Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Book reviews’ Category

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.

 

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.

FullSizeRender[1].jpg_-_Nature_Innovations_Photo_of_Container

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.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Studio Choo’s Jill Rizzo and Alethea Harampolis on The Wreath Recipe Book (Episode 166)

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Jill Rizzo (left) and Alethea Harampolis (right).

Jill Rizzo (left) and Alethea Harampolis (right).

I’m so pleased to welcome Slow Flowers Members Jill Rizzo and Alethea Harampolis. Floral designers and founders of SF-based Studio Choo, they have a carefree, nature-inspired design philosophy that touches everything they create.

As a floral design shop, studio and boutique, Studio Choo focuses as much as possible on locally-sourced flowers and plants, styled with a nod to the wild and untamed.

You have a chance to win a free copy of their newest project, The Wreath Recipe Book, courtesy of publisher Artisan. To enter, please post a comment below about YOUR FAVORITE wreath ingredient from nature, the woodland, the garden or flower fields.

You must post a comment in order to enter a drawing to win a free copy of this lovely new book. The drawing will take place at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday, November 8th and I’ll announce the winner on the Nov. 12th episode of The Slow Flowers Podcast.

COVER.The_Wreath_Recipe_Book._HIGH_RES

Alethea and Jill originally met and worked together at an esteemed flower shop in San Francisco. Their shared passion led them to found Studio Choo in 2009.

After many weddings, deliveries and penning their first book, The Flower Recipe Book, Studio Choo expanded into a new studio space in South San Francisco last year. The Flower Recipe Book took them across the nation, teaching design classes in massive markets, quaint shops and beautiful farms. When they returned home, they worked tirelessly to turn their studio into a unique expanse devoted to design classes, an apothecary, a workspace for weddings and events, a well-curated shop and a place to honor the love of flowers that started it all.

Late winter-early spring: A camellia branch with a swag made of 65 little hyacinth blooms.

Late winter-early spring: A camellia branch with a swag made of 65 little hyacinth blooms.

I’ve gotten to know Jill and Alethea over the past few years, reviewing The Flower Recipe Book for Sunset magazine, hosting their book-signing presentation for florists at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, and inviting them to the stage when I produced the floral design workshops at the SF Flower & Garden Show last March. But due to the fact that we live and work in different cities, I simply had not been able to record a Studio Choo interview.

Welcome to the Studio Choo shop.

Welcome to the Studio Choo shop.

Last month, I took a last minute trip to SF and while there, I invited myself to visit the new Studio Choo space. *Thanks Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers for the lift – I’m so glad you got to stop by, too.

Even though it was a Friday and flowers for a few weddings were in production, Jill and Alethea were so sweet to take a half an hour and talk about their latest project — JUST OUT — “The Wreath Recipe Book: Year-Round Wreaths, Swags, and Other Decorations to Make with Seasonal Branches”

A wistful spring wreath uses flowering dogwood branches, sheet moss and earthy mushrooms.

A wistful spring wreath uses flowering dogwood branches, sheet moss and earthy mushrooms.

Using the same recipe-like approach to seasonal branches that they presented with cut flower arrangements in the Flower Recipe Book, this time Jill and Alethea employ the same clear format in explaining how to make wreaths, table settings, napkin rings, package toppers, wall hangings, and other branch-based decorations.

A gorgeous garland with cotoneaster branches, pomegranates, purple sage and strawflowers.

A gorgeous garland with cotoneaster branches, pomegranates, purple sage and strawflowers.

Divided into Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, and based on when the main plant “ingredients” are available. Ingredient lists and step-by-step photographs give readers a starting point for trying these recipes and adapting each to one’s own aesthetic and style.

Here's that amazing Tahoe wreath Alethea just made, using foraged material from her recent vacation.

Here’s that amazing Tahoe wreath Alethea just made, using foraged material from her recent vacation.

I know you’ll enjoy our conversation about Studio Choo, and how Jill and Alethea blend their unique point of view as designers with a dynamic business model that takes them in some very unexpected places. Alethea has just launched her own scent collection called Snake Face and together the two are cooking up workshops and other creative endeavors for the year to come.

Bittersweet wreath with fall chrysanthemums, marigolds and safflowers.

Bittersweet wreath with fall chrysanthemums, marigolds and safflowers.

And here’s some background on this dynamic duo:

Studio Choo BFFs.

Studio Choo BFFs.

