Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is a Seattle and Los Angeles-based Outdoor Living Expert. As a writer and lecturer, she specializes in interiors, architecture and landscapes. Debra is author of seven books, including Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm (St. Lynn's Press, 2013); The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers (St. Lynn's Press, 2012) and Stylish Sheds And Elegant Hideaways (Random House/Clarkson Potter, 2008). Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Country Gardens, Garden Design, Metropolitan Home, Sunset, Better Homes & Gardens and many other fine publications. Here's what others say about her:

“The local flower movement's champion . . ."

--Ken Druse, REAL DIRT Podcast

“. . . an impassioned advocate for a more sustainable flower industry."

--Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU-FM (NPR affiliate)

“The mother of the ‘Slow Flower’ movement, Prinzing is making a personal crusade to encourage people to think about floral purchases the same way they may approach what they eat: Buy locally grown flowers or grow them yourself.”

--Debbie Arrington, The Sacramento Bee

“Debra Prinzing . . . has done more to celebrate and explain ethical + eco-friendly flowers than I could ever hope to.”

--Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge

Today’s LA Times: SoCal entwined in holiday swags with Blossom Alliance’s Lori Eschler Frystak

December 20th, 2014

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Brooklyn Grows Flowers! Meet Molly Oliver Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers (Episode 172)

December 17th, 2014

Meet Molly Culver, and a bouquet of beautiful larkspur she grew in Brooklyn.

Meet Molly Culver, and some of the beautiful  flowers she grew in Brooklyn.

One of the largest consumer marketplaces in the U.S., where floral design is a huge business, is sadly a little disconnected from where flowers grow. There is a cadre of flower farmers and floral designers who are working creatively to change that situation. And today’s podcast guest, Molly Culver, is at the forefront of this momentum.

The designer at work.

The designer at work.

Molly Culver is the owner of Molly Oliver Flowers, which she runs with partner Deborah Greig. In their day jobs, both women are deeply involved in urban agriculture. When the weekends roll around, you can probably find them designing bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces and more – for couples who love their fresh-from-the garden style. Together they create beautiful botanicals for New York area weddings with a huge emphasis on local.

A late June bridesmaid bouquet, designed by Molly and Deborah

A late June bridesmaid bouquet, designed by Molly and Deborah (c) Levi Stolove photograph

I’m so sorry Deborah couldn’t join us for this interview, recorded in late October when I was in New York for just a few days. Molly graciously helped me coordinate a Slow Flowers gathering – an after-hours affair that drew floral designers, flower farmers and one intrepid lifestyle blogger to 61 Local in Brooklyn.

Here's a fun photo from our NYC-Brooklyn Slowflowers.com gathering. From left: Gloria Battista Collins of GBC Style, me, Jessica Stewart and Justine Lacy of Foxglove Floral Design Studio, and Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers.

Here’s a fun photo from our NYC-Brooklyn Slowflowers.com gathering. From left: Gloria Battista Collins of GBC Style, me, Jessica Stewart and Justine Lacy of Foxglove Floral Design Studio, and Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers.

Over delicious food and beverages, we talked about our individual projects and collective vision for using and promoting American grown flowers. Molly brought the most lovely late-autumn floral arrangements to decorate the tables, wowing everyone with what she harvested from the growing fields that late in the season – the 3rd week of October.

Before I share our interview, let me share a little more about Molly Culver:

a Molly Oliver Flowers centerpiece for an October wedding.

a Molly Oliver Flowers centerpiece for an October wedding. (c) Kelly Kollar photograph

Molly has been working as a local food and flower activist in New York City since 2005. Early in her career, she kicked off a brand new CSA chapter and farmers market in the poorest congressional district in the US, and hasn’t stopped working to make growing food and eating local accessible to all. Molly has managed both rural and urban farms since 2009, and currently manages the 1-acre Youth Farm in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where she oversees flower production and sales and runs educational programming and farm training for adults. She is Farm School NYC’s Farm Manager and Director of the Urban Farm Training Program.

September bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Amber Gress photograph

September bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Amber Gress photograph

Molly has taught the 5-week course “Growing Soils” for Farm School NYC since 2011, and has made a soil worshipper out of many an urbanite. Molly holds a degree in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, UC-Santa Cruz and sits on the Board of Farm School NYC.

A flower crown by Molly Oliver Flowers.

A flower crown by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Forged in the North

As I mentioned, Molly and Deborah Greig are partners in Molly Oliver Flowers, a sustainable floral design company launched in 2012. They are bringing new meaning to the term ‘green weddings.’

An April wedding bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Clean Plate Pictures

An April wedding bouquet by Molly Oliver Flowers (c) Clean Plate Pictures

I hope that you’ll hear from Deborah in a future interview. She’s also the agriculture director for East New York Farms, a Brooklyn nonprofit that since 1998 has been working with youth, gardeners, farmers, and entrepreneurs to build a more just and sustainable community.

Yes, growing food is essential, especially when it feeds people who don’t otherwise have  access to fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.

But then there’s flowers, which as Molly explains account for a significant portion of her work at Farm School NYC.

“Flowers are food for the soul; they feed me,” she says.

I couldn’t agree more!

Late August bouquet - photo credit (c) Elizabeth Andrews

Late August bouquet – photo credit (c) Elizabeth Andrews

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 27,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

Flirty Fleurs: Meet the Farmer-Florist

December 12th, 2014

Feast your eyes on "Flirty Fleurs," a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Feast your eyes on “Flirty Fleurs,” a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Alicia Schwede

Alicia Schwede

My friend Alicia Schwede of the Flirty Fleurs blog recently set for herself a huge new creative challenge: To design and produce her own floral magazine. The result is simply beautiful and last night, I finally got my hands on the brand new issue of Flirty Fleurs: For the Love of Flowers, Edition One.

Alicia asked me to pen a story for her inaugural issue and she gave me the assignment of interviewing two of her favorite design studios: Botanique, owned by Kelly Sullivan of Seattle and Verbena: Flowers & Trimmings, owned by Karin Plarisan and Karly Sahr of Roseville, California.

Of course, since all three are involved in the Slow Flowers Movement and members of Slowflowers.com, it was an easy “yes” on my part.

I’m sharing a little preview of my involvement in the Flirty Fleurs magazine here. Click to order a digital or printed copy so you can read every word.

For $19.95, the printed copy is worth every penny. You’ll love the luscious look, the pearly-matte paper stock, the elegant graphic design and pages bursting with flowers. Alicia and her team pulled off something that many people dream of doing, but few can ever take from idea to reality.

The story I wrote: “Meet the Farmer-Florist,” begins this way:

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Karen and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Karin and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Meet the farmer-florist

Marrying science and art, a new crop of floral designers are growing their own botanical ingredients

By Debra Prinzing

I first wrote about a “farmer-florist” in 2012, with the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet (St. Lynn’s Press). In a chapter titled “The Accidental Flower Farmer,” which profiled San Francisco floral designer Baylor Chapman, owner of Lila B. Design, I documented Baylor’s decision to start growing many of her own flowers, vines, ornamental shrubs, succulents and herbs, in order to diversify the palette with which she designed.

Even two years ago, I didn’t know that the “farmer-florist” category was going to be the phenomenon it has since become. In that chapter, I wrote: “Increasingly, there are designers who, by necessity, harvest floral ingredients from their own gardens. As well, there are growers who assume the role of floral designer, satisfying a bridal customer’s request for unique, straight-from-the-farm bouquets. That these two world are happily intersecting is due to curiosity, innovation and experimentation on the part of designer and grower alike.”

Today, more than two years later, all you have to do is search the hashtag #farmerflorist and dozens of self-references appear on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Designers and flower farmers alike are describing themselves as farmer florists, including two of the most recognizable names in the industry, Erin Benzakein of floret and Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers. No longer considered something outside the accepted scope of what a flower farmer is supposed to do (grow flowers) or what a floral designer is supposed to do (create beautiful bouquets using flowers that someone else cultivated and harvested), there is a lovely blurring of the lines between those formerly  conventional roles.

