Arizona-Grown Flowers & Bouquets are Flourishing
November 9th, 2017
Earlier this week I had the immense pleasure of collaborating with three Slow Flowers members to present a 2-part workshop at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.
“Artisanal Flowers” invited gardeners, florists and flower enthusiasts to spend two evenings with Morgan Anderson of TheFlori.Culture, Anne J. of Anne ES Garden Fresh and Shanti Rade of Whipstone Farm.
The four of us reunited after our fantastic meet-up earlier this year when a number of Slow Flowers members visited Shanti and Corey Rade’s farm in Paulden, Arizona. You can read more about that event here and listen to my past Slow Flowers Podcast episodes with Shanti and Morgan.
Our dream for this workshop was to introduce the Slow Flowers, Arizona-grown message to students at the state’s largest public garden.
And early November is actually a good time to talk about local flowers and floral design because (as Anne explained during her portion of the presentation) fall in Arizona is basically a “second spring.”
We started off on Monday evening with a Slow Flowers overview in which I shared the story of our movement as well as my personal experience growing and arranging with flowers and foliage in all four seasons.
Shanti followed with an engaging presentation about Whipstone Farm and her journey from growing food to growing flowers for many outlets. It was exciting to watch the expressions on all nine students’ faces as it slowly dawned on them that there’s a new paradigm for what’s considered “desert florals.” From ranunculus to sweet peas to peonies and dahlias, well, Shanti not only blew people away, she raised their expectations for what is possible here in Arizona.
The following night, we returned ready to design! Morgan took the lead as design coach and instructor, discussing the art principles of floral design and sharing tips on both contemporary and garden-inspired styles. She taught everyone how to cut and use cacti as well as how to correctly wire succulents for arranging.
Anne introduced the botanicals from her farm and from two other local growers – herbs, edible flowers, purple hyacinth bean pods and other lovelies from Emily Heller at Et Tu Frute Garden and seasonal millet and lavish scarlet hibiscus pods from Anne Kerr at Black Kerr Farm.
Someone provided vibrant zinnias and no one was shortchanged on their design elements. Because Shanti had to leave for Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ board meeting duties back east, I jumped in and introduced her crazy-beautiful palette of vintage-looking mums, as well as a generous array of lisianthus, scented geranium foliage and more!
Designing was a blast, aided by the chance to use American-made glass vases supplied by Syndicate Sales – and the gold and rose-gold cylinders struck a perfect seasonal note for the tawny floral palette. You can see more of the students’ and instructors arrangements here:
Karen LeDonne’s yummy design.
Fran Janis was drawn to the deeper botanical hues in this wild bouquet
We ended the evening with a delightful and visually delicious presentation from Anne – introducing her 2-acre organic farm near Scottsdale where flowers, herbs and orchard fruit abound. It was enough to send everyone home yearning to grow more of their own floral ingredients and to patronize the emerging cut floral scene from the greater Phoenix area to Paulden up north and beyond.
I am leaving Phoenix today, but I ended this trip on a high note yesterday. Anne invited me to an impromptu lunch where I met several of those active in growing flowers organically here in the area. Our good friend Debby Mittelman of MiViva Designs, a Slow Flowers member florist, joined Anne and me and we met four other flower growers as well as an Extension Agent.
Together we imagined and dreamed about the potential for programming and education. Bringing flowers back to Arizona is a goal. In the past, there was a vibrant Japanese American community that grew cut flowers on Baseline, just outside of Phoenix (you can read an article about one of those farms here). And we saw a glimmer this week that despite competition for land, competition from cheap imports and a basic urban disconnect from farming, that flowers and the farmers who grow them are having a renaissance. And I couldn’t be happier. Can’t wait to return!