“Cutting gardens and a picture-perfect cottage draw florists and wedding photographers alike.”

Wildflowers bloom in Nixa, Mo., where Kelly Hill once grew and preserved antique garden roses to make handcrafted wreaths for craft fairs in the 1990s. Today, after a few decades spent raising her children, Hill has returned to floral art. She has transformed her family’s five acres into Blossom Thyme Hill Flower Farm, a boutique flower farm growing specialty cut and heirloom flowers using sustainable and natural practices in the Missouri Ozarks outside of Springfield.

The property is surrounded by forested land, and at its heart is a charming Amish-built cottage with flowering pear and crab-apple trees and drifts of perennials growing nearby. The inspiration to build the 14-by-20-foot structure began years ago, when Hill started a folder of magazine clippings about sheds and cottages. She originally dreamed of having a play cottage for her daughter Shelby, but time and resources never aligned to make it a reality.

In 2015, the little girl was engaged and ready to wed her fiancé, Jared Lung. With images of that playhouse still in her imagination, Kelly and her husband, Robert, decided to use a small inheritance to build a charming cottage next to the wildflower fields, just in time for the nuptials. The inviting structure has tall windows and a whimsical cupola, like something straight out of a storybook.

“On that beautiful June day, Shelby and Jared had their first-look photographs taken outside of the cottage,” Hill recalls. “She opened the doors and walked out to surprise him. They strolled to the wildflower field and had their moment together while being filmed.”

Owners of Shea Brianne Photography, the young couple collaborates as graphic designers and destination wedding photographers. It’s no surprise that their event-planner friends inquired about using the cottage for styled shoots.

That led to Hill also saying “yes” when wedding photographers asked to take “first look” portraits in the cottage garden with the white-clad structure as a focal point. Last year, Blossom Thyme Hill Farm added flower workshops for adults and children, and began selling cut flowers to wedding floral designers, as well as renting the cottage for elopements, parties and photography. Mother and daughter are currently collaborating on a line of flower seeds to offer customers.

Hill’s transition to floral designer and farmer-florist happened naturally, as her abundant cutting garden provided plenty of blooms for local customers, small conferences and events in their area. She found it easy to draw from her past dried-flower crafting business, thanks to her garden’s vintage roses and peonies, and new fields where heirloom annuals, perennials and herbs now flourish.

“My life has come full circle, back to where my love affair began with flowers,” she says. “It’s so fun to see how excited people get about the cottage and the flower farm. At this season of my life, with a near-empty nest, I’m so fortunate to share this place with other people and bring them joy through flowers.”


Blossom Thyme Hill Flower Farm:
blossomthymehillflowerfarm.com, @blossomthymehill
Shea Brianne Photography:
sheabriannephotography.com, @sheabriannephotography
First-Look Photography: Cassidy Brooke Photography, cassidybrooke.com

Bethany loves observing how flowers and plants naturally perform, and she draws from those scenes to design her arrangements.

The breathtaking reality of nature – when a monarch butterfly lands on a summer Dahlia.

A floral expression of the season’s exuberance.

Florist-farmer Kelly Hill (left) and her daughter Shelby Lung.

 A design based on old man’s beard Clematis and ‘Limelight’ Hydrangeas (see the original inspiration for this combination in photograph No. 

Inside the cottage, a series of multipaned windows line the walls and offer a glimpse of the garden outside. The Hills often rent the structure for private parties and gatherings.

Designs for the diminutive architectural element were inspired by Hill’s favorite historic cottage images.

Kelly and Robert Hill, of Blossom Thyme Hill Flower Farm, built their cottage as a surprise for their daughter’s “fi rst look” wedding photographs. Shelby and Jared Lung are seen in those images from 2015.

Kelly and Robert Hill, of Blossom Thyme Hill Flower Farm, built their cottage as a surprise for their daughter’s “first look” wedding photographs. Shelby and Jared Lung are seen in those images from 2015.

Higgins holds the union boa in front of the circle arch, giving a sense of scale of the lush property and the dramatic contrast between tropical blooms and green vegetation.

The bridal hairpiece features pale yellow Cymbidium orchids and threaded botanical strands that echo flowers in leis around her neck

My Flower Farm Adventure


“Time spent on the farm allowed new flowers and design skills to grow and flourish.”

If my Instagram feed is to be believed, there is currently a growing army of flower farmers, usually fit and beautiful young women, turning their talents toward floral design. I bucked the trend by leaving the design studio and heading out to the farm. The lure of locally grown flowers was such a siren song that I happily spent a year in the elements, pulling weeds and swatting away gnats. It’s no big surprise that my year on the flower farm gave me a deep sunburn and respect for hard work. But trust me when I say the farm grew my design skills, as well.

