Mother’s Day Sales: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for our Southeast Regional Members

With things opening up around the country after what seems like forever in lockdown, I was curious about how Mother’s Day went for our members throughout the Southeast, so I emailed everyone in late May to see how it went. I love sharing their experiences and ideas!

For us, it started out UGLY because our peonies weren’t blooming in time for Mother’s Day this, thanks to record cold days and nights in Kentucky. I was so bummed to have to turn down all the requests from so many customers who enjoyed our contact-free pickups from the porch and contact-free deliveries last year.

But, our Three Toads Farm Cutting Garden Collection pop-up on May 8 was a big success, followed by a private peony workshop on May 15 for 15 fun-loving guests! Together, these helped make up for our lack of Mother’s Day bouquets.
I’ve loved seeing more ASCFG members selling their own cutting garden seedlings! It’s a great way to bring in sales of the seedlings you’re planting BEFORE they even start blooming. It’s taken a few years to help people understand the difference between our deep six-packs of specialty cut flower seedlings and the bedding plants they see already in bloom at big box stores and nurseries—that’s where handouts, signage, and photos on social media really help. We don’t offer website sales of our plants (like lots of great growers do) and instead do an on-the-farm pop-up, with paid pre-orders as an option.

This year has been pretty huge for us. I announced the 4-hour pop-up on IG/FB just four days before the event (the weather was so uncertain) and was astonished to receive $4,000 in pre-orders (already paid via Square invoice). It takes a bit of hustling to pull each person’s order together, plus get everything organized and set up by variety with laminated signs (showing color photos, growing information) and having the handouts printed up, so be sure to consider this if you haven’t done it before. In all, we had more than $6,000 in sales—three times what we’ve sold in the past.

Our prices were $18 for deep six-packs of lisianthus (including the new Japanese varieties from Farmer Bailey), $20 for Scoop scabiosa (couldn’t believe how many home gardeners snatched them up!), $12 for six-packs of zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds, and $4 per 5” band pot of nasturtium and $4 for apple mint in 3” pots. We also packaged seeds (in “coin” envelopes with a color label showing the bloom and with growing information) for $4 each. I did these so that folks wanting to grow their own could do it more reasonably, but sold barely any! Everyone’s hungry for instant gratification, I think. Each person received a color handout showing each variety with planting and growing information, and each six-pack or pot had a wooden stick with the variety written on it. It’s not cheap having an office store print and staple the handouts ($1.87 each for 2-pages/2-sided color), but it’s so worth it in terms of customer education.

The private peony workshop the next week was a total blast! This is our first year focusing on private workshops and this was the first one we held. We require a minimum of 8 participants to schedule one, with total payment—which is non-refundable— due at the time of booking the day/time/number of guests. The peony workshop is $205/person and I was delighted they booked it for 12…and then paid for 3 more guests in early May! Private workshops—where everyone knows each other—provide much more of a party atmosphere. We’re going to stick with them this year and see how it compares.

Three Toads’ peony workshop the week after Mother’s Day, when peonies started to bloom.
Katy Thelan, Mother’s Day bouquets.

Okay, now on to what our Southeast members said their Mother’s Day sales were like. Hoping you’ll get some ideas to try out, or build on some of the things you’re already doing!

Katy Thelen, Happy as a Coneflower Farm, Pittsboro, North Carolina. I actually had a GOOD Mother’s Day in terms of sales to both professionals and retail customers. It has been more than six years since I’ve sold retail. I sold peony and sweet pea bouquets for $60 each to local customers and sold 50, which was all I could handle delivering myself in a few days! Additionally, I provided flowers to about seven local florists. I’ve actually made more money so far this year than I did all of last year; 2020 was devastating financially for my business. I use Nextdoor to market my bouquets within a 5-mile range of my farm and it worked pretty well. The photo is my Mother’s Day bouquets.

