|Stephanie Jones with one of her sunflowers.|
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Stephanie Jones opens the gate and leads me along a narrow path to her back yard, a secret garden that is bursting with vibrant summer flowers. We take a seat on the deck overlooking the garden, sip strawberry iced tea, and chat about what lay before us.
|2000 Memorial Parkway.|
Stephanie owns Stellar Flower Farm and you can find her at the Wednesday Farmers Market in Tower Park. She grows all of her flowers in a roughly 22’ x 22’ back yard plot on the south end of Fort Thomas. She has always enjoyed gardening, but like so many happy accidents, events unfold to lead us in a particular path. She is a pronounced space nerd, hence the name of the farm. She says, “One of the reasons I named the business Stellar is that I’m also a space nerd. I love talking about anything space related. I love getting my telescope out and showing people stuff.”
|Courtesy of Stephanie Jones.|
Her love of gardening was apparent to her family when she was young. She recalls, “I have loved flowers forever. People would tease me that spring time was like Christmas to me because I would get so excited when the greenhouses would open and I would go and spend hours there.”
But then a setback occurred. “Last July I used a weed and feed on my grass and killed all of my grass,” she laughs. This is the lawn that she had carefully cultivated. Oops. “I was so devastated. I thought, well, I’ll just dig it all up. So I dug up half the lawn last year and planted sunflowers.” So she tilled the soil, mixed in compost, arranged the yard into a grid, laid out garden fabric, set up a drip line, planted flowers, and waited for the magic to unfold. And, boy, did it. She has sunflowers, roses, dahlias, snapdragons, tulips, daffodils, zinnias, and so much more in her bouquet of a back yard garden. The garden is a sensory delight. The accidental killing of her lawn lead her to something new and fascinating and beautiful.
|Courtesy of Stephanie Jones|
She grew more intrigued by possibilities the more she delved into starting a flower farm. She says, “I was hesitant but I signed up for the farmers market and figured I’m going to go all in and see what happens, see where it goes from here.”
She has received a positive reception at the market and now she dreams of expansion. “My hope is that I can get a larger space where I can have a stand and do agri-tourism where people can come out to pick their own flowers,” she says. Her face lights up when she talks about her garden and the joy of sharing her flowers with others.
There was an earlier setback, though, that changed the trajectory of her life that led her to this point. Her husband died of leukemia a few short years after they married. She was twenty-five, had a three-year-old, and worked part-time. She says of her 2006 loss that, “I was so young that it seems so surreal when I look back. I was just a baby.” But Stephanie learned valuable lessons. The death changed the direction of her life. “I did so many things on my own that I would have never had done anyway,” she says.
She has worked for a law office the last fifteen years and has recently returned to college to finish a business degree. Her daughter just graduated Highlands and will go to university in the fall.
Sometimes the path that you want to follow in life or think you will follow is not the path you walk. Being a widowed mother to a three-year-old year old at twenty-five changes everything. And how you react reveals what you are made of. Stephanie Jones is made of tough stuff but she has carefully tended to her life, and even though it has taken some time, her life has blossomed.
|A bee visits a sunflower in the garden.|
Reflecting upon her life’s journey she says, “I can do more than I give myself credit for. I am always kind of reserved and hesitant but once I go for it, it’s great. And I end up feeling so rewarded accomplishing something even if it is something like the local farmers market.” She is a private person and she was nervous presenting at the market for her first time. She says, “Yes. I’m a very private person I like to keep to myself. It seems sort of counterintuitive. But when it comes to something I enjoy and I’m passionate about, I enjoy sharing it with other people.”
Stephanie says, “I love the smell of dirt and I know that it’s weird. But I feel energized from gardening.” That’s not weird. That’s wonderful.
Stephanie Jones has a wonderful smile. She is engaging and gracious. Her eyes sparkle when she talks about her garden. She loves to share this with people. Because, really, there is nothing worth having unless you share it. She wants others to feel the same joy that she experiences.
I am reminded of what Audrey Hepburn said about gardening, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” And that is Stephanie Jones - gardener, mother, student, grower of hope.