Planting seeds of growth in Hamilton
With Spring just around the corner, scrolling through Floral & Brick’s Instagram feed is one of the best ways to eagerly anticipate the warm weather, birds chirping, and flowers blooming. Natasha Smith, owner, and operator of Floral and Brick posts photos of stunning flowers, colourful blooms, and incredible floral arrangements. In the winter, when she’s not tending to her garden plots around the city, she’s collaborating with other creative Hamiltonians, organizing her seeds and bulbs, and planning for the year. Floral & Brick is a floral design studio specializing in modern design using local Hamilton flowers. She launched in March of 2017 after planting 400 tulip bulbs the previous fall.
THE SEED OF INSPIRATION
Such a unique concept was inspired by her neighbour across the street, Russ Ohrt. Russ and his business partner run Backyard Harvest, a vegetable urban farm. Natasha thought the same could be done but only with flowers.
She learned a lot from the “slow flower” movement, where small flower farms around the world are bringing the heart and soul back into an industry that had become really depersonalized and separated from nature. Instead of homogeneously growing one type of flower and pumping her products with chemical, Natasha grows show-stopper flowers, like dahlias, peonies, hydrangeas, and zinnias, as well as a wide variety of smaller flowers, and a number of foliages, some grasses, and berries. Essentially, she grows all the elements of a one-of-a-kind bouquet.
Natasha buys anything that she can’t grow from other farms in Southern Ontario. She also runs a “share your stems” group on Facebook where Hamilton gardeners join the group and let her know which stems she can take from their yard. She then pays a wholesale price for them. Last year she got almost all of her hydrangeas that way!
Natasha started out selling her flowers and arrangements in local stores like the Mustard Seed and Canoe on Locke. She did pop-ups and sold individual bouquets through her website. This coming year she is moving to a subscription bouquet service, with people signing up for the whole growing season from April to October, getting either weekly, biweekly, or monthly bouquets. They can either visit her main plot to pick up flowers or she will deliver.
LETTING DREAMS BLOOM
Natasha grows in 5 plots currently, and she is on the lookout for more space. Her main plot is in the Strathcona neighbourhood off of Locke North. When people lend her their unused yard, they get to look at pretty flowers all summer in exchange. She does all the work herself, from planting, to watering, to weeding, to floral design. She finds it all therapeutic. Natasha’s floral design style is inspired by the flowers themselves. “I let their shape, colour, and personality dictate how the arrangement comes together. While gardening is therapeutic and awesome, floral design is my passion. It’s an art, it’s like painting every time I put together flowers in a bouquet or arrangement. I love clients who want me to push boundaries and try new things, new colour combinations, styles, and shapes,” says Natasha. Natasha enjoys working with brides. Together, they work to achieve the bride’s dream vision using flowers from her farm. Something unique that Floral & Brick offers is flower requests. With enough time, Natasha can plant certain flowers specifically for their wedding. This year she is planting an entire patch of deep red flowers for a bride.
HER ROOTS ARE IN HAMILTON
Hamilton means a lot to Natasha. She grew up in the Ambitious City before she left for school. Then, 5 years ago she moved back to Hamilton with her husband as the city’s artistic and entrepreneurial personality blossomed. What she loves most about Hamilton is the eclectic mix of artsy people and blue collar workers, all of whom are proud of their city. She says “when I grow flowers in the city, I feel like I am a part of the city, helping it grow in new ways, literally and figuratively.”