Back when I was learning floral design, I won a scholarship to study with the renowned Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, EMC. She cheered us on as we created towers of roses and gravity-defying floral art installations. Luckily for me, she was also a patient teacher. After my design attempts fell apart in front of her, she patted my back and gently suggested I work on my “clean finish.” In design principals, the clean finish is not merely a seamless and uncluttered design, but the term also refers to invisible and attractive mechanics. A floral piece with a clean finish looks as if it suddenly appeared that way, free from the grubby fingerprints of a bumbling designer (aka me). A flower farm is about as far away from a clean finish as a designer can get. A farm is the messy beginning. This is where the mechanics are not merely visible but they are rusted and creaking; they are bent under the weight of a late spring snow, washing away in a rainstorm and baking dry in the August sun.

Farming is not gardening; this cannot be said enough. There is forever unfinished work, thousands of microscopic seeds yet to plant and nonstop weeds. There are stinging saddleback caterpillars lurking in branches and snakes under the plastic weed barriers. At planting time when the field is full of icy mud, one may need a “princess blanket” – (as in, “Go fetch princess here a blanket. She doesn’t like her knees to get wet.”) You can be a designer on the farm, but please, don’t be a princess.

Thanks to Mark and Madgie McGaughan, of M&M Plants in Comus, Md., my skillset now includes driving fence posts and starting plants from cuttings. I now no longer jump (much) at spiders. I developed biceps. For me, their farm became the rough tableau where nature’s designs stood out. The breathtaking jade and gold jewel of a monarch chrysalis was a study in form and opulence. Butterflies clinging to Dahlias were ikebana-esque in their dramatic minimalism. Dynamic tension was on display as an Old man’s beard Clematis wound its way through a mass of ‘Limelight’ Hydrangeas.

Mother Nature is another patient, if unpredictable, teacher, and her designs are not merely clean but perfect. If you’re game, designers, I promise you’ll learn a lot, as I did, and find yourself outstanding in your field.


ButterKup Flowers: butterkupflowers.com, @butterkup_flowers


“Mother Nature is another patient, if unpredictable, teacher, and her designs are not merely clean but perfect.”


• Clean finish
• Hidden mechanics
• Bridezillas
• Up until 3 a.m. on Valentine’s Day eve to deal with orders
• Gauze and tulle
• The client is always right
• Messy beginnings
• Visible rust
• Saddleback caterpillars
• Up at 3 a.m. on Valentine’s eve to deal with snow on hoop houses
• “Princess blankets”
• Mother Nature always has the last word

Bethany Karn is a florist and flower farmer. She owns ButterKup Flowers in Takoma Park, Md., a local-only floral design studio. She sources from Maryland flower farms and greenhouses to bring local botanicals to her designs all year long for parties, weddings and backyard events.

Wrapped in the floral of their Hawaiian home, Alison Grace Higgins and Nick Civitano symbolize and commemorate their love with local flowers.

Joined together by the polychromatic union boa, the couple exchanged rings and floral leis.

Like everything else chosen for their ceremony, the couple celebrated the island’s character in the tablescape, including hand-blown glass plates gifted to them by Hugh Jenkins and Stephanie Ross of Big Island Glass.

The couple and their immediate family dined alfresco style at a fruit-and-floral-laden table just steps from the property’s bluff. Higgins commissioned her father and brother to construct the tables and arbor for the wedding supper.

A detail of the table arbor shows how it is strung with a plethora of blooms and hanging globes for lighting.

A perfect setting at the groom’s family estate created the highly personal venue for the Big Island ceremony of floral designer Alison Grace Higgins and architect Nick Civitano.

Higgins and Civitano pose for wedding photography, set in a tropical forest at the edge of Haina Kai.

Locally grown orchids and Dahlias are a highlight of the lavish bridal bouquet, designed by Higgins.

Locally grown orchids and Dahlias are a highlight of the lavish bridal bouquet, designed by Higgins.

Bethany loves observing how flowers and plants naturally perform, and she draws from those scenes to design her arrangements.

Big Island,Intimate Nuptials

“A floral designer conjures her ceremony to
include two families’ deep ties to Hawaii.”

By Debra Prinzing, Photography by Sarah Anderson and Anna Pacheco.

