Business is blooming for Washtenaw County's flower farmers

Flower farms have recently rebounded, thanks to the efforts of passionate growers who seek to create direct connections with local customers.
Amanda Maurmann is the owner of Ann Arbor's Gnome Grown Flower Farm and founder of the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative, but she also sees herself as part of a broader movement toward restoring the nation's flower farms. The American flower industry slumped for decades due to trade policies implemented as part of the war on drugs, with cheaper South American flowers dominating the market. But flower farms have recently rebounded somewhat in Washtenaw County and across the country, thanks to the efforts of passionate growers like Maurmann who seek to create direct connections with local customers.

"I think in the past vegetable farmers would throw in an extra bed [of flowers] here and there. That's not the case anymore," she says. "Today there is more intention. I am personally looking forward to seeing more flower farms in southeast Michigan."

Maurmann says the COVID-19 pandemic also benefited local flower farms, as people reconnected with nature and had more time to visit farmers' stands. She thinks the effects of that shift are still ongoing as people seek out activities and ways to beautify their homes at the tail end of a heavy time in history.

"People want to make their surroundings as beautiful and peaceful as possible. Flowers are a type of soul medicine that helps people do that," Maurmann says. 

To that end, here are a few local farms offering fresh-cut flowers that will brighten any day or occasion.

We Adore Flowers

It's not unusual for people to approach Ginnette "Ginny" Blades outside of her corner-lot home in Ypsilanti, often asking the same question: "Who lives here?"

"I have plenty of beautiful flowers that spill right out onto the street," Blades says. "It's a real show-stopper. Some neighbors even come by regularly to see how things are growing."
Ginny Blades at We Adore Flowers.
Since 2017, Blades has been operating a small urban farm called We Adore Flowers from her home at 501 Osband St. A second-generation horticulturist, she's committed to adding positivity to the community, the local economy, and the planet. 

"I love the labor, art, and science of growing things. I always knew I wanted to be a grower and have that as a life skill," Blades says. "When I discovered that I could create a successful flower business, I decided to follow my heart."

She says customers can find the usual floral suspects in her garden alongside "interesting flowers that are a little bit different, fragrant blooms, grasses, and a hodgepodge of annuals and perennials." 

Artfully arranged bouquets and vases can be ordered online, delivered, or picked up. Blades also has seasonal flower subscriptions and is exploring "more inspired" and "less lame" floral arrangements for funerals. 

"It doesn't matter what kind of bouquet you want," she says. "Dream it, and I can create it."

Petal Pusher Farm

After 20 years in the garden design business, Kate Cleveland wanted a change. Inspired by an online class, she began thinking about starting her own cut-flower company. Soon after, she says she "absolutely and completely lucked out" on a charming chunk of former farm property at 5000 Boyden Dr. in Webster Township, just down the street from her home.

She started Petal Pusher Farm in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now in her second summer, she's been steadily growing her customer base.
Kate Cleveland at Petal Pusher Farm.
Many buyers admire her aesthetic, which she describes as "wild, natural, and always unique." 

"I simply love flowers. This is something that brings me pure joy, and I think that shows," Cleveland says. "Starting a business during the pandemic was daunting, but other local businesses and the public really embraced me."

Her farm is a closed site, but Cleveland has been steadily pushing her wares through pop-ups at Ann Arbor Distilling Company. Currently, customers can order fresh-cut bouquets online and pick up their arrangements at the distillery on Saturday mornings. 

"I believe that beauty is a salve in all situations. I can't help but think my bouquets help people feel that," Cleveland says. 

Manchester Blooms

The property at 10722 Bethel Church Rd. in Manchester was a vast hay field before Amy Pyle  took it over in 2019. She transformed the five acres into Manchester Blooms, which she describes as "a play-based place and no-fuss farm where people can come to decompress and connect with nature." 
Amy Pyle at Manchester Blooms.
When Pyle's three children were younger, she yearned for places where they weren't admonished "for touching this and that." That mindset is reflected in the "very few rules" for those who take advantage of her farm's you-pick beds. Visitors can choose a watering can, bucket, or cup and then set off with scissors to more than a dozen flower beds that boast mostly bright annuals and wildflowers.

