Photo courtesy of The Farmer's Daughter Flowers.

As we put winter in our rear view and reflect on a tumultuous year, signs of spring help to propel us forward. Whether you’re grabbing flowers to liven up your living room or you’re starting a backyard herb garden, there is optimism in watching things bloom. Here are four women-run businesses where hope springs eternal.

Photo courtesy of The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers.
Photo courtesy of The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers.

The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers, 502 E. Ohio St., North Side

Lauren Work Phillips grew up on a farm.

The country girl eventually moved to New York City and got a job at Zuzu’s Petals, a Brooklyn florist where she was able to combine her love for flowers and people. Now she cultivates plants and relationships at her charming North Side store.

Phillips, a sixth-generation farmer, opened the business in 2012. She offers retail walk-in options, botanically inspired gifts, houseplants and full-service flower arrangements for events big and small. Flowers (the most requested stems are peonies and dahlias) are sourced from all over the world, including her farm outside of the city. Check out the shop’s Instagram page for a daily dose of color therapy.

And if you want to create your own magic, she encourages you to get your hands dirty.

“Houseplants and our gardening items have taken a huge jump since the pandemic started,” Phillips says. “Our customers are creating beauty in an unsettling time.”

City Grows
City Grows. Photo by TH Carlisle.

City Grows, 5208 Butler St., Lawrenceville and 1659 Smallman St., Strip District

Patty Ciotoli caught the gardening bug from her mom. In 2014, the budding entrepreneur quit her real estate job to follow her dream of opening an organic gardening and gift shop.

City Grows sprouted in a tiny Lawrenceville storefront and now has additional digs at The Terminal in the Strip District (a fitting location given the site’s history as a produce depot).

The new 1,885-square-foot showroom, bathed in natural light, boasts 24-foot ceilings, allowing Ciotoli to sell not only small plants but towering palm trees, too. Inventory changes week to week since plants sell fast these days.

Shop by appointment at the Lawrenceville store or stop by the Strip location for some socially distanced browsing. You can pick up everything from seeds and soils to skincare products and succulents. Houseplants make great roommates, especially during a pandemic.

A floral pop-up display in Aspinwall. Photo courtesy of Fox and the Fleur.

Fox and the Fleur, online 

Anna Dickson has a good aesthetic eye.

After working in New York City for stylists such as Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabbana, she moved to Fox Chapel and started growing flowers in her backyard. Dickson gifted bouquets to family and friends, who marveled at the way the thoughtfully arranged flowers changed the energy of a space.

An online business arose from those random acts of kindness. Fox and the Fleur, which Dickson operates out of her garage, is a full-service flower shop. Through a partnership with Eleven Mile Farm just outside of Pittsburgh, she offers socially distanced workshops in the great outdoors that help other women find their creative voice.

While Dickson searches for a permanent brick-and-mortar location, she’s getting back to her roots by orchestrating pop-up floral installations throughout the city. She fills garbage cans with spring blooms and beautifies street lamps with colorful vines.

“I love the power color and nature have to really shift someone’s mindset,” she says. “I do these pop-ups just to brighten the spirits of the community in a time when it’s really needed.”

Photo courtesy of Perrico Plant Co.

Perrico Plant Co., 158 41st St. (pick up only), Lawrenceville

Abi Falcioni’s business caters to those who might describe themselves as plant killers.

She opened Perrico Plant Co. in 2018 to help gardening novices make their thumbs a little greener. Turns out, her online-only business model is perfect for this pandemic world.

Falcioni offers her products at sidewalk shops and pop-up sites around town, but customers can also order through the website, pick up items at her Lawrenceville warehouse or have their leafy goods delivered anywhere in the contiguous U.S.

“Obviously, this has been a very useful structure in the last year with social distancing and the rise of curbside pickup,” she says. “I opened the warehouse in Lawrenceville in February 2020 so I could expand my business to include wholesale, which has allowed me to meet some other wonderful plant sellers in the tri-state area and has been such a fun opportunity to connect with other small business owners.”

Falcioni specializes in hearty plants for beginners, pet-friendly varieties and hard-to-find herbage for expert enthusiasts. Shoppers also can get locally made plant stands, trellises and pottery (she’ll even put your new ficus or philodendron in one if you’d like).

Check out Perrico’s YouTube page for tutorials and behind-the-scenes peeks at her plant lady life.

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.