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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Grocery Floral with New Seasons Markets’ Katie McConahay and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s Molly Sadowsky (Episode 156)

August 27th, 2014

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon - a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon – a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of all floral transactions in the U.S. take place at the supermarket cash register?

While that statistic may not bode well for the corner flower shop, it does represent opportunity for flower farmers who find a way to work with this ever-changing dynamic.

There are so many reasons for the shift from the corner flower shop to the grocery store, but according to my guests in today’s podcast one of its primary causes is time and convenience.

In other words, consumers are so pressed for time in all facets of their lives that the grocery store has become the one-stop place to purchase not just food, but so many other things.

Think about it: The grocery store, when done well, is now our coffee shop, our bank, our drug store, our greeting card store, our liquor/wine store, our bakery, our deli, and oh, yes, our flower shop.

Please enjoy today’s conversation about the fast-paced world of grocery floral – as I seek to understand where the opportunities are from two perspectives: the floral buyer (the supermarket) and the floral seller (the flower farmer).

"Slow Flowers" supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

“Slow Flowers” supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

Katie McConahay is the floral merchandiser for New Seasons Markets, a Portland-based chain of 13 neighborhood grocery stores. With the motto, “the friendliest store in town,” New Seasons nurtures its local suppliers.

On its web site you will find this message: “As a locally owned business, we take pride in supporting local farms, ranches and other small businesses through our Home Grown program.

“The Home Grown symbol points out products from produce and meat to hand lotions and scented candles that come from local companies. So, you can support the local and regional economy with your dollars. And we can further our strong commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

Unfortunately, there is a lot of lip-service paid to LOCAL and I’ve witnessed first-hand the amount of green-washing that can take place at grocery stores that tell their shoppers one thing and then do something completely opposite that . . . such as trying to pass off imported flowers as local or simply not caring enough to properly label the sources.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

After getting to know Katie over the past year, I have to say how impressed I am with her philosophy of transparency about the origins of the flowers she and her employer sell. “Not many people think of buying local when it comes to flowers. Making beautiful selections available from local growers is how we’re making a difference, one stem at a time.”

A CA-Grown floral display at one ohe Portland area New Seasons.

A CA-Grown floral display at one Portland area New Seasons.

Katie began her career in floral at the age of 15 when she took a position as a floral clerk at a local grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Early on she decided that she wanted to make unique and beautiful flowers available to everyone, even daily grocery shoppers.  She went on to become the youngest ever floral manager for Wisconsin’s largest grocery chain by the age of 18, taking her department to number one in sales in a region with over 60 stores.

Katie has been involved in all facets of the floral industry, from large scale grocers to small, elegant design studios in Portland.

She found her “happy medium” in the New Seasons Market floral program where she began as a floral manager in 2010, eventually assuming the head merchandising position in 2012.  Since that time she has nurtured the floral program to unprecedented growth levels adding dozens of local and California vendors in 2014.

Katie remains committed to cultivating relationships with local growers and promoting a sustainable, local floral program that supports small growers while continuing to supply the 13 New Seasons Markets with the very best that the floral industry has to offer.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

When I visited Portland last month I scheduled an interview with Katie and I asked her predecessor at New Seasons, Molly Sadowsky, to join us.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral  selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly, the program manager at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, was the link who first introduced me to Katie. That’s when we all attended the California Cut Flower Commission’s field-to-vase dinner held in Portland last October where I was invited to speak.

At the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a cooperative of Northwest flower growers in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Molly oversees the selling of flowers to grocery customers and maintaining a year-round floral inventory.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Molly is such a valuable asset at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. One reason is her background, having previously built and ran the floral program at New Seasons Market in Portland where she initiated a seasonal buying program that relied on product from 80 growers, including more than 50 in Oregon.

