Market Stories: Field & Vase

Melissa DiPalma-06824.jpg

Field & Vase by Stow Greenhouses
Stow, MA

Barb Rietscha quickly moves from her greenhouse, to fields, to floral design room, to home office on her porch, with clippers in one hand and phone in the other. In late summer, flowers are cut fresh from the field every morning by her team and prepared to ship to her Boston retail locations as quickly as possible. Barb's goal is to provide the best local cut flowers possible and promote a field-to-vase approach that maximizes local varieties and produces long lasting blooms and beautiful seasonal arrangements. Barb was nice enough to step away from her flowers recently to answer some questions about Field & Vase.

Were you always a gardener? What inspired you to begin growing and selling flowers as a business?
I have always been a gardener, but now I am a farmer! My husband and I bought Stow Greenhouses in 2010 after we decided that we wanted to be more family and community centered. We were looking for a local business to buy when we saw an ad for the farm in a local newspaper. And here we are. We literally bought the farm – all 14-acres! We have made a lot of changes to the business model transitioning from a cut flower farm selling wholesale to now selling retail and adding a floral design studio. Our new name, Field & Vase by Stow Greenhouses, better reflects who we are.

What types of flowers do you specialize in and what do you think are some of the trends happening with floral design today?
We grow over 80 varieties of flowers but we are best known for our lilies. Other customer favorites include ranunculus, sweet peas, peonies and dahlias. People become addicted to our flowers as they not only look and smell wonderful but they also last longer in the vase because they are locally grown. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “Your flowers last so long!” Just as people have become aware of where their food comes from, they have also begun to wonder where their flowers come from. We are field-to- vase which allows us to use the best of what is blooming in the garden that day. My design style is natural and organic with movement within the arrangement.

Melissa DiPalma-06689.jpg

Field & Vase grows and sells fresh cut flowers year-round, what are some of the challenges of doing this here in New England where the growing season is so short?
Growing in New England year-round definitely has its challenges. Maybe that’s why there are so few of us! We have a greenhouse that is 36,000 square feet or about an acre in size and the biggest obstacle to year-round growing in our area is the cold followed closely by the low levels of winter light. Fortunately, we have biomass boilers which use wood chips as fuel. Heating the greenhouse with oil would be cost prohibitive. We currently don’t run lights but we’d love to in the future. To work with the low light, we grow flower varieties that have lower light requirements. Think spring flowers – anemone, sweet peas, daffodils, tulips, ranunculus, stock, sweet peas. These varieties all do well in the winter months. And if winter wasn’t enough of a challenge, we have a short outdoor growing season. To maximize the season, we start everything from seed beginning in early March in our heated hoop house. We employ succession planting which means as soon as something stops producing flowers, we rip it out and plant something else. Beginning in late July or August, we start planting in the greenhouse again. Our goal is no gaps in production!

Melissa DiPalma-06896.jpg

What can people expect to find at your shop at Boston Public Market?
Our shop at the Boston Public Market was our first permanent retail location. We’d done farmers’ markets for years but we were so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the year-round Boston Public Market. Customers will find bouquets of locally grown flowers, small floral arrangements, succulents, houseplants, cacti, books, greeting cards, goat milk soap, lavender products, seeds and more. We are constantly on the look-out for new products to keep things fresh for our customers!

Tell us more about your new venture to open a floral shop at the Prudential Center in Boston.
We are very excited to be opening a second Field & Vase location in Boston this summer. We will have 2 shops at the Prudential Center! One is a kiosk located outside of the Dunkin Donuts. It will be a “grab and go” shop with flower bouquets, succulents, plants and related products such as books, cards, soaps and more. It will be the perfect place to grab a bouquet for your desk or that special someone. The second location will be down the Top of the Hub escalator. This location will house not only a retail space but also a workshop and walk-in- cooler. We will be able to do custom arrangements and host classes in this space. We are so excited to be bringing local flowers to more people in Boston.

Melissa DiPalma-06648.jpg

For home gardeners, what advice would you offer about growing or arranging their backyard flowers?
My advice to backyard gardeners is to grow what you like. If you like zinnias, plant a lot! A few other tips are:

  • Start small. There are no weeds in the spring but there soon will be and it is easy to get overwhelmed.
  • Good soil is the key to success. Mix in compost to your soil before planting.
  • Plant a combination of perennials (flowers that will come back year after year) and annuals (flowers that last only one season.)

With respect to flower arranging, don’t be afraid to experiment with flowers and foliage not only in your garden but also in your yard. There are also a couple of key things to remember to get you flowers to last as long as possible in the vase:

  • Strip all the leaves that fall below the water line.
  • Snip the ends and change the water every 2-3 days.

What is your favorite flower and why?
This question is impossible for me to answer! My favorite changes depending on what is blooming that day. I love the fragrance of sweet peas, peonies and snapdragons. I love the bright colors of ranunculus, Chinese forget-me- nots and zinnias. I love the petals of dahlias and ornamental kale. My favorite foliage includes cerinthe, scented geraniums and bupleurum. And sometimes my favorite is a marigold that has dew captured in its petals!

You can learn more about Field & Vase, their Boston locations, wedding and floral design services at www.stowgreenhouses.com. Visit them at Boston Public Market to see what is currently growing and being cut from their field and greenhouses!

Photos: Melissa DiPalma