Three years ago, Christina Clum left the corporate world to become an urban flower farmer.
Her backyard in Kensington, Brooklyn, however, “is the size of a postage stamp,” she said. “And it doesn’t get good light.” So in February 2018, she put the word out to other Brooklyn residents about doing plantings in their yards. The exchange would be simple: They would get to enjoy the flowers, and then she would cut them and sell them through her company, Spry Flower Farm.
Ms. Clum, 51, settled on five yards. “I had certain criteria,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to walk through someone’s home, because it would be weird and invasive.” She needed sunlight and an outside water source. Ms. Clum also made it clear that she wasn’t a landscaper. “Some people still don’t get that,” she said.
“I have developed quite a fondness for my hosts and have attended barbecues and plays in which they are involved,” said Ms. Clum, who visits her hosts’ properties several times a week to dig up weeds, plant new seeds, and water the flowers, which she sells through a subscription service and to two stores. “I think it definitely takes a certain type of person to volunteer their yard and put their trust in strangers.”
Ms. Clum lives with her husband, Christopher Longworth, 51, who is an architectural metal fabricator; their daughter Cora, 15; a dog, Ida Mae; and three cats.
BREAKFAST WITH IDA MAE I get up early, around 6 a.m. If I was a real farmer I would probably have to get up even earlier. I have one cup of French-press coffee, and I will make myself a hearty breakfast, because I will be outside for several hours. There are almost always eggs, maybe some sautéed greens. On Sundays everyone in the house sleeps in, and it’s really quiet and lovely. My dog will get up. though, and if she’s staring at me, I will have to give her a walk before I leave. She almost always wins.
WEEDING AND WATERING I try to visit two yards one day, three yards the next day. Now that it’s July, most everything is planted. When I go to the yards, I am mostly weeding and watering and cutting. I do what they call succession planting, which means planting seeds so there is always something blooming. That way I will have flowers throughout the season. I currently have black-eyed Susans, zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons, and chocolate lace flowers blooming.
SOCIAL DISTANCING I spend from two to four hours in each yard. During the pandemic when everyone was at home, I saw people more often than I did previously. Sometimes they would stay behind their door, and I would talk to them. Sometimes they would come out and maintain a distance. People are lonely and craving human interaction.
BEAT THE HEAT On Sundays I’m usually able to get to two houses before the heat of the day comes. You don’t want to cut flowers in the heat because they wilt and can’t recover. I drive between all my houses and carry a backpack along with all my tools. I bring clipping scissors, my kitchen knife, my hoe, planting seeds, and buckets that I put all the cut flowers in. I also bring my handy-dandy garden hat, because I don’t want to get too much sun. I will wear masks whether I run into people or not because I want to be responsible.
HOMEWORK On Sundays I cut flowers for two shops that I sell to, GRDN and Thank You Have a Good Day, both in Brooklyn. I typically come home and clean the flowers off, which consists of cutting or breaking off leaves from the flowers. I’ll separate them out by type and arrange them into the numbers each shop wants.
FAMILY ERRAND Each Sunday around noon my husband and daughter and I go to the farmer’s market on Cortelyou Road. It’s a smaller market, not a big one, so I find it to be more manageable. We spend about an hour getting food for the weekly meals. We get fresh vegetables, fresh fish, whatever looks good.
DELIVERIES Around 2 p.m. I’ll take the cut flowers to the two stores. One of them usually has a specific order for how much she wants to get, and the other is less specific and will take what looks good. I used to take my buckets of flowers on the subway, but now I am kind of avoiding the subway because of coronavirus, so I drive.
BACKYARD HANG The rest of Sunday is pretty relaxed. We will sit in the backyard and maybe have a glass of wine and discuss what is happening in the world. We talk a lot about what will happen with school next year or what is going on with the presidential election. We’ve kind of stopped talking about the absurdity of what is going on with the pandemic; it’s too much in your face every day.
FATIGUE SETS IN I’ll go to bed around 11, but sometimes I fall asleep watching television before that. I feel the physical stress of being a farmer. I am in positions when I am weeding that aren’t normal for the body. Or I’ll stretch my legs in a contorted way to not knock over flowers. It’s not terrible though, and my body definitely loosens up by the next day.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Christina Clum on Instagram @clumbleweed or @spryflowerfarm.