Have you ever wondered who grows the beautiful cut-flower bouquets you see on display at farmer’s markets? Here’s a glimpse into one flower farmer’s life—Lisa Ziegler of The Gardener’s Workshop in Virginia.
Lisa Ziegler is living her dream as an organic flower farmer, popular guest speaker and owner of an online business called The Gardener’s Workshop based in Newport News, Va.
Lisa is an urban farmer, growing her flowers in the middle of a city of 200,000 people. For the first 11 years of her growing operation, she produced 3000 to 4000 stems of flowers a week on only ½ acre of land.
She later acquired additional acreage to triple the size of the working gardens.
“We grow annuals like zinnias, cockscomb, sunflowers, snapdragons, sweet William and many others,” Lisa says. “We also grow a smaller portion of perennials and shrubs such as peonies, lisianthus, and hydrangeas.”
The Gardener’s Workshop has four main outlets for its flowers: wholesale to florists and event planners, subscription bouquet drop-off service, Garden Share Program, and farmer’s markets.
Lisa says her career choice of being a flower farmer may seem crazy to some because of all the hard work it requires, but she doesn’t consider it work at all.
“I adore growing masses of cut flowers for those who love them as much as I do,” she says.
“I love every aspect of my business, from the day-to-day farming, traveling to lecture, and seeing the appreciation on the faces of the people who receive my flowers. That’s the real reward,” she says.
The Gardener’s Workshop (TGW) started in 1998 as a cut-flower farm and grew quickly to include providing educational programs for gardeners. Lisa’s next big step came in 2005 when TGW started a mail-order catalog featuring the same tools, supplies and seeds she uses in her own garden.
“That’s the difference between TGW and other catalogs,” she says. “We sell what we use or what’s been recommended by other growers or our customers.”
In fact, Lisa started TGW because some customers wanted to know how she could grow such large crops of flowers in such a small space, and others wanted to know how she grows them using sustainable organic gardening methods. It was clear to her that many people needed help so they could be successful in their own gardens.
“We spend our effort building and keeping our soil happy, which in turn grows great flowers and veggies,” Lisa says.
“The secret to gardening success is so simple, that most often miss it. It’s all about the soil.”
Every Day is Different
There is no typical workday for Lisa and that’s part of what she enjoys about her business. She rarely does the same thing two days in a row, no matter what the season.
“When I pick up my harvesting shears in May until it’s all over at the end of September, we are in a constant state of harvesting, processing flowers and selling,” she explains.
From September to December, the soil building, seed starting and planting begin in earnest. After a few months off, the effort starts again in March.
Lisa depends on help from her sister, Suzanne, other supportive family members and a group of dedicated farm workers who work to keep the operation running smoothly.
In fact it was Suzanne who came up with TGW tagline: “Turning All Thumbs Green.” Lisa says it’s a perfect fit for the business because there are so many folks who don’t believe they can have green thumbs.
Lisa is especially pleased when people who had given up on gardening tell her they enjoy growing a garden again after attending one of her programs or watching her DVD.
“I love rekindling the garden spirit,” she says.
WesternGardeners.com welcomes Lisa Ziegler of TGW as one of our newest advertisers. If you look closely at her pictures, she’s wearing a pair of Atlas “Touch” Gloves.