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Sunday Story: In Full Flower

A soft breeze plays among hundreds of blossoms, gently diffusing their fragrance. Tended by Amanda Montgomery, the picturesque garden in northern Chesterfield County is home to Hummingbird Flower Companywhich is on a mission to promote the wonders of locally grown flowers.

Watching Montgomery working in her garden, one would think she has been doing it all her life. But when she was growing up, most of her family de ella was n’t keen on gardening, with the exception of her paternal grandmother de ella, who loved it.

It wasn’t until college that Montgomery began to appreciate plants. She opened a small seed library, and in 2010 she worked at Churchview Farm in Pittsburgh during graduate school before returning to Richmond. In 2015, while resting on her porch swing and gazing at her suburban yard, Montgomery had an idea: What if she planted something other than grass?

“I didn’t know what it would look like,” she says, “but I knew it could be much more.” After speaking with Stephanie Ganz, a food business consultant with The Apple Cart (and Richmond magazine contributor), she was inspired to start growing herbs and edible flowers for restaurants. Word spread, and soon she was supplying The Savory Grain, Toast, East Coast Provisions and other local eateries. One day, a client asked if she could provide flowers to garnish their tables as well. Montgomery decided to give it a try, and the Hummingbird Flower Company was born.

Demand steadily grew, and her half-acre front yard became too small, so Montgomery relocated the venture about five minutes away to a friend’s 2,500-square-foot backyard.

During the spring and summer, Hummingbird Flower Company’s garden is a sensory journey as it comes to life with hellebores, bearded irises, peonies, anemones, foxglove,celosia and—Montgomery’s favorite—strawflowers. While she makes sure there are plenty of hues to satisfy clients’ wishes (shades of blush, burgundy and white are particularly popular), she grows more colorful flowers for herself. “I want things to be funky, interesting and different,” she says.

Tending a lush flower garden takes time, effort and patience. Encouraging seeds to grow can be difficult, and caring for the flourishing plants can be just as laborious. A friend helps in the garden once a week, but otherwise Montgomery tends to it on her own. After tilling the soil once, she’ll meticulously cut stems, rely on drip irrigation to avoid overwatering and replenish the soil with rich compost from a three-chamber container she built out of pallets. And she has learned that you’re never really in control. “Mother Nature will humble you every time,” she says.

Montgomery sells her flowers through a subscription program (subscribers receive one bouquet per week or month) and at the River City Flower Exchange, a wholesale and retail flower market she co-founded a few years ago. At one of Central Virginia’s only markets dedicated to local flowers, you’ll find her selling alongside 11 other local farmers who offer an array of sustainable blossoms.

Montgomery also preserves blooms from each year’s harvest to make everlasting bouquets. After carefully snipping flowers from the garden, she brings them inside to her laundry room and hangs them from the rafters to dry before storing them for later sale.

As a typical week during the growing season winds down, Montgomery takes off her farmer’s hat, shuts off her social media and email, and spends the weekend enjoying time with her family and in the garden not as a job, but as a peaceful retreat.

While her garden has taught her a lot, perhaps one of Montgomery’s biggest lessons has been that gardening isn’t something you do just for yourself. “Your garden is meant to be shared,” she says. “Whether it’s food or flowers or just having it visible, it’s a really good thing. It gives inspiration to others to see what’s possible.”

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