Debra Prinzing

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Archive for December, 2014

2015 Floral Insights and Industry Forecast (Episode 174)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
What a joy it has been to live a bloom-filled year of flowers. These images are from a floral design photo shoot for a Seattle design blog this past May.

What a joy it has been to live a bloom-filled year of flowers. These images are from a photo shoot for a Seattle design blog this past May.

Welcome to the final Slow Flowers Podcast of 2014.

Every single week this year; in fact, every single week for the past 18 months, I’ve had the immense privilege of hosting a dynamic and inspiring dialogue with a leading voice in the American floral industry.

The segment I recorded one year ago, for the January 1st episode, asked: Will 2014 be the year we save our flowers?

In reflecting on that and other questions I posed, I have to say that over the past 12 months we’ve witnessed some amazing and encouraging strides in the Slow Flowers Movement.

Here are a few highlights:

I was one of five persons who participated in the press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. From left: Debra Prinzing, Diane Szukovathy, Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Duncan Hunter; Lane DeVries is partially seen behind CCFC's Kasey Cronquist (standing).

I was one of five persons who participated in the press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. From left: Debra Prinzing, Diane Szukovathy, Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Duncan Hunter; Lane DeVries is partially seen behind CCFC’s Kasey Cronquist (standing).

  1. The formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

    Co-chaired by a bipartisan leadership team of Representatives Lois Capps and Duncan Hunter, this new endeavor is both strategic and symbolic as it engages policymakers in a tangible program to promote cut flower farming in their own districts and states. I was privileged to speak alongside Capps and Hunter, as well as with two American flower farmers Lane DeVries and Diane Szukovathy, at the February 2014 press conference announcing the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus on Capitol Hill. That remarkable experience is a milestone for all of us, one we’ll reflect on as this movement gains further momentum in the hearts of American consumers around the country – as they make conscious choices at the cash register, at the farmers’ market, at the florist and from online e-commerce sellers who identify domestic and local flower sources.

    (c) Washington Post image of California irises and Florida tropical foliage.

    (c) Washington Post image of California irises and Florida tropical foliage.

  1. Also in February, the White House used American flowers and foliage to decorate a State Dinner hosting French president Francois Hollande.

    Beautiful domestic flowers from across the country – grown in California, Florida and other states, adorned the event and even prompted a feature article in the New York Times. As I wrote at the time: I predict this is beginning of a White House commitment to give as much attention to the origins of its flowers as it does the origins of the food and wine it serves to guests. There’s much more ground to gain when it comes to White House flower procurement. Yet, I believe that State Dinner was just the beginning of many more occurrences where American flowers at the White House represents so much more than simple decoration choices. It will represent American jobs, the American farm, the Environment, Economic Development and a Sustainable Floral Industry here at Home. SlowFlowers_Badge_640x480

  1. In May, after nearly a year of planning and development, I launched Slowflowers.com.

    Slowflowers.com is the directory I’d been dreaming of creating for several years. We launched with fewer than 250 listings and now, by year-end, there are 435 businesses — flower farms, floral shops, studios and designers who grow and create American grown floral beauty, coast to coast.
    We’ve had more than 52,000 page views and more than 11.5 thousand unique visits to the site. In 2015, with your help, I hope to expand this online directory to include one thousand members – companies that grow, design with and sell American flowers. I can’t take any credit for the success of Slowflowers.com without thanking the 229 contributors who helped me raise $18,450 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. All of those funds have been used to build, develop and promote this site. I’m humbled and awed at the groundswell of support from individuals and small businesses alike. Slowflowers.com has so much potential as THE single resource to connect consumers with American grown flowers. And I look forward to making Slowflowers.com even better in the coming year.

  2. Print Certified American Grown Flowers

    Motivated to promote domestic flowers and foliage in a new and strategic way, the American Grown Flowers & Foliage Task Force developed and launched a single domestic floral brand in 2014.
    The ad-hoc group included flower farms large and small, established and emerging. A cross-section of support came from many groups, including the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, where my own energies are directed.
    The seed funds created an initial promotion budget, a brand name, “Certified American Grown Flowers,” a tagline, “take pride in your flowers,” and a contemporary logo that evokes Americana and agriculture, as well as fashion and style.
    Third-party certification ensures origin – that Flowers and foliage are grown in the U.S. by American farmers; as well as assembly — that all ingredients in mixed bouquets are 100% grown and assembled in the U.S. Thirty-three farms are already certified and in the coming year, this brand’s visibility will expand and increase as more flower farms seek certification to signify the domestic origin of their flowers.

