From Iceland — The Lazy Gardener With A Blooming Business

The Lazy Gardener With A Blooming Business

Published April 24, 2024

The Lazy Gardener With A Blooming Business
Photo by
Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

Sigríður Soffía Níelsdóttir’s side hustle sparks fireworks and profit

“I found it very uncomfortable that I was so interested in flowers. I genuinely thought this was me being middle-aged,” laughs Sigríður Soffía Níelsdóttir on the other end of the line. Having worked with dance and fireworks, she unintentionally built a business out of her newfound interest in gardening. What’s more, she successfully turned her passion into a series of art projects.

Sigríður Soffía Níelsdóttir, 38, a choreographer

My main occupation is being an artist. I’m a choreographer working in the National Theatre and City Theatre, mainly doing choreography and stage productions for the Iceland Dance Company. 

Also, I’m a fireworks show designer. I designed the firework shows for Menningarnótt from 2013 to 2015 and a firework show in Barcelona. Then, I worked on Eldblóm, a flower installation for the City of Reykjavík in Hallargarðurinn by the pond. It’s a beautiful bed of flowers, like a slow-motion fireworks show.

“I found it very uncomfortable that I was so interested in flowers. I genuinely thought this was me being middle-aged.”

When COVID hit, I couldn’t dance or do anything, so I created a box on how to grow your own fireworks show. I collected seeds and took out the tubers, dividing them with gardening experts. That project was supposed to be a small thing: you could buy seeds to grow your own slow-motion fireworks show. But then it became my side hustle because so many people bought flower cases. Suddenly, I was doing product design and now I’ve been seasonally selling seeds and tubers through my website. It was totally unplanned!

Because this is seasonal, I’m trying to keep it as lean as possible. I only deliver the product four months of the year, but I’m also selling gift certificates that can be purchased any time. I have to combine it with the shows I’m in during February and March, and September and October.

Calming rituals

When the season hits, I always wake up to deliver the boxes and prepare the orders between 5:00 and 7:00 before my kids wake up. I’m a dance artist and shows in the theatre are scheduled by the theatre, so I can’t say, “This is not so convenient.” Last year, I was working in the National Theatre from 8:00 to 17:00, so I hired a person who could help me for a month.

Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

My daughter loves arranging the boxes — putting tubers and seeds into a box and closing it. I’m so stressed from my other jobs that I enjoy assembling the stuff, too. It’s such an easy task and feels like meditation. I feel like I delivered 20 boxes today — it’s a sense of achievement. Everyone’s always telling me, “Why don’t you get someone to do these boxes? This is way too much work.” But I always answer that this is the stress-free activity I need in my life.

What’s my least favourite thing? This is ridiculous but when I get a crazy number of orders, I freak out a little bit because I need to deliver the whole thing. Because this is a side hustle, I like it when it’s semi-smooth. Of course, I’m happy that it’s going well. But if I’m honest, if it’s going really well, I get stressed.

Bloom boom

The stereotype is that people who like gardening are just middle-aged, but I think the hipsters are taking over — everybody loves gardening.

In the beginning, everyone told me, “You can’t grow these flowers.” And I said, “Yes, I think we can.” It took me three years to figure out what kind of soil and nourishment they needed. I’m not using seeds from just any flower — mainly dahlias and peonies. The project centres around the flowers that inspired fireworks, so you are essentially growing a fireworks show. It’s a choreographed seeding program you’re creating.

Art Bicnick/The Reykjavík Grapevine

Before I realised that fireworks and flowers were connected, I was obsessed with shapes. I didn’t realise why until I did a project in Barcelona and realised that all the fireworks I’ve been shooting off have flower names. I found a book that finally had the proof I needed — in 1585, the word hanabi was first used in Japan. Hana means fire and bi — means a flower. So, fireworks were originally designed to imitate flowers and trees of Asian origin. 

Flowers in isolation

At the beginning of this side hustle, we needed to make the flowers grow to obtain the seeds. We had to grow all the dahlias indoors because they can’t withstand frost, and we have night frost in Iceland until the first of June. So, in the middle of COVID, when everybody was isolated, we grew 88 sq. metres of dahlias. Then, I received a call saying, “I think all the dahlias are dying.” We didn’t have a plan B because these were the only flowers of this variety in Iceland. I was told that they possibly had a contagious virus disease. I asked, “What do you mean? Can flowers get sick?” We had to put thirty flowers in isolation so they wouldn’t be cross-contaminated, and all the sick flowers had to be taken away. But then, someone suggested it might be because they lack magnesium since the Icelandic soil doesn’t have the magnesium they need. We decided to give them massive amounts of magnesium and see what happened. Long story short, there was no virus disease. They just lacked some chemicals, and they all did really well.

This was very memorable. But I panicked for two weeks and promised never to work with live plants. It’s way better to work with fireworks because they just explode. But then I’ve been doing this for almost five years now, so I’m a slow learner.

The flourishing of a side gig

I realised that all these flowers I’ve been working with are also edible. So, I started making wine with Foss Distillery called Icelandic Spritz. Currently, I’m working on a visual art show at the Design Museum of Iceland, where I will introduce a shapeshifting project illustrating how everything is connected — including my side hustle. So, my side hustle is taking off. But because this is not my main area of interest or expertise, I’m trying to keep this as a side gig. My main focus is on theatre and dance; I don’t want this to take over.

Grow your own fireworks: Learn more about Sigriður’s side hustle at her segment at this year’s DesignMarch festival. Check the schedule at

Want to share how you’re making ends meet? Email us at with the subject line “Side Hustle.” We’ll happily keep your identity anonymous.

Follow along with the Side Hustle series right here.

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