The Story of Bloom, Part 4: Lessons Learned

Amanda inside a greenhouse that had fallen over.

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It’s only natural that I would learn a few things during the transition from a job at a school to a job where I might be shoveling dirt one day and literally jumping up and down in a trash can the next day. I’m always learning things in the flower world, and sometimes things don’t go so smoothly. Today I’m going to talk about some of the lessons that I’ve learned … many of them the hard way.

Starting small

Sometimes I think back to my first delivery and laugh — I bought flowers at the farmers market, then arranged them in the back of the car and delivered them to my first customer. I had one delivery to make, and no cooler — what was I supposed to do?

I did all kinds of weird things starting out, like growing tulips in plastic storage containers from IKEA. I bought a little greenhouse from Amazon. I set up a seed-starting area in the garage, complete with shelves, heat mats and lights. It was cute.

Lights above seed trays
My seed starting setup.

Expanding, making missteps

Fast-forward a little while and I was ready to expand my growing operations. Luckily my dad had just purchased a house with a large, raised planter on one side and a smaller 9-foot-by-9-foot planter on the other side.

I just had to get it ready — easier said than done. There was a tree that I had to take out by myself, and when we were ready to till, we ran into even more problems. The ground was so hard that we had to get it really wet to be able to do anything. Of course, that led to a huge, borrowed rototiller that was stuck in the mud for a few days. We added soil amendment and planted cover crop. When it was time to clear out the cover crop, I cut it with a weed wacker … while wearing shorts and cowboy boots. My legs were bright green afterwards, and I was finding pieces of cover crop in my sunglasses for years.

Eventually it turned out well. We always plant in rows at my dad’s house with holes burned into landscape fabric, which works great except for when we don’t net the plants and they fall all over themselves. Oops.

Figuring it out

I knew going into this business that I had a lot to learn, and wow, was I right about that. When I started out, some of the many mistakes I made were:

  • Planting things that didn’t work in bouquets
  • Planting things that I didn’t know how to grow
  • Planting a ton of flowers that didn’t survive
  • Being unsure how to arrange flowers
  • Being unsure how to market my business

I’m still trying to figure out a lot of these things (and many more).

An a-maze-ing idea

Boxes forming a flower maze.
The beginnings of the flower maze.

One big example of a tough lesson came when I needed more space to grow ranunculus. It all started when I bought way too many ranunculus and anemone corms (like, in the thousands…), and then found even more in the garage. I needed somewhere to plant them, and my mom said I could have her whole front yard for a season, because she was planning to get rid of her grass anyway.

So, naturally I decided to create something fun: a flower maze.

I thought it was going to be the best thing ever. I thought we were going to go viral.

First, my whole neighborhood pitched in to find spare avocado boxes from Costco so I could plant in them. I used those boxes because I could put them on the lawn to kill off the grass.

At first it was a fun, family activity: Oliver sat and ate dirt while I planted, and Hallie had fun running through the maze of boxes.

Then it rained.

And it rained. And it rained. And it was so cold.

By the time it had finally stopped raining and warmed up a bit, the weather suddenly shot up from about 50 degrees to 90 in a week. Ranunculus don’t like that.

Ranunculus corms like for it to be cold for a while and then warm up, and then stay between the 60s and low 70s for the entire time they’re blooming.

So when it decided to jump up to the 80s after it had been raining for so long, our little plants didn’t stand a chance.
We put up a huge, hideous shade structure, and what was supposed to be this incredible maze turned into something that just looked like a mess of plastic trash bags.

It was just so disappointing, and it wasn’t even my fault — we were at the mercy of the weather. It made me feel sad about that season, plus the summer that followed. I was going to put more flowers in there, but I decided to cut my losses. At least we got some joy out of it. The funny thing is my mom is now in the process of converting her former lawn to a landscape of California-native plants, and little random ranunculuses keep popping up.

So, like with everything else, we picked up, moved on and kept growing. We’re still going. We have our moments of sadness, frustration, anger, embarrassment and imposter syndrome. But then I plant more flowers and keep moving. I love what I’m doing and that makes me want to provide a product that can bring joy to other people.

Next week is the final post: Part 5, The Growth!

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Amanda sitting in booth at festival
Bloom Blog

The Story of Bloom, Part 5: The Growth

It’s kind of amazing how much my business has changed since the early (pre-kid!) days, when I would go around to random businesses dropping off