Connie Barron, Connie’s Garden, Navarre, Florida. My Mother’s Day was so-so, considering I am a new grower (first year). I did have a florist ask for all I could bring of my yarrow, and ‘Chantilly’ snaps. All in all, I made money without having to do bouquets and that was great for me because I just don’t know bouquets very well. Maybe it was better than so-so; good, even!

Sheila Walls added peonies to her market bouquets, the week after Mother’s Day.

Sheila Walls, Walls of Flowers, Fisherville, Kentucky. Mine was UGLY as well. No peonies (boo). Made do with bearded iris, Dutch iris, fall-planted bupleurum, foraged honeysuckle, and a viburnum! I have about 15 or so peonies in my landscaping and around 65 others that are too young to cut from yet.

Mary Alford, Alive and Digginit, Rockford, Tennessee. I KILLED IT on Mother’s Day, even without the usual peonies (a scant few early bloomers) and roses (zilcho). Market opened at 8:30 a.m.; selling out of pre-mades by 10 a.m. left me frantically creating on site for the next 1½ hours for anyone willing to wait (and I do love to talk).

Loretta Ball, The Never Ending Flower Farm, Barnardsville, North Carolina. Mother’s Day was NOT GREAT. Everything was behind with our cold season, deer ate a few crops late winter (never had a deer problem before), I had weddings and we were trying to finish up our new covered shed area—it was crazy! Sold about 12 gift certificates for our you-pick for the season. I didn’t commit to any floral arrangements, but had a few friends reach out so I did about nine. I didn’t sell to any florists because I didn’t have anything extra—all went to my weddings. I honestly felt like a failure this spring. Next year I plan on having something for Mother’s Day now that we have our covered shed finished—maybe a tea with flower arranging? And I’m not going to take on any weddings Mother’s Day weekend!

Peachey Trudell, One Wild Acre, Charleston, South Carolina. Our Mother’s Day was BUSY this year, so much so that I’ve already started planning crops and quantities for 2022. The demand was high for wrapped bunches to pop up in partnering small businesses in and around downtown Charleston. I had grab-and-go bunches at three locations and my flower cart made its debut at a Mother’s Day event alongside other vendors. It was especially sweet to observe and help children choose flowers for their mothers and grandmothers. While I did not have the bounty of foxglove as I did last year, my garden roses came into bloom just in time to add extra special stems to each bouquet.

Donna Yowell, Executive Director, Mississippi Urban Forest Council, Madison, Mississippi. Our farm is less than a year old but the high tunnel is SLAMMED. And the pollinator field is amazing. Our pollinator field is a mixture that works for the South and includes cut flowers. We have cut a maze through the field that people love. These are first-year Asiatics along with calla, dahlia, gladiolus, and others in the high. Our Facebook page is Flower Growers of Mississippi; we still offer free Zoom classes.

Karen Yasui, Petalland, Tullahoma, Tennessee. Mother’s Day was GOOD here in southern Tennessee because the peonies and lots of other flowers bloomed just at the right time, and demand was strong.

Carly Reed, In Bloom Flower Farm, Georgetown, Kentucky. To quickly sum it up, I would say customers were HAPPY with flowers even though I didn’t have focals for bouquets. I offered deliveries this year and increased my smallest offering to $50. I was hoping this would keep sales even with last year, but cut back on the number of deliveries. I was wrong. I got more orders—three times!—compared to last year. It was a good problem, but I didn’t prepare for extra help needed. Lesson learned.

Niki Irving, Flourish Flower Farm, Asheville, North Carolina. Mother’s Day here was GREAT—we sold every stem that we could cut to our local shops. Our ranunculus, anemone, Italian poppies, and butterfly ranunculus were at their peak!

Peachey Trudell’s new flower cart debuted on Mother’s Day.
Donna Yowell’s first-year Asiatic lilies shining in the high tunnel.
Carly Reed’s farm-fresh bouquets.

