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“You’re probably smelling lavender and artemisia,” Laura Bakken says as she acknowledges the sweet, calming aroma permeating throughout her brick and mortar studio.
Bakken’s shop, Dried Flower Forever, is tucked away on Struck Street on Madison’s west side. A kaleidoscope of vibrant dried flowers fill one wall on the right while bouquets and arrangements on rustic crate display line the shelves on the left. Dried hops and bundles of lavender sit on a round, wooden table in front of a room divider in the center of the studio. Step behind the divider and you’ll often find her husband Lance Bakken hard at work trimming stems for one of the bouquets Laura designed earlier.
Laura and Lance co-own Dried Flower Forever, and they are a dynamic due in their humble business. Laura designs the dried flower arrangements while Lance puts together the final product.
Dried Flowers Direct, a website that used scientific names to describe flowers, piqued Laura’s interest in flowers years ago. When the website retired, Laura started her own Etsy shop in 2011. Through her Etsy shop, she would hand-dry flowers for weddings that would match wedding colors. In 2013, the couple launched their own website, driedflowersforever.com. The couple worked from their 1300-square-foot basement at the time. They ultimately expanded beyond the online realm.
When Laura started cancer treatment a year later, Lance left his job as a hydrogeologist to help Laura with the full-time studio. They opened their brick and mortar store to connect with clients in person, and they needed more room beyond the basement space.
The shop’s logo, featuring pink letters for the word “flowers,” serves as a reminder of Laura’s gratitude for life since she is now cancer-free.
Laura and Lance are not the only Bakkens involved with the business. Their three school-aged children, Luci, Liu and Landon help out at the studio.
Once in a while, the whole Bakken clan, including extended families, venture to the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls area to harvest wild flowers, including dock, tansy and golden knob. During these trips, they get a lot of the flowers they use to dry. They dedicate three to four days harvesting one flower at a time. As fun as it sounds, wild harvesting isn’t as easy as it looks.
“There's a science to when you harvest,” Laura says. “Sometimes you have to harvest before flowers even open because as they are drying they continue to open. Sometimes you have to harvest when they're in their full bloom.”
The drying technique has a science behind it, too. Flowers can be naturally air dried, pressured in glycerin or silica, or freeze dried. Just like harvesting, timing is essential when drying.
“We have brides that contact us on a regular basis saying, ‘I have my wedding bouquet. Can you preserve it now?’” Laura says. “And every time, it breaks my heart to have to say no.”
Flowers have to be at just the right condition upon drying. Take roses for example: if they’ve matured too much, Laura says, the petals will start falling off by the time they’re drying. With a freeze dryer, though, it’s likely that this won’t be an issue — she’ll be able to put together arrangements with flowers after weddings and funerals.
Laura does not have a freeze dryer, but she’s currently working on convincing Lance to get one.
“We’re getting there,” Laura says as she glances at Lance. “I think [I’ve convinced] him.”
The Bakkens have created arrangements for more than 800 weddings and special events, and their flowers have traveled to all 50 states and overseas to Puerto Rico, Canada, Ireland, England, Norway and Fiji.
For people who get flowers from Dried Flowers Forever, they can keep the Bakkens’ flowers and the memories associated with them, forever.
Haidee Chu is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.
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