    In 2015, we’ll see this branding appear on the sleeves of mixed bouquets and consumer bunches, as well as on point-of-purchase signage at supermarkets around the U.S. The brand answers the inevitable questions: Where were these flowers grown? And it gives supermarket shoppers transparent and truthful labeling about their purchases.

    Best of West

  1. Best in the West

    Slowflowers.com has received great attention in the media, thanks to the compelling story of American grown flowers. Dozens of articles, interviews and broadcasts have shared the web site as a free consumer resource – and one special highlight for me was being named a “Best in the West” resource by Sunset magazine for “best way to buy flowers.” Web

Debra Prinzing’s 2015 Floral Insights and Industry Forecast

10 must-watch ideas that are taking hold in the American floral world.

As we track the momentum and direction of American Grown Flowers, I know some of you have already experienced these developments. In fact, my conversations with guests of this podcast have influenced this list.

I look forward to your reaction and thoughts, as well as input on items I’ve overlooked or missed! I invite you to share yours in the comment below:

Earth- and florist-friendly, the advent of Floral Soil is revolutionizing the conventional floral industry.

Earth- and florist-friendly, the advent of Floral Soil is revolutionizing the conventional floral industry.

  1. Eco/Non-toxic floral design

For several years, eco-conscious designers have openly rejected floral foam while adopting other techniques and mechanics for arranging flower stems (chicken wire, vintage frogs, twig matrixes, and tape grids are some of those methods).

Nothing had emerged to fulfill the role of formaldehyde-based flower foam. That’s until now. Mickey Blake, a “green chemistry” entrepreneur, has developed a plant-based, 100% compostable alternative to toxic foam called Floral Soil. She has applied for numerous patents for the product and is scaling up for production and national distribution in first quarter 2015.

Floral Soil replaces a chemical-based product that has been on the market since 1954. With so many concerns about our personal health, and the health of our planet, Floral Soil has created a huge buzz among florists and floral retailers. If you want to learn more, follow this link to my September episode featuring a conversation with Mickey Blake, the first media interview she granted.

Giving the floral industry more green choices will continue to move from the fringes to the mainstream. There are other notable introductions you may wish to check out, including Eco-Fresh Bouquet, a new hydration sponge wrap designed by former florist Debbie DeMarse. The product is geared to the retail-online-grocery marketplace and utilizes a plant-based composition as a way to keep stems fresh during transport or shipping.

Wrapped around the cut stems of a bunch or bouquet of flowers and moistened in water, the product hydrates stems for up to 12 days. I’ll be trialing this product in the coming weeks. Visit Eco-Fresh’s website, where there are reviews from florists who have used the product and information on request a product sample to trial yourself.

Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt

Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt

  1. Couture/Custom Growing

Small-scale flower farmers are offering their floral clients (florists and wedding parties) the opportunity to pre-order seasonal crops that will be harvested and used for their wedding. The service is called “Custom Growing.”

This couture, artisanal approach to floral design involves and engages couples who want to specify the exact flower, fragrance and color palette for their nuptials. It also elevates the flower to a starring role in the ceremony, one that’s as significant as other design choices (clothing, venue or menu). I was introduced to this idea by Elizabeth Bryant of Rose Hill Flower Farm and Kailla Platt, owner of Kailla Platt Flowers, both of Portland, as we discussed their custom grow-design wedding program in a Podcast interview this past August. If you missed it earlier, here’s a link to that interview here.

American Grown Floral Visionary, Ellen Frost.

American Grown Floral Visionary, Ellen Frost.

  1. Micro-lending/Flower Futures

Demand for specific flower varieties often outpaces supply, especially when it comes to highly-desired colors and cultivars. Forward-looking floral designers are investing in “floral futures” that is, crops they know their clients want, by pre-buying bulbs, seeds and seedling stock from the source: the farms who supply them. Farmers may not have the financial resources or ability to take the risk to invest in planting acres of flowers ‘on spec’, but they are often eager to expand capacity.

Enter the florist who wants to pre-order (and offer important guarantees), which offers an unique partnership that is paying off for everyone. Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore is a leader in micro-lending, and I anticipate that other florists will join her efforts to ensure a more beautiful, local, fresh and abundant supply of the flowers they desire. If you missed the conversation, here’s a link to my October interview with Ellen.

