Seasonal flowers

At last

The bouquet I picked at our you-pick event.

The bouquet I picked at our you-pick event.

Ah. So I knew this day would come. The period of the season where it was intensely busy and I didn’t get this update posted on time. The good news is that the stuff that has been keeping us busy has been good stuff.

The Saturday farmer’s market on the 3rd was our best selling market ever. That was pretty exciting to experience. I credit the perfect weather, the gorgeous sunflowers, and the really fun rainbow bouquets I made. My dad was in town visiting, too, and it was nice to share a great market experience with him.

On Friday, the 9th of August, we hosted our first big party in the flower field. It was a ‘back to school’ theme, and everyone was welcome to pick their own flowers. We were thrilled with the event overall, and really enjoyed the approximately 100 people (it was hard to keep exact count) that came out. Some of my highlights of the event were watching little ones run around, observing how intently people considered their options before cutting, and the weather. All of this makes me extra excited for our fall themed you-pick party at the end of September (September 25th, 5-7 pm).

Queen lime with orange zinnias doing their thing.

Queen lime with orange zinnias doing their thing.

Then, on the 10th we flew out of state to visit my family, and enjoyed a lot of ice cream, swimming, and playing with cousins. I love family time, but it was nice to be back to the field. We actually drove straight from the airport to the flower field, and I walked around in the clothes I had traveled in just taking it all in. The asters started blooming in our absence, and I was pleasantly surprised by the growth the sunflowers put on while we were gone, too. There was a new variety of statice blooming (such a pretty purple, with small white blooms on top), and the zinnias I had planted on the 4th of July just because (well, because I’d rather plant ALL of the seed we have) started blooming as well.

After that, it was ‘off to the races’ in terms of special orders, deliveries, and prepping for the farmers’ market on Saturday. I went ‘full summer’ on the bouquets for the farmers’ market this week and used the most vibrant, bright, summery colors the field had to offer. With the buckets and buckets of gorgeous sunflowers we brought in from the field and some sweet gladiolus and perfect weather, it was another great market.

Asters are such a sweet flower.

Asters are such a sweet flower.

We’re picking up more orders for our weekly deliveries, and preparing to sell at two farmers’ markets this coming Saturday the 24th. (Ask me at 2 pm on Saturday if I thought that was a good idea after trying to corral a squirmy toddler for 6 hours. Eek.) With some fun special events coming up (fall party, sunflower photo wall, wine and design class, weddings, etc.), fall is looking like it will be a great season for us!

Of course, all of this is on top of watering, weeding, seeding, tilling, solarizing, and planning for the future. Chris is set to finish the sunflower plantings for the year soon. More tillage crops should go in this weekend, and we’re expanding production space for next year this fall. We’ll solarize the beds over the fall to help to prepare the soil for production next year. I can summarize the motivating idea in just one word: SUNFLOWERS. It’s going to be good, friends.

I know people love fall (and for some good reasons), but this period of the year is such an exciting one. I won’t miss the humidity though. That can just go away for good, if you ask me.

Here’s some of what’s been happening over here. As always, contact us to order any special orders, event flowers, or gifts that you want. Flowers make the best presents - easy on the eyes, and good on the waistline!

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

Hola, August!

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And then July was done. How did that happen?

It happened with a lot of blooms and seeds, a lot of weeds, a lot of event planning, and a lot of designing, that’s how it happened.

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Let’s start with the blooms. The sunflowers and dahlias have been gorgeous, the zinnias are showing some great stem length and beautiful colors, I’m loving the new colors of statice that are coming in, the snapdragons are heavenly, the eucalyptus and dusty miller are stunning, the cerinthe is a new favorite, the calendua is colorful, the celosia is popping, the salvia and scabiosa and strawflower are starting, and so on and so on. I’m missing a lot in that little round up, which goes to show how much is going on in the field right now (also known as, Katie has begun to consider whether she should quit worrying about whether things will ever bloom). In the last two weeks, we have planted more sunflowers, calendua, stock, zinnias, amaranth, and cerinthe. And that’s in addition to the blooming stock, dara, cress, amaranth, rudbeckia, cosmos, peas, bells of Ireland, and others that I didn’t mention above - I was walking the field in my head, and I got distracted thinking about the second item mentioned above - the weeds.

