Homespun - Cowan Flowers
with Sarah Cowan
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GUERNSEY – Her dark English eyes light up when she talks about planting her flowers and her Guernsey garden.
Sarah Cowan, a Pretoria native and world traveler got her unique start and upbringing by unconventional parents who taught their daughter to love life and to look for all of its excitement with every fiber of her heart.
“My parents were ex-pats that lived an adventurous life as they moved from England to South Africa and then back to England,” she said. “And then to the U.S.. I spent most of my childhood bouncing around from continent to continent, and it was fantastic. And it only took me until I was 14 to discover Wyoming and we came out here on family vacations when I was 14 and then again at 16.”
By the time Cowan was 19, she had seen enough of Wyoming to know that this was where she wanted to set down some roots and moved to Sheridan and began to work on a ranch.
“I just fell in love with this land,” she said. “I always wanted to come back and so, I guess, the first chance I got, I came back. After I got my master’s degree in education from Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, I searched for a teaching job, and here we are full circle.”
Her high school years were spent in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and she graduated from the progressive and creative school who has a mission statement that says, “Our mission is to teach students to be creative and critical thinkers with a strong moral compass.”
From a creative high school to college and then to teaching, she found the destinal points that led her to the small community of Guernsey. Through all the education and all the experiences, her favorite times were surrounded by nature.
“I loved playing in the woods,” she says with an almost embarrassed laugh. “My sister and I built little forts there in Pennsylvania, and we were always outside. It was fun. I think any time you are picked up as a child and your environment changes, I think it can affect your sense of belonging.”
As Cowan settled into Wyoming and down toward Guernsey, she experienced what a lot of transplants and wanderers have found. Their own sense of belonging. Perhaps it’s the wide-open arms of the magnificent prairies, or the security of snuggling up to the side of an immoveable mountain.
“Maybe that’s why I found myself here,” she said and thought about how that statement could have been taken two ways. “Because in a round-about kind of way, I feel like I belong.”
Although her family started many gardens when she was growing up, nothing in those gardens satisfied that longing in her soul to be a floriculturist like her father’s roses.
“My dad always grew roses,” she said. “I was fascinated by his roses and maybe a little bit of that and also my grandfather wrote this amazing book on willows. He had a very big collection in England.”
Her grandfather and author, Christopher Newsholme wrote the exhaustive work on willow species in a book entitled, ‘Willows: The Genus Salix’ in late 1992 and has been a popular read for over two decades for those in biological sciences, horticulture, landscape and design.
“I can remember as a child running up and down in his garden and it was beautiful,” Cowan said. “Perhaps that’s where I got the love for gardening.”
Cowan’s garden which looks very much like an English garden in her backyard says that the garden comes into full bloom in mid-July and says that from that point until the end of September, there is nonstop color and her business becomes very busy and sometimes hectic. All flowers are grown, processed and delivered from her little flower garth in her backyard.
“I only sell what I’m capable of growing here in Wyoming,” she said. “So, anything that is out in my flower field is grown by hand and by seed. I don’t order in special plants, I just start from scratch. I also specialize more in cut flowers and I sell lots of bouquets of fresh flowers.
“There are lots of Zinnias and bright colors. But I also do houseplants, and that’s a trend now I guess because of COVID-19. People are at home and they want to beautify their home. So I propagate and I grow lots of houseplants and I’ve started shipping them out.”
The coronavirus didn’t affect Cowan’s business only because she is a seasonal grower and the timing of the virus didn’t match up with her growing season.
“Even though the gardening process is all year around,” she said. “I order seeds in January and then progress through the year. This last winter I wanted a project that I could grow indoors. That’s where many of my African Violets have come from. I needed to grow something. Even in the middle of winter.”
Cowan has been gardening in Guernsey for over 10 years and has been running Cowan Flowers for half of that time. Both in the area of indoor and outdoor plants. Through self-education on the internet and local Master Gardeners, she has now become somewhat an expert on her African Violets and she herself has earned the title of Master Gardener.
“I grow specialty African Violets,” she said. “I am a member of the African Violet society of America and it’s such a fun group. I grow these plants from these tiny little leaves and it takes approximately a year to become established and to blooming stage. I keep them all in these tubs up in my beautiful kitchen that has the advantage of this wonderful natural light. I have about 200 plants that will be ready to go in the farmers market starting Thursdays, July 30 in Guernsey.”
Gardening has the serene moments of growing silence and the surrounding of beautiful colors, but there are days that Cowan admits that running a business, planting flowers, arranging delivery schedules, being a wife and mother can all pose certain obstacles.
“It’s challenging,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for years and there’s times when I’ll just, you know, need a moment and I’ll go and sit in the Lilly patch and have a good cry. For me, my garden is my place of refuge. A place where I can feel the ground and I can know that this is real.
“There’s this tiny seed, and I know that if I plant it and take care of it and do everything right, it’s going to grow. And in the meantime, I’m also going to grow through the process.”
From the gardens of England to the classrooms of Wyoming and now back full circle to her own garden, Cowan has acquired a wisdom that has bloomed right along with her flowers.
“I’ve learned patience,” Cowan said. “I have a sense of having faith that the seasons will come around again, just like the school year came around again. You start out in January dreaming about seeds and then in May you get the Lilies and the Alliums. And then once it starts to get hotter you get these most beautiful colors and it all goes in a cycle. It represents maybe our life in general. Everything’s going to be OK, and things are going to come around again.”
Cowan is a woman who has bloomed where she’s planted in Guernsey and shares the fragrance of her success with the entire community. The phone number to order from Cowan Flowers is 307-331-5250. Cowan resides with her husband, Levi and her two young sons, 7-year-old Milo and 6-year-old Finn at their Guernsey version of their own private English Garden.