Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Week 12 // Backyard greenery and seasonal blooms

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

This was a week of flowers, beginning on March 22nd with my “Four Seasons Cutting Garden” lecture at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. Here are some one of my favorite images shared in my illustrated presentation.

I call this my "dream cutting garden," painted by Claude Monet in 1873. The Garden at Argenteuil (Dahlias)

I call this my “dream cutting garden,” painted by Claude Monet in 1873. The Garden at Argenteuil (Dahlias)

Overwhelming or Inspiring? A design scheme from a vintage garden book, Hardy Perennials and Herbaceous Borders, 1912. "Plan of a Rainbow Border"

Overwhelming or Inspiring? A design scheme from a vintage garden book, Hardy Perennials and Herbaceous Borders, 1912. “Plan of a Rainbow Border”

I also spent time interviewing several flower farmers and floral designers, which you can hear on the Slow Flowers Podcast in coming weeks. Subscribe here for free downloads from iTunes.

This week I have two arrangements to share with you. The first was created as a demonstration ofFloral Soil, the 100% plant-based, USA-made, compostable alternative to florist’s foam. The occasion was a workshop taught by Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, focusing on “Elevated Centerpieces.”

Floral Soil’s creator Mickey Blake and I participated in the workshop to gather photos and content for her web site. I brought along my favorite glass compote, a pedestal fruit dish that was my great-grandmother’s.

Thanks to very excellent instruction from Alicia, here’s what I created. There are three pieces that created the mechanics to hold the flowers and foliage: (1) a 3-by-4-by-5-inch piece of Floral Soil; (2) a sheet of chicken wire wrapped from rim to rim of the vase; and (3) 1/4-inch waterproof cloth tape to hold it in place.

Such an elegant piece with a slender pedestal that resembles a candlestick holder. It measures 9-1/2 inches tall and the bowl is 10-inches in diameter. It is only 2-1/2 inches deep - just the challenge for NOT using foam!

Such an elegant piece with a slender pedestal that resembles a candlestick holder. It measures 9-1/2 inches tall and the bowl is 10-inches in diameter. It is only 2-1/2 inches deep – just the challenge for NOT using foam!

A combination of my own garden cuttings plus West Coast flowers and foliage

A combination of my own garden cuttings plus West Coast flowers and foliage

Ingredients:

From my garden: White-blooming Pieris japonica, glossy green Sarcococca ruscifolia (also called sweet box); common boxwood; and flowering currant, a native shrub (Ribes sanguineum).

Provided by Alicia: Pink tulips and stems of lime green viburnum (most likely from British Columbia) and button-like white feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium), sourced from California.

A Slow Flowers Birthday Bouquet

Vivid details of melon orange and dark plum hues.

Vivid details of melon orange and dark plum hues.

Last year, prior to the launch of Slowflowers.com, I ran a successful campaign on Indiegogo and raised nearly $18,500 from more than 200 supporters.

Each contributor had the option of selecting a thank-you gift for their donation. One of the items was a Bouquet of American Flowers.
It has been fun to make those supporters happy as they redeem this “perk.”
In some cases, my floral friends are helping me to fulfill blooms in their regions (thank you greenSinner and Goose Creek Gardens in the Pittsburgh area AND thank you California Organic Flowers in Chico, California).
For the Seattle folks, I’ve been making the bouquets and yesterday was a chance to give my friend Sue Nevler the flowers coming to her.  She wanted to surprise her husband Steve Gattis with an arrangement of flowers for his birthday. Here’s what I created and where the blooms originated:
Happy Birthday, Steve!

Happy Birthday, Steve!

Agonis foliage, grown by Mellano & Co., Carlsbad, CA

‘Mambo’ Oriental lilies, grown by Oregon Flowers, Aurora, OR

Dark purple parrot tulips, Sonshine Farms, Whidbey Island, WA

Orange double tulips, Ojeda Farms, Ethel, WA

Phalaenonpsis orchids, Orchidaceae, Walla Walla, WA

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The Flower Farmer’s Year with Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers UK (Episode 186)

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers in the UK.

Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers in the UK.

In the past year, in addition to this podcast’s primary focus on American flowers, farmers and designers, I’ve interviewed a handful of slow-flowers-minded farmers and designers based in the U.K. and Australia.

There are obvious parallels between these folks and our own renaissance and return to domestic flowers. Sadly, as we’ve experienced in our own native land, the floral industry in many industrialized nations has been outsourced and hurt by competition from countries with low labor costs and less stringent environmental practices.

Common Farm Flowers' "jam jar posies."

Common Farm Flowers’ “jam jar posies.”

I’m inspired by the creativity and kindred spirit of all flower farmers who want to rekindle the interest in homegrown flowers and the mindful florists who want to differentiate themselves in the marketplace by sourcing local, seasonal and domestic flowers. Today’s guest is a perfect voice to invite into this conversation.

Georgie's new book, "The Flower Farmer's Year," was recently released in the U.S.

Georgie’s new book, “The Flower Farmer’s Year,” was recently released in the U.S.

Please meet Georgie Newbery, a British farmer-florist who owns Common Farm Flowers with her husband Fabrizio Boccha.