Alethea spent her time before Studio Choo as an estate gardener in Seattle where she managed the wet and wild rolling hills of the city’s rich and famous. After working in other boutique flower shops perfecting her art, she returned to her native Bay Area to settle back in.

Jill grew up with her mother, aunt, and uncle all running their own flower shops, so it now seems only natural that she would do the same. After spending her childhood in Rhode Island learning the difference between roses and ranunculus, she graduated with a degree in illustration from Parsons School of Design and moved to San Francisco to try life out west.

Studio Choo started with a sneeze. Jill’s tiny sneeze, to be exact. It was so small Alethea remarked upon this tiny sneeze and thus “Choo” became a shared nickname between the two. They remained friends when Alethea left the Bay Area, and they dreamed of starting a business together one day. Upon Alethea’s return a few years later (early 2009), they finally took the plunge to open their floral studio and the eponymous Studio Choo was born.

Studio Choo's Friday deliveries, ready to go.

Studio Choo’s Friday deliveries, ready to go.

Jill and Alethea encourage their readers and customers alike to bring the outdoors into our homes and celebrate the special qualities of each season.To find inspiration in plants that are in season wherever you to live — I wholeheartedly endorse this philosophy because it’s at the heart of what the Slow Flowers Movement is all about.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast nearly 25,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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.

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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Nature as inspiration for your floral designs with Nancy Ross Hugo (Episode 164)

Saturday, October 18th, 2014
Paperwhite foliage (left) and a fatsia leaf (right) provide a study in contrasts. Design and photo by Nancy Ross Hugo.

Paperwhite foliage (left) and a fatsia leaf (right) provide a study in contrasts. Design and photo by Nancy Ross Hugo.

Before I introduce you to today’s guest, I wanted to reach into the letter bag and share some of the notes that arrived this week.

Emily Watson, a farmer-florist who owns Stems Cut Flowers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a member of Slowflowers.com, writes:

“I have been listening to your podcasts and after every single one I think I should write you a thank you but neither of us has time for that! So here it is one big thank you for all of them. Some weeks I hear pieces of my own story, some weeks inspiration for where I want to go, some weeks I just feel grateful that there are people like you and Kasey Cronquist and the Field to Vase  project making good things happen. At the ASCFG conference that I went to in DC a a few years ago I remember an ice breaker session where you were supposed to tell the people at your table where you though your business would be next year. And at that time I was not even sure that my business was going to be around the following year. I was tired, emotionally, financially, and physically exhausted. After four long growing seasons I started to feel like maybe I should just cut my losses and return to the “normal” workforce. But then I saw things starting to happen on the bigger scale, people bringing awareness to the issues that mattered to me and my business, people connecting the dots for all the small businesses like mine.”

Since then my business has evolved a bit and I am on the verge of another transformation. One that I feel like I will have support for and a community which I can draw on for ideas and information. And you have been a big part of making this happen so thank you very much.”

And here’s one from Tobey Nelson, a floral, wedding & event designer who owns Vases Wild in Langley, Washington, on beautiful Whidbey Island – a wedding destination:

“I have been listening to your podcasts in an OCD fashion lately – love them!  And I really appreciate all the work you are doing for Slow Flowers and (the) American grown (movement). So great. Do you know that just this year we have had three professional flower growers sprout up on Whidbey Island? It makes me happy!”

Thank YOU, Tobey and Emily ~ your encouragement for this endeavor means a lot. It’s easier to promote American grown flowers when I have such talented farmers and florists as my partners!

ST LYNN'S WINDOWSILL ART CVR Anyone listening today knows that flowers can be a huge source of comfort, encouragement, celebration and serenity – depending on the time and place and occasion.

Today’s guest, Nancy Ross Hugo, brings the macro world of nature, landscape, the garden or the flower farm down to the micro world of the windowsill. And in doing so, she offers us a simple ritual, a moment, a meditation on the botanical beauty around us

The author of a new book called “Windowsill Art: Create One-of-a-kind Natural Arrangements to Celebrate the Season,” Nancy writes about gardening, trees, and floral design from her home in Ashland, Virginia and her family’s small farm in Howardsville, Virginia.

Her love of trees has led her to tree habitats all over the world, but her real passion is celebrating the common wildflowers, weeds, trees, and everyday plants that are often overlooked in ordinary backyards.

Naturalist, designer, artist, educator and author Nancy Hugo Ross. Photo (c) Robert Llewellyn

Naturalist, designer, artist, educator and author Nancy Hugo Ross. Photo (c) Robert Llewellyn

Nancy loves reading old natural history books, writing new ones, and exploring the creative process through flower arranging and nature journaling.