Molly embraced the buy-local philosophy as a restaurant owner in the early 2000s, when she forged relationships with local farmers to supply her vegetarian breakfast-and-lunch café. Molly lives in Portland with her husband, Dan, and their six-year-old Belgian Malinois, Leyna.

Thanks to listeners like you, this flower-powered podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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.

This podcast was engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

 

Sunset Magazine’s Best of the West names Slowflowers.com as “Best Way to Buy Flowers”

August 20th, 2014

September_14_Sunset_BestofWest

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Pittsburgh’s Local & Seasonal Floral Designers – Jimmy Lohr & Jonathan Weber of greenSinner (Episode 155)

August 19th, 2014

Last week, this podcast came to you from Homer, Alaska.

This week, my travels brought me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let’s just say I’m coping with a little jet lag, but summer is my busy season for lectures and photo shoots, so I’ve learned to enjoy my MVP Gold status on Alaska Airlines.

Green_Sinner_IMG_1067 But the other thing I have thoroughly enjoyed has been the chance to connect with great flower farmers and floral designers – coast to coast – who are part of the Slow Flowers movement. In the coming weeks you’ll hear from several of these awesome folks who I first “met” virtually, through social media and — more importantly — because they have joined Slowflowers.com.

Pittsburgh's Floral "Who's Who" -- from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Pittsburgh’s Floral “Who’s Who” — from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Today you will meet two of them: Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner, an urban role model that promotes American-grown flowers in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood (by the way, Lawrenceville is now called “new Brooklyn” for hipster, indie, design-focused vibe).

Peek through the chain link fence - from the urban parking lot into greenSinner's cutting garden.

Peek through the chain link fence – from the urban parking lot into greenSinner’s cutting garden.

Jonathan and Jimmy state their beliefs up-front-and-center on the home page of their web site:

“greenSinner brings you local, sustainable cut flowers and plants. We love fresh flowers (don’t you?), but we don’t love that they come from Ecuador drenched in chemicals (yuck). We’re trying to make the world — our world and yours — a little greener and a little more beautiful. We grow flowers right here in western PA and source as many materials and plants as we can in a 500-mile radius. Not only is it better for the environment, but you also get fresher flowers and more local and unusual varieties. Beyond flowers, we focus on vintage or re-purposed containers and event decor and sustainable practices.”

The guys at greenSinner first caught my attention when they contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year. Not knowing anything about their business, I looked them up and sent them a note of thanks.

A littleclassical detail in the "front garden" at greenSinner's studio.

A littleclassical detail in the “front garden” at greenSinner’s studio.

Only a few weeks after the campaign ended, I found myself in early March attending Holly Heider Chapple’s NYC Chapel Designers’ conference, where I was included in the speaker lineup. Of course, I was there to encourage her members to consider joining the American Grown flower movement, to refocus their wedding and event work to include seasonal and local flowers and to introduce these designers to the notion of working closely with flower farmers.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner's studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner’s studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

And there was Jimmy, a charming teddy bear of a guy, front and center, making me feel welcome. He wasn’t the only one who “got it,” but he was definitely the most enthusiastic. I learned that he and his partner Jonathan believe in designing weddings and events with locally grown flowers and plants and that they owned a postage-stamp-sized cutting garden behind their shop. We made plans for me to visit in August when I knew I’d be in Pittsburgh for the Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what's growing within.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what’s growing within.

In the ensuing months, not only did we stay in touch, but when I worked with Kasey Cronquist on the launch announcement of the Certified American Grown brand on July 1st, we invited Jimmy to speak on behalf of floral designers.

Jimmy picked me up at my hotel in downtown Pittsburgh early one morning and we drove a short distance to greenSinner’s studio. After a walking tour to see their backyard growing operation, their greenhouse and the small cutting garden they planted behind a neighboring studio where their stained-glass artist friend works, we sat down for a short podcast interview.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

Before we get started, let me introduce you to the two men you’ll hear next. This is straight from greenSinner’s web site:

Jimmy Lohr, Chief Eccentric Officer:

Jimmy, in a limerick:
There once was a boy from the sticks
Who grew up and left all the hicks.
He studied the arts
And big event parts
Then moved home to share all his tricks.

