A few years back, when Arielle Zamora’s chef husband Kyle Rourke opened his restaurant, The Waiting Room, in Portland’s Alphabet district, it was perfectly natural that Zamora, an avid gardener, would make the floral arrangements. What came as a surprise was the response. “People saw the flowers and started asking if I did weddings. I just fell into it,” she says of her career as a florist. “Then, I decided to grow more, and to keep it extremely local.”
And when she says extremely local, she means it. Her micro flower farm, Small Yard Flowers, is exactly that, the front and back gardens and parking strip of her St. Johns home. The volume and variety of blooms she produces—among them anemones, zinnias, dahlias, and now 250 rose bushes—would make even Gertrude Jekyll swoon.
To meet demand, she now also farms two neighboring properties. “We’re all really good friends. They weren’t doing anything with their yards and asked if I wanted to plant them—I took over!” she says. Behind her home is a detached garage she converted into a studio with counter space and a walk-in cooler to keep blossoms fresh.
But what makes Zamora’s approach to floral design so meaningful is the lessons she imparts as she goes. “The wedding industry isn’t inclusive, and I’ve found a niche,” she says, noting the diversity of her clientele. “I’ve found purpose and meaning in teaching other vendors how to be open to all types of love.” She also encourages them to embrace the seasons and be more sustainably focused. “You don’t have to be 100% green, but you can choose to be better,” she says. At Small Yard Flowers, Zamora eschews floral foam for reusable chicken wire, and she recently began experimenting with dying flowers and silk ribbon with natural pigments.
As the seasons change and the flurry of summer and fall weddings quiets down, Zamora turns to another creative outlet, painting. “Flowers are a different part of my brain,” she explains. “They’re open, organic, and I can improvise. The paintings are math, straight lines, and I have parameters, like the size of the canvas.” But winter doesn’t mean the garden stops. In fact, there’s quite a lot to be done. “We have to start planning and ordering seeds for next year,” she says. And if the 4,000 tulips she grew this spring are any indicator, life at Small Yard Flowers will be just as vibrant.