Through nature journaling and blogging about the “windowsill arrangements” she creates every day, she says she keeps her creative muscles exercised, her thoughts straight, and her eyes open to all things wild and wonderful.

Nancy has authored five books and hundreds of articles about nature and the outdoors, She is the former garden columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and education manager at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She travels the country speaking on the two topics closest to her heart: observing trees carefully and celebrating the seasons through daily, simple flower arranging.

Rustic boxes filled with an immature sunflower head (left) and stacked marigold blossoms (right). Nancy writes: "Marigolds will last longer than you think out of water."

Rustic boxes filled with an immature sunflower head (left) and stacked marigold blossoms (right). Nancy writes: “Marigolds will last longer than you think out of water.”

I met Nancy through St. Lynn’s Press, our shared publisher. It seems that at the same time I was working on Slow Flowers – a book about creating a local and seasonal floral arrangement every week of the year with only what I cut from my own garden or sourced from local flower farmers, Nancy was working on Windowsill Art, engaging in a similar method of marking the seasons in nature with floral arranging.

Violas in stone cube with "gumball."

Violas in stone cube with “gumball.”

The difference is that of simplicity and spontaneity. Nancy’s practice is so “of the moment” and I greatly admire her artistry and approach. You might think a windowsill would constrain the creativity – but that’s anything but the case.

A beet displayed beside a jug of coleus. "I realized I could turn (the beet) upside down and support it on its leaf stems . . . showcasing the part of the beet I like best - its tapering root."

A beet displayed beside a jug of coleus. “I realized I could turn (the beet) upside down and support it on its leaf stems . . . showcasing the part of the beet I like best – its tapering root.”

In May 2011, Nancy began a blog on which she posted a photo of a small flower arrangement (or just a conglomeration of natural materials) every day. Assembled on the windowsill, these simple displays celebrate the seasons and chronicle Nancy’s love affair with local wildflowers, weeds, and garden flowers as well as her discovery of new and exciting ways to display them. They also demonstrate why practicing this easy art form is so valuable as a form of nature journaling and rewarding as a personal creative practice. You can see more than 800 arrangements at windowsillarranging.blogspot.com.

Sweet William, wild mustard, and Chinese temple bell (Moricandia avensis) flowers.

Sweet William, wild mustard, and Chinese temple bell (Moricandia avensis) flowers — in Nancy’s favorite bud vases.

As Nancy points out, almost everyone does it – puts a little something on the windowsill to watch it ripen, root, or just sit there looking pretty. To this gifted woman, the windowsill can serve as a stage for more intentional arranging – a personal, freewheeling kind of art. A catalyst for creativity.

The compound leaves of nandina emerge copper-colored in spring and are arranged here in a row of test tubes.

The compound leaves of nandina emerge copper-colored in spring and are arranged here in a row of test tubes.

She writes, “for me, windowsill arranging is almost a spiritual practice. Where I am looking for materials to display and placing them . . . I feel more like a poet placing words in a haiku than a floral designer placing stems in a vase. I love the limited space, the double connection to the outdoors (through the window and my materials), and the structure that repeating the same activity over and over provides.”

Gifts from the kitchen and herb garden compose a lovely still-life on Nancy's windowsill.

Gifts from the kitchen and herb garden compose a lovely still-life on Nancy’s windowsill.

As we enter the more dormant period of the year in our gardens and on our farms, I challenge you to pick up Nancy’s approach to observing nature’s gifts and seeing each pod, branch, stem or vine (or fruits and vegetables) as an artistic element. It may be a gift to give yourself this season.

Thanks for joining today’s conversation. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 23,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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.

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

Note: Many of the supplies Nancy uses can be ordered from The Arranger’s Market: vases, clippers, bottle brushes, and other floral design equipment.

All photos in this post copyrighted to Nancy Ross Hugo, used by permission of St. Lynn’s Press.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Kelly Norris on the must-have bearded iris for flower farmers and floral designers (Episode 162)

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
'Jack's Pick' - a miniature tall bearded iris with gorgeous tawny petals.

‘Jack’s Pick’ – a miniature tall bearded iris with gorgeous tawny petals.

It’s not unusual to find a clump of purple-flowering bearded irises in the beds and borders surrounding many older American homes. For decades they’ve been forgotten or dismissed as a “grandmother’s garden flower,” but bearded irises are enjoying a renaissance of sorts.

Kelly Norris, plantsman, writer, horticultural visionary and iris expert.