Floral CSAs at Boston's Floral Couture in Louisville.

Floral CSAs at Boston’s Floral Couture in Louisville.

  1. Floral CSAs

I know that CSAs in the food world are well established, but when it comes to floral CSAs, I have been overwhelmed by the volume of Slow Flowers members who are now offering such programs — and I expect this marketing method to grow in 2015.

Just like Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs for food, Floral CSAs are based on seasonal and locally-harvested farm-fresh flowers. When you become a member of a flower CSA, you are buying a “share” of the flowers that a local farm produces each season. By paying for that share before the growing season gets underway, we support small flower farms as they plan, invest and plant. With your help, they are able to purchase new seed varieties, restock supplies, and make repairs to equipment and infrastructure. Community and customers are connected to their local flower farms — and reap the bounty of that botanical harvest, by the week, month or season. Instead of flavorful food, these CSAs deliver fragrant, intricate and beautiful flowers – a reflection of place and time on a local farm. The programs ensure a regular stream of local flowers for the home and give customers the satisfaction of supporting local agriculture and family farms.

Wildflower-inspired bridesmaid bouquets, grown and designed by Robin Hollow Farm.

Wildflower-inspired bridesmaid bouquets, grown and designed by Robin Hollow Farm.

  1. Cultivated Wildflowers

Wildflowers are a carefree, ephemeral expression of America’s connection to the land – from meadow and stream bank to forest and trail. But thanks to increased understanding of saving wild places and preserving public lands, there’s a newfound awareness that picking wildflowers is not smart (and in many places it’s illegal).
There are many sources for collected wildflower seeds; this allows flower farmers to safely and legally grow enduring favorites like black-eyed Susan and lupines. The look is quintessentially American. The just-gathered style carries over to floral crowns, garlands, bouquets and centerpieces.
This past fall, Slowflowers.com collaborated with Brooke Showell, a writer for Four Seasons Magazine, in a story called “Wedding Wildflowers,” highlighting the choice of Naturalistic flowers that appear freshly picked from a garden, meadow or farm.
The good news is that most domestic field-grown flowers fit this free-spirited, uncontrived aesthetic – and I know we’ll continue to see talented designers express the look in their arrangements.

A brighter floral palette is super romantic and feminine. Design: Buckeye Blooms

A brighter floral palette is super romantic and feminine. Design: Buckeye Blooms

  1. Bright pastels, Saturated Jewel Tones

For the past few years, pale palettes have populated wedding bouquets and driven demand for subtly-colored flowers like blush-toned ‘Café au Lait’ dahlias. Next seasons, color palettes promise to be richer and more vivid, reflecting a deeper saturation of petal color. Watermelon pink, orchid purple, cerise red – these sun-drenched hues are wooing brides who want a more vibrant flowers to hold and wear. There’s a gradual departure from an all-neutral bridal bouquet. Blush hasn’t left completely, but she’s sharing the stage with brighter hues.

Beautiful, wistful clematis. Flowers and design by Kaye Heafey, Chalk Hill Clematis

Beautiful, wistful clematis. Flowers and design by Kaye Heafey, Chalk Hill Clematis

  1. Vines, vines, vines

Demand for trailing tendrils outpaces the available stock that farmers are able to produce, signaling a market opportunity for innovative growers and designers.  All types of vines are considered “premium” floral ingredients, producing a far better-than-average return on investment for farms that grow vines and florists who integrate vines into their designs.

The unstructured silhouette and whimsical shoots and tendrils portrayed by  vines lend distinctive character to floral arrangements, headpieces and bouquets. Florists who have trouble sourcing clematis, jasmine, passion vine and other varieties are turning to horticulture (or friends’ gardens) to find the vines they want.

I recently asked Slow Flowers members to weigh in on some of these stylistic shifts in bridal preferences. With so much influence from wedding blogs and magazines, from instagram and pinterest, it’s no wonder that brides are curate their own look and feel from many sources.

Susan Studer King of Buckeye Blooms in Elida, Ohio, shared her perspective, which actually addresses the three points I just made, this way:

“We are consistently finding that brides covet the lush, loose look of natural garden flowers with interesting textural elements and slightly cascading finishing accents such as tendrils of clematis or sweet pea vine. We are also seeing a steady shift in interest away from blush tones and more toward more vivid, vibrant shades and jewel tones.”

Suppliers like Jamali Garden are introducing a wide array of hammered metal, brass, bronze and copper vessels.

