Hi! I'm Shelley Russell, owner and lead designer of Sunnyside Florals.
I grew up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, just fifteen minutes from prestigious Longwood Gardens. The beautifully manicured grounds of Longwood were a familiar destination for me and even led to a 10-week "career experience" my senior year of high school. In spite of the heat and hours of weeding and digging in the dirt there, I managed just fine and discovered that I actually enjoyed it!
Influenced by many of the Longwood employees who were graduates of Penn State's horticulture program, that university moved to the top of my college wish list. The years in Happy Valley were where I dedicated myself to a major in Landscape Contracting with a minor in Horticulture. I am so fortunate that my interest in plants also became my career focus.
After Penn State, a career in the landscape industry followed for almost twenty years. While my interest in plants has never waned, my passion for flowers has become the center of my work.
Almost exactly three years ago, I started taking the first Floret Online Workshop that Erin Benzakein ever offered—a six-week online workshop, focusing on growing cut flowers on one acre or less. It covered everything from goal setting and planning the farm, marketing and sales, and harvesting and caring for cut flowers. It was “intense”, as was described, but she insisted that if all we did was buy some seeds and throw them in the ground, it would be worth it. And she was right. Even on my small plot of land that year, I was rewarded with brimming flowers and life lessons about being a grower.
I have discovered that owning and operating my own small business is not easy. Not only is flower farming back-breaking, but also it is heavily influenced by weather. Some practical challenges are discovering your sales niche, what is worth your time and efforts to grow, building your social media accounts, creating your website, and managing client experience. I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge.
I absolutely LOVE growing flowers and sharing the joy of them.
Whether it is handing a bride her exquisite bouquet brimming with fragrant, seasonally-grown flowers or dropping off a get-well arrangement to brighten someone’s day, I know that I am uniquely blessed to be able to share my flowers with others.
Additionally, teaching workshops combines two things I love—meeting new people from the Southern MD community and instructing others on how to arrange flowers with my locally grown blooms. Educating others on the importance of supporting locally grown flowers has become my greatest career focus.
Most days, you’ll find me outside tending my plants. Weekends I’m joined by my devoted husband Chris, our three young children, and our farm dog, Pudge, all engaged in one project or another.