Kelly Norris, plantsman, writer, horticultural visionary and iris expert.

It’s thanks in part to the activities of today’s guest, Kelly Norris, a 20-something horticultural rock star whose obsession with bearded irises dates back to his 12-yr-old curiosity.

The breeding and hybridizing efforts of Kelly and others has greatly broadened the palette of these unique flowers which bear a set of upright petals (called the ‘standard’) offset by an equal number of downward cascading petals (described as the ‘fall’).

According to Kelly, late summer to early fall is the best time to plant bearded iris rhizomes- so that means you have a few more weeks to add some of these beauties to your cutting garden. And if you’ve never before considered growing or designing with bearded iris, I promise that my interview with Kelly will inspire you to do so!

Kelly D. Norris is the award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first horticulture manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre public garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

Want to know more about bearded irises? Check out Kelly's award-winning book.

Want to know more about bearded irises? Check out Kelly’s award-winning book.

He’s popularly known for his book A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts from Timber Press, which won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award. He’s at work on his next project tentatively titled Dig This: Stylish Gardening with Kickass Plants.

As a speaker, Kelly has garnered acclaim for his high-energy, zealous presentations on the national stage, leading many to call him one of the rising stars of American horticulture.

Kelly’s unique 10 years of experience in the industry began at age 15 when he talked his parents into buying a nursery (Rainbow Iris Farm), and in that time he’s become one of the few gurus on marketing horticulture to emerging demographics.

At the Botanical Garden, Kelly directs and manages a team of horticultural professionals in all aspects of design, curation, programming, and garden maintenance and has a principal leadership role in the $12 million renovation and expansion currently underway.  He is also the editorial director for the organization’s award-winning member magazine Bloom, leads several programming initiatives aimed at fulfilling the Garden’s mission of “exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants,” and is the artistic director of the newly minted Spring Garden Festival which had its debut in May 2014.

Kelly Norris

Kelly Norris

Kelly is the youngest person to receive the Iowa State Horticultural Society’s Presidential Citation, Award of Merit and Honor Award in the organization’s 150 year history, awards that exemplify service and contributions to horticulture in Iowa.

In 2011, he was also honored by the Perennial Plant Association with the Young Professional Award, recognizing early contributions to the advancement of herbaceous perennials in American horticulture.

In 2013, he won the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing, the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program.

I caught up with Kelly at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Pittsburgh several weeks ago.

'Red Rock Princess' - another favorite Miniature Tall Bearded Iris.

‘Red Rock Princess’ – another favorite Miniature Tall Bearded Iris.

'Hot News" - love this color bloom!

‘Hot News” – love this color bloom!

Our topic: miniature tall bearded irises. That sounds like an oxymoron, but in the interview we’ll learn why Kelly believes this iris classification is ideal for cut flower farms to grow and floral designers to request.

According to the American Iris Society, the MTB classification, as this type is called, is also known as ‘table iris’ or ‘bouquet iris,’ terms that give you a clue about their suitability for floral design. With bloom stalks measuring 16 inches to 27.5 inches, the flower is far daintier and has a more slender bloom than the more prevalent tall bearded iris flower.

Love this one: 'Apricot Drops'

Love this one: ‘Apricot Drops’

'Rayos Adentro', a sultry MTB iris.

‘Rayos Adentro’, a sultry MTB iris.

Garden writer Ken Druse wrote this of Kelly in an article for Organic Gardening Magazine:

“People tend to say yes to Norris due to his confidence, positive attitude, and infectious enthusiasm . . . he is a modern-day Andy Hardy, rallying friends and admirers to get excited about his latest enterprise . . . .”

'Cedar Waxwing'

‘Cedar Waxwing’

I couldn’t agree more. I hope you’ve been inspired to check out the beautiful options of Miniature tall bearded irises, including some gorgeous ones you can find at Rainbow Iris Farm, the Norris family’s mail order company.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 22,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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.

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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Growing Hardy Annuals with “Cool Flowers” author & flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler (Episode 159)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Lisa Mason Ziegler's new book "Cool Flowers," introduces the concept of planting hardier annuals in the fall - for super-early spring harvest!

Lisa Mason Ziegler’s new book “Cool Flowers,” introduces the concept of planting hardier annuals in the fall – for super-early spring harvest!

I’m so pleased to share today’s conversation with you, recorded in August at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Pittsburgh.

Lisa is a American cut flower farmer, a writer, speaker and garden entrepreneur.

Lisa is a American cut flower farmer, a writer, speaker and garden entrepreneur.

