Three years ago, when Laurel Goslin arrived at Sleeping Frog Farms in the San Pedro River Valley as a young and eager volunteer, she had no farming experience. But Goslin thrived, and once her WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) stint was over, Sleeping Frog hired her on as full-time employee. But as much as she loved farming, Goslin itched for a different sort of crop.
“At Sleeping Frog, vegetables always came first, and at the end of the day, around seven or eight, I’d just want to pick a few sunflowers,” she said.
In 2015, Goslin struck a deal with Sleeping Frog’s owners. They gave her a bed, and on her off days she planted sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias, cockscomb, and gomphrena. Laurel mixed her flowers with greens and other blossoms foraged from the farm—grasses, purple carrot flowers, cabbage leaves, artichoke flowers—to make bouquets that she sold at Sleeping Frog’s farmers’ market booths and to local restaurants for table decorations. Laurel’s Florals was born.
“Seeing people’s excitement at flowers was so fun for me,” said Goslin. “Flowers bring in a whole visual element and draw people to the booth.”
This year Goslin has moved the bulk of her flower operation to the backyard of her home in Tucson’s West University Neighborhood. She built four raised beds, filled them with certified organic soil, and seeded more varieties of flowers.
“I started out with a list of 50 flowers, and every day I told myself that I had to go through my list and delete five flowers,” Goslin said. She added bells of Ireland, statice, baby’s breath, calendula, and Sweet Annie to her inventory. Many of her varieties are not commonly found at florists, like her favorite, gomphrena or globe amaranth, a cute clover-like blossom that she grows in shades of pink and purple. Jars of dried gomphrena sit in her kitchen, and she makes hanging pom-pom decorations by poking the dried flowers into Styrofoam spheres.
“You interact with flowers,” Goslin said, as she held a gomphrena to her chin. “You hold them, you smell, you rub them against your cheek. I don’t think people understand the chemicals they’re bringing into their house with flowers.”
Though not certified organic, Goslin’s plants are treated naturally. When an infestation of little white flies threatened her beds this spring, she called her friends at Sleeping Frog and together they came up with a counterattack of botanical insecticide to fight the bugs directly and beneficial microorganisms to support the plants. Now the beds are growing strong, and Goslin is grateful to her teachers.
“The owners of Sleeping Frog Farms are super knowledgeable and they’ve been so willing to help,” she said. “I set up all this irrigation by myself. I placed the sunflowers so they’d shade the other flowers in the afternoon. I learned that all at Sleeping Frog.” Goslin talks about greenhouses and partners and how this budding business could go any direction. She worries about water use and succession planting, but her enthusiasm for the flowers always shines through. “If it ever came down to water or resources, food is more important and the flowers should go first,” Goslin said. “But flowers just bring this personal happiness to me. They’re beautiful, and I think that’s important too.”
Laurel’s Florals sells bouquets and cut sunflowers at the Sleeping Frog Farm booth at the Heirloom Farmers’ Market at Rillito Park on Sundays from June through October. Businesses interested in wholesale can contact her at email@example.com. ✜
Erin Zwiener is a writer and writing teacher living at the base of the Tucson Mountains.