Melissa Lafontaine harvests wild phlox in a Northside alley last week as she gathers plants for a small bouquet. Lafontaine owns Earth Within Flowers, a sustainable floral design company that sources from local plants, and is launching an educational side project to connect girls to their internal cycles and the natural environment.

Lafontaine harvests flowers from the gardens of a neighbor who lets her use the plants.

In an alley on Missoula’s Northside last week, Melissa Lafontaine was waist deep in a sea of wild phlox growing up from the gravel. The local florist carefully waded through the tall white flowers, cutting a single stem every several feet until she had a small bouquet in her basket.

“I do a lot of alley harvesting with things that I know hold up well and that are just beautiful, wild accidents,” Lafontaine said once back at her home studio.

The owner of Earth Within Flowers, a sustainable floral design company, not only kicked off her wedding season this past week, she also launched a campaign to raise $15,000 to turn her community-based, educational side project, Earth Within Girls , into a nonprofit.

While Lafontaine’s floral business focuses on wedding and event design, for the past few years she has also hosted workshops for young girls and their guardians focused on health, wellness and connecting to nature.

“We connect girls to their internal cycles and natural environment through plant wisdom and self care,” said Lafontaine, who has a master’s degree in plant-based education and a background in herbalism and ethno-botany.

She said her workshops fill a gap for developing young girls, and she wants to make them more accessible and expand her reach in a time when it’s needed most.

“We don’t really include a lot of hormonal balance and holistic health topics in the school system for young girls in that upper elementary to middle school range, where they’re really going through it,” she said. “I find that parents really do need a safe and holistic outlet for their kids right now.”

Lafontaine teaches girls how to use the natural environment and the things we find in it to heal themselves, both physically and spiritually, and better understand and connect to their monthly cycles.

“I’ve done a lot of healing with plants surrounding my hormonal imbalance,” she said. “I really feel like it’s just not common knowledge to learn the basics about your cycle and how you can use plants as medicine and food to just balance.”

Her Earth Within Girls workshops in the past have also included more artistic activities related to floral design like holiday wreath-making that forge connections between the girls, their guardians and each other.

“I find that, through the workshops that we do, flowers can be so healing and we all are craving and relying upon nature for our mental health right now,” she said, adding the timing of the launch during a pandemic is actually perfect. “I think if anything, COVID is helping us all really connect back to our natural environment.” The launch […]