Interview with Leila Jordan-Klassen


How did you get your start with Tenderheart Botanicals?
After learning to grow flowers in Washington State, I moved home to California to be closer to my family. I was lucky enough to meet a local vegetable farmer in Sonoma with land to spare and now I lease land at Leet Family Ranch! I didn’t know flower farming was even a profession until the owners of a farm I worked on handed me Floret’s book and said, “Can you do this?”. It was my dream job and I hadn’t even known it.

What do you love most about your work?
Reconnecting with seasonality has been the biggest gift of farming. Living in a world of grocery stores had me unaware of the magic and beauty of the changing seasons. Not only are the plants changing but so are the textures, smells, and color palettes. Then every person who buys a bouquet from me throughout the year gets a little taste of that moment in the season.

How does the Napa Farmers Market support your farm?
The first place I ever sold my flowers was a farmers market and the Napa market is essential to my business because it gives me a place to sell twice a week and amazing community to sell in. The market takes on the task of finding customers, which saves me a lot of time and energy. This year I’ve used that extra time to commit to learning about and supporting black farmers. Right now, a portion of every single sale I make goes to the National Black Food and Justice Alliance.

How many different kinds of flowers do you grow, and what is unique about each variety?
I grow around 85 variety of flowers throughout the season. I try to bring things to market that people have never seen before. Maybe they’re flowers that have gone out of fashion that I want to revive (like gladiolas and heirloom chrysanthemums) or they’re unusual varieties of classic favorites (like cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers). The flower world is so diverse! I want people to experience as many different varieties throughout the year as I can cram into my 3,000 square foot plot.

What’s your go-to arrangement this time of year?  Do you have any floral arranging tips or care tips for cut flowers?
This week, my lemon and cinnamon basil have been a revelation! They smell divine and have an incredible vase life. I love including non-traditional florals in bouquets like herbs. My biggest tip is to keep things clean with cut flowers! Refresh your water often, remove dead blooms, clean the vase, and recut the stems every few days. All these things help your flowers last longer.

Photos by Tia Butts and Aurora Oak.