I wonder what the bloom to weed ratio is. I’m guessing if we mapped that relationship over the course of the season we would see a decline over time. At some point, there will be fewer weeds. I wonder on a regular basis when that will be. I have been thankful for some extra assistance with weeding this last week, to the point where the field has been looking very nice. We had our first private event in the flower field this past Tuesday, and I was very proud to walk people around the flower field a give a little tour. While some people tell me the idea that flower farming is so romantic (which is often true), flower farming is actually a lot of one-on-one alone time with the dirt and weeds and mosquitoes. In other words, it is nice to share the field with other humans for a change.

“Don’t worry, Mom, I just want to touch them, I won’t hurt them.”

“Don’t worry, Mom, I just want to touch them, I won’t hurt them.”

Which brings me to my third update - the ongoing event planning. We are planning a back to school you-pick party in the flower field, and I’m really excited for it. It is Friday, August 9th from 5-8 pm. There is a $5/car entrance fee (with registration, $10/car otherwise), and then flowers that people cut will be priced per stem. The best part is that we are having kids activities, and people can take pictures in the field at our school themed photo station and browse the adorable creations of Kellie from The Paper Arrow Co., whom is styling the event for us. It’s going to be a great time. (You can register for free to let us know you are coming on our Facebook page by using the Events tab, or on Eventbrite by searching “Proclamation Flowers”.) The trick will be to reign myself in so that I’m not trying to do ALL of the things at the same time, because I really want to do ALL of the things for this party!

When I’m not dreaming up what extra things we could do at the back to school party, I’ve been designing special orders and arrangements as often as I can. The flowers are stunning right now, and have lent themselves to all sorts of designs, color schemes, and themes. I’ve included some of my favorites here, so you can get a sense of what’s been going out the door recently.

We’ve been burning the midnight oil recently (quite literally, it’s 11:54 pm at the moment) with the field work, harvesting, designing, selling, and planning. It’s 10000% worth it and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, just in case you were curious.

Come see it in person yourself at our event on the 9th!

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

A field of color

While the stars of the show here every week are the flowers, there are some show-stopping flowers that came out of the field this week. Colors, textures, sizes, smells, the whole gambit. What a beautiful week in flowers it has been. (I’m going to attempt to stay positive instead of complain endlessly about the excessive and annoying heat.)

You can see our flower field from the state route, and I must admit that I always try to look at it while driving by. (Other people must, too, because I hear a lot of vehicles hit the rumble strips. Maybe they’re just distracted by the excessively pale ghost, me, they see stalking the field. ha) The sunflowers feel like such happy sentinels. Chris decided to plant the 110 foot vertical bed that slopes up the hill in successions of sunflowers, and it’s quite picturesque. I especially like watching them track the movement of the sun throughout the day. I deeply love sunflowers, so my life improved a degree now that they are out in the field in full force.

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There are other relative newcomers to the field, including massive zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, snapdragons, salvia, statice, dara, scabiosa, and amaranth tassels. I harvested for the farmers’ market on Friday morning, and I went back out on Saturday morning and either I forgot to harvest certain rows of zinnias, or they are opening overnight. In other words, it’s like a scavenger hunt every time I’m in the field now - ‘what’s blooming today?’

Multiple times this week I got to do one of my favorite activities - take a bucket of water and a pair of clippers, and walk the field for flowers that I’m going to arrange that day. It is so fun to see what the field has for me, and which color/variety combinations draw my eye. Sometimes I go out to harvest with a clear idea of what I or the customer wants, but sometimes I just go with the flow, and those times are especially fun.

On the production side, we did get the beds solarized and the crop crop in on other beds. We’re waiting for less hot, dry days to till up our newest section of beds. They will go into production in 2020, resulting in a 100% plus increase in bed space in 4 years. I have probably already earmarked every inch of space in those beds with varieties I’m in love with right now, like statice and snapdragons and dahlias. We’ll see how I change my mind as the season progresses.