My guest is Lisa Mason Ziegler, owner of The Gardener’s Workshop.

Lisa’s organic flower farm is located in the midst of Newport News, in southeastern Virginia, on a little less than 3 acres. What began as a small cut flower farm in 1998 has grown into a vibrant operation:  The Gardener’s Workshop produces over 10,000 stems a week in season (mid-April to mid-November) and sells to upscale florists, to nearby Colonial Williamsburg, to area supermarkets and direct-to-consumers with a Garden Share program.

Lisa spends her time out of harvest season teaching others about organic gardening and growing cut flowers through lecturing and writing. Her lectures have reached from Texas to New York City—far beyond any dream she ever imagined.  In 2005, Lisa added a shop to her business, offering the tools, supplies and seeds that she uses in her own garden and cut flower farm.

This little book is packed with great tips for the gardener who wishes to have a productive patch for cutting flowers.

This little book is packed with great tips for the gardener who wishes to have a productive patch for cutting flowers.

I first learned of Lisa when I stumbled upon her self-published book, “The Easy Cut-Flower Garden,” a handy 92-page guide to growing a season of fresh-cut flowers from a 3-by-10-foot garden that Lisa wrote and produced in 2011.

I ordered the book and often refer to it, especially when I’m fantasizing about tearing up some of my lawn and add more cutting garden real estate to our yard.

Not too long ago, Lisa’s name popped up again, when my publisher Paul Kelly, owner of St. Lynn’s Press, told me that she was writing a new book for their list.

That’s one reason we were able to connect in Pittsburgh, our publisher’s home base. Lisa’s new book, Cool Flowers,  is all about how to grow and enjoy hardy annuals. In it, she shares her 16-years of growing experiences and the sheer joy of this group of flowers that are often left out of gardens.

Cool Flowers is all about how and when to plant hardy annuals so that spring in the garden will be nothing short of sensational.

A field-to-market bouquet from The Gardener's Workshop.

A field-to-market bouquet from The Gardener’s Workshop.

Once their needs are met, this diverse yet easy group of flowers will change spring in the home garden forever.  The most important thing is to allow them to get established during cool weather. Plant them in the right spot at the right time, nestle their roots deep into rich organic soil, and stand back.  When happy, these hardy annuals need little intervention, other than having someone gaze on their beauty, or perhaps to cut a few for the kitchen table. Some of Lisa’s favorites include snapdragons, Bells of Ireland, sweet peas and sweet William.

Every flower gardener needs this book! Lisa Ziegler’s Cool Flowers brings to flower gardening a brand new point of view that introduced me to all sorts of possibilities for my floral palette – as a gardener and floral designer. Her valuable tips for success with hardy annuals will extend your garden’s blooming season, no matter where you live. If you want to make the most of all seasons in your garden, Cool Flowers is a must-have.

Serious production!! Lisa says her farm produces 10,000 flower stems a week!

Serious production!! Lisa and her crew harvest 10,000 flower stems a week!

Thanks to support from listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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.

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: Media entrepreneur Margot Shaw, creator of flower magazine (Episode 147)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Before we get started with today’s awesome guest, I’ve got a little self-promotion to share. The Slow Flowers “brand” is a lovely bouquet with several unique blooms in the vase.

PodcastLogo There is this podcast, of course, and we’re coming up on our one-year anniversary on July 23rd (we’ll have an exciting announcement from a special guest to celebrate our 52nd episode!).

  Web

And there is the Slowflowers.com online directory, which is growing every day – up to 325 vendors on the site as of this week.

600_600_SLOWFLOWERSFrtCvrrev But it all started with the book: Slow Flowers, four seasons of locally-grown bouquets, from the garden, meadow and farm. St. Lynn’s Press published this little gem in early 2013 and it has been the creative inspiration to launch the Slow Flowers Movement.

14-silver-logo We just got word that Garden Writers Association has awarded Slow Flowers with one of two Silver Medals of Achievement for Overall Book product this year. I couldn’t be happier and I’m so pleased to receive the recognition because it reflects what together our American grown floral community has achieved in changing the dialogue and changing the relationship consumers have with their flowers. Congratulations to the entire St. Lynn’s Press creative team for making my words and images into such a beautiful little book: Paul Kelly (Publisher), Catherine Dees (Editor) and Holly Rosborough (Art Director). They are the dream team! 

