Jessica McPherson’s sprawling front yard is her happy place.
It’s where she got married, it’s where her Bernese Mountain Dogs Oscar and Gilbert are happiest, and its where she’s thrown herself into a flower-growing hobby that has made her the talk of the neighborhood.
“I’m absolutely obsessed,” McPherson said on a recent afternoon in her Quincy yard. “I don’t sleep because I’m constantly thinking of flowers, how to arrange them, which ones to plant next.”
McPherson is a dentist by day and a flower-loving, zealous gardener in her off time. She has roughly 700 square feet of flower beds in her yard overflowing with roses, peonies, hydrangeas, dahlias, zinnias and more, and she’s started planting outside her fence line and on the other side of the sidewalk. It’s such a bright, colorful and well-organized sight, that the average passerby would have no idea she just took up gardening a year or so ago.
“I hated gardening. Hated everything about it. My dad had a big garden growing up and it just always felt like work,” McPherson, an Idaho native, said. “I decided when we moved here to just stick some things in the ground. My dad said ‘You have to research, you have to,’ and I just ignored him. Of course, now I spend all of my free time researching flowers and taking classes online.”
This is the second year McPherson is running DDS Blooms, a small flower businesses that consists of only products of her Quincy garden. Everything she has started from seeds in her basement, which she carefully nurtured and moved outside last spring. This year, she doubled her plantings and has spent the last several months making small bouquets and custom arrangements. She even did the florals for a wedding this May.
“I’m constantly amazed at how much this churns out,” she said.
Most of her flowers end up in small, mason-jar arrangements at a farm stand at the end of her driveway, which is next door to the entrance of the Quincy Tennins Club. She sells the arrangements for $10 to $20 — $25 for larger, hand-tied bouquets — and has built up a small neighborhood following.
“I walked over for the first time and was overwhelmed. It’s so great,” said neighbor Linnea Walsh, who stops by once per week to get a fresh bouquet. “It’s the perfect pandemic pick-me-up. It’s so nice to have something that brings some joy.”
McPherson said she spends 12 to 15 hours per week in the garden, tending to flowers, cutting stems and enjoying the little oasis she’s built. Before flowers are put out for sale, she “conditions them,” leaving stems in a hydrating solution for about 6 hours before putting them on the stand. She recommends owners keep them out of direct sun, trim the stems every few days and change the water daily.
“If you cut them at the right time and take care of them the right way, you can really get a long time out of them,” she said. “When you cut a flower you’re killing it, and you have to keep that in mind. I once read that florists are the best morticians in the world.”
Though Massachusetts is commonly-known for its short growing season, McPherson says she’s able to keep her garden active from March or April through October or November. Some flowers love the heat, she said, while others need a slow, cold start. She’s not a “certified organic” homestead, but McPherson said she successfully grew all of this year’s flowers using only organic materials — compost, organic fertilizer and leaf mulch.
“There’s a lot of trial and error,” she said. “So far this year, I’ve had a lot of success, but it’s really so dependent on the elements.”
DDS Blooms says it’s Quincy’s fresh, urban, sustainable flower source, and McPherson says she’d love to keep expanding. If she could leave dentistry to do flowers full time, she says she would.
“I don’t claim to be good at arranging, I’m certainly not a designer, but this is my one creative outlet,” she said. “I’m not a creative person in general, I’m straight and narrow and by the book and was in the Air Force. But this is my one thing and it’s clawing its way out.”
McPherson’s farm stand is at the end of her driveway at 21 Presidents Lane near Quincy Center.
Photos in this post were taken by Gene Chambers. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.