Blooming Business Offers Potpourri

Since she was an art major in the mid-sixties, Sharon Donnelly Sabin ’67 had dreamed of pursuing her artistic talent. Then, in 1991, that chance found her—in the most unlikely of places.

Looking for a location to retire, Sharon and her husband bought nine acres of farmland in Newberg, on Oregon’s gorgeous Willamette River. The land came with a farm tax deferral; they could apply for tax-deferred status as long as they grew something on the land and earned an income from it.

What began as financial prudence evolved into an exhilarating new phase of life for Sharon and her husband. “Having loved gardening for years, I started growing flowers,” she explains. “I then picked up floral design again—which I had been doing for years on my own. Soon afterward, we bought a freeze-drying machine. And now we have a business, Edgewood Country Florals, designing custom floral arrangements and wall pieces from our flowers.”

Sharon creates custom peices for clients, sells them, and makes seasonal potpourris. Business is thriving—as much as she wants it to. She also teaches local classes in floral arranging.

“The business supports itself, but it wasn’t meant to support us,” she says. “My husband is retired, and I work at it two or three days a week. It’s a lot of fun, and we meet lots of interesting people in the world of horticulture.”

On a typical day, Sharon prefers to walk her fields in the cool of the evening, collecting the prime rose and peony blossoms. “I then fill up the freeze dryer, which can accommodate 3,600 roses,” she explains. “It takes about a week to freeze dry the flowers; vegetables take two weeks.”

With so many blooms to manage, Sharon keeps her specimens carefully catalogued and packed inside clear, flat boxes. “We have a huge inventory of boxes stacked floor to ceiling. So if someone comes and wants something particular, they can look through them. We can sell a couple of hundred dollars-worth a day that way. We are now also selling fresh-cut flowers and even our large own-root rose bushes to floral and landscape designers.”

A room off the barn makes for a spacious work area, where Sharon handcrafts her custom bouquets and displays. “When I was a student at Scripps,” she explains, “I learned I could do all kinds of things with texture and color;I’ve always had an eye for balance and composition. My husband is an architect, and he encouraged me to do this. It’s so nice when you can make the most of your talents and finally do that thing you really love. It’s particularly gratifying when there are so many people who are willing to pay you for it.”