Suppliers like Jamali Garden are introducing a wide array of hammered metal, brass, bronze and copper vessels.

  1. Good-bye, Mason Jar

Like many, I’m pleased with Ball’s recent reissue of its aqua blue and bottle green canning jars for the contemporary marketplace, but this American classic glass jar seems to have hit its saturation point.

Designers are seeking out the next easy and affordable vase for wedding reception centerpieces on a dime.

The solution, it seems, is at the thrift store, where inexpensive brass vessels are readily available. Mellower than tarnished silver, brass is versatile and suits both old-world and contemporary designs. A close relative to brass is old copper, which develops its own alluring patina with time.

Now, floral suppliers have releasing full lines of tarnished and hammered metal vessels, so it’s possible to avoid that trip to the thrift shop, yet those new introductions are all imported.
So the big search is on for American-made glass vases in contemporary rather than dated shapes. I know of a number of designers pushing for an American made option – and we’ve yet to find stylish choices. Will that come in 2015?

Love the shades, shapes and textures of green foliage in one of my favorite containers.

Love the shades, shapes and textures of green foliage in one of my favorite containers.

  1. Superstar Foliage

You might call this style “50 Shades of Green” and thanks to flower farmers who are planting interesting new foliage, we’ve all decided that a bouquet with generic greenery is yawner. An uncommon palette of distinctive foliage ups the character of a floral arrangement, bouquet or centerpiece. The options are exploding, moving far beyond salal, ferns and bear’s grass. Look for options like raspberry foliage, baptisia, scented geranium and other herbs, smoke bush, ninebark, pittosporum, box, myrtle, magnolia, camellia, and other uncommon types of greenery to upgrade the ordinary bouquet. Hand in hand with awesome foliage is where we source it – from the landscape, orchard or forest is so much more beautiful than the prosaic selection the industry has typically offered florists. It takes ingenuity, perhaps, to develop sources of unconventional leaves, but increasingly, that ingenuity means success for the designer who wants to differentiate him or herself from the everyday marketplace.

Man bouquet, designed by Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture.

Man bouquet, designed by Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture.

Guys in Baltimore, modeling their floral facial hair for Local Color Flowers' Baltimore Beards Project

Guys in Baltimore, modeling their floral facial hair for Local Color Flowers’ Baltimore Beards Project

10. Man-bouquets and floral beards

Real Men Love Flowers. Other than donning a boutonniere on their suit lapel, the masculine floral consumer has been ignored for too long. Cutting-edge guys want flowers, too – and innovative designers are responding. Riz Reyes, a Seattle-based horticulturist and floral designer, has created the “man bouquet,” a cluster of woodland blooms attached to a hand-carried grapevine wreath. Certainly, it’s for the more adventuresome groom, but as Riz asks, “why not?”

Irene Donnelly, a staff designer at Local Color Flowers in Baltimore has taken the idea of “personal wedding flowers” to a new level by weaving, pinning or gluing the green stems of tiny botanicals into the facial hair of hipster male customers. Designed floral beards are made from sedums, succulents, poppies, ranunculus, tiny pods. A few guys have even worn floral eyebrows and mustaches.

So Happy to Share My Year in Flowers With YOU!

So Happy to Share My Year in Flowers With YOU!

So that’s my take on the pulse of America’s floral industry.

I hate to use the term “trend,” when what we’re really talking about is a cultural shift.

The question for you is this: are you part of the shift? Are you helping to propel the Slow Flowers Movement forward through your own actions, through the way you communicate to your customers and the marketplace?

The goal of the Slow Flowers Podcast is to put more American flowers on every table, one vase at a time. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 28,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

I wish each and every one of you a happy new year, one that’s filled with prosperity and peace as we join together to change the broken U.S. floral industry. I believe that we’ve already changed things for the better – and that momentum will continue in 2015.

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

Music credits:
Tryad – Our Lives Change
Tryad – Lovely
Tryad – Star Guide
http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Marcus Eads – Johnson Slough
Marcus Eads – Praire’s Edge
http://marcus-eads.bandcamp.com/album/sherburne-county-instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

‘Tis the Season for SLOW FLOWERS

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Seattle, Washington!

I was gifted a flat of paperwhites in bloom this week – one lonely bulb per pot – crying out for some equally lovely companions in a holiday arrangement. So yesterday, I clipped from here and there in the garden and created this trio of vases to adorn our Christmas dining table tonight.