Until then, we’ll keep admiring what we have, while dreaming about the future.

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

This cheerful rudbeckia bed.

This cheerful rudbeckia bed.

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

This pink wall and just how many submissions we got for our first sunflower giveaway (one of the prizes pictured here.)

This pink wall and just how many submissions we got for our first sunflower giveaway (one of the prizes pictured here.)

Welcome, summer

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It is officially summer now, and we are welcoming this new season with open arms. This year, we started attending the farmers’ market 6 weeks earlier than any previous year. There were a number of reasons for that decision, which aren’t overly interesting. What is more interesting is what we learned from showing up to the markets that much earlier.

First, I learned to appreciate peonies in a whole new way this year. It’s not just that they are beautiful flowers (which they are), it’s that they bloom in a time of year when I’m practically desperate for fresh flowers. Other people at the farmers’ markets seemed to feel the same way, as the peony arrangements didn’t stick around for long each week.

Second, I learned how much interest there is in opportunities to visit the flower farm. That was very gratifying to see, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered making everyone pull one weed as price of entry. We’ll be rolling out more details about the first field event of the season soon (sans weed pulling requirements).

calendula bouquet 6.22.jpg

Third, I learned to appreciate the bounty of summer more. (I feel practically obligated to say this.) Production is not a steady, increasing line for us - there are ebbs and flows in the season depending on growing time, weather, and other field conditions. When you only sell at the farmers’ markets during the period where production is high and increasing, it just seems natural to have a big volume of product to sell. There were some hard weeks this spring - gap weeks between varieties blooming, or weeks when the 10+ inches of rain in May was felt very strongly. I have worried that these low production weeks would communicate the wrong message to customers, but a quick peek at our booth in the next few weeks will dispel any concerns about production, volume, or quantity.

Fourth, and finally, I learned how much I prefer the saturated and deep colors of summer to the pastels of spring. Pastels certainly have their place, but I don’t think that they will ever have my heart in the same way as bold, rich, vibrant colors will. The colors these last two weeks have been incredible.

first sunflower 6.27.jpg

Okay, enough reflections. So, what have we been up to?

In the last two weeks, we have seen the first sunflowers bloom (hooray!!!), dahlia buds about to burst (that’s never happened this early in July!), and an epic storm rip through this previous Sunday. Thankfully, the storm damage was minimal. One zinnia and a few volunteer sunflowers are the worse for it, but everyone else will pull through fine. We have ended in what we are told is our permanent home at the farmers’ market (across from the gazebo, by the aisle to the parking lot). We have dealt with some nasty heat and humidity (the ‘the sweat is dripping off my face so much I can’t see out of my sunglasses’ kind). We are on pace with planting and managing the weeds for the moment (that is subject to change on a whim, if we’re unlucky). We likely won’t take time off on the 4th (in fact, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that Chris is off for extra weeding time). And, we’ll celebrate my birthday on Sunday (if anyone remembers - ha!)

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

In a word - COLOR.

rainbow close up 7.1.19.jpg
first zinnia bouquet 7.1.19.jpg
rainbow bouquet 6.29.19.jpg

Yours in flowers,

Katie and Chris Francis

Back to normal

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This is an apt title for two reasons. First, with a break in May’s relentless pace of rain, we have settled back into a (more) normal farm routine. This is certainly something for which we are thankful (well, Katie is - Chris spends late into evening in the field and I don’t know exactly if he would use the word ‘thankful’ to describe how he feels about working after dark.) Second, I, personally, am back to normal after a unpleasant run-in with a migraine this week. (This is why this update, normally posted on Wednesday, is tardy this week.)

At some point this week, when I wasn’t comatose from the migraine, I realized that I must be a little superstitious, because every time I want to tell someone ‘the field is looking good’, I find myself turning around to find the nearest piece of wood to knock on. That said (with a pause as I knock on wood), I do think the field looks good right now compared to previous years. Last fall, we decided to solarize some beds where weeds were particularly problematic. (Solarizing is when you lay plastic across the bed and let the heat that accumulates over time essentially bake the soil to kill weed seeds and pathogens.) As we have uncovered some of these beds and gotten them in use this year, I am pleased with the results so far. We will keep solarizing the other beds as long as possible, which means until we need them for production.

