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Growing On

Melissa Lallo Johnson finds solace in nature and beauty all around her

Beauty comes from unexpected places. For Melissa Lallo Johnson, also known as the Fancy Flower Farmer on Instagram, beauty is all around her. She's turned her one-acre lot in Liberty into a treasure trove of gorgeous landscaping featuring trees, flowers, and shrubs, with a few potted vegetables thrown in for fun. 

But what the beautiful photos on Instagram don't tell you is how much those blooms sprang from grief. After the tragic loss of both of her parents in an airplane crash in 2013. Her barren lot of land reflected the emptiness that grief left in the wake of their passing. 

"We bought this house in December of 2011. And when we moved in here, there was very little to no landscaping. My parents were very big landscaping; my mother could grow anything and always had beautiful flowers," says Johnson.

The loss of her parents was devastating. 

"I was eight weeks out from having my second baby. I was working full time, and this happened, and it just really, really messed me up. My parents were such a huge part of my life, and I was so sad all the time. I remember thinking that I needed to start crafting or something. My mother always loved to craft," Johnson's voice breaks. 

"I asked God, can you lead me in the direction to find something that will give me some kind of hope again because I was just like empty," she says. 

God led her to Lowe's in the middle of July. As the heat had begun to wilt the hopeful but unpurchased hydrangeas, she cut a deal with the manager and walked out with two truckloads of hydrangeas that would have fried in the backlot. Those two trucks held the promise of things to come. 

After the design of that initial bed, Johnson (over her husband's protests) has transformed their empty lot into an oasis of blooms and shade. Johnson started looking for ways to supplement her landscaping efforts from what she had on the property to save money. 

Initially, Johnson's husband wasn't thrilled at the yard transformation. 

"He threw a fit, saying I was taking up all his grass. But he went to work, and I called up my grandparents and my aunt. We dug and dug, trying to get all the plants in before he got home from work. We hustled hard to get it all done. To finish it all up, I started cracking the rocks that we had pulled up to finish the beds," says Johnson.

"I was cracking rocks right and left. And he was still a little mad that I did it while he was at work. But then I called Happy Rock and got a quote for how much rock would cost if I had bought it instead of doing it myself. It would have been $6700. That was the last time he ever said anything about my gardening," Johnson laughs. 

Now, Johnson has more than 100 hydrangeas on her property in 22 different varieties. She dries them and uses them in preserved arrangments utilizing other dried flowers, rocks, tree stumps, and limbs to create beautiful arrangements that last. 

Johnson says that she doesn’t have any magical plant powers, just the willingness to learn and not give up. Oh, and 10-10-10 fertilizer and plenty of water for your hydrangeas. 

“I tell people, just try it. It might die, but it might not! There’s no reason not to try. I’ve planted things that have gone wrong, but I’ve also found beautiful things. It’s worth the effort,” she says.

More than arrangements, Johnson has found solace in working with the earth and see how it regenerates. 

“If someone's suffered a loss, then nature consoles us. You know, I think that people need to see that someone like me, who had such a tremendous tragic loss, has been able to make nice days for myself now. It will never be the same, but I still have good days. I still have joy, and I still have hope,” she says. 

You can follow Melissa Lallo Johnson on Instagram at FancyFlowerFarmer. 

Look around you, Kansas City! Many treasures are waiting for you all through the year. 


Get those seedlings going to have loads of dried flowers the rest of the year! Plant hydrangea and other flowering shrubs. Plant evergreens to use around the holidays in decor and table arrangements. Harvest things like willow branches before they bloom, then dry them to make baskets or trellises. Plant succulents right into your garden for tremendous summer growth and bring them indoors in October to propagate and multiply. 


Harvest as much as you can from your property. Hang dried flowers upside down in a cool, dark closet through the season. Experiment with anything you see. Press flowers under books. Use silica beads to expertly dry flowers in Tupperware. Experiment - you can't go wrong!


Harvest acorns, grasses, branches of berries, mushrooms, seed pods, rocks, wood, etc. Anything that holds form is a great candidate. Be sure to bake your acorns at 200 degrees for 2-3 hours to eliminate any pests that hatch inside. 


Enjoy using all the things you've harvested to make unique table decor, arrangements, terrariums, and more. Divide succulents to make babies for the next growing season. Purchase an affordable greenhouse on Amazon for your basement and keep the excitement going all winter long. 

Check out @fancyflowerfarmer on Instagram and Facebook to learn more. 

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