The officer checked my passport and, in a mono-toned voice, asked, “reason for your visit?”

“Attending a rose farming course, with a little floral therapy on the side,” I replied.  He chuckled “Well, that’s the most original response this morning, welcome to Los Angeles and don’t forget to stop and smell those roses.”

Such was the response whenever there was mention of my trip. When we interact with flowers, there’s an almost primal response that calms us, lifts our mood and refocuses our thoughts. Indeed, any gardener will vouch to this, and that was the purpose at my next port of call.  Seattle, Washington State’s largest city, synonymous with the ever-growing slow flower movement.

My quest? To finally meet, face to face, my Instagram pal, who is one of the very few who also practices floral therapy, not only in the USA but globally. Nichole Monjay, of, is a professional florist and horticultural therapist who weaves mindful therapy and wellness benefits into her floral design practice and workshops.

The meeting was of two kindred spirits who bonded over our passion for flowers. During our time together, we exchanged notes, theories, experiences and hatched a plan to build awareness and help people slow down on both sides of the Pacific using flowers.

Next stop, Grace Rose Farm, situated in the Santa Ynez Valley about 40 minutes from Santa Barbara.  It has 26,000 garden rose bushes and is one of the most prominent farms in California.

The pivotal point of Grace Rose Farm’s presentation was not the glamour and ethereal virtues that are seen on social media. It was the reality of running a sustainable profit-based business in an industry that can be occasionally fickle and mostly trend based.

From vets to lawyers, there is a growing interest and yearning for a different lifestyle which is more connected to nature. “Well, don’t give up your day job, just yet,” was Grace Rose Farm’s advice. The reality is, working with Mother Nature, can be harsh.  You have to diversify and be prepared for exceptionally hard work, both physically and mentally.

Roses Main 2 uai

We were also privileged to be provided with insights from several flower experts. Rosarian Dan Bifano, whose skills have shaped Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand’s striking Californian Rose Gardens shared his advice. He suggested that with our cool climate frosts, playing such havoc with roses, we would need to provide spring shade cloths and overhead sprayers.  This would reduce stress on the roses for the pending flowering season. “Ok, that’s the budget blown again for this season!” I thought. A harsh reality, indeed.

I was not the only Daylesford Macedon Ranges flower farmer who ventured across the Pacific on a rose-based quest. Also attending was Victoria’s largest paddock grown rose farmer, Kristy Tippett of Dean based Soho Rose Farm. The two of us joined around 20 others from across the United States to learn from a couple who have put their wherewithal, and some serious passion, into creating a successful and sustainable business.

What was brought home through these experiences was how exceptionally rich the Daylesford Macedon Ranges is. Not only our raw resources of fertile soils and abundant mineral springs which create culinary produce second to none but the talented floral community whose increasing numbers have created one of the highest concentrations in Victoria.

International author of ‘In Praise of Slow’ Carl Honore said it best, “We encourage you to reclaim time and tranquillity, to make meaningful connections with people, cultures, work, our own bodies and minds. And do this with nature’s bounty – flowers.” Experience the slow flower therapy en masse this spring.  Thirteen flower farmers, from the Daylesford Macedon Ranges, will be launching The Flower Farm Trail.  A celebration of flower farm workshops, tours, accommodation, quaint road-side stalls and farm gate sales.

To discover the Flower Farm Trail and all that’s on offer, visit

Sandy McKinley is the owner of Acre of Roses: a luxury wellness accommodation and micro flower farm in Trentham, Victoria. @acreofroses   

Photos: Grace Rose Farm

About the author

Sandy McKinley
Sandy McKinley, Acre of Roses
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Sandy left her career as a marketer to pursue her childhood passion for flowers when she moved next door to a renowned and newly retired florist who trained and mentored Sandy to open her own floral studio where she created a successful business growing her own peonies and crafting events and weddings in the region. When the opportunity to purchase 1,000 mature heritage rose bushes arose Sandy & Rob grasped at it to fulfil their vision.