Blooming Bloomcraft An Interview with Natalie McPartland
Photography by ChiChi Ubiña
It was a summer time delight to visit some projects that Natalie McPartland, founder of Bloomcraft, created in New Canaan. She has a wonderful eye for detail and produces the most beautiful and natural looking arrangements and flower boxes. Natalie shares her inspirations in creating her garden, how it has become a family project and how Bloomcraft began.
Tell us about growing up.
I’m originally from Madison, Wisconsin but primarily grew up in Atlanta after moving there with my parents and older sister when I was in middle school. To say that move was a big adjustment is a major understatement! Living in Wisconsin, I was a total tomboy and a kid who spent most of the day playing outside. Moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, especially during middle school, was a huge transition. I played competitive soccer my whole childhood and that was the one constant in my life during this big transition.
I went to the University of Georgia to study Journalism/Advertising and moved to Atlanta after college to work in several ad agencies, always with the hope to one day end up in NYC. I met my husband, Sean, while we were both living and working in Atlanta after college. He is originally from New Jersey and was totally on board with moving back to the northeast. So about a year and half into dating, we made the leap and relocated to New York.
How did you get to New Canaan?
My husband and I lived in Tribeca for almost 7 years, where we had both of our kids. Our children are close in age (20 months apart) and while we loved all that the city had to offer us as a young family, we desperately needed more space and were ready to for the suburbs. We started our house hunt in New Jersey since we had family living in the area and my husband grew up there, but expanded our search to Connecticut after learning our good friends were moving to the area.
We fell in love with the natural beauty of Connecticut and the feeling of living in the country but still being close enough to commute to the city. New Canaan quickly became our preferred town as we wanted a property with more land and we loved the quaint downtown. It’s been almost 10 years since we arrived in New Canaan and it’s been everything that we wished for. We love thecommunity, schools and have made some of our closest friends living here.
How did you get into gardening? Tell us about your journey to start Bloomcraft.
We bought our house in New Canaan from a couple who loved to garden and there was a huge learning curve when we took over the property. My gardening journey started with this house, and while I’m entirely self-taught, I’ve had the good fortune of learning from gardeners and arborists who we’ve worked with on our property. I struggled with the more traditional landscaping that we inherited from the previous owners and knew we wanted to make some major changes to reflect our style and how we live on the property. What was once a structured and traditional landscape with boxwoods and garden roses, has been slowly transformed over the years into a bit more wild, native and pollinator friendly environment.
My husband and I are very hands-on when it comes to projects and we have done most of the landscaping work ourselves over the years. A lot of the initial work was trial and error, but I fell in love with making changes and seeing my vision come to life. Even though I’m self-taught, I am a naturally curious person and a life-long learner, so garden trips and gardening books became my education. What started as a hobby became a way of life and I began and ended most of my days in the garden. Gardening became a way for me to express my creativity and taught me to embrace the imperfect, let go of control, and find beauty in the everyday. I fell in love with growing flowers for cutting and quickly took over any growing space available. The more I learned and experimented at my own home, the more I started to share with friends and was often asked for advice.
After spending 10 years at home raising my kids and volunteering at school and local non-profits, I was ready to figure out what my “second act” was going to be and then COVID hit. There’s nothing like a world-wide pandemic to get your priorities in order and I figured, why not put my gardening passion into a business? I started Bloomcraft in April 2021 and my vision was simple…spread joy through my love of flowers.
What would you call your style of gardening?
My style of gardening leans more naturalistic, embracing native and pollinator-friendly plants, and valuing the environment above all else. This style is more sustainable, better for the environment and requires less maintenance by working with plants best suited to the growing area. I love to incorporate texture and play with color to create yearlong interest in the landscape.
Tell us about Bloomcraft’s work.
I offer a variety of services from seasonal container design, seasonal decor installation, small scale landscape design, cut flower garden consultation and planning, and garden-inspired floral designs for events and celebrations. Basically, I do any and all things with flowers! I use the same principles of incorporating texture and playing with color in all of my work whether it be container design, landscape plans or floral design.