"You can walk around and cut anything you want. If you see something in a flower bed that you love, you can just walk in and get it," she says. "There aren't many rules about how long to cut something or how many buds something must have."

Pyle also makes custom bouquets, and she's a vendor at the Chelsea Farmers Market. Welcoming people to her property, however, is especially meaningful.

"There's nothing like seeing blended families bonding over choosing flowers for a wedding, or seeing a grown man melt because a sunflower reminded him of watching his grandmother in the garden when he was little," she says. 

Luella Acres

Flower power is real, according to Luella Acres owner Michael Rodriguez – and particularly so when those flowers are freshly cut.

"You don't even have to be in the flower industry to get it. Even if you're a person just casually looking, you'll register the difference," he says. "Flowers that have been freshly cut look fresh and alive, rather than tired." 
Mike Rodriguez at Luella Acres.
Rodriguez has over 20 years of experience under his belt, primarily working on vegetable farms with a small cut-flower component. In 2013, Rodriguez moved back to his hometown of Dexter to farmstead with his wife. They initially focused on vegetables and grew a small amount of flowers, but switched to specializing in fresh-cut flowers five years ago. 

Today, they have two young daughters, Louise and Ellery, for whom the farm is named. They are the brightest blooms in Rodriguez's family garden, sharing his love for flowers and playing in the dirt. The girls are an inspiration for Rodriguez, whose blooms are primarily sold through the wholesale market. He also does arrangements for weddings and special events, sells at consignment markets, and offers a small bouquet subscription.

"I want to uplift people," he says. "The smell, textures, and colors of something small like a bouquet of flowers can brighten up any day – and your heart – in a big way."

Gnome Grown Flower Farm

Maurmann says she grows "as many flowers as possible" on her one-acre lot at 4705 N Delhi Rd. in Webster Township. She started Gnome Grown Flower Farm in 2018 and hasn't looked back since. The majority of her flowers are used in wedding designs, and are sold through the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative, which she co-founded. She also has a roadside farmstand, accepts pre-orders for fresh-cut bouquets, and creates dried flower arrangements in the fall.

"Having a farm has always been my dream. My intention is to steward my land, do business in a way that honors the planet, and build community," she says.

She shares that her roadside stand, started in response to the pandemic, is one of the most rewarding parts of her job. It allows Maurmann to connect to people and their families in meaningful ways and gives her the opportunity to share her knowledge and passion. 

"I love it when people stop by or even just wave from the street. It builds community and keeps me motivated," she says. "Each of my arrangements is a bit different and unique in its own way. I love to help someone pick the one that speaks to them specifically, or reminds them of that special friend that they want to pick it up for."

The Farm on Jennings

When Carol Caplan acquired 11 acres of land at 6900 Jennings Rd. in Webster Township five years ago, she felt it was a blessing. What is now The Farm on Jennings is more than a food, herb, and flower farm for Caplan, who grew up in Detroit, raised her kids in Chicago, and moved to Ann Arbor to be with her mother. 

"I started to think that as climate change begins affecting us more and makes life more difficult, if I can leave my kids anything, that would be land," she says. "So it's a legacy project for my children."

In addition to selling her flowers via the Michigan Flower Growers' Cooperative, Whitney Farmstead in Webster Township, and Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, Caplan has a shed in front of the farm and takes online orders. In the off-season, she offers dried flower arrangements and wreaths.

"My style is very natural," she says. "I have a two-acre prairie that I like to forage in for unusual things that may be considered weeds, but that make really great cut flowers."

The Farm on Jennings also has rental space available for get-togethers, classes, and workshops. Events are on hold, but Caplan can't wait to welcome people back to the space. She's especially excited about hosting floral artistry classes in the future.

"You can come and pick out a flower that calls to you, and an artist will guide you on how to draw its beauty," she says. "You can learn a skill and nourish yourself in a beautiful environment at the same time."

Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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