Lisa Jay, Modern Heirlooms Local Cut Flowers, Arab, Alabama. Mother’s Day was GOOD! We are very small and in our third year, but Mother’s Day allowed us to partner with a local gift shop and we sold 56 bouquets and arrangements, and picked up several summer events from the advertising! This was also our first year growing delphinium and foxglove and we were amazed with how well they grew!

Lindsay Hufford, Kinship Flower Farm & Design, Columbia, Tennessee. Mother’s Day for me this year was SMALL AND SLOW. Our family recently relocated from Michigan to Tennessee, and I’m rebuilding my flower farm business from scratch. I chose not to offer arrangements for Mother’s Day. With the recent move and some family illness, I didn’t need the added stress. On a high note, our summer bouquet subscriptions were a popular Mother’s Day gift, and I’ve started selling weekly to a florist in our new town. Here’s to putting down new roots!

Tracey Lake, Triple Strings Flower Farm, Easley, South Carolina. I’m a new flower farmer this year, so I didn’t have much blooming for Mother’s Day. I planted peonies last fall but have to wait a couple more years on them. I’m selling bouquets at a local coffee shop and farmers market. I’m getting some business for graduations and other special events.

Sue Ellen Claggett, Petal Pushers Flower Farm, Princeton, Kentucky. I pretty much sell only to florists so it was a VERY BAD Mother’s Day. My peonies were very slow to open. I did not even contact several of my florists as I was so afraid I would not be able to meet the commitments of the ones who called me. It was very stressful, just hoping they would open. And the last few days it did warm up and I delivered all I promised! I’m 71 and really trying to retire to enjoy other interests I have. I am a Growing Kindness Ambassador 2021 and can’t even tell you how many peony bouquets I have given away since they really started blooming! A week ago I was making 20 peony bouquets to give away. My husband walked by and commented on how much easier it was to sell 200 to a florist than to give them away 6 at a time. And I had the cooler stuffed! So I called up a florist right away and delivered 250 to her the next day! I wanted to give most away this year but I have picked over 3,000 blooms and it is impossible.

Cathy Jones, Perry-winkle Farm, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Our Mother’s Day was EXCELLENT. We had record sales that Saturday at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Our customers were buying every stem we brought. We were able to re-open (closed since COVID) our “flower bar” at market and folks really wiped us out.
And finally, perhaps my favorite note from a grower yet.

Lisa Jay added delphinium and foxglove to her bouquets this year.
Lindsay Hufford’s youngest “employee” (aka her son) helping with florist deliveries (the sign is on the side of the florist’s building).
Cathy Jones had record sales and was able to reopen their flower bar at market.
Kelly Garcia’s “best delivery of my life” is “… what Mother’s Day and flower farming is all about—those moments with people, connecting us all.”

Kelly Garcia, Terra Flower Farm, Signal Mountain, Tennessee. I will rate mine as AMAZING also, GOODISH TO BAD. Of course my peonies weren’t blooming yet either and with having my kiddos home last fall, I wasn’t as prepared for the late spring to summer push. I didn’t have enough flowers and bought some local orchids from a neighboring orchid grower. They completely elevated my arrangements.

The really beautiful part of my weekend was going on the best delivery of my life.

A longtime friend and fellow flower farmer who lives in British Columbia (not a member, sadly), ordered a bouquet to be delivered to his Momma here in Tennessee. She was my last stop. When I walked up, she was working in her amazing garden and very confused why I was there. She looked at me quizzically and asked, “Who are those from?” I told her they were from her son. She went on for a few minutes raving about how beautiful her son’s farm is, and then began crying. She said my bouquet was stunning and that it was the first time he had ever sent her flowers.

What an honor it was for a flower farmer I truly admire to trust me to deliver the first flowers—Mother’s Day flowers, no less—to his momma. That’s really what Mother’s Day and flower farming is all about—those moments with people, connecting us all.
Kelly, you worded it perfectly; this is what flower farming is all about. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories!

Val Schirmer

Three Toads Farm

Contact her at [email protected]