By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
Main Website: lynnvale.com
Founded in 2002, LynnVale Studios is dedicated to cultivating creativity through floriculture and fine art. This beautiful and bucolic 10-acre Certified American Grown flower farm, flower design studio, and fine-art and design studio is owned and operated by two artists, a husband-and-wife team, Andrea and Lou Gagnon. It is located in Gainesville, Va., a community of some 17,000 residents approximately 35 miles west-southwest of Washington, D.C. Andrea brings her love of floral design and floriculture while Lou, a former architect and urban planner and current working artist and art teacher, explores the inspiration of fine art.
LynnVale Studios sells its locally grown flowers to the public at a farmers market in the nation’s capital and offers weekly home delivery of bouquets to customers in select areas throughout D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The company also designs arrangements for special events, specializing in eco-friendly weddings. In addition, LynnVale sells wholesale to florists around the D.C. metro area.
I spoke with Andrea Gagnon, who combines her professional design education and floriculture experience to grow premium flowers and offer distinctive floral arrangements. Here we get a glimpse of her life as a farmer-florist.
FR: Tell us about the history of your farm and how you started.
AG: I was raised in the suburbs, a child of parents who had both either lived on farms or actively farmed in their youth. I grew up with a passion for design, gardening and place-making, which led me to study architecture at Virginia Tech, where I met my husband, Lou. We headed west to begin our careers as designers in Oregon and then California. We returned to the East Coast after 10 years, to see our young family grow and thrive on the family farm where generations had worked and played together.
From the moment I harvested my first cockscomb bloom, which I had started from seed, I was hooked. We started small, with a steep horticultural learning curve to surmount, but our farm has grown exponentially over the years yet still remains a “boutique” flower farm specializing in unusual and uncommonly beautiful blooms and foliages. I credit my education and experience as a designer with helping me become a more profitable grower.
FR: What makes your farm special?
AG: Our farm has been in my husband’s family for eight generations, and we are proud to keep the farm in agricultural use, with the land open and productive. We are located about 45 minutes west of D.C., so we benefit from close proximity to many of our retail and wholesale customers. Very often, our flowers are harvested in the morning and delivered that afternoon.
FR: What does being a “Certified American Grown” farm mean?
AG: At its most basic, it means that we offer our customers a guarantee that the flowers that we label as Certified American Grown are grown on our farm or on one of our feeder farms. It means that we support and advocate for U.S. growers nationwide and speak with a unified voice in support of the flower and foliage industry as a whole. It means that by celebrating the unique and diverse varieties grown by our members and by raising consumer awareness of “locally” grown flowers, we ensure a thriving and balanced floral industry and support farmers, their families and their communities.
FR: What types of flowers do you grow?
AG: We grow more than 125 types of flowers and foliage crops, with more than 75 varieties of Dahlia alone. We start the season with Anemone and Ranunculus in our high tunnels [seasonal, semi-permanent “greenhouses,” a.k.a. hoop houses], with flowering branches and hellebores in the field. These are followed by peonies and June’s “wildflowers,” including larkspurs, bachelor’s-buttons, forget-me-nots and Queen Anne’s lace. Summer brings all the heat-lovers, including Lisianthus, Zinnia, cockscomb and early Dahlia. The fall is peak Dahlia season here, finishing our season with specialty and heirloom cut mums and holiday berries. We love texture and are always adding and trialing new foliage.
FR: Where do you sell your flowers?
AG: We retail our flowers at the Palisades Farmers Market in D.C. every Sunday, April through mid-December, and we accept orders for pick up at the farmers market via our online “Farm-to-Porch Shop.” We also make weekly home deliveries of our “Grower’s Choice” bouquets to our Farm-to-Porch customers in Northwest D.C. and select areas of Maryland and Virginia, and we design flowers for special events and weddings, as well. We sell wholesale, too, to professional floral designers throughout the season via our private online wholesale shop.
FR: What do you love most about being a farmer-florist?
AG: We love the freedom we have to grow, forage and experiment with unusual flowers and foliages for our design work. Over the past two years, we’ve expanded into trial growing for an international seed company. We hope that being able to share technical feedback as growers, combined with our insight as designers, will lead to new breeding breakthroughs that will benefit the flower industry as a whole.
FR: What things in the flower industry excite and inspire you most?
AG: I’m inspired by all the new growers taking the leap into flower farming. I love that there is no one specific formula for success because every farm is different and unique at every level. I love sharing what we do with new and aspiring farmers and mentoring them on their journeys. I’m inspired by the immediate feedback of selling flowers at market, the intense personal connection exploring a bride’s vision for her special day and the quiet fulfillment of standing in a field of flowers. I’m inspired and amazed by my enthusiastic team that keeps showing up every year and makes me laugh every day!
FR: What current floral trend excites you?
AG: I am particularly excited by the “foam free” trend in floral design, not only for environmental reasons but also because it pushes us as growers. Once flower foam was invented in 1954, much of commercial flower production shifted toward flowers that worked particularly well in foam, leaving many of the more delicate flower types by the wayside. Exploring and discovering new foliages and flowers or even new ways to grow and/or manipulate “older” types and varieties keeps us motivated and excited every year.
FR: What accomplishments in your flower career are you most proud of?
AG: Seeing our flowers featured in the November 2017 issue of National Geographic and Lou’s sandcastles in the August 2021 issue. I was thrilled to volunteer as lead designer for the first “First Lady’s Luncheon” design effort in 2016, which featured exclusively American Grown Flowers product. Working in collaboration with David Beahm Experiences NYC production team, we created stunning arrangements to highlight and promote American Grown Flowers to more than 1,500 attendees and First Lady Michelle Obama.
FR: What do you hope to do in the future?
AG: I’d love to write a book.
Farm-to-Porch Retail Shop: lynnvaleflowers.localline.ca/farm-to-porch-delivery
Online Wholesale Shop: lynnvaleflowers.localline.ca/lvs-wholesale-flowers