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Faces, places, treasures, and trends that caught our attention

Liselotte Vince: Gardening with a Mission
August 22, 2023

By Tovah Martin

Photographs by Rana Faure

Shared Bouquets Brought One Gardener Together with the Community

For Liselotte Vince, it was never a question of whether she would be growing when her family bought a 140-acre Verbank property in 2010. A lifelong gardener, Vince knew she would be making good use of the formerly hodge-podge garden and greenhouse just footsteps from the house. That potential was part of the appeal when real estate agent Candy Anderson initially showed the property to the Vinces. Three days after seeing the land, they were ready to buy and haven’t regretted the purchase for a millisecond. The fact that the Dutchess Land Conservancy had a conservation easement on the parcel was a major selling point. “We loved the rolling hills, trees, and ponds as well as the wildlife they attracted. It’s very peaceful here,” Vince says.

Garden expansion followed fast on the heels of general repairs to the outbuildings. Initially, the focus was primarily on food for the family with a vegetable garden and berry patches. But it was when she added flowers to the configuration that Liselotte really lit up. What truly fascinated her was the pollinator action on the calendulas, sunflowers, snapdragons, strawflowers, and zinnias started in her greenhouse and transplanted into the garden. “I focus on flowers that you don’t normally find in the supermarket,” she explains. Eventually, she found her way to dahlias.

Clearly, Liselotte likes to share. Providing pollinators with blossoms was just the first step in a progression that extended quickly to other members of the community. During the pandemic, she discovered an initiative called the Growing Kindness Project, a nonprofit that inspires members to share excess cut flowers with members of their community. She filled out an application and became one of the select members to receive 20 dahlia tubers after pledging to share bouquets with their community. “It seemed like such a beautiful, easy thing to do,” Vince recalls of her initial reaction to the concept. That was the beginning of her dahlias with a mission initiative.

Ask about her bouquet project, and the enthusiasm overflows. Liselotte found her mojo bringing beauty to the neighborhood, providing bouquets for neighbors who needed a little sunshine during a cloudy time in their life. But the benefits were mutual. “It was a wonderful way to get to know the community and spread kindness. Before, we didn’t really know our neighbors. Now I do. It feels good and it feels right.” 

As her enthusiasm grew, so did her cache of dahlia tubers. In addition to buying from Bear Creek Farm in Bangall, she found dahlia tubers online. Converting a former blueberry/raspberry field to dahlias, she went from 300 dahlias to 600 last year after dividing, wintering over, and replanting her tubers. Dahlias will do that to a gardener, they’ve got the power to seduce. 

Simultaneously, another side shoot transpired. Liselotte discovered that she loves producing cut flowers. “I want to continue growing,” she says of her plans to expand into a boutique flower farm. At present, this ultra-energetic gardener is selling cut flower subscriptions and accomplishing all the work single-handedly. She tends nearly ¼ acre of dahlias and she keeps honeybees (“It’s one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done. I’m responsible for the welfare of thousands of bees.”). Additionally, she grows vegetables for her family of five and oversees the orchard that came with the property. 

Liselotte calls her endeavor 80milesnorth, alluding to the farm’s proximity to New York City. But nothing could be further from the city life than Liselotte’s country pursuits. When she isn’t turning the compost, stewarding wildlife, and irrigating when necessary, she’s sowing seeds for cut flowers. No wonder Liselotte Vince welcomes autumn. “Although my favorite season is spring, I look forward to autumn and finally slowing down,” she admits.