Debra Prinzing

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Slow Flowers Creative Workshop with Bonny Doon Garden Co.

August 26th, 2016

FINAL_with_Bonny_Doon_00539_DP_CreativeWorkshop-01 (2) This past weekend provided a hugely rewarding experience for my friend Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. and me. We teamed up to teach the first-ever Slow Flowers Creative Workshop at Castle House & Garden, her private, “secret garden” setting in Santa Cruz.

The idea behind our curriculum was twofold:

I wanted to share “Floral Storytelling” techniques and Teresa wanted to share her approach to “Garden-Inspired Design.”

My arrangement, in Syndicate Sales' black cherry bowl. The palette inspired me to pick dahlias, grevillea blooms, zinnias and alstroemeria in the same color family.

My arrangement, in Syndicate Sales’ black cherry pedestal bowl. The palette inspired me to pick dahlias, grevillea blooms, zinnias and alstroemeria in the same color family.

Floral Storytelling and Garden-Inspired Floral Design concepts are central to the idea of creating a personal brand for flower farmers, floral designers and farmer-florists who support Slow Flowers, local sourcing and sustainable design practices — and who wish to differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

Teresa (center) with several of our students. The group is standing under the massive redwood trees in Teresa's garden, a perfect source of inspiration.

Teresa (center) with several of our students. The group is standing under the massive redwood trees in Teresa’s garden, a perfect source of inspiration. From left: Dyana Zweng, Terri Schuett, Teresa, Daniele Allion Strawn, Laura Vollset and Liz Marcellus. Missing: Michelle Bull, Kellee Matsushita and Dawn Mayer.

We divided the workshop into two sections: storytelling and floral design.

Our first exercise: Describe what comes to mind about the color, seasonality, fragrance, shape, form, habit or texture of single stems of botanicals.

Our first exercise: Describe what comes to mind about the color, seasonality, fragrance, shape, form, habit or texture of single stems of botanicals.

Later storytelling exercises moved us out to Teresa's garden

Later storytelling exercises moved us out to Teresa’s garden, where Dyana and Liz spent time in thoughtful contemplation and writing.

I began Day One by asking our participants to choose from a dozen botanical elements in bud vases placed down the center of a table. Each was asked to describe the flower or foliage they saw. We moved on from there to talk about color descriptors, the use of metaphors and similes, and the idea of “floral memoir” — capturing the narrative of one’s early encounter with flowers, gardens and nature.

For the remainder of the day, each of our participants engaged with words — nouns, adjectives and verbs — to best portray her personal philosophy. We did some beautiful writing to bring to life the spirit and character of flowers. Daniele Allion Strawn of JoLee Blooms and Design documented many of these examples on her Facebook page and they’re lovely. Here’s just one example of how she responded to a garden hydrangea:

FB_screen_shot_Daniele_Strawn

On Day Two, my collaborator and co-teacher Teresa led the participants through creative exercises to truly understand garden-inspired design for their aesthetic.

Our students first followed Teresa through her cutting garden to understand how she selects flowers, foliages and vines.

Our students first followed Teresa through her cutting garden to learn how she selects flowers, foliages and vines.

Teresa's bouquet

Teresa’s bouquet evokes drifts, masses, and focal flowers as you may seen in a well-designed garden.

Liz's arrangement puts a personal spin on the lessons of the day.

Liz’s arrangement puts a personal spin on the lessons of the day.

Teresa’s design demonstration incorporated color theory and design concepts, and began with this statement:

“The benchmark of garden-inspired floral design is to imagine a well-designed garden.”

IMG_1476 Thanks to the donations from several of our industry friends, the workshop participants enjoyed plenty of materials to use in their designs.

They include special Floral Soil bricks custom-made by Mickey Blake to Teresa’s specifications (not yet available on the marketplace, sorry!)

Black-cherry bowls donated by Syndicate Sales (yes, USA-made!)

Local roses and ranunculus donated by Paul Furman of California Pajarosa in Watsonville

A wide array of field-grown annuals donated by Tony Ortiz of Joseph N Sons in Santa Paula . . .

