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Belgrade woman grows, sells two acres of flowers

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Mary Solbreken raises more than 50 varieties of flowers and ornamentals at her business, Rustic Designs Flower Farm, located north of New London. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)2 / 6
Flowers were in full bloom last year at Rustic Designs Flower Garden. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)3 / 6
Mary Solbreken shows off some of the tulips she raised this spring at Rustic Designs Flower Farm, located north of New London. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)4 / 6
Flowers were in full bloom last year at Rustic Designs Flower Garden. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)5 / 6
Flowers were in full bloom last year at Rustic Designs Flower Garden. (CAROLYN LANGE | TRIBUNE)6 / 6

BELGRADE — Everyday when Mary Solbreken goes to work, she is surrounded by love-in-a-mist.

The rural Belgrade woman isn’t a marriage therapist helping people find love, but she is very likely to pick the dainty love-in-a-mist flower — also known as nigella damascena — to add to wedding bouquets she makes for bridal parties.

She may also pick foxglove, phlox, calla lilies, forsythia, monk’s hood, larkspur, allium or dahlias that grow on her Rustic Designs Flower Farm.

“I love growing flowers. This is my passion,” Solbreken, 39, said during a visit to her garden in May.

Solbreken raises more than 50 varieties of annual and perennial flowers and ornamentals that fill every corner of her two-acre garden.

“You name it, I’ve got it,” she said. “I like to have a good selection and grow unique things — things people aren’t going to find anywhere else.”

Besides using her flowers to make arrangements for weddings and other special events, she sells buckets of cut flowers at farmers markets in Willmar and St. Cloud and delivers bundles of her flowers once a week to the Belgrade grocery store.

Solbreken also has a six- or 12-week subscription service in which she delivers flowers once a week to a customer’s door. Clients can choose to have arrangements in a vase or a bucket of fresh flowers they can arrange themselves.

“I drop off the flowers to your front door and the following week I come by with a new arrangement and pick up the old bucket or vase that I had dropped off the previous week,” she said.

She expects to have about 40 subscriptions to customers in the Willmar, Spicer, New London, Brooten, Belgrade, Sunburg and Paynesville areas. A full-season, do-it-yourself bucket option costs $180 and a full-season, arranged bouquet option costs 240. The cost is half for a six-week subscription.

She also conducts two-hour flower arranging classes Tuesday nights in July and August during which she teaches people when and how to cut flowers and then allows participants to pick any flowers they want from her garden that they can take home as a finished arrangement.

“It’s a blast. A total hoot,” she said of the classes, which cost $20 per person. “It’s a great girlfriends’ night out.”

Tours of her garden, located on her farm home about five miles north of New London, are given by appointment and are squeezed in whenever she isn’t planting, weeding, picking, arranging or selling flowers.

She sleeps about four hours a night.

“I was born and raised on a farm and I’m used to the hard work. It’s kind of in my blood,” Solbreken said. “I love it. I love being outside.”

With a degree in horticulture and floral design and a long history of working at area flower shops and greenhouses, Solbreken turned her love of flowers into a business four years ago.

She’s meshed her growing business with a job as a special education paraprofessional in the Willmar School District, but she hopes to eventually make her business a full-time job.

Planting began in mid-April this year, and she will continue seeding through the first week of August.

Besides planting long rows of annuals such as broom corn and zinnias, by early May, Solbreken had already planted 1,700 gladiola bulbs, 200 dahlia bulbs, 1,000 calla lilies, 50 new perennial peony plants and every five to seven days she plants 300 sunflowers.

Peonies are some of the earliest flowers to bloom and are popular for their large blooms, fragrance and often because “they remind people of home or their grandmother’s house,” Solbreken said.

Sunflowers are a “hot item at the farmers markets” because they are “bright, sunny and cheerful,” she said.

It takes about 60 days for sunflowers to mature, which means the ones she plants in early August should be ready by October.

Solbreken said she steers clear of chemical weed killers and instead uses straw in between rows and weeds her two acres of flowers by hand.

After having 300 tulips and 25 lilies eaten this spring by deer, she put up an electric fence.

She takes those challenges all in stride and is looking for new ways to bring flowers to people.

“This is what I’m going to do the rest of my life,” she said. “This is my passion.”

For more information contact Mary Solbreken at 320-333-2275 or email at rusticdesignsbelgrade@gmail.com.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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