Jonathan Weber, Farmer-General
Jonathan, in a haiku:
Jonathan Weber
internet marketing dude
now he’s a farmer

These guys definitely express their values in everything they do as designers and business owners – and it was such a pleasure to spend time on their turf in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for joining this lively conversation. I’m grateful for listeners like you who have downloaded this flower-powered podcast more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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.

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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Debra & Christina’s Alaska Peony Adventure (Episode 154)

August 13th, 2014

A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

I know I’ve raved about Alaska-grown peonies for a few years and YES, they are one of my floral obsessions. No apologies here. When it comes to peonies, The 50 Mile Bouquet is now The 1,500 Mile Bouquet.

But the exciting news is that these flowers are proving to be a very important value-added crop for farmers in Alaska; their lovely peonies satisfy demand at a time when no one else on the planet can supply the popular flower – and these blooms have stimulated economic development in a state that greatly needs it.

Since touring Alaska’s three primary growing regions for cut peonies in 2012, I’ve been a passionate booster for this fabulous American-grown crop – sharing the story of uncommonly beautiful summer peonies available in July, August and even September. My magazine articles, blog posts, lectures and even a previous podcast episode have highlighted peonies for the cut flower trade – and I believe consumers are just as smitten by these peonies as I am.

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners' Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

So it is with a huge amount of joy that I bring you today a special episode about peonies in Alaska. Thanks to the Homer Garden Club and co-chairs Brenda Adams and Roni Overway, I returned to speak at the popular “Homer Gardeners’ weekend,” an event-packed two days featuring lectures, tours and a fun reception at Homer’s only winery.

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

I spoke about floral design with seasonal ingredients and led an afternoon hands-on workshop using only Alaska-grown flowers. Against all this activity was the beautiful backdrop of Homer and its water, glaciers and expansive skies. The landscape is unforgettable and I loved being able to look across Kachemak Bay to Grewinkg Glacier – a sight that one never tires of.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

In this episode you will hear from Beth Van Sandt, owner of Scenic Place Peonies in Homer – And – Christina Stembel, owner of San Francisco-based Farmgirl Flowers.

Beth’s peonies blew us away. It was so wonderful to share my excitement with Christina, who joined me on this fun floral vay-cay. Christina is a foremost advocate for domestic cut flowers. Through her company Farmgirl Flowers, this woman has been a tireless advocate for local and seasonal flowers, as she sources and promotes flowers from California flower farms and sustainable design.

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

When I told Christina back in March that I was heading to Homer in early August, she said: “I’d love to come” – and I took her seriously. While I enjoyed the companionship, I also loved the intellectual and creative stimulation of being with a kindred spirit – a fellow American Grown flower advocate and a designer who walks the talk with what she uses in her daily designs for customers who shop at farmgirlflowers.com.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

Christina and I sat down one morning to record our musings about what we were both personally experiencing on this trip. We owe a huge thanks to Beth and her husband Kurt Weichhand. Their Scenic Place B&B was our home for four nights and we were cozy, comfy and happy. It was a magical trip for me in so many ways and I’m grateful to Christina, Beth and the other Homer peony farmers for giving me such a memorable experience.

On Scenic Place Peonies’ web site, Beth writes: “We are long time Alaskans who work, play and enjoy living on the Kenai Peninsula. Located on the scenic East Hill side of Homer, overlooking beautiful Kachemak Bay, Beth grows 14 different cultivars of peonies for the cut flower market. At elevation 1,150 feet, Scenic Place Peonies is one of the latest producers of fresh cut peony stems grown in America – with flowers harvested from mid July, August and September.”

The farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation. “Because we value our family, community and the wild creatures that we share our farm with, we choose to grow naturally without the use of harsh chemicals and with the utmost care and love. When you see, touch and smell our flowers you will only experience the true beauty and fragrance of the peony,” Beth writes.

Scenic Place Peonies thrives on a perfect combination of climate, rich black soil, cool temps and crazy sunshine of up to 20 hours a day. These assets produce magnificent flowers with long, robust stems and exceptional blooms.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design.

Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Farmer-Florist News – from Gretel Adams, Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt (Episode 153)

August 6th, 2014

This iconic photo is showing up everywhere and I am so lucky it's mine! So symbolic of American Grown. Design and truck: Tara Kolla, Silver Lake Farms (Los Angeles) (c) Debra Prinzing

This iconic photo is showing up everywhere and I am so lucky it’s mine! So symbolic of American Grown. Design and truck: Tara Kolla, Silver Lake Farms (Los Angeles) (c) Debra Prinzing 

It’s summertime and the Slow Flowers Podcast is on the road. And it’s no surprise to learn there’s at least one awesome American flower farmer everywhere I seem to go.

There are passionate floral designers to be discovered right alongside and that means more beautiful Slow Flowers experiences for the nation’s consumers, coast to coast.

This week I’m sharing a fabulous conversation with a farmer-florist team from Portland, Oregon – Elizabeth Bryant, owner of Rose Hill Flower Farm, and Kailla Platt, owner of Kailla Platt Flowers.

But first, a bonus conversation that I recorded on July 16th at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, Ohio.

Owned by Steve and Gretel Adams, previous guests on this podcast, Sunny Meadows is leading the way in changing how flowers get to market in several Ohio cities. The reason for my return to Sunny Meadows was to work with James Baggett, editor-in-chief of Country Gardens magazine, and Kritsada, an uber-talented photographer, to produce a feature story about Gretel and Steve – and their farm, flowers and floral design.

 

Some might call this "flower farm porn," but who cares? Gretel and Steve were really good sports about posing in the flower fields (isn't that vintage tractor a great "prop"?)

Some might call this “flower farm porn,” but who cares? Gretel and Steve were really good sports about posing in the flower fields (isn’t that vintage tractor a great “prop”?) 

You can keep an eye out for that nothing-but-gorgeous story in the summer of 2015 – and of course, I’ll remind you here when the magazine hits the newsstands.

I recorded a short interview with Gretel and two of her summer design interns, Katie Vontz and Danica Jones. They all agreed to chat briefly about what is becoming a popular way for would-be flower farmers and new floral designers to gain training: via internships, apprenticeships or seasonal work-study-style programs. I think you’ll be intrigued and inspired to hear how Gretel filled her need via social media, too.

This is the "ad" that Sunny Meadows used on Instagram to recruit its summer design interns.

This is the “ad” that Sunny Meadows used on Instagram to recruit its summer design interns. 

 

From left: Me, design intern Katie Vontz, Gretel Adams (Sunny Meadows Flower Farm co-owner), design intern Danica Jones and Sunny Meadows floral designer   Kumiko Matsuura.

From left: Me, design intern Katie Vontz, Gretel Adams (Sunny Meadows Flower Farm co-owner), design intern Danica Jones and Sunny Meadows floral designer Kumiko Matsuura.

Next up: A dynamic conversation with collaborators Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt. 

Elizabeth Bryant (left) and Kailla Platt (right), photographed in their Portland studio.

Elizabeth Bryant (left) and Kailla Platt (right), photographed in their Portland studio. 

Kailla was trained in fine art and landscape architecture and logged a decade designing gardens. But she traces her primary training in floral design to time spent in the lush green of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where she fell under the floral spell cast by her grandmother Jane K. Platt. 

Kailla's work, a seasonal and local floral bouquet.

Kailla’s work, a seasonal and local floral bouquet.