TODAY’S GUEST: MARGOT SHAW, flower magazine

Margot Shaw, "flower magazine" founder and editor-in-chief

Margot Shaw, “flower magazine” founder and editor-in-chief  


"To Flower" ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

“To Flower” ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

Now, it is entirely fitting that I introduce you to Margot Shaw of flower magazine, my interview subject today. Margot has coined the phrase “a floral lifestyle,” a term I thoroughly embrace – and I know you will, too.

 

Margot calls herself a “late bloomer” when it comes to the art of floral design. A self-proclaimed “call-and-order-flowers girl,” Margot’s “a ha moment,” her view of flowers, changed when planning her daughter’s at-home wedding.

Working alongside the floral and event designer, she recognized the artistry and inspiration involved in “flowering” and soon began apprenticing with that same designer.

After a few years, enamored with all things floral but unable to locate a publication that spoke to her passion, she set about creating one. 

With a clear vision, a deep appreciation for beauty, a facility with words, a hometown uniquely geared towards publishing, and the advice and counsel of generous industry professionals, Margot launched flower in March of 2007. 

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That's Margot, second from the left.

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That’s Margot, second from the left.

Originally filled with floral, garden, and event design, the niche publication has gradually broadened to include content that trumpets a floral lifestyle—interiors, art, travel, fashion, jewelry, and entertaining.

“It has something for everyone who likes flowers—and who doesn’t like flowers?!” Shaw proclaims.

Since its debut, flower has continued to grow at a steady pace, recently moving from quarterly to bimonthly, and available in all 50 U.S. states and 17 countries.

Here’s some more information on the publication and its influence on our floral community:

Here's what you'll find on the pages of flower magazine ~

Here’s what you’ll find on the pages of flower magazine ~

 

Here's who reads the magazine.

Here’s who reads the magazine.

 

Here's more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Here’s more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Want to check out the current issue of flower magazine? Margot has generously shared the “secret” log-in password with listeners of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast. Click here to read the digital edition and use TUBEROSE as the password. 

Next week’s guests are Heidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt, partners in Field & Florist of Chicago. You won’t want to miss it!

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded 13,700 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.

A Personal Cutting Garden That You Can Eat, Too!

Monday, May 26th, 2014
Root veggies, purple kale and spider mums.

Radishes, rainbow chard, purple kale and spider mums.

GroundbreakingFoodGardens This just in: A New Kind  of Hors d’Oeuvre

When entertaining, Debra recommends impressing your guests by gathering edible flowers and food from her garden plan to craft a simple, but unique amuse-bouche. The guests can snack on the centerpiece before the main meal is served – but only if your garden is organic!

I owe an (edible) bouquet of thanks to fellow garden writer Niki Jabbour for including my “Edible Cutting Garden” plan in her new book Groundbreaking Food Gardens (Storey Publishing, 2014). Along with planting plans and designs contributed by 72 others, this is an inspiring reference book that will change the way home gardeners thank about growing food. 

Here’s a sneak peek of the pages featuring my project, and some ideas for how to incorporate edibles into your floral designs.

Prinzing_FINAL (1)-page-001

Debra Prinzing’s Edible Cutting Garden — a half-circle design based on an ornamental garden I created in Seattle, circa 1998-2006. 

 

Prinzing_FINAL (1)-page-002

Each section features different edible categories — from herbs to fruits/berries to veggies and more.

This garden shown above was based on a design I made and installed behind the Seattle home where we lived from 1998 to 2006. I love the feeling of a half-circle patio. This one is paved in tumbled bluestone and measures about 12 feet wide by 6 feet deep. Two paths branch out on either side, like arms reaching toward the rest of the garden. The paths divide the 6-foot-deep crescent border into three sections.

READ MORE…

A (American Grown) Flower-filled April, Part Two. OR: Adventures with Sharon Lovejoy

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

I’ve been home for a few weeks from my 11-day road trip that took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car. I have many fond memories (as well as the photographs that I collected), while stopping along U.S. Hwy. 101 on my way north to Seattle.

So here is a second travelogue, which I think many will enjoy.

I stopped at the home and garden of fellow writer and sweet friend Sharon Lovejoy and her partner in all, Jeff Prostivitch. They live in San Luis Obispo, a stunning area of coastal California, in a cozy bungalow surrounded by an oft-photographed and published garden.

There are several highlights from this short visit that I want to share.

running-out-of-night First of all, I got to hold in my hands the advanced readers’ copy of Sharon’s debut novel, Running Out of Night, which will be published in November.