This husband-and-wife team grow British cut flowers on a beautiful plot between Bruton and Wincanton in Somerset, a few hours west of London.

The occasion for our interview is the February 15th U.S. publication of Georgie’s brand new book, “The Flower Farmer’s Year, how to grow cut flowers for pleasure and profit,” published by Green Books UK and available online at Powell’s Books and Amazon, among other places.

Common Farm Flowers is an artisan florist company, which means Georgie and Fabrizio grow nearly everything used in their floristry, expressing floral design as “a craft in which artistic flair is combined with imaginative use of the material at hand to make arrangements which are full of life and air, which dance.”

Georgie's color sensibility  is modern and romantic.

Georgie’s color sensibility is modern and romantic.

Launched in 2010, Common Farm Flowers has taken off in the past five years, despite its rural locale. As Georgie writes on the Common Flowers Farm web site: “There’s clearly a market for British grown/eco cut flowers and we’re delighted by the reception we’ve had for the flowers we grow here and the floristry we do.”

Common Farm Flowers sends British flower bouquets by post twelve months a year; it supplies and arranges lush wedding flowers throughout Somerset, the South West, in London and beyond and runs workshops on subjects ranging from Flower Farming for Beginners to Do Your Own Wedding Flowers.

The farm has taken its flowers to RHS Chelsea, RHS Chelsea in Bloom, and has been featured in British Country Living, The English Garden, The Telegraph and more. Georgie frequently gives talks to horticulture societies and gardening clubs on growing cut flowers for the home, planting a cut flower border, and seminars on dahlias and sweet pea cultivation.

Another lovely series of posies by Common Farm flowers.

Another lovely series of posies by Common Farm flowers.

The Flower Farmer’s Year covers how to grow your own cut flowers to fill your house with the gorgeous colors and heavenly scents of your favorite blooms, knowing that they haven’t travelled thousands of miles. Georgie combines boundless passion with down-to-earth guidance and practical advice, drawing on her own experiences as an artisan flower farmer and florist as she takes readers through:

  • how to start a cut-flower patch
  • what to grow: including annuals, biennials, perennials, bulbs & corms, shrubs, roses, dahlias, sweet peas, herbs & wildflowers
  • cutting, conditioning and presenting cut flowers
  • starting a cut flower business
  • where to sell
  • marketing and social media
  • an annual planner

Whether you want to grow for your own pleasure or start your own business, The Flower Farmer’s Year is the perfect guide to add to your library.

Here’s how to find Georgie at her social places:

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

I’ve been in San Francisco this past week, to speak at the SF Flower & Garden Show, attend the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers meeting in San Jose and to scout gardens and flower farms in the Santa Cruz region for future stories. In the coming weeks you’ll hear from some of the people I’ve met on this trip — and I know you’ll find their stories a source of inspiration for your own endeavors.

Thanks to listeners, this podcast has been downloaded more than 40,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

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

 

 

Week 11 // Spring is here!

Saturday, March 21st, 2015
Welcome to Week 11 of the Slow Flowers Challenge!
Welcome Spring!!

Welcome Spring!!

Let’s give ourselves a huge congratulations!

Participants in the Slow Flowers Challenge have made it through the first 11 weeks of 2015 – that’s practically an entire season of winter, right?

And yesterday, March 20th, welcomed spring and all its promises of ephemeral blooms, vivid new green foliage and bud growth, fragrances, forms, textures and hues that we haven’t seen since last spring. It’s enough to make one deliriously happy.

Fresh Pick: a box filled with luscious spring flowers. This design uses 8 Mason jars inside a wooden crate.

Fresh Pick: a box filled with luscious spring flowers. This design uses 8 Mason jars inside a wooden crate.

BALL JARS AND A WOODEN BOX (2-ways)

This week’s  Slow Flowers Challenge  was given to me by my friend  Nancy Finnerty, who threw a baby shower luncheon for our mutual friends  Willo Bellwood  and  Bob Meador  to celebrate the arrival of their sweet baby, Nola.

Willo designed the beautiful  Slow Flowers logo  you see at the top of this page, as well as many of the graphics, as well as the look and feel of my web sites, going back to 2005 (!) And Bob makes it all happen on a navigational and technological front – he is the genius who makes the  Slowflowers.com website actually work smoothly. Nancy asked me to bring some yellow tulips for the centerpiece.  And, well, I took that request a little further as you see here.

This week, none of the cuttings are from my garden, but they are from the farms of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. Hey – I had to be there for a board meeting, so it was impossible to resist bringing home  yellow double tulips  grown by  Gonzalo Ojeda of  Ojeda Farms , along with some other pastel lovelies that you see here.

I know I designed with hellebores last week, so apologies for the repeat of flower choice. But the yellow variety of hellebores are quite rare, grown, of course, by  Diane Szukovathy  and  Dennis Westphall of  Jello Mold Farm  . The sweet narcissus with dark orange centers were grown by Jan Roozen of Choice Bulb Farms , located just a few miles away from Diane and Dennis. And one bunch of wispy white wax flower – from Resendiz Brothers in Fallbrook, CA, adds just the right texture to the arrangement.

Here's how the jars nest inside the Blue Pine box. Notice the detailed dovetail joinery at the corners.

Here’s how the jars nest inside the