But to give credit where it is due, an entire generation of specialty cut flower farmers has been designing bridal bouquets and farmers’ market bunches for a long time. Lynn Byczynski first wrote about the business opportunities for flower farmers to design and sell their bouquets back in 1997 when her book The Flower Farmer was first published (the second, updated edition came out in 2008). But long before then, British designer-to-the-royals Constance Spry (the first celebrity florist) cut blooms, branches and foliage from her family’s land to sell in her London flower shop as early as the 1930s.

Thanks to a newfound passion for local and seasonal floral ingredients, more floral designers are putting on their gardening gloves and cultivating small and large patches of earth for cutting gardens, rose borders, raised beds and hedgerows – anywhere a few extra flowers can be planted and cared for. So we asked three Farmer-Florists to share their motivations for doing just that.

Here’s hoping that Alicia will continue her project to plan her 2nd edition of Flirty Fleurs. And here’s to farmer-florists everywhere, for bringing beauty to our lives!

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ASCFG #4: Wild World of Weddings (Episode 171)

December 9th, 2014

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Wedding bouquets: the ultimate design challenge

Today’s episode was recorded on October 20th at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference held in Wilmington, Delaware – and it is our fourth featured segment from that event.

“Wild World of Weddings” is a panel showcasing four voices that may be quite familiar to listeners of this podcast.

You’ll hear Jennie Love, of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, based in Philadelphia; Sarah Ryhanen of Brooklyn-based Saipua; Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore and Sullivan Owen, owner of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design, also based in Philadelphia.

This free-ranging panel was left unstructured so that audience members could ask ANYTHING they wanted to know about growing, designing and selling local flowers to the bridal and wedding marketplace.

The panel wasn’t moderated per se, but you will first hear Jennie Love, who co-chaired the entire conference with Becky Devlin.

Remember, like all of our episodes from ASCFG, this one exceeds one hour in length. So I’ll keep my intro short and get right to the juicy material.

There’s amazing intel to learn from these four women — and you’ll hear a range of topics — from marketing your design business to navigating consultations to pricing and contracts.

Flower farmers and floral designers – and farmer-florists – will learn volumes from this panel.

Let’s get started with Jennie Love. After Jennie’s first remarks, I’ll interject to introduce each new voice who joins the conversation. You’ll begin to get used to the unique voices and points of view of each panel member as the segment continues.

Thanks for joining me and if you’re interested in learning more about any of these four talented designers, check out debraprinzing.com to find links to their social sites.

For the rest of December, my Slow Flowers Podcast episodes are very special and I’m thrilled to share two new voices with you.

On Dec. 17th, you’ll meet Molly Oliver Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers, a farmer-florist who’s growing her botanical ingredients right in the heart of Brooklyn!

And then on Dec. 24th, I’m very pleased to welcome Emily Thompson, owner of Emily Thompson Flowers, another New York star, a floral designer whose wild, rustic style is at the same time thoroughly elegant and timeless.

I recorded both interviews in person while spending a few days in NYC after attending the Cut Flower Growers Association conference and I’ve been eagerly waiting to broadcast them.

To wrap up the year, on December 31st, we’ll be looking to the future. I’ll host an episode that includes my 2015 forecast for the floral industry. Yes, I have a crystal ball and I’m going to gaze into it and share my insights with you.

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If you’re hoping for something special to show up in your stocking or under the tree this year, be sure to send the gifters in your life to Peonyparty.com to buy you a space at the design table next July when Slow Flowers and the Field to Vase blog produce Peony Party.

You’ll join Christina Stembel and me over four fabulous peony-filled days focusing on the cultivation and design of Alaska Peonies.

Find all the details at Peonyparty.com. There are only 20 spaces so grab your spot soon!

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 27,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

 

 

 

A Quiet Sunday Morning

December 7th, 2014

A Seattle Sunday Morning: 43 degrees F. Foggy and damp. It’s supposed to get up to 53 degrees F this afternoon, so who am I to complain about a little morning fog?