On an earlier visit to Sharon and Jeff’s (I think it was in the fall of 2009), I tagged along with Sharon to a regular session with her writer’s group. This is the small gathering of writers in her area who have faithfully met with one another for years as they’ve read given both encouragement and critiques of each other’s writing projects. It was on that visit that I heard Sharon read aloud one of the chapters of her novel-in-progress. 

So you can only imagine how thrilling it was to sit for a while on the sofa in their living room and read the first few chapters in the REAL book! If you have a young person in your life (ages 7-12), I urge you to order this book or ask your librarian to order it. It is an adventure that involves two young girls who are equally enslaved, despite the difference in their skin color. I thoroughly love the characters, the plot – and the dialogue! Sharon is a masterful storyteller and I can’t wait to get this book into the hands of my niece (a 4th grade teacher) and her students.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen's vintage farm sink.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen’s vintage farm sink.

I also experienced a treat that anyone who visits this abode is bound to see. This is the home of gardeners, naturalists and amateur botanists. Every single thing that grows in the Lovejoy-Prostovitch garden is a gift from the earth. And they cherish those gifts with fervor.

The simplest tendril, sprig or pod is elevated with love and affection by Sharon and Jeff. Their home is filled with tiny bouquets and posies. The whole idea of “bringing the garden indoors” takes on new meaning when jam jars, bottles and shot glasses are filled with minature floral arrangements. A delight for the eyes. Here is a peek at some of the ones I noticed (I’m sure there were more!):

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

 

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William and sprigs of herbs tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

 

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom.

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom. Is that parsley as the greenery?

 

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

 

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

That evening, Sharon and Jeff brought me along as their guest to a party given by their friends Aline and Frank.

This lovely couple lives in New England but spends part of the winter months staying in the San Luis Obispo area to be closer to some of their grandchildren.

While they have rented many types of houses for their winter interludes, this year found them settled in at a place outside SLO called Old Edna

Sharon promised: “Oh, Deb, you’re going to love it!”

And she was right.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

Old Edna has an amazing history, and I hope to do it justice with this brief summary (please follow all the links to read more). Today, Old Edna is the creation of a dreamy artist named Pattea Torrence.

Pattea's office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

Pattea’s office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

 

Love how an old branch becomes a "trellis" under the eaves.

Love how an old branch becomes a “trellis” under the eaves.

 

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

Pattea has saved this elderly hamlet that time almost forgot, turning it into a destination that includes guest cottage farm stays, wine tasting, special events and more.

In 2000, Pattea and her husband Jeff Kocan purchased the two-acre, 100-year-old townsite with its running creek in Edna Valley (a world-class, wine-producing region) and two-story tin building (once a general store, dance hall and post office, dating back to the turn of the century, 1900).

They have salvaged and restored many of the structures and created a magical place for guests who stay for short or extended periods. There are two guest cottage on site, a three-bedroom Suite Edna and a one-bedroom honeymoon cottage called DeSolina. 

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead - a perfect V formation.

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead – a perfect V formation.

Pattea is affectionately known as “The Mayor” of Old Edna. She was a gracious host, although I have to also thank Aline and Frank for their amazing hospitality!

I hope to return and spend more time, but these photos will give you a glimpse of what I experienced. Up next: A visit to The Sun Valley Group, an unforgettable flower farm in Arcata, California.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Flower Confidential with Amy Stewart (Episode 140)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
The floral ceiling chandelier -- using all American grown floral ingredients -- from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

The floral ceiling chandelier — using all American grown floral ingredients — from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

I have exciting news to share this week: The New York Times published a piece by former food columnist Marian Burros entitled: “My, What Lovely Flowers. Who Lobbied for Them? — after a push by growers, U.S. products adorned a White House Dinner.” 

More than two months ago, I wrote about this exciting event — a stop on the Slow flowers journey in which the White House acknowledged for the first time ever its use of American Grown flowers for a public function. That was the State Dinner for the French President on February 11th. You can read my February 21st blog post, and my analysis of that event here. 

I’m gratified to see that NYT’s follow this story and give it the gravitas it deserves. Shining a positive light on American flowers is important, but there is much more that needs to be done in order to change the broken floral industry. One thing YOU can do is to join me in simple floral activism.

You can do this by visiting a compelling new web site: VOTE FOR FLOWERS. There, you’ll be able to identify your member of Congress and send him or her a letter urging support and engagement in the new Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

Like others in the pro-domestic flower movement, I do NOT want the White House’s use of American flowers to be a one-time gesture. Like the presidential commitment to serve local, American-sourced food AND wine at White House functions, it is only right that domestic flowers grace the tables of all White House events. Stay tuned for ongoing updates on this story. 

