Giving the gift of flowers, secretly

  • A medium-sized floral arrangement made by Adria Paulson similar to those that will be distributed through a special Secret Santa promotion, as seen at The Farm Table restaurant in Bernardston Thursday. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • A large floral arrangement made by Adria Paulson. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. They will be used in floral arrangements that she’ll deliver to people as part of a Secret Santa holiday special. Recipients receive flowers weekly leading up to Christmas. On the final week, the Secret Santa is revealed. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers various winter plants for holiday arrangements in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Winter berries collect snow on Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • A wreath by Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Adria Paulson gathers winter berries in the woods near her home Friday afternoon in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • A wreath by Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design in Northfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/7/2019 7:00:20 AM

For as long as she’s been alive, Adria Lowry Paulson, of Northfield, has been a forager.
While growing up in Jeffersonville, Vt., for example, she’d uproot plants in her mother’s garden to make floral arrangements. Decades later, after moving to Franklin County in eighth grade, Paulson, now 27, still searches along local trails for wild plants — such as native sword fern, hemlock, cedar and red winter berries, which are found in marshy areas — even in the winter.

“Under the snow, it stays perfectly beautiful,” said Paulson. She was sitting in The Farm Table in Bernardston after delivering her weekly batch of floral arrangements. Dishes clinked in the kitchen as chefs prepared for the afternoon crowd. Her 2-year-old daughter, Sage, played among the chairs. On a table, a half-dozen artfully designed bouquets brightened the rustic atmosphere.

Paulson, who got her start in the industry as a teenager at the former Fairview Gardens in Northfield, manages Adria Lowry Unique Floral Design from her home on Birnam Road. During the slower winter season, she delivers 10 or so arrangements each week to businesses like the Kringle Candle restaurant and to individual customers. In the summer and fall, she designs floral displays for about six weddings per month in addition to regular deliveries and retail sales at Mim’s Market and Northfield Food Mart.

After graduating from Pioneer Valley Regional School, Paulson went to Greenfield Community College for a few years before transferring to Hampshire College in Amherst, where she studied animal behavior. She intended to make a career in science — flowers, however, are her passion.

“I realized after that nothing makes me happy like being creative,” Paulson said.

Secret Santa

As a special this holiday season, Paulson is hosting a regional Secret Santa flower promotion. Customers can anonymously send a small floral arrangement to a recipient (or recipients) for three weeks in a row starting today. The week of Christmas, Paulson says she’ll deliver a festive holiday centerpiece and reveal the sender (if they so desire to be unveiled). Additionally, the Secret Santa will also receive flowers. The holiday initiative, which is available to anyone who lives within a 35-mile radius, was inspired by a friend, Alyson Wickline, who came up with the idea as a way to bring cheer to elderly folks who might not be able to get out a lot in the winter.

“People in nursing homes receive like one thing — there’s no impending excitement,” she said, noting that “if someone wanted to send three different arrangements to three different people, they can also do that.”

Since announcing the Secret Santa special, however, Paulson says she’s fielded calls from many who are interested for other reasons. So far, she has about a dozen people signed up. Secret Santa floral packages start at $60 and range to $150 for the largest package, which includes a keepsake at the end and a centerpiece for the person who ordered it. The three deliveries can be made by calling Paulson at 802-338-0358 or emailing adrialowry@gmail.com.

In her work, Paulson considers herself to be an artist. She describes her artistic style as “wild and whimsical, earthy and native-inspired.”

Her arrangements are seasonal. In warmer months, she sources flora locally. Come winter, however, she purchases wholesale. Those she brought to The Farm Table — similar to the arrangements that will be distributed in the Secret Santa initiative — featured red freedom roses decked with a few Leonidas roses, sprigs of seeded eucalyptus, dried white pampas grass, blue thistle, Ruscus, agonis and cedar, which “I cut from hedges,” she said. “I take care of a lot of people’s grapevine problems because I make things out of them. . . . My friends will say ‘this is out of control.’”

When making a bouquet, Paulson says she typically starts with a container, drawing inspiration from its style and envisioning what the completed piece will look like in advance. Then, after lining the container with floral foam to keep the plants from moving, she lets her creativity take over.

“A lot of it is madness — is that bad to say?” Paulson said, noting a medium-sized arrangement on the table. “It always ends up different. I had no idea I would stick a candle in this. Normally, I end up fluffing things up.”

Philosophically, Paulson says she believes in what she does for a living. Flowers, she explained, can have a profound effect on people. More than that, different flowers can have a different impact depending on emotions and life circumstances.

“People are attracted to flowers without even knowing it,” she said, gesturing to a red freedom rose in one of the arrangements — a classic rose that’s prevalent in arrangements during the holiday season.

“It’s gorgeous, it’s soft. It makes people feel loved,” she said. “I’m not one to typically use red roses, but around Christmas, you have to.”

Sometimes, she sees those effects first hand. At a wedding at Valley View Farm in Haydenville last summer, for example, Paulson said a bride broke down in tears.

“She decided she didn’t want to see it till the last second and started bawling,” Paulson said. “And, of course, then I started crying and she had to go and get her makeup redone.”

In between her deliveries this holiday season, Paulson says she doesn’t have that much time to decorate around her own home. To save effort, she intends to rely on a tried-and-true method to create an authentic New England holiday look — foraging.

“I’ll zip-tie greens to my porch,” she said, adding, “if you have a grapevine problem, cut it down, make a few loops and tie it off.”

Andy Castillo is the features editor at the Greenfield Recorder. He can be reached at acastillo@recorder.com.


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