I woke up grateful for many things, including the sense that my life has slowed down for this 30-day holiday period. I’ve purposely limited my social commitments so as to save my energy for the creative projects that are tugging at me. This afternoon, I might get the sewing machine out and see what I can fashion from my collection of pretty scraps and remnants.

One lovely suprise happened last night, just as I was about to turn off the back episode of “Madame Secretary” I was watching and crawl under the flannel sheets.

Fran Sorin, yes that Fran Sorin – of Digging Deep and Gardening Gone Wild fame, sent me a note to say she devoted her latest CBS Radio gardening segment to “Slow Flowers.”

I’m hoping to get the audio posted, but right now, let me just say THANK YOU so much to Fran! What a generous gift of support from one serious flower lover to another. She gave me the transcript, which I’ll share here:

CBSradio CBS RADIO SPOT

December 5, 2014-4- Slow Flowers

If you’re thinking about sending flowers to someone for the holidays, I’ve got a suggestion for you.

This is Fran Sorin for DIGGING DEEP.
A gardening colleague, Debra Prinzing, has singlehandedly created and committed her life to developing a nationwide online directory of florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers. It’s call Slow Flowers.
In the U.S., we spend close to $28 billion a year on floriculture. Around 80% of the cut flowers bought in the U.S. are imported.
The Slow Flower Movement is following the sustainable values of the Slow Food Movement—which is to buy local, lower the carbon footprint, enrich the local economy, and preserve local farmland.
To learn more and buy magnificent flowers from local American growers, click on slowflowers.com

This is Fran Sorin for CBS Radio News.

GLOBAL CHORUS

A lot like Fran’s unepected gift of a 1-minute endorsement heard on radios around the country, this next item also gets filed under the “out of the blue-gift from the universe” category.

In April 2013, I received an email from a stranger. Someone named Todd E. MacLean who just reached out with an invitation to get involved with a new book of essays entitled “Global Chorus.” Here’s what he wrote:

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

My name is Todd E. MacLean and I’m the Editor-in-Chief for an international fundraiser anthology that is currently being compiled called Global Chorus: A 365-Person Anthology of Worldwide Concern and Enduring Hope.

With collected words from Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, David Suzuki, Stephen Hawking, Bill McKibben, R.K. Pachauri – Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ashish Ramgobin – great granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Frances Moore Lappé, Paul Hawken, Trudie Styler, Gloria Flora, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Kenny Ausubel, Joel Salatin, Alexandra Cousteau, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama, and many, many more, Global Chorus is growing into a powerful anthology for a world in crisis; and through this letter, I am now extending to you an invitation to write a brief response for inclusion in the Global Chorus anthology.

Global Chorus is a 365-day compendium, bringing together 365 contemporary voices and sharing in the experience and wisdom of many of humanity’s most concerned citizens. Contributors are asked to express their thoughts on the future of the planet, and the anthology will present a different contributor’s response for each day of the year. Proceeds from the sales of Global Chorus will go toward World Wildlife Fund, The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The International Committee of the Red Cross.

Contributors to Global Chorus have one page (suggested length of up to 250 words, to a maximum of 350 words) to answer the anthology’s question:

“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

Something resonated with me about this project and I decided to say “YES.”

I used Todd’s invitation to bring flower farming and flowers into the dialogue about global environmental issues and the individual choices we make to respect the planet.

Todd helped me with a few edits and here is what ended up in the book, one of 365 essays (you can find mine on the page for October 19th). Learn more about Global Chorus and find a bookstore near you to purchase a copy. I’ll be giving these books as gifts this holiday season.

Debra Prinzing

It feels daunting to think one person can change

things in this world. That is when I turn from the

macro to the micro and focus on individual action.

A single gesture takes on meaning far greater than

me, my family, my block, my neighbourhood, my

city. When that gesture is frequently repeated, its

impact is exponential.

I have always turned to flowers, those growing

in my garden and in the fields of my flower farmer

friends.

The symbolic gesture of giving flowers has

been practised for generations. Flowers appear in

history, in literature, in every culture and in every

land. Gathering flowers as a show of affection or a

celebratory display is no small thing. It is a timeless,

universal practice.

