Imagining generations of Black farmers, we may envision men and women toiling to care for livestock and growing fields of vegetables, fruits, or potatoes. After the Civil War, plantations would be burned but Black farmers returned to work and gather flower cuttings and roots.
This illustrates the history of Black flower growers and designers as told in the introduction of “Black Flora: Profiles of Inspiring Black Flower Farmers + Florists.”
The author, Teresa (Teri) J. Speight, a native Washingtonian, now based in District Heights, wears many hats as a garden writer, podcaster and blogger.
“I write about my love of flowers, the joy of gardening and what it means to me,” Speight said. “People should embrace the beauty that surrounds them.”
From her own garden, Speight brings flowers to her full-time job to give to colleagues or makes floral arrangements setting them on the doorsteps of neighbors or seniors. She also prepares bouquets when someone has experienced a loss. This year, she plans to venture out to supply flowers to small markets.
“Black Flora” features 22 Black floral personalities. The book has more than 90 vivid photographs illustrating the talent and artistry of Black floral designers and creative directors coast to coast. In addition to the gorgeous photos, the book features stories about and images of cut gardens, flower farms, rural acreage and urban lots.
Each profile in “Black Flora” explores a family legacy and professional influences. Women and men of varied backgrounds and generations share the journey that led to careers in wedding and event design, botanical art, horticultural therapy, cut flower farming, entrepreneurship and activism.
Hermon Black, a floral designer in Arlington, and Kaifa Anderson-Hall, a horticultural therapist in Northeast, both share their stories in the book.
Black grew up loving floral arranging while growing up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She established her company HB Flori Floral Studio in 2015, working with private and corporate clients. Black, an independent florist, said most people tend to patronize floral shops. However, she also prefers to work with local flowers.
“I always wondered why we celebrate imported flowers, knowing how many flowers we can grow here,” Black said.
To meet local flower growers, Black joined Slow Flowers, an online directory for florists, flower growers and event planners. She also began exploring Virginia looking for local flower growers. Like Speight, she feels flowers should be a part of one’s daily life, not just for special occasions.
Anderson-Hall owns Inspired Horticulturist Services, Inc. and serves as the founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Plants and Blooms. As a horticultural therapist, her business repurposes donated indoor plants and flowers, redesigns them, then takes them to seniors, people who are homebound or terminally ill, like delivering meals.
Serving diverse and underserved communities is key for Anderson-Hall.
“Food and flowers go heart and hand, nursing the body and soul,” she said. “If someone can come and source those flowers, that extends their giving.”
“Black Flora” reflects a community of passionate and creative collective voices who share their contributions to the floral marketplace. Learn more about the author Teresa Speight on her website Cottage in the Court at https://cottageinthecourt.com