One other fun step forward this week was that we now have ranunculus growing in our house. Quite a few of them, in fact. Ranunculus is a beautiful complicated bloom, reminiscent of a rose in its form, but more symmetrical, papery, and less overdone (that last descriptor is my opinion, of course). We decided to do a trial of them this year to see how they grow, hold up, and arrange. They are popular in design work, so I’m curious to see how well they grow. In the corm (tuber) stage, they look remarkably like little octopuses. I did not enjoy that fact as I helped to get them pre-sprouted, for your information.

We also have been joined on the farm this week by dozens upon dozens (perhaps into hundreds) of fall gourds, pumpkins, and what not. These are obviously still in the 1-2 true leaf stage, but boy howdy do they grow. Because I am the one who starts the small, finicky seeds indoors in the middle of winter, I am always a little scandalized by just how quickly these giant seeds emerge in the field. They are little monsters, and they grow like it, too.

Finally, the last remarkable thing that happened this week is that I watered the field. Save the best for last, right? While that sounds extremely mundane, it is notable in that I was desperate for the water to STOP last month, to the extent that I don’t believe I intentionally watered a single day in May. (This was only the second time I watered the field this year; I’m fuzzy on the exact date of the first watering, but I believe it was the end of April.) We’ve have 2 inches of rain this month so far, which is workable. I even let my seedlings that haven’t been transplanted yet enjoy the rain a couple of times this week. (My father-in-law tells me that rain water is better because it has nitrogen in it.)

We would be happy with another normal week for the one ahead, personally.

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

Gorgeous larkspur joined the party this week.

Gorgeous larkspur joined the party this week.

Have a good one!

Bloomfully yours,

Katie (and Chris) Francis


To market, to market


It’s been another week, and another several inches of rain. I had hoped we would have gone into a planting frenzy by now, but the farm has recorded 7.18” of rain for May so far this month. That’s a lot of rain, in case you didn’t know.

Thankfully, my survey of the field this morning found that everything is doing okay given how wet it is out there. (For those of you familiar with The Little Blue Truck books, it called to mind the “muck and mire” that ensnares the dump truck.) Weeding tap roots is nice in this weather, so that’s a silver lining to all of these rain clouds.

We were able to get the dahlias in the ground last week, and one is already up. (YAY) This is a hopeful signs, as dahlias don’t want a lot of water after they are planted (gulp). I am crossing my fingers that they pull through for us.

We were able to direct seed and transplant into the field some this week, so it wasn’t a total planting loss. (The corn and bean farmers, though, that’s a whole other story. Yikes yikes yikes. My heart goes out to them. It’s a bleak and desperate situation.)

One happy thing on the horizon is the first farmers’ market of the season this Saturday, May 25th in downtown Kankakee from 8 am - 12 pm. We will have a limited number of flowers, flowers in pots, and dried arrangements. I am looking forward to the energy and excitement of this farmers’ market; it really is a great event and it will be nice to interact with customers rather than sit around and wring our hands at the weather forecast. (Not that we every actually sit around, but you get the idea.)

In the meantime, we will plant when we can, weed when we can, and pray that everything dries out.

Send us any dry, warm weather that you can!

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:


How many of these (Chinese Forget Me Nots) self-seeded from last year. There are so many, which isn’t surprising if you know how many seeds they put out. I’m just going to let them do their thing and enjoy the result!

Yours in flowers,

Katie (and Chris)

The most wonderful time of the year

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

And also the dirtiest.

And the most tiring.

And the most stressful.

And the busiest.

And the most hopeful.

Nope, not the holidays, it’s the first week of planting!

Chris has been tirelessly working on perfecting the planting map. He is certainly the right person for this task. He is the most detailed, thorough, and relentless worker I have met. Me? I’d frolic through the field, scattering seed like Hansel and Gretel distributed breadcrumbs and hope for the best. Well, not really, but I’m much more comfortable with improvisation, which does not translate well into knowing what is growing where. So, we do this Chris’ way and everyone is happier.

