Portrait photo of Jennifer who is standing in front of a wall of flowers. She is dressed all in black and has long blonde hair.

Photography by Brooke Schaal

Unsung hero: Jennifer Fowlow

How the founder of Wild North Flowers in Toronto harnesses the power of plants to make a difference in her community

At LocalLove.ca we’re all about celebrating the cool things people do to make our community a better place. Hence our new monthly feature, “Unsung Heroes.” (If there’s someone in your community who is quietly making a difference, we want to know about it—please let us know!) Here’s the inspiring story of one Toronto flower shop owner who makes giving back a key part of her everyday business plan.

Photo of Jennifer standing in her store assembling a bouquet of brightly coloured flowers.

Unsung hero

Jennifer Fowlow, founder of Wild North Flowers, a floral shop that features 100 percent Ontario-grown arrangements.

She’s our hero because…

She started a monthly giveaway that lets customers nominate their own “unsung hero” (the winner receives a $200 floral arrangement). “I thought it would be a nice idea to encourage people to think about someone in their life quietly going through something difficult, or someone who gives a lot of themselves to others,” Fowlow says. Her hope is that the act of recognizing others will ultimately inspire further goodwill.

But that’s not all

Fowlow makes a $500 contribution to a local charity that her business selects every month, in whatever form the charity needs the most. “Sometimes it’s arrangements, like bouquets sent out to top volunteers or flowers to decorate a fundraising event,” she says. Most recently, her team has been bringing potted plants into places that couldn’t otherwise afford them. (Fowlow is especially proud of how her team beautified the Women’s Own Withdrawal Management Centre and a local chapter of Planned Parenthood, a United Way agency.) “We just see what they need and then match accordingly.”

Who inspired Fowlow to give back

Her grandfather taught her at an early age that community is the lifeblood of business. “It was very important to him to constantly give back to the people who supported him, because without the local community, his business wouldn’t have existed.”

Her favourite flowers

Ranunculus. “It looks like it has a thousand layers. As it ages, they become even more beautiful as all those layers come down.” Also, hellebore. “There’s something about the colours in them—subtle and understated, but so beautiful.”

Most beautiful weed

Grapevine: “We love it, especially in the fall when the leaves start changing colour.”

Pro tip

Send flowers on a random Tuesday. “There’s nothing nicer than a ‘just thinking of you’ gift. Whenever we get those orders, we all swoon.”

Photo of Jennifer sitting on a stool in the middle of her shop surrounded by flowers and green accents

Why flowers?

People remember bouquets in a way that resonates, unlike other moments or interactions, Fowlow says. “I’m always surprised when people say to me, ‘Someone sent me one of your bouquets last May and it had the most amazing yellow iris in it.’” The level of detail people remember about flowers wasn’t something she thought about until she became a florist, but it confirmed for her how powerful something so simple can be. “It’s shocking that something so amazing is made by nature every day, and to see so many together in one arrangement is super special,” she says. “It gives the recipient a connection with the sender that lasts a very long time.”

If you have an “unsung hero” in your neighbourhood, don’t keep it a secret! Share their inspiring story with us and the story of how they give back could be featured on Local Love.