A family flower tradition moved to the city

Lydia Larrea displays a few of the flowers she grows at her farm in New London. Photo submitted

Cut roses at Velvet Sun Flower Farm on Montauk Avenue in New London. Photo submitted

Flowers on display at Velvet Sun Flower Farm in New London. Photo submitted

Lydia Larrea currently lives and runs her flower business, Velvet Sun Flower Farm, from her home on Montauk Avenue in New London.

She grew up as a member of the Scott family that runs Scott’s Orchard in East Lyme. While Velvet Sun Flower Farm was first established in April of this year, Lydia had been in the flower business since childhood.

Lydia starting growing cut flowers at the early age of 12 in the fields at her dad’s farm. When she was 12 or 13, she grew flowers for sale at the Lyme Farmers Market at Ashlawn Farms in Lyme on Saturdays and Sundays.

Lydia has always been a gardener, working in her dad’s greenhouses, mainly growing produce, but flowers have always been her passion, especially cut flowers. Besides her years of experience growing flowers, Lydia’s education about flowers came from studying horticulture at University of Connecticut; from doing research on her own, and reading seed catalogs to learn about growing conditions and varieties of flowers.

When Lydia was growing up, her dad was the farmer in the family but before him, his mother (Lydia’s grandmother) was an incredible woman and besides being in the Navy and raising nine children, she ran a cut flower business. While Lydia’s grandmother passed away before Lydia was born, Lydia was able to cut flowers that her grandmother had planted years before. As a result, Lydia attributes her love of flowers to her grandmother.

Lydia has always had a creative personality, but flower arranging and photographing flowers has allowed her an outlet to exercise her creativity.

“It is incredibly fulfilling to be back into putting flowers together,” she said.

While arrangements are dictated in part on what flowers are available, Lydia likes to focus on seasonality when growing and arranging flowers. Her arrangements are works of art and often feature the unexpected, combining seasonal flowers, fruit, vegetables and different colors and textures in bouquets. While it is impossible for Lydia to name her favorite flower, she experimented by planting oriental poppies in 2020 during COVID and by spring of this year 40 enormous, gorgeous oriental poppies bloomed. Lydia felt that something about those poppies “coming out of such a dark period felt like a reawakening and rank up there as one of my favorite flowers.”

She is passing on her love of flowers to her daughters Sylvie, 9, and Ruby, 10. Two years ago during COVID, Lydia decided to plant a garden and a children’s garden for her girls. Lydia and her daughters planted seeds, grew flowers, and cut them for arrangements for their home.

They continue to help their mom with the business. From the small COVID backyard garden, the idea for a business bloomed. When discussing ideas with her husband, he asked her what she would do if she could do anything. She responded that “she would grow flowers for arrangements.”

With her family’s support, she decided to go for it and try to start a flower business from her half acre garden at her house in New London. Lydia is planning on expanding her garden and growing her business, adding more flower beds and types of flowers that she will grow and sell.

The name of Lydia’s business, Velvet Sun Flower Farm, comes from lyrics of her favorite band, The Killers. The lyrics “the velvet sun that shines on me and you” stuck with Lydia and, in light of the challenges of COVID, Lydia wanted a name that symbolized a new beginning, “finding a velvet sun.”

Lydia’s business has grown based on social media (her Facebook and Instagram pages); location of her flower stand in front of her house on Montauk Avenue; passing out business cards; and by word of mouth from friends and customers. Lydia has not formally marketed her business.

Community support for her business has been strong, and many of her customers learned of her business when driving or walking by her house. Lydia believes that buying flowers from the cart in front of the house is “an affordable luxury.”

Lydia grows her flowers by seeds planted in her basement beginning in January and then moves them outside in her garden. Some of the flowers that grow in her gardens include tulips, daffodils, dahlias, poppies, cosmos, zinnias, foxgloves, snapdragons, sunflowers and asters. Lydia has also planted a vegetable and herb garden, but does not sell her vegetables yet.

This year, Velvet Sun Flower Farm has made arrangements for parties, bridal and baby showers and provided flowers for a wedding in addition to selling flower arrangements from a flower cart in front of her house. If Lydia does not have a particular flower that she wants for an arrangement, neighbors and friends have generously offered her flowers from their gardens. Lydia has also made some flower arrangements with a cousin from Scott’s Farm Store and a local florist to obtain flowers she does not currently grow.

Lydia is taking a short break after her summer harvest but will be offering sunflowers and other fall flowers shortly. Lydia believes that “when buying seasonal flowers that someone grew locally, it is such a special experience.”

Hannah Simpson is a Times intern and a student at Mitchell College.