In fact, over the last few years, Chris and I have developed a division of labor that works well for us:

sunbathing 5.15.jpg


Selects seed (so much fun, and expensive when I buy ALL of it)

Starts seed

Tends seeds under grow lights (water, pot up, thin, worries about seeds, disposes of dead mice, etc.)

Harden off seeds so they can be transplanted


Plans planting space

Preps beds/irrigation

Plants/transplants everything







Takes care of all technical/infrastructure problems

Harvest sunflowers that are too tall for Katie

Loads everything up (if this was left to Katie, about 1 bucket of flowers would make it to the market each week, probably damaged)

Transports everything

Obviously, I (Katie) have the much better end of the deal.

So, it was a busy week for both of us. I was tending/watering/starting seed/hardening seed while Chris was planning the bed space, prepping beds, and starting planting. I’m watering and weeding today, and he goes back to the field to plant more (DAHLIAS!) tonight.

It probably goes without saying, but this week is exciting and anxiety producing (will it rain? Will it rain too much? Is the ground dry enough?). Mostly, though, it just feels good to get things in the ground.

In addition, we picked the first cut flower from the field yesterday (yay!) and the first farmers’ market is in 10 days. We will have some fun potted flowers, dried flower wreaths, and loads of info about what’s coming this season, our special event/wedding work, and more. Plus, I will have a very large hat on, thanks to Mother’s Day. (I think the thing has a 12” brim, so come check it out on the 25th in downtown Kankakee at the first summer Kankakee Farmers’ Market!)

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

The first flower from the field! Promptly thrown by little one on the ground in pursuit of the dog.

The first flower from the field! Promptly thrown by little one on the ground in pursuit of the dog.

Peonies in the sunset. <Swoon>

Peonies in the sunset. <Swoon>

Yours in flowers,

Katie (& Chris)

To-do list time

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Well, it’s still soggy out. Unfortunately, it’s also now what I think of as ‘to-do list time’, that fun period of time during which things only get added to my multiple to-do lists and never subtracted. (Confession: sometimes I added easily completed tasks to my lists to give myself a sense of accomplishment.)

So what kinds of things have been on the to-do lists? In the past week, I have started hundreds more seeds (toothache plant, bachelor buttons, zinnias), potted up lots of varieties (although I think of this as plant surgery, which basically makes me a surgeon), and gone through a lot of water. These plants are thirsty!

The dahlias are all divided and just waiting for the ground to dry up enough to successfully use the wheel hoe.

And, I found that I have hundreds of rudbeckia coming up in the field that self-seeded from last year. This is both exciting and makes me somewhat regret the space I gave to the rudbeckia I have already started. Still, there was no way to know that anything would have survived the bitterly cold winter we had. With an actual temperatures of -23 degrees at one point this winter, I can honestly say that it was a new low for me.

Chris informed me today that we have over 200 varieties of seeds to plant at this point. I think he was a little shocked the number was that high because I ordered all of the seeds without him. (He may not let that happen again!)

All of that to say, it’s a big week coming up for us. Here’s what is on the horizon for us this week:

  • PLANT ALL OF THE THINGS. But, seriously, we are going to go into a planting frenzy as soon as we are comfortable with the moisture levels in the field. This means I am doing the seed shuffle right now, transporting flats and flats of seeds out of the garage and back in hours later to help them harden off and successfully adjust to their new future life in the field.

  • Tend the seeds still in the garage.

  • Start more seeds.

  • Stop buying flowers at the local hardware store for our home porch. 10 planters is probably enough (maybe not?!)

  • Watch the mail daily for the heirloom mums I ordered to arrive. (Insert so many heart eye emojis here.)

  • Finalize our vendor display and such for the Kankakee Farmers’ Markets this summer.

  • Celebrate Mother’s Day? (I’m hoping Chris hasn’t forgotten about this!)

may field.jpg

Here’s what I can’t get over this week:

  • This picture was from a year ago already!

  • Also, I have 245 soil blocks of multiple stock seedlings growing in the garage right now. The picture here shows, um, a small portion of that. #sorrynotsorry

Yours in flowers,

Katie (and Chris)