As Kailla puts it: “she filled my young heart with a love of gardens, plants and flowers.  She would generously send me out into her amazing garden with a basket and clippers, telling me I could pick anywhere.  Then, as we selected frogs and filled vases, she would tell me the names and the stories of all these beautiful flowers.  Her garden was a fairy land to me as a child and it continues to inspire me and influence my work today.”

Kailla Platt Flowers, a delightful composition.

Kailla Platt Flowers, a delightful seasonal composition.

Kailla Platt Flowers is a young floral studio inspired by Kailla’s lifelong relationship with flowers. On her website, Kailla writes: “I care about where my flowers come from. I want to know the farmer who grew them.  When possible, I want to gather and forage botanical material myself.  The flowers we give to others, wear in our hair and lift to our faces and smell, should be free of pesticides and harmful chemicals.  Farm to table, garden to vase, me to you.” 

Seasonal design by Kailla Platt Flowers.

Seasonal design by Kailla Platt Flowers. 

Kailla works collaboratively on wedding and event design with another amazing force, Elizabeth Bryant, a flower farmer, floral designer, and founder of Rose Hill Flower Farm, a small, sustainable urban flower farm and design studio in Portland. 

Elizabeth and Kailla at Prettyman's General, a neighborhood mercantile where they  sell their local bouquets.

Elizabeth and Kailla at Prettyman’s General, a neighborhood mercantile where they sell their local bouquets.

Elizabeth and her wife Jill grow flowers on three acres of family land in West Linn, Oregon, about 15 miles southeast of Portland. 

She says: “Our farming and land-care practices are organic and ecologically grounded, with the utmost care given to creating a healthy soil ecology and rich pollinator habitat.  We grow a range of both common and unique specialty cut flowers for use in weddings and events, through our CSA, and direct to florists.”  Rose Hill also provides lush, locally grown arrangements weekly for restaurants, businesses and individuals, or for any special occasion.  

Mixed bouquets by Rose Hill Flower Farm.

Mixed bouquets by Rose Hill Flower Farm.

What you’ll enjoy about this interview is hearing how two creatives – Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt – have distinct points of view and floral businesses that are different from one another, but that they also are collaborative in a way that benefits both of their work – and their clients.

Spring ephemerals, grown by Rose Hill's Elizabeth Bryant.

Spring ephemerals, grown by Rose Hill’s Elizabeth Bryant.

 

Rose Hill's Elizabeth Bryant's flowers and floral design.

Rose Hill’s Elizabeth Bryant’s flowers and floral design.

Kailla and Elizabeth share studio space with Portland photographer Katie Prentiss. In a charming little cottage in Southeast Portland, the three us a combined design and meeting/event space for floral projects.  Together they enjoy great artistic synergy and often partner on projects, including weddings and large events requiring florals.

A floral collaboration.

A floral collaboration.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design. Even after a year of producing and hosting the Slow Flowers Podcast, I can guarantee that the list of future guests is very long and I don’t imagine running out of names we need to hear from – inspiring people who are changing the way Americans gather and enjoy flowers in all aspects of life.

Floral design by Kailla Platt.

Floral design by Kailla Platt.

Next week Slow Flowers comes to you from Homer, Alaska, where I’ve happily returned after my 2012 peony-hunting excursion. After that, the road tripping continues, and you can anticipate Slow Flowers interviews with flower farmers and floral designers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. 

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 17,000 times. In fact, the month of July was our all-time most popular month of interviews with 2500 downloads – and I’m jazzed to know that more listeners are discovering this flower-powered podcast every day.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Day in the Life of Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers (Episode 152)

July 30th, 2014

Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers

Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers    

 

Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

As we launch this podcast’s second year, I’m honored to continue bringing great conversations to you each week.

Some of the most rewarding side benefits of interviewing flower farmers, floral designers and other influential voices in the field-to-vase floral industry are the “field trips” that bring me close-up and in-person to see the sources of our American flowers – the farms, the studios, and the retail spaces where such amazing beauty connects us with nature and the seasons. 

