Editor’s Note: Remember a time when it wasn’t gloomy and rainy and horrid outside? This terrible weather is making us dream of spring flowers and warm afternoons. What a better way to brighten up your day than reading this great archive piece about Moonflower Designs, and bask in the beauty of their wonderful floral arrangements.
We had the chance to sit down and speak with Mandy O’Shea of Moonflower Designs about her passion for the art of floral arrangements and why she has chosen to make her art right here in Athens.
My Athens: Why the name ‘Moonflower Designs’?
Mandy O’Shea: Moonflower is the very first flower I ever grew from seed. I used to grow it on the fence in my backyard. It only opens at night and has the most aromatic sweet fragrance that will forever remind me of summer nights. It can not be used as a cut flower so I just admire it until Fall when I collect its vines and seed pods to use in wreaths.
MA: What made Athens the place where you decided to start your business?
M.O.: Athens has a magical quality to it. It is a very friendly, warm and supportive place to be. Art in any form is appreciated here, small businesses are welcomed and encouraged, and people are just all around kind. Having lived here throughout my time in college and also having previously farmed in Athens, I knew it was the best place for us to come back too [from California].
MA: Where does most of your inspiration come from when designing arrangements? Where are your favorite local places to go for inspiration?
M.O: Nature is the main inspiration for our arrangements. We only use what is currently growing in our fields, the surrounding woods or occasionally on roadsides. I don’t get there often these days, but the Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year.
MA: What is the most challenging aspect of your work in the winter months?
M.O.: Keeping the future spring flowers alive can occasionally be challenging during cold winters. We need to make sure all our seed germinate and grow out healthy and vigorous. I spend a lot of time in our propagation house making sure everything is happy.
MA: What are your most popular winter arrangements?
M.O.: We do a lot of wreaths on the buildup to Christmas. Garlands are always fun, but we save those for special orders. Between Christmas and March we are strictly farm workers. This is good for us though. Any task, no matter how beloved, when done day in and day out without a break can very easily lead to creative burnout. This two month shift in tasks builds our creative reserves and our enthusiasm for the work which then carries us through another 10 months in the year to come.
MA: Is it difficult to balance client requests and seasonal limitation?
M.O.: We don’t advertise, so all our business has been from word of mouth or from people who have seen our work at other events. As a result, they have self-selected in a way. The bride who insists on flowers grown across the world is not is really the type of customer who tends to contact us anymore. We’ve got exciting news though that will make this interface a lot easier very soon. We spent this whole year documenting every flower that we grew, every week of every month. We’ve been compiling these photos into a seasonal flower calendar so that prospective brides can reference their wedding date on the calendar and see what flowers are generally available at that time of the year.
MA: What are some goals for your business and the flower industry as a whole?
M.O.: Many of us who are very conscious about where and how our food is grown haven’t quite made the same observations about our flowers. About 80% of all U.S. purchases flowers are grown in other countries, usually quite far away, and generally are very heavily sprayed with toxic pesticides, some of which are not even legal here. Small flower farms are popping up everywhere and many of them grow organically as do we. We all share the common goal of trying to bring that market back to the U.S. for a healthier country and healthier planet.