“Haina Kai” is the family estate of architect Nick Civitano, and when he and his fiancée, Alison Grace Higgins, owner of Grace Flowers Hawaii, began to plan their wedding, the beautiful Big Island property and its sweeping ocean views was their first choice for a ceremony location. The residential scale and tricky access to the secluded bluff where the groom’s parents established a family compound in early 2000s dictated that the couple’s vows and a celebratory dinner to follow would be both intimate and set outdoors. And since the bride is one of the busiest wedding and event designers on the Big Island, she wanted to create all the florals herself, with a smallish wedding that seemed doable.

“While the venue is just 15 minutes from my shop in Honokaa, it’s in a very remote part of the Hamakua Coast,” Higgins said, adding, “So we only had our immediate family for the wedding ceremony.

The date: Aug. 2, 2018

The palette: The bride’s love of purple combined with the groom’s love of yellow. She added orange hues and orchid-pink to the scheme and used ombré styling to blend a warm-to-cool gradient.

The vibe: “Old Hawaii,” recalling a time when couples exchanged leis with one another and with family members. “My family members each gave me a strand to wear, and Nick’s family members each gave him leis to wear, and then we also gave all of them leis to wear,” Higgins explains. Knowing she would be adorned with an abundance of fresh flowers inspired her to select a simple dress that wouldn’t compete with the tropical and temperate-growing blooms – sourced primarily from Hawaii flower farms and nurseries – that she wore in her hair, carried in her hands and draped around her neck.

Higgins designed the entire event herself, as both a personal expression and because the rest of her Grace Flowers Hawaii team members were deployed elsewhere, producing island weddings for paying clients. “Plus, when my brides find out that their florist just got married, they have an expectation – and I didn’t want to disappoint there,” she confides.

The designer was drawn to the idea of dangling strands of flowers – larger versions of bloom-strung leis – as a way to showcase the myriad botanical options available from local growers.

She hung a curtain of strands made of white lilies, purple and white crown flowers (Calotropis gigantea) and rosebuds from a 7-foot-diameter circle arch – designed and built by Civitano – and suspended shorter chains of flowers from a copper-hued table arbor that stretched along the length of the reception’s farm tables.The bride and groom also adopted a new tradition, one that Higgins and Grace Flowers Hawaii’s manager Nicole Cordier call a “union boa.” The idea of a 10-foot-long floral garland that can be draped over the shoulders of the couple and closed with ribbon originally came from an oversized strand they created for a photo shoot.

“Nicole arrived at the location, and there was no tree on which to hang the garland, so she draped it over the bride and groom and sent me pictures with the hashtag: #unionboa. We offer it to our clients now, in addition to bride and groom leis,” explained Higgins.

The bride’s hand-tied bouquet incorporated her husband’s favorite callas in a terra-cotta-orange hue combined with a luxurious collection of tropical foliage and local orchids. “We hardly ever get Cattleyas, but one of my growers happened to have them available, so I had to say yes. The bouquet had four types of Cattleyas, some Phalaenopsis and three varieties of Cymbidiums. I also added gorgeous local Dahlias,” the bride detailed.

Higgins and Civitano said their vows with siblings and parents as witnesses before officiant (and friend) Kahu Tom. Their “altar” was a lavish circular arch that framed the ocean beyond and paid homage to local flowers, fruits, palms and coconuts.

The wedding meal, alfresco style, of course, offered Higgins another blank canvas to embellish. She commissioned her father and brother (who also served as musician for the ceremony) to build trestle-style farm tables and construct the copper-hued table arbor. She hand-dyed textiles with turmeric to make the golden table runner. Civitano’s sister baked the wedding cake and decorated it with fruits and flowers. Local glass blowers created a custom set of dinner plates and bowls for the occasion, incorporating splashes of orchid purple and vivid yellow across the surface.

“The look I was going for was to create a wow factor with flowers,” Higgins says. “Our wedding was intimate and private, and it ended up being just gorgeous.”
Grace Flowers Hawaii, graceflowershawaii.com, @graceflowershawaii
Hair/Makeup: Hearts & Stars Salon and Day Spa
Music: Ryan “Higgs” Higgins and Cameron Hart
Minister: Kahu Tom Fernandez
Rentals: Big Island Tents
Cake: The Happy Crumb by Dominique Civitano
Food: Color Catering
Dress: BHLDN
Plates and oil lamps: Big Island Glass Gallery
Flower Sources: ESP Nursery, Hawaiian Isle Flowers, J&D Farm,
Mayesh Wholesale Florist (Los Angeles), Pacific Floral Exchange,
Poppas Orchids, Shogun Hawaii, Orchidpeople of Hawaii and
Virgin Farms.