This happened again last week when I invited myself to Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Washington, for a visit.

Owned by veteran grower Vivian Larson, this established cut flower farm is a sight to behold. Viv is a precision grower, who cares deeply about her flowers – from the first seedlings emerging from trays of and trays of soil to the voluptuous bunches of blooms that are picked with great attention to detail, processed, bunched and delivered to her design customers.  

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv's house.

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv’s house.

Located about an hour north of Seattle, Everyday Flowers is situated on a gorgeous piece of land with a more than 180-degree view to the Puget Sound’s many islands – Camano, Whidbey, the San Juans – all the way up to Canada – and north toward Mount Vernon. Vivian and her husband Jim, a commercial fisherman, raised two children here and are now helping raise three grand-children. It is a bucolic place with a beloved horse who adds agricultural character to the scene, as well as rows and rows of field-grown annuals and perennials located next to several large and very tidy hoop-houses containing even more flowers. 

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed - one of Viv's specialty crops.

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed – one of Viv’s specialty crops.

Vivian is a founding member and board vice president of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, and I’ve known her for several years through that relationship. Some would say she is the glue that holds that place together, a true diplomat when it comes to synthesizing points of view and navigating the true meaning of a cooperative – one that benefits all members for the greater good. 

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers.

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers. That’s “Sassy” grazing in the background.

Vivian is the daughter of farmers who taught her those intangible skills of building good soil and caring for the land. “I always had a patch of earth where I grew flowers as a child,” she recalls. When Vivian’s own children were small, in 1990, she asked her husband to prepare a large area of ground. She began growing flowers and selling her bouquets at a nearby farm stand. “People would wait there to get my flowers or I’d have standing orders,” Vivian recalls. “Good flowers sell themselves – I’ve never had to advertise.” 

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

Experience has taught Vivian to know which varieties are successful as cut ingredients, which colors are reliable over time and which flowers produce the longest stems. “I’ve always known there were certain types of flowers that lasted better than others, especially if cut at the right time, and treated properly post-harvest,” she explains. “The fact is, I have a choice of what to grow and I choose to grow plants that are going to be happy at my farm and hold well in the vase.” 

This shot is a little silly, but viv humored me when  I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

This shot is a little silly, but Viv humored me when I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

For example, Vivian grows larger quantities of white, pink and yellow lilies because they are more popular with buyers. Similarly, the Karma dahlias have been bred for 18-20 inch-long stems and longer vase life, so she focuses on those. 

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly's mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly’s mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian has a good idea of what wedding designers and their clients are looking for and how they use each flower. While she has in the past done some of her own design work, the bottom line is that Vivian is first of all a flower farmer. “Honestly, I just enjoy growing more than anything else!”  

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.

 

Alicia's gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

Alicia’s gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

We were lucky to have another guest along for my flower adventure – Alicia Schwede, a floral designer and owner of the Flirty Fleurs blog, joined Vivian and me for dinner and then returned early the following morning, clippers and urn in hand – for a floral designers’ whirlwind session. We loved creating arrangements and bouquets with Vivian’s flowers.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including a cluster of unripe grapes.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including dahlias, budleia, golden dill, calendula, Shasta daisies, leonitis, gooseneck loosestrife, and a cluster of unripe grapes and grape tendrils.

 

Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Everyday Flowers uses sustainable growing practices and the farm is Salmon Safe certified. No herbicides are used on the farm and on the rare instance when insecticides are used, they are OMRI-approved (Organic Materials Review Institute) products, Vivian explains. 

“I have a good beneficial insect population, including bees and ladybugs and I grow cover crops to suppress weeds and add more organic matter back in the soil,” Vivian explains. “I also have ‘Sassy’ my horse who does her share by producing great compost.” 

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 16,000 times. I truly appreciate the guests, listeners and sponsors who have supported the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing! Together, we’re changing the broken floral industry for the better!!

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

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