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Now let’s turn our attention to today’s fabulous guest: Amy Stewart. 

Amy's first book, "From the Ground Up," was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

Amy’s first book, “From the Ground Up,” was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

I first learned about Amy in 2001 when a local bookseller here in Seattle told me about From the Ground Up, a memoir by a young Texas native who wrote about her first grown up garden. The bookseller called it “heartwarming and said I had to read it. 

Amy was that author. She wrote From the Ground Up as a journal documenting her post-college Santa Cruz garden. When I reviewed in 2002, I wrote:

“There’s something very endearing and charming about Stewart’s self-effacing writing voice. She truly wants us to experience the same emotional highs and lows, the essential passion of gardening, that she lives through. It’s a wonderful late-night read . . . Pick it up as an alternative to moonlight gardening.” 

A few years later, I met Amy at the SF Flower & Garden Show. We were back-to-back speakers and met during that “changing of the guard” thing that happens when one speaker wraps up her book-signing and another takes that seat warmed by her predecessor. It was just a casual introduction, but there was a familiar recognition of a kindred spirit in the garden-writing world.

Since then, our friendship has been based on mutual admiration, similar professional interests and occasional collaboration. In fact, in 2011, Amy and I teamed up with three others to launch GREAT GARDEN SPEAKERS.COM, an online speakers bureau for our profession. 

cover_flower_confidential GGSlogo-badge And so it goes. My world changed when Amy Stewart wrote Flower Confidential in 2007. At the time, I had already begun interviewing American flower farmers and florists, unaware that she was writing an expose about the Global Floriculture Industry. Things happen like that in our worlds – after all, how could you explain the proliferation of vegetable gardening books that flooded the marketplace over the past five years?

But back to Flower Confidential. It truly was a book ahead of its time. When Amy wrote about the huge machine that relies on cheap floral imports, she started a conversation that resonated with me and with so many others – it was a dialogue I wanted to join. I was inspired to continue seeking out and telling the stories of American flowers and the people who grow and design with them. 

When The 50 Mile Bouquet was published in 2012, I was honored that Amy agreed to write the forward, her generous show of support for the next chapter in the American Grown story. In that forward, Amy wrote: 

“A great deal has changed since Flower Confidential. The notion of supporting local farmers was just gaining traction. The idea of celebrating our seasonal abundance – even if that means giving up tomatoes in January – was not quite mainstream. Just as “slow food” was catching on, the flower world was beginning the shift that The 50 Mile Bouquet celebrates.”

Indeed, a great deal more has changed – for the good – since Amy wrote our forward in the fall of 2011. 

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

With Amy’s blessing, I’ve gone down the flower garden path to document the exciting cultural shift in the domestic floral industry. All you have to do is read about the White House’s choice of American grown flowers to understand that. 

During the same time, Amy’s career has skyrocketed. She is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers, The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential.   

Amy lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard. 

Amy has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and Fresh Air, she’s been profiled in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she’s been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, the PBS documentary “The Botany of Desire,” and–believe it or not– TLC’s Cake Boss. 

Four of Amy’s previous books have been New York Times bestsellers.  They have been translated into eight languages, and two of them–Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs–have been adapted into national traveling exhibits that appear at botanical gardens and museums nationwide.

She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. In 2012, she was invited to be the first Tin House Writer-in-Residence, a partnership with Portland State University, where she taught in the MFA program.  

I recently stopped at Amy and Scott’s house in Humboldt County, northern California, while on a road trip from LA to Seattle. They don’t live too far off of Hwy 101 and it was an easy detour, my 2nd visit to their charming Victorian house surrounded by a slightly unruly garden and an opinionated clutch of hens.    

As is typical, our conversations involved book writing, book publishing, book promotion and more — all those things that authors obsess about. And before I left the following morning, Amy and I sat down in her cozy work space – her combination writing and art studio in the attic of this vintage residence, and talked about Flower Confidential. 

Amy Stewart’s next gift to the book-reading world is a historical crime novel about a real woman who was an early 20th century sheriff and detective. Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015.  

Visit amystewart.com to follow Amy and all of her projects – including her busy lecture schedule and her other outlet -painting and drawing.

Here's a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring - and then wrote about.

Here’s a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring – and then wrote about. 

 

Amy's charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

Amy’s charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

And enjoy this Q&A with Amy about why she loves to paint.

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 11,000  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

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. You can learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.