Business is blooming for Ottawa flower farmer Aunt B

Marissa Ventrelli
The Ottawa Herald

Brenda Hayden is a perfectionist, or at least she tells people she is. So when she began growing flowers in the basement of her home in Ottawa in 2019, she knew they had to come out just right, because her dreams of owning a business depended on it.

When she moved back to Kansas after over a decade in Florida, Hayden decided it was time to move on from her teaching career and start something new. Having come from a family who enjoyed gardening and farming, Hayden was inspired to become a farmer herself. She would not become a farmer in the traditional sense like her brother Steve, however - Hayden wanted to be a flower farmer. So she established sole proprietorship of a business she called Aunt B's Blossoms after the nickname her nephew Cole had given her, and did her homework, voraciously devouring every online article and YouTube instructional video she could.  

The seedlings that started in Hayden's basement soon made their way to her parent's expansive property in Pomona, where they continued to grow through the beginning of 2020. Panic around the newly named COVID-19 pandemic was growing during this time too, but despite the unexpected challenge, Hayden said things were going pretty smoothly the first half of the new year. Her flowers were finally grown, and she began cutting them and selling bouquets of bright, colorful zinnias, cosmos, snapdragons and celosia at the local farmer's market. "When my flowers were ready in June, the Farmer's Market was going on, I just kind of followed their guidelines and regulations to sell my flowers, and that's really the only way I sold the flowers last year, and I did really well," she said. Over a year and countless farmer's markets later, Hayden is now an established presence at the Orscheln parking lot every Saturday and Wednesday. She also has her own website, auntbblossoms.com, where she sells flowers by the bouquet or by the bucket, as well as hats and t-shirts with her logo on them. Several local businesses have even subscribed to delivery service - "there's lots of room for flowers in Ottawa," she says. 

Some of the flowers grown by Aunt B on her parents' property

Hayden's passion for growing her own flowers stems from a desire to provide the Ottawa community with fresh seasonal flowers sourced locally. "If you buy flowers from the grocery store, they probably came from South America," she explains. "I wanted to give people in Ottawa a chance to have flowers grown in Ottawa." 

Besides her own flowers and foliage, Hayden has also begun selling something grown by her brother, Steve - sunflowers. Steve planted the seeds on his parents' property in June, and just a few weeks later, they've flourished into stalks several feet high, with fully unfurled yellow petals facing the bright sun. Along with incorporating the sunflowers in her bouquets, Hayden and Steve are hoping to sell the flowers' seeds as bird feed. But before that happens, the siblings are offering community members a chance to visit their sunflower field and experience the magic themselves. For the next two weekends, the Haydens are taking visitors by appointment only to visit the farm and cut their very own sunflowers to take home. They will be donating the proceeds of all stems sold to the Franklin County Cancer Society in memory of Steve's son Cole, who passed away from cancer at the age of seven. 

Steve and Brenda's sunflower field on their parents' property in Pomona

Next year, Hayden is considering growing lavender and moving the sunflowers to the field across the street, which also belongs to her parents. She's also considering bringing on more help as her business grows. But beyond that, she's taking things day by day, excited to see what the future holds for her and her flowers.