Three vases filled with festive and LOCAL vines, leaves, branches, blooms, buds and JOY!

Three vases filled with festive and LOCAL vines, leaves, branches, blooms, buds and JOY!

The paper whites started it all - and I sought pretty plants with winter interest to accompany them.

The paper whites started it all – and I sought pretty plants with winter interest to accompany them.

In addition to the paperwhites, here’s what the vases contain:

  • Pieris japonica (Lily-of-the-valley shrub)
  • Camellia in bud
  • Bay tree stems
  • Daphne odora in bud
  • Dusty Miller
  • Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
  • Variegated Ivy
  • Evergreen fern fronds
  • Narcissus (Paperwhites)

 

As I prowled through my mostly dormant landscape, each one of these plants reminded me how much I have to value in the winter garden. If you plant for four seasons, with intentionality, those woody ornamental shrubs really deliver! I found myself thinking: “Make more room for Pieris!” as I only have three and they’re relatively young shrubs. But those chains of blooms, deep pink and delicate, are simply sublime dangling out of the vases.

Close up, the tangle of stems reflects a perfect moment in time - in my garden and in the season.

Close up, the tangle of stems reflects a perfect moment in time – in my garden and in the season.

The Daphne – only planted two years ago next to the backyard patio where I will smell its fragrance in winter – well, I gingerly snipped three stems, each with a bud – and each from a lower/back part of the shrub. I still want to enjoy Daphne outdoors, as well as indoors!

I gaze at the Viburnum ‘Dawn’ every day – it’s just outside my office window and such a welcome a note of color – intense pink! – in December and January. Even the Dusty Miller, marginally winter hardy here in Seattle, had hung on long enough to give me a silvery cluster of soft leaves for each vase.

I’m launching a new project next week, appropriately called “The Slow Flowers Challenge” – and so making this holiday trio of arrangements has been my warm-up exercise.

If you’re ready to join me, start collecting your vases, eyeing botanicals in your landscape or neighborhood, and dreaming about a year of flowers in your life.

Happy Day, dear friends.

merrychristmas2014

A lovely conversation with NYC floral artist Emily Thompson (Episode 173)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
Emily Thompson (c) Photo by Maria Robledo

Emily Thompson (c) Photo by Maria Robledo

Emily Thompson is an iconoclast, an anything-but-predictable designer and artist – and owner of the NYC studio and shop that bears her name, Emily Thompson Flowers.

Three years ago at this time, the flower world was celebrating the fact that Emily and her team helped Michelle Obama achieve her dream of bringing the outdoors inside the White House at Christmas.

This year, Emily is settled into her charming new emporium in lower Manhattan, a huge space compared to her former flower-closet in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.

I arrived to meet her early one October morning, a totally spontaneous visit prompted by the designer’s invitation when I took her class the evening before at Flower School New York.

As I wrote on my blog at the time, it was so gratifying to be introduced to Emily at her workshop and realize she’d been wanting to meet me, too.

An Emily Thompson botanical creation, displayed in a one-of-a-kind vase by artist Mark Gagnon (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

An Emily Thompson botanical creation, displayed in a one-of-a-kind urn by artist Mark Gagnon (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

That two-hour workshop was thoroughly inspiring. Every single word that Emily uttered was like listening to a Master instructor in a MFA program. I jotted down these lovely Emilyisms:

“I want to make things that are impractical. That are surprising to me.”

“The proportions I design with are more akin to the natural garden or landscape. I’m looking for powerful contrast, for things that resist one another. That draw the eye in and push it away.”

“I love to work with seasonal flowers, with things of our landscape. And then I’ll add bits of the exotic.”

“So much of design is done in selection of materials. I want a flower arrangement to feel like you’ve dug through the wilderness to find a treasure.”

Emily, designing with wild  and cultivated materials (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily, designing with wild and cultivated materials (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

I love how the annual vines are climbing up the facade of this historic storefront (c) Debra Prinzing photo

I love how the annual vines are climbing up the facade of this historic storefront (c) Debra Prinzing photo

As I mentioned, Emily invited me to visit her brand new shop on Beekman Street, so the following morning we squeezed in a shared cup of tea/coffee and a tour of the new digs. I asked permission to turn on the recorder (natch) and Emily agreed.

Here’s a bit more about Emily:

Raised in Vermont, in a place she calls “the Northeast Kingdom – a place of uncompromising beauty,” Emily was deeply influenced by that sense of place, of the natural wildness of her childhood.