Flowers connect humans with Nature and

heighten our awareness of the seasons. They root

us to our place on the planet. Our senses see, smell,

touch (and even hear and taste) botanical beauty.

This is a truth understood by all humans.

I do believe that flowers parallel food. We don’t

often eat petals and buds, but they feed us nonetheless.

The spiritual sustenance of flowers has caused

me to think more intentionally about how I consume

them. I have been inspired to start the Slow

Flowers movement, a conscious practice of sourcing

flowers grown close to me rather than ones shipped

to me from afar. When I choose local flowers, I am

preserving farmland, ensuring economic development

in rural areas and keeping farm jobs viable.

As an advocate for those who grow flowers

enjoyed by so many, I believe it’s important to remember

the human toil required to plant, cultivate

and harvest those blooms. I find hope in honouring

the flower farmer, hearing his or her story and

acknowledging the farmer’s role in bringing beauty

into our lives. By making a simple connection between

flower and farmer we humanize an entire

industry, one that has previously been so disconnected

from us. It is perhaps more indirectly rather

than directly world changing, and yet, it is the act

I know makes a difference far beyond the vase on

my dining table.

— Debra Prinzing, author, speaker, designer,

founder of Slowflowers.com

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington's Ojeda Farms.

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington’s Ojeda Farms.

 

Lavender News from the Northwest Regional Lavender Conference (Episode 170)

December 3rd, 2014

Lavender-web-small-150x150 Today’s episode was recorded in late October at the Northwest Regional Lavender Conference outside Portland, Oregon.

Susan and Jack Harrington of Labyrinth Hill Lavender, the conference producers, invited me as the luncheon speaker to talk about – what else – the American grown cut flower industry!

My talk was titled “From ‘Buy Local’ to ‘American Grown’ – How you can Join the Slow Flowers Movement.” I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with more than 200 lavender growers from around the country; in fact, the sold-out conference attracted participants from at least 22 states and several Canadian provinces, according to Susan’s tally.

One might ask: What does Lavender have to do with the Cut Flower Industry?

A gorgeous scene from Sarah Richards's Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

A gorgeous scene from Sarah Richards’s Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington State.

Well, that’s what I was there to explore, along with my two guests today. By the end of today’s episode — All about Lavender – I believe you’ll conclude, as I have, that there is huge potential for integrating American Grown Lavender into the American Grown Cut Flower Community.

The flower- and lavender-growing communities are closely aligned in so many ways: In both worlds, you’ll meet family-owned farms, people who desire to make a living from their land, people who use sustainable practices, people who want to preserve farmland, people who create livelihoods for others in their community and people who believe in creativity and hard work.

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Mike Neustrom of Prarie Lavender Farm in Kansas.

Mike Neustrom of Prarie Lavender Farm in Kansas.

Mike Neustrom owns Prairie Lavender in Bennington, Kansas, and is a founding board member of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association.

Mike has been growing lavender since 2002.

His 4,000+ plants reside on two acres at the cusp of the tallgrass and shortgrass prairies of North-central Kansas.

Not only will Mike  share his experience with the challenges of growing lavender under harsh conditions, he will enlighten us with tales of manufacturing and marketing 90 lavender products on his farm.

Sarah Richards of Lavender Wind Farm.

Sarah Richards of Lavender Wind Farm.

Sarah Richards owns Lavender Wind Farm in Coupeville, Washington on Whidbey Island, a little closer to me. She is a founding and current board member of the U.S. Lavender Growers Association board. At Lavender Wind Farm, Sarah grows 14,000 plants on six acres. After 12 years of growing lavender and welcoming visitors to her farm, she started planning for an expansion beyond her farm’s borders. In 2012, she opened a manufacturing and retail facility in a charming 1916 bungalow, attracting both locals and tourists.

“I knew that one of my crops was tourists,”

– Sarah Richards, Lavender Wind Farm

Lavender Wind Farm's glorious fields.

Lavender Wind Farm’s glorious fields.

I know you’ll enjoy our conversation and perhaps it will inspire you to explore lavender as a new crop – or to think about ways to use your farm as an “agro-tourism destination” or for new product development.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 26,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.