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How to eat your flowers and follow your dreams at Rockrose Farm

Why a Silicon Valley tech worker moved back home and onto a Saanich flower farm

Ariel Rubin grew up on Vancouver Island, but throughout most of her adult life she lived around Canada and the US, playing music and working in the tech industry.

On paper, Rubin appeared to have ticked all of the boxes of conventional success: she worked for Apple in Silicon Valley, helping build and design art education experiences in stores across the world.

“I was at this point in my career where I was traveling the world and doing all those big massive scale things you dream about doing. But I was just super burned out,” she said. “I joke that I made it to the top of the mountain, looked around, and said, ‘I want to go home.’”

After over 10 years away from Vancouver Island, she and her husband decided it was time to move their family of four back home. A combination of the pandemic, US politics, and burnout, Rubin said, spurred the decision.

In 2020, the family returned home; and in January 2021, Rubin, her husband, and her two kids settled into a sprawling flower farm in Strawberry Vale that she calls Rockrose Farm.

Rockrose Farm at 1555 Burnside Rd. in Saanich

As we entered Rockrose Farm last Sunday, passersby drove in, inquiring about the farm stand of fresh flowers, remarking how beautiful the property was; and as we left, members of the Greater Victoria Shakespeare Society began showing up for rehearsal.

Rubin’s passion for creating and cultivating artistic spaces hasn’t changed, and the farm is a mix of everything—a cut-flower farm, a family business, and an event space. The operation has a lot of moving parts (and sheep) with various family members involved. Rubin’s mom Kate—an avid gardener and educator in her own right—is a partner, and huge part of Rockrose Farms’ business operations.

Rockrose Farm’s event and workshop space with dried flowers hanging above.

“We started [Rockrose Farm] as a lark, you know?,” Rubin told Tasting Victoria. “But it seems to be developing its own momentum, and we’re ready to take on this next phase of life.”

Rubin basically grew up with her feet in the dirt, so adjusting back from the big city has been fairly easy—but it’s prompted her desire to have a space where people can enjoy what she did as a kid.

“I don't think I realized until I moved that some kids didn't grow up just eating from the garden and growing flowers,” she said. “Some of us don’t necessarily grow up being exposed to these spaces, and I know how fortunate I had been to have that.”

Ariel Rubin with the family’s dog, Kitsu

Rubin adds that the long-term goal is for the farm to be regenerative and self-sufficient. “Right now, we’re really focusing on feeding the soil, supporting pollinators, being mindful about how we use water, and integrating animals in a way that works harmoniously with the rest of the land,” she said.

Scattered across the property are garden beds and planters—there’s a greenhouse too—and each area has its own micro-climate with plants or vegetables growing at its own pace. Edible flowers wait to be plucked and tasted.

Rockrose Farm’s various planters and garden beds.

Often used as decoration on cakes, to provide flavour to a dish, or to garnish a cocktail, edible flowers are abundant on Vancouver Island. “I grew up so that when you made a salad, you threw some edible flowers on there—if it was a birthday cake, you used flowers to decorate,” Rubin said.

While most flowers are edible—and often look pretty enough to eat—few have distinct tastes such as savoury zucchini, chive blossoms, and calendula flowers. Meanwhile, lemon or lavender flowers are sweet, often used for syrups or garnish in cocktails.

“You can really nerd out on this stuff,” Rubin said.

To our surprise, even roses can be eaten (though we can’t promise they’ll taste good). And while there’s plenty of edible flower varieties, there are definitely flowers you need to avoid, like foxglove, Rubin warned.

A bundle of edible flowers with various tastes.

If you’re interested in growing edible flowers but don’t know where or what to start with, Rockrose Farm can help get you started with edible flower packs and flower starts.

To being, Rubin suggests violas and pansies—which can be easily grown in a kitchen or on a balcony. “Grow it in a fairly small pot, and just regularly water it,” she said.

“Nothing comes easy the first time,” she laughs. “You’ll kill a lot of plants.”

Patience is key—and that’s true whether you’re growing flowers or following your dream. Like Rubin, it could take some time to figure those dreams out, and sometimes it’s the dirt between your toes.

Listen to the full conversation with Ariel Rubin, and get a full tour of Rockrose Farm when you watch Tasting Victoria Live! Check out Rockrose Farm on Instagram and online, or in-person: the farm stand is open daily at 1555 Burnside Rd. West. 

Feeding time for the farm’s sheep: Tiramisu, Kashmir, Bonnie and Floyd.