Stem Research

A Philadelphia Florist’s Approach to Growing Her Own Business

Aimee Kirby’s office is in bloom. As the founder of the floral studio Ferox Studio, she deals more in dried ferns and clusters of ranunculus than spreadsheets (though there are a few of those, too). Her HQ, in Philadelphia’s hip Fishtown ‘hood, spills out into a backyard garden, where she’s starting to raise her own greens and flowers—let’s just say that her business has taken over her space and her headspace. More on going from amateur nature-lover to pro below.

Q. How did flowers become your thing?

A. “After I left school, I worked on an 11-acre flower farm in Virginia called Wollam Gardens. I lived on the property, and it was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Afterwards, I came to New York and worked for a landscape-design architecture firm for about three years, which helped me to get an idea of how special projects worked on a large, high-end scale. I got a bit burnt out after a while and wanted to switch to something more soul-enlightening, so I began working at The Horticultural Society of New York in a program that provided ex-incarcerated and at-risk youth with horticultural therapy.”

Q. At what point did you decide to build your own company?

A. “I started branching out into different types of projects on the side that were more sculptural and art-based and building a client base of my own in 2014. I finally ripped the bandaid off a couple of years ago and started my own business. We do floral styling, weddings, events, and landscape work—anything that is botanically interesting and creative is kind of my thing.”

Q. What’s your flower philosophy?

A “My design approach is born out of my respect for the ever-evolving allure of the natural world and how it translates into new spaces both large and small. Motivated by my interest in sculpture, I see gardens and flora not only as a thing of beauty but also as opportunities to embrace natural materials as art and functional installations. I curate plants, branches, stems, and other intriguing materials to design gardens and arrangements, inspired by what I find in the wild. I have a deep love for meadowscapes and pollinator habits and like to think of flora as architecture.”

Q. Which plants do you have a soft spot for?

A. “I’m a huge fan of pampas grass, and I love weeping atlas cedar and springtime ranunculus. I love variegated color patterns and dusky lavender roses—I’m always looking for muted tones and Seussical kinds of plants. I also like to work with dried materials like palm fronds.”

Q. How do you tackle a new arrangement?

A. “I always like to choose the vessel first because it dictates the height and direction that the arrangement will take. I think you should let that guide the project and then build from there. I really like low, wide, dish-style vessels called compotes.”

Q. What’s in your tool belt?

A. “I always use the #6 Felco pruners made for tiny hands because I have smaller hands, and they aren’t bulky or uncomfortable to use or to put in your pocket and carry around.”

Q. Any tips for extending cut-flower lifespans?

A. “One mistake people commonly make is that they want to put flowers on a windowsill, but direct sunlight isn’t great for cut florals. I’d recommend dappled sunlight and a cooler place to keep them alive for longer. Also, cutting stems every few days and refilling the vase with fresh or distilled water (which can be easy to forget) really extends the plant life substantially.”

Flower Power