Mal du Pays was established in 2017 when Emily Brennan turned her family’s land on Lake Warner into a small, sustainable flower farm. “Le mal du pays” is a French expression for “homesickness”. When naming the business, Emily chose this name to evoke the nostalgia one feels when she encounters a familiar scent. Mal du Pays is a tribute to her late mother, a watercolor artist and Francophile who shared Emily’s eye for color and talent for arranging flowers.
Mal du Pays specializes in authentic, naturally beautiful floral design with an emphasis on aromatic plants. We take an artist’s approach to flowers, incorporating unusual, wild elements alongside timeless, romantic flowers to create stunning arrangements for weddings and other special events. It’s our belief that imperfect, ephemeral flowers are more beautiful than conventional, uniform stems commonly found at the supermarket. Growing our own seasonal flowers allows us to circumvent many of the problematic aspects of the commercial cut flower industry (its huge carbon footprint, pervasive use of chemicals, and unjust labor practices). At Mal du Pays, we place great value in the origin of our flowers in an effort to protect the environment and to support the local economy. We also work closely with local ceramic artists to provide gorgeous vessels that complement flowers for special events.
Jeff Kelley Photography
Mal du pays Founder,
Emily is a self-taught floral designter and perfumer. She studied the psychology of olfaction at Bard College, conducting research on the relationship between scent and memory. She is a faithful student of the Proust phenomenon, working to understand odors’ unique ability to conjure autobiographical memories. After working in a windowless skincare laboratory, her fascination with scent and memory led her back outdoors to her flower garden. Eager for some room to grow, she expanded to the half acre of land behind her childhood home, where she established the Mal du Pays flower farm in 2017.
“There’s a real intimacy to designing with flowers that I’ve nurtured through a growth cycle. It takes time for seeds to become flowers, and exercising patience helps me appreciate the transience of the art I create. Whenever possible, I work with locally-grown seasonal flowers because they’re both sustainable and soulful. I also like to incorporate fragrance into my creations because I believe flowers are best experienced through multiple senses. I’ll intentionally tuck a sprig of fennel or a garden rose into my arrangements to facilitate a scent memory for my client. I do my best work when I’m designing wild, ethereal, moody flowers.”
The Mal du Pays flower farm is located in North Hadley, MA on Lake Warner. The glacial deposit that formed this peninsular lot left the soil stripped of nutrients and poorly suited for agriculture. Before 2017, the land had never been farmed and was an unruly mess of staghorn sumac, grapevines, and bittersweet. Reclaiming the half acre field from invasive plants was a Sisyphean task. Long, gnarling roots were excavated with a push tiller, stubborn ones requiring removal by hand. The sandy soil was heavily amended with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of composted manure from a local dairy farmer. The beauty of the flower field is sweetened by the blood, sweat, and tears that went into developing it.
On a typical day on the farm, you might hear a red-tailed hawk screeching at prey, squawks from a great blue heron, or the neighbor’s peacock crying at dusk. In the spring, turtles crawl up from the pond to lay eggs in the compost pile, and the air is fragrant with wild multiflora rose. Come autumn, the UMASS marching band can be heard practicing on the far side of the mountain, locals pass by in colorful kayaks, and the foliage from Mt. Warner is reflected on the water. The rows of cultivated flowers are bordered by wild rudbeckia, yarrow, rabbit tobacco, and autumn olive which are often foraged and find their way into Mal du Pays creations. The wild beauty of the farm is an infinite source of inspiration.
We grow a large assortment of annuals and perennials on the Mal du Pays Farm. Our petite farm has just enough space to grow our dream flowers. We carefully select unusual, special varieties that encapsulate the Mal du Pays aesthetic. Many are started from seed in a greenhouse on site. We make every effort to compost expired floral material when possible.
Jeff Kelley Photography