price of the “middleman,” making the prices more affordable, said Woloshyn.

“Flowers are something that everybody should be able to afford.”

CoronavirusSmall Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(PQB News file photo)
Qualicum Beach voters head back to the polls on May 15

Byelection will be held to replace former councillor (now MLA) Adam Walker

Ecko Aleck, recipient of $5,000 award for Indigenous entrepreneurs presented by Young Entrepreneurs Symposium. (photo courtesy of Adam Ziorio Photography)
Qualicum Beach woman one of 20 winners in nationwide challenge for Indigenous entrepreneurs

Ecko Aleck plans to create youth council with paid consultation

The Town of Qualicum Beach East Village Revitalization project has received a grant from the B.C. government. (Town of Qualicum Beach illustration )
Parksville Qualicum Beach projects receive more than $1M in provincial funds

Chamber of Commerce plans to establish micro-fullfilment centre to aid area businesses

(PQB News file photo)
Qualicum Beach offers to establish temporary cold-weather shelter

Move would provide aid to a maximum of 15 individuals

(PQB News file photo)
Parksville city council approves spending $235,000 for ERWS water treatment plant

$87K expected as reimbursement via ERWS Joint Ventures Agreement

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

Most Read