Plus, an endless supply of flowers, foliages, succulents and vines from Teresa’s own garden.

Each of our participants took home a gift tote that included one dozen tulip bulbs donated by Longfield Gardens, a supporter of Slow Flowers. We’re hoping everyone can get those bulbs planted this fall for enjoyment next spring!

Daniele, spotted in the cutting garden as she searched for just the right botanical element to express her design style.

Daniele, spotted in the cutting garden as she searched for just the right botanical element to express her design style.

Kellee, clipping stems from an enormous bay tree

Kellee, clipping stems from an enormous bay tree

Teresa told the class:

Take a walk in the garden. If you cannot do so literally, then imagine a walk in a beautiful garden. Look at details such as leaves. Study their textures, shapes, and the way light plays on them. Are they erect or do they flop? Look at hedges and beneath the green at the structure of the plant. Flowers, flowers and flowers! It’s endless! 

Seeing the uniqueness and diversity of the final arrangements was a testament to another of Teresa’s statements: that we each need to go deeper, beyond the garden and nature, to find our own style and brand.

Personal expression was at its best during the design portion of Day Two. Here are some of the arrangements (and their designers):

Terri Schuett, Happy Vine, based in northern Arizona, came all the way to Santa Cruz to play with flowers!

Terri Schuett, Happy Vine, based in northern Arizona, came all the way to Santa Cruz to play with flowers!

Laura Vollset with her beautiful arrangement in oranges, whites and greens.

Laura Vollset with her beautiful arrangement in oranges, whites and greens.

Liz Marcellus of Flowers by Liz (based in Sayville, NY), with one of the two arrangements she created. Gorgeous!

Liz Marcellus of Flowers by Liz (based in Sayville, NY), with one of the two arrangements she created. Gorgeous!

Dyana Zweng of A Bit of Earth, designed a blue-teal-silver-white expression of her style.

Dyana Zweng of A Bit of Earth, designed a blue-teal-silver-white expression of her style.

Daniele with her lovely bouquet.

Daniele with her lovely, citrus-hued bouquet.

Kellee with her selection of melon and sunset florals.

Kellee with her selection of melon and sunset florals.

Dawn Mayer, Bonny Doon Garden Co.'s shop manager, brought her artistry to the workshop with this totally feminine arrangement.

Dawn Mayer, Bonny Doon Garden Co.’s shop manager, brought her artistry to the workshop with this totally feminine arrangement.

And by the way, our workshop was particularly enjoyable because Teresa and her super-talented husband Nezih Sabankaya created a studio space that accommodated the group when seated or when working at design tables. Oh, and did I mention that when the windows and doors were thrown open, we looked out at the incredible landscape that these two have developed over more than two decades?

Our menu was delicious, thanks to Dawn’s talented guy, Rich Huber. He catered our lunches and our wine/cheese reception on Monday evening. I’m now convinced that each future Slow Flowers Creative Workshop needs its own in-house chef. Rich, you have spoiled us!

Interested in future workshops? Check out these upcoming options:

September 26-27, 2016: Teresa Sabankaya will host Francoise Weeks for a 2-day Woodland Workshop with Botanical Couture at Castle House & Garden in Santa Cruz. Details here. 

October 17-18, 2016: The Slow Flowers Creative Workshop at Russian River Flower School in Healdsburg, CA. I’ll be teaching “floral storytelling” and partnering with Dundee Butcher to use local flowers in our expanded design process that includes each student creating a video short for her or his own use. Details here.

I leave you with this enticing scene, as viewed from Teresa's design studio at Castle House & Garden.

I leave you with this enticing scene, as viewed from Teresa’s design studio at Castle House & Garden.

One Response to “Slow Flowers Creative Workshop with Bonny Doon Garden Co.”

  1. Daniele Strawn Says:

    Thank you, Debra – for the wonderful two days and for this beautiful retelling of our time together! I look forward to rereading this post whenever I need to remember those special and meaningful moments we all shared together in Teresa’s extraordinary garden. With gratitude, Daniele

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