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

Carmen Robinson was last seen getting off a bus in View Royal the evening of Dec. 8, 1973. Her case remains unsolved 47 years later. (Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers)
Gone cold: Fate of View Royal teen remains a mystery, 47 years after her disappearance

Carmen Robinson, 17, was last seen exiting a bus in View Royal in December 1973

Parkland Secondary principal Lizanne Chicanot stands by the track which is the subject of a fundraising effort. The 35-year-old track is well beyond its best-before date. (Jason Earnshaw/Submitted)
Fundraising campaign to replace North Saanich track off to the races

Track at Parkland Secondary School ‘well, well beyond its best-before date’

Island Health is expanding COVID-19 testing in Nanaimo with a new testing location at Vancouver Island University. (News Bulletin file photo)
Island Health issues apology over racist practices in health care system

Report by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond finds ‘widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people’

Island Health has reported a COVID-19 outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak hits first Greater Victoria hospital

Island Health declares outbreak at Saanich Peninsula Hospital

The Sooke School District is actively looking for more bus drivers after they had to cancel a handful of bus routes in late November. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bus driver shortage cancels routes in Sooke School District

More drivers needed to accomodate expanding bus routes amid pandemic

(AP Photo/Paula Bronstein)
POLL: Has COVID-19 changed your plans for the holidays?

The lights are going up, the stacks of presents under the tree… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 1

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

A teacher places the finishing touches on the welcome sign at Hunter’s Glen Junior Public School which is part of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Hindsight 2020: How do you preserve a year many Canadians would rather forget?

Figuring out how to preserve the story of the pandemic poses a series of challenges

BIG SALMON ranch in Washington State. (Center for Whale Research handout)
Non-profit buys Chinook ranch in hopes of increasing feed for southern resident killer whales

The ranch, which borders both sides of Washington State’s Elwha River, is a hotspot for chinook salmon

Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy are inviting audiences into their home for ‘A Celtic Family Christmas’. (Submitted)
Natalie MacMaster coming to you through Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

Here’s your chance to enjoy the famed fiddler in an online show with her husband Donnell Leahy.

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Most Read