FIELDS OF DREAMS
iIn Sonoma, California, an entrepreneur who reclaims a fallow field and transforms it into a vineyard is often called a visionary. When Bonnie Z. purchased a vineyard and converted it into an organic farm, she was frequently called foolish.
“Ripping out grapevines in the heart of wine country isn’t your typical business plan,” Bonnie says, “but it worked for me!” A former textile artist and designer, Bonnie has long been obsessed with gardening.
“In 1990, I ran out of room in my backyard and bought a 6-acre vineyard with the idea of growing and selling heirloom vegetables in summer and continuing my textile work in winter,” Bonnie explains. In addition to rows of vegetables, she planted an abundance of roses and a selection of flower and foliage plants, carefully chosen for form, texture, fragrance and color. She called her land Dragonfly Farm after the many dragonflies that annually hatch nearby.
It took a few years for Bonnie’s bushes and perennials to become established, but as soon as they did, she began selling blossoms along with the produce she was already providing to local restaurants and caterers. Slowly but surely, the flowers began taking up space she once used to grow vegetables. Eventually, growing and selling flowers became her full-time occupation.
In 2001, Bonnie’s daughter Carlisle Degischer moved back home and joined the family business. “Mom meets with clients to plan weddings and manages the gardens. I specialize in bridal and wedding-party bouquets and run the website, marketing and behind-the-scenes operations,” Carlisle says. “My husband, Ray, our son, Ollie, and I live
OPPOSITE: Built from recycled materials, the farm shop is a wonderland of cut flowers, succulents, and naturalistic containers ready for filling with imaginative designs. THIS PAGE, RIGHT: Dragonfly’s uncontrived wreaths and centerpieces highlight the natural beauty of the flowers grown on the farm. Blooms are harvested bright and early every day. BELOW: Bonnie Z. and her daughter Carlisle Degischer stroll to work from their homes, both of which are located on the property. BELOW RIGHT: “Foliage is an important ingredient in arrangements. It helps blend your flowers into an overall design,” Bonnie says.
RIGHT: A farm wagon displays pre- planted containers and simple floral arrangements ready to “grab and go.” BELOW RIGHT: Bonnie named her property and business after the dragonflies that hatch in nearby Dry Creek. OPPOSITE: Sign up for a class and learn from the pros! Hands- on workshops at Dragonfly Farm include seasonal decor, the essence of beautiful bouquets, assembling natural terrariums, and planning a one- of-a-kind wedding. right across the driveway from my mom.”
Ray also maintains a studio in a former barn, where he creates handmade furniture, wall art and garden accessories using recycled materials. His unique vases, floral armature, and photography skills complement the talents of his wife and mother-in-law.
“Our gardens are full of unusual flowers,” Carlisle says proudly. “Mom has collected more than 1,500 antique and modern roses in colors ranging from vibrant hues to soft pastels.”
Both Bonnie and her daughter appreciate the importance of cultivating a constant supply of floral material. “We continue to plant shrubs, and our propagation greenhouse is always filled to the brim with seedlings and cuttings,” Bonnie explains. “Farm to table is a growing trend, and our customers are looking for not only locally grown food but local flowers, too!”