Feature: From Field to Fete, Little State Flower Company and The Lilac Thief are in the Business of Blooms

Two East Bay flower farmers specialize in sustainable growing and artful arranging


The East Bay comes alive with flowers every summer, and Samantha Bowers – who co-owns the event styling and floral company The Lilac Thief with her best friend, Sarah Augusto – says the region’s diverse terrain makes it an ideal place for making a business around growing blooms. “There are rural parts here where you have full flower farms, but there are also all these urban areas that make the industry exciting,” she says. “Sarah and I don’t have access to acres of land. We have a backyard. But you don’t need acres of land to make an impact.”

The Lilac Thief is just two years old and it was born from a fall equinox dinner party the pair of farmer florists hosted for friends. “We made an Instagram account with photos of our floral arrangements and tablescaping, and people showed interest in purchasing our services,” explains Augusto, who describes the company’s approach as nontraditional, wild, unstructured, and whimsical. “We have a particular vibe,” adds Bowers. Their aesthetic leans into the more esoteric magical properties of the natural world. “We incorporate witchy elements into our styling. We have a mutual interest in astrology, herbalism, and seasonal living, and we brought that all together into our brand.”

Emblazoned across The Lilac Thief’s website are the words “Botany. Maximalism. Magic.” and the latter reveals itself in myriad ways. The two women research the magical uses of the plant materials they source and then use that knowledge to create different products, from blessing bundles of flowers that carry a particular meaning to spell baubles – ornaments filled with dried plant material to help the users set intentions of strength, peace, and other invocations.

Being able to share the spark of their friendship also adds to The Lilac Thief’s magic. “Together we’ve created a safe space where we both can explore our creativity,” says Bowers. Augusto agrees, saying, “During those moments when I can’t trust my own judgment, having another person validate my creativity is huge.”

They bring that same sense of creativity and purpose into styling. “People today are putting so much intention into their events,” says Bowers, “and we can orchestrate the meanings of different flowers.” The artists place cards in the tablescape that describe the meaning behind the blooms used. But even if this isn’t a priority for clients, “We also just do pretty stuff,” Augusto says with a laugh.

All the “pretty stuff” comes from Augusto’s 20-by-10-foot micro-farm in Warren, where she grows flowers according to the season. If Augusto has more flowers than space, they make their way to Bowers’ backyard. And when The Lilac Thief takes on a large event, they reach out to nearby farms to help supply the flowers.

One farm they might source from is Little State Flower Co. in Tiverton. Entering its 10th season, today the abundant five-acre farm has thousands of varieties, but the business started humbly 18 years ago in owner Anna Jane Kocon’s parents’ shed. Kocon noticed that there were no local wholesalers providing quality blooms to local florists, so she transformed the shed into a flower cooler and leased chunks of land in various parts of the state to grow her blooms. Flowers that weren’t immediately snapped up by local wedding florists went to the Aquidneck Farmers Market, and that’s where the public began to learn about Kocon’s business. “After we filled our wholesale orders during the week, we would go through the fields and I would show up to market every Saturday with the most amazing abundance of flowers,” she says.

In 2018, she was able to purchase her field of dreams in Tiverton that she says was, at the time, a junkyard. “Back in the day, it seemed normal for people to just throw their trash into the woods,” she says. “To this day, I still find car parts on the land.” As she’s transformed her own little Eden, the town has become a huge source of moral support. “We have had neighbors and townspeople cheering us on as they’ve seen us working hard to clean up this piece of land. I feel fortunate to have been met with such kindness right here in our own town,” she says.     

When the pandemic hit, Kocon placed a farmstand on the corner of her property and started selling flowers on the honor system. “It erupted,” she says. “People were stressed and sad because of the pandemic. This gave them a destination. They could take a drive, get some flowers, and bring them home or drop them off to a loved one. It provided a slice of happiness during such a dark time.”

In addition to providing flowers wholesale to florists and directly to consumers at her farm stand, Kocon sells DIY flower buckets to customers who are priced out of using a professional florist for their event but still want to decorate with a unique flourish. “Everyone should be able to access beautiful flowers for their events,” she says. The two-gallon buckets are filled with seasonal blooms carefully curated by Kocon. “Anything can happen in nature, so I don’t make promises about availability. I might promise a flower and then a deer eats it,” she says, but Kocon does assure the flowers will be beautiful.

Part of being able to provide the most perfect bloom is farming sustainably. Kocon grows New England-hardy perennials – plants that come back every year – that thrive in our unique climate and soil culture. “I use perennials
to stabilize my property,” says Kocon. “Every time you have to take out a crop or rototill a planting bed, you break down the ecosystem of your soil, damage soil structure, and can experience a lot more erosion.”

Sustainability also is a key focus for The Lilac Thief. They eschew floral foam and employ reusable materials in their arrangements. They even find ways to give a second life to floral arrangements after an event is over. “We do pressed frame art after a wedding for the newly married couple,” says Augusto. They also bridge the colder months by creating dried arrangements from spring and summer blooms or decorate with evergreens and moss rather than shipping flowers from warmer climates.

It makes sense that both businesses would value sustainability because as Kocon explains, artistry, farming, and being part of a community is more than a business. “Working with nature is a lifestyle choice because you are never, ever the boss,” Kocon says, explaining the fickle nature of the living world. But she remains grateful for the support of her community and family. “My husband and I call this farm our opus,” she says.


Flower Power

The Lilac Thief

Little State Flower Co.
487 East Road, Tiverton



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