I consider myself a bit of a farmer-florist since much of what I design with is grown in my own garden, foraged or locally sourced from surrounding flower farms. My floral designs are seasonally inspired and have a looser, “plucked from the garden” style as I get much of my inspiration from how flowers grow in the wild. It’s exciting to see clients embracing this less formal style of floral design and to introduce them to the beauty of locally grown flowers.
What are the seasons of gardening and how do you work in each one?
As a gardener, I value all the seasons and the transitions they bring but there’s nothing quite like the fresh beginning and excitement of Spring. Much of my work kicks off in early spring with starting flowers from seed, garden planning, landscape plans, and spring container designs.
In addition to my four-season container design installations (spring, summer, fall, holiday), I also offer planted arrangements throughout the year to bring a bit of nature inside. Planted arrangements include the first of the flowering bulbs for Spring, succulents, herb gardens, topiaries for Summer, and paperwhites and amaryllis for Holiday/Winter.
Heading into fall and holiday, I offer front porch styling in October (pumpkins, cabbages, hay bales, etc.) and then full outside and indoor decor for the holiday season from custom garlands, mantle decor and Christmas trees.
What are your favorite plants to work with for the sun? For the shade?
It’s hard to pick plant favorites but there are some tried-and-true varieties that I can’t live without and use whenever possible. Many of these varieties can be used in containers, traditional landscaping, and for cut flowers so basically wherever you have the space!
The work horses of my cutting gardens are the supporting flowers and textural, airy bits that bring a sense of movement to both the garden and arrangements. No cutting garden would be complete without bee balm, cosmos, scabiosa, scented geranium, and of course the big focal beauties of dahlias and zinnias. Some of my favorite sun varieties include verbena bonariensis, annual salvias, yarrow, sedums, alliums, nepeta, baptisia, lady’s mantle, smokebush…I could go on and on.
I love to play with texture to bring interest to shady spots. I love, love hellebores, the dark moody heuchera varieties, coleus, rex begonias, and brunnera.
Do you visit gardens for fun when you travel?
I get a lot of inspiration from travel and my love of container gardening started in Nantucket. Nantucket is a very special place for my family and I’ve been visiting since I was a kid. It’s gotten a bit fancy in recent years but what draws us to the island is the natural beauty and truly no place does window boxes better. Garden visits have been limited in the last couple of years due to COVID, but I highly recommend visiting any of the gardens on the Trade Secrets tour during spring and The Garden Conservancy open days tours. A highlight from recent years was Bunny Williams’ estate in Falls Village and I’m looking forward to visiting Frances Palmer’s garden this September to see her extensive dahlia collection in bloom.
How do you and your family work together in the garden?
As I mentioned before, my husband and I are very hands-on with projects around our home and he ends up being my labor for most of my landscaping projects. It would certainly be easier to outsource the work, but I’m a bit impatient and have a clear vision of what I want so it’s usually easier to complete the work ourselves. For the most part, Sean is on-board with the projects I’ve proposed. I’m proud of the blood, sweat and tears (yes, we’ve experienced all of those!) that we’ve poured into our home and the transformation we’ve made to the property. Some of the projects include designing and building a firepit area, an enclosed vegetable garden, raised beds for my cutting garden, and most recently we completed a greenhouse. Most of our projects also include our kids and they are learning the value of hard work, whether they like it or not! My 12-year old daughter, Emma, has become my apprentice and knows most of the names of the plants and flowers that we grow. And my 10-year old son, Beckett, loves to break out the power tools when we have something to assemble.
When I started Bloomcraft a year ago, I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have on my family. They are my biggest supporters and it’s been amazing to see how proud my kids are of the work I do and to show them that you can find your passion at any age.
You can reach Natalie McPartland at firstname.lastname@example.org