Behind the Scenes at Lolblolly Farm

Photographs by  Renee Hollingshead , Styling and Farmers of  Loblolly Farm

Photographs by Renee Hollingshead, Styling and Farmers of Loblolly Farm

A farmer and a florist met at a community outreach garden in 2011 and have been spreading their roots all over the East Coast. With a passion for local and small, Benny and Courtney built their organic farm with a foundation of love and inspiration. Based in the suburbs of Maryland, Loblolly Farm is their design studio, farm, and home. Here's a look at their dream that sprouted from the very first place they met.

How would you describe that difference in your style?

When I’m designing, my guiding principal is always movement. I try to envision each flower or all of them together as if they were on stage, from the corps to the soloists. The lines, curves and twists created from each piece of foliage inspire me the most and then there are the focal blooms that support not only those foliages but also have their own principal qualities. I actually heard it best from Sarah Winward, "when designing a bouquet envision how it would move when the bride is walking down the aisle". This really struck a cord with me. And now, when I approach a bouquet I want it to have enough air & space for the blooms to dance. Yet, I still look for those soloist qualities to draw the eye in a blooming branch stretching out or a dahlia that just has to be front and center. 

I see you grow many different species and varieties of flowers, which are your favorite or real stand-outs that may be native to the area, or maybe aren't and are really unique?

To say I have a favorite flower is like picking a favorite child. It’s just really impossible, especially the flowers on our farm that we spend so much time caring for before they bloom. However moving to the mid Atlantic region has been a real source of inspiration and a true blessing! I love leaving my back door, meandering into the forest behind our home, just to see what treasures I can find. And the best part is, it’s an ever-changing & evolving selection! When I forage, I am mainly looking for texture and sometimes color (in the fall of course!). I have discovered several native species that I’ve really enjoyed working with like Muhly Grass, Zebra Grass & Trumpet Weed. There’s actually a pretty funny story here: so Benny and I went out to forage color tinged foliages for a fall photoshoot. Being that we are not from this area we sometimes have difficulty identifying plant & tree species. We selected this gorgeous tree (or so we thought!) with the most beautiful red-hued leaves and when we arrived to the venue (which specializes in native plant species) we were informed we had harvested poison ivy!! We were so thankful this was a photo shoot and not a real event and that we caught it before anyone but us was exposed. The week thereafter was pretty itchy to say the least. And now we know what it looks like! 

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Tell us the history of the farm...did you create it from a blank canvas piece of land, or had it been cultivated before you?

The farm we are on now we are leasing from a wonderful couple very active in the local land conservation movement. They established this farm as an incubator to encourage the growth of farms in the area. We are the second farmers to come onto this land since our landlords acquired it and before that, we discovered it was a Christmas tree farm (how fitting for us since Loblolly is an evergreen!). Next month we are moving to land of our own, an 8 acre spread just 10 minutes away. The history there is incredible! First, it’s on the same street that Doctor Samuel Mudd lived in his estate (which is still there). He is the doctor that treated James Wilkes Boothe for a broken ankle after the assassination of President Lincoln. He was subsequently sentenced to prison on the Dry Tortugas off the coast of Florida for conspiracy and high treason. The home on our new land was built in 1945 by old tobacco farmers who raised their family and bequeathed the land to their daughter and her husband who raised their own family there. It has never been sold and has been in their family for over 70 years! We are so honored and excited to bring the tradition of cultivation back to this land.

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