Q&A: Meet a Garden Entrepreneur

Photo credit: Mariah Steckler Photography

Mara Tyler grew up in California, but she really grew up in her mother’s garden. It was a magical place, filled with roses. But it also required a lot of weeding, which didn’t seem worth the trouble to a young girl.

Oh, how times have changed.

These days, Tyler and her husband Greg own The Farm at Oxford, a boutique flower farm in Chester County. She willingly spends her days with her hands in the dirt, carrying on the family legacy and brightening customers’ days with her bold, colorful, seasonal blooms.

Bulb & Bloom chatted with Tyler about finding the perfect property, her “freshly plucked” aesthetic, and favorite local places to find inspiration.

Bulb & Bloom: How did you fall back in love with gardening?

For years I did nothing garden related. Then as a 20 year old with my first apartment, I bought a pack of bulbs at Lowe’s and planted them on my patio. Seeing the leaves and then flowers sprouting from those tiny, shriveled bulbs reminded me of how much beauty could come from roots and corms. After that, I planted as many bulbs as my patio would fit. Then when I rented a house, I made sure to add roses that reminded me of Mom’s garden.

Tell me about The Farm at Oxford. What were the origins of the business? What products and services do you currently offer?

Moving to PA, one of the biggest things that I looked forward to was having a real-sized yard and lots of room to grow flowers again. I used to look at garden design magazines, daydreaming about having thousands of tulips one day.

My husband and I looked at many properties across multiple counties. While we were house hunting, I was also volunteering at a flower farm in Philly. The local flower movement was just starting to pick up steam — I saw the demand for local flowers begin to blossom. As we kept looking for our perfect property, my list of requirements grew. By the time we found our place, I knew I wanted to grow flowers for my local community. We purchased the farm in November of 2014. The week after we closed, I planted thousands of bulbs for spring bloom, which would become our first offerings.

We offer cut flowers through three-week-long flower shares (spring, peony, summer, dahlia); bouquet sales at our worKS retail space in Kennett Square and at the farm; bulk buckets for our DIY customers; and also bulbs/corms/roots/tubers to growers who are looking to add a bit of our farm into their gardens. Our customers love being able to grow the same things that we do on a small garden-sized scale.

How would you describe your philosophy and/or aesthetic when it comes to floral design?

I love to see designs that look as though they could have been freshly plucked from the garden. Combinations that work well together in the garden look lovely together in the vase. I always encourage our local design workshop participants to look at their own gardens for inspiration, ideas, and to not be afraid to cut and experiment with their own plants. Bringing the garden inside is one of the best parts of having a garden, and I try to encourage that connection for our audience. I embrace seasonal flowers and appreciating each season for what it brings.

Do you have any favorite garden sites in Pennsylvania that you like to visit for inspiration?

Longwood Gardens is always fun to see — especially to get ideas for plant combos or to see unique plants that we don’t often have access to. We are very blessed to have so many gardens around us and live in such a rich area for horticulture. The Gardens at Brandywine Cottage is an amazing little tucked-away spot. I love daydreaming at Chanticleer, especially in the veggie garden with their beautiful natural architectural elements that they tie in.

Can you talk about the events and other programming you offer that allows people to spend time on the property?

We offer on-farm design workshops throughout the year, from working with spring bulbs and greens in April, to peonies in May, to appreciating the abundance that summer brings, to our longest season of flowers with dahlias. We host holiday wreath workshops where people can make their own wreaths from local materials.

We also offer you-pick during dahlia season — usually from August to October. Customers can pick their own bucket of blooms and spend time in the field. Our customers love it because they are able to get away from their lives and spend some time appreciating the beauty of the field.

Do you keep a personal garden? If so, what are some of your favorite things to plant?

We started a veggie plot in 2020 and I sprinkle some ornamental elements into that garden. Also our landscape on the farm has lots of my favorites tucked in here and there, but anything in the field is part of the commercial business. I do love planting my favorite flowers and focusing there — if I don’t like something it usually won’t get harvested, so I don’t grow it again. Some of our favorites are fancy, unique spring bulbs such as peony tulips or double daffodils; peonies are a huge favorite, we grow over 3,000 on the farm. And dahlias, of course. We have over 2,500 plants and 140 varieties every year.

Learn more about Mara Tyler's The Farm at Oxford in Oxford, PA.

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