She was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy for the Arts, the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA, where she earned her Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture.

A floral arrangement in a beautiful Frances Palmer ceramic vase (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

A seasonal spring arrangement in a beautiful Frances Palmer ceramic vase (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily is fascinated with the decorative arts and their history as she continues to collaborate with the rough hand of nature. Her flowers and banquet decor balance the uncultivated organic world with the delicacy of classical ornamental design. These pieces burst with unconventional materials like wild smilax, peaches and real butterflies, and always maintain sculptural grace. And most importantly, they are built in harmony with the space where they are displayed – as if they grew there.

One of Emily Thompson's nature-inspired assemblages (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

One of Emily Thompson’s nature-inspired assemblages, paired with a Frances Palmer vessel (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily likes to cite William Gilpin, 18th century theorist of the picturesque, who directed builders of follies and artificial ruins, “to do so as if these ruins were not designed but naturally chosen.” What’s more, writes Gilpin, “they must be in magnificent style.” Emily’s work, like her ideal faux ruin, evokes nature in magnificent style.

Simply sublime (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Simply sublime (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily Thompson Flowers provides custom designs for special events and for all occasions. Using the freshest seasonal flowers, fruit, and foliage as well as unconventional and wild materials, each project or arrangement is individually conceived to suit the architecture and palette of its setting or to transform a room entirely.

At Emily Thompson Flowers in the Historic Seaport district of Manhattan, you can find flower arrangements and bouquets, artist-designed decorative objects, and all kinds of wildly beautiful things. The new shop is on a sunny corner in a building erected in 1865 by George B. Post (architect of the Stock Exchange), which is adorned with cast iron starfish and terra cotta sea monsters.

Old World-meets-Emily Thompson (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Old World-meets-Emily Thompson (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

If you’re lucky enough to live in the New York area, you can order arrangements for delivery, but if you’re not a resident, visit Emily Thompson’s web shop to peruse the art, objects, tools and gifts that can be ordered online.

Emily Thompson designs powerful and poetic florals. She loves the peculiar, the quirky and the wondrous. To me, she gives us permission to redefine beauty in our own personal way, to ignore dictates that the vast floral industrial complex tries to force on us. On her blog, when Emily wrote in early 2014 about moving from a tiny Brooklyn studio to a full-fledged Manhattan flower shop, she wrote “We promise to do everything in our power to bring alchemy to all who need it on this island.”

(c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

More of Emily’s botanical alchemy (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

There is one more episode left for 2014 – and that’s my very special episode that will air on December 31st. I plan on sharing my insights for the New Floral Year, so plan to join me!

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.  Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 28,000 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.

 

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

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

LAT20141220.61-page-001

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

Wednesday, 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

Friday, 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)

Tuesday, 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

Sunday, 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)

Wednesday, 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.

Digging Deep for Flower Lovers: A cyber book party, complete with gardening giveaways

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Let's Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in "Digging Deep."

Let’s Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in “Digging Deep.”

I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.

For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.

Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.

And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.

Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.

I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).

In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!

Here’s a little more about this book:

Observe a peony - this flower is one of Fran's first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

Observe a peony – this flower is one of Fran’s first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.

From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.

The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former  Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).

p. 35-37

“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.

smclippersIMG_3807 When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage –

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”

“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.

This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.

When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”

Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub - and inhaling the fragrance.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub – and inhaling the fragrance.

In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:

. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.

    I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.

    I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.

. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.

       So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.

Here are some more goodies that might make your day.

Thanks to the support of others fans of  Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.

In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:

1. Dee Nash – www.reddirtramblings.com

2. Helen Yoest- www.gardeningwithconfidence.com

3. Jenny Peterson- www.jpetersongardendesign.com

4. Rebecca Sweet- www.harmonyinthegarden.com

5. Brenda Haas- www.bggarden.com

6. Fran Sorin- www.gardeninggonewild.com

The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:

1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.

2. By making a comment here on debraprinzing.com, you will be entered into each of two drawings:

Blog_Seed_Giveaway_000_4239.jpg_-_Baker_Creek_Seeds-_Cyber_Giveaway-_19_hand_picked_selections_of_veggies_and_flowers 10818534_10205168719757714_1314615647_n.jpg-_Authentic_Haven_Brand_Soil_Conditioner

Prize #1Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner  that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.

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Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- www.natureinnovations.com — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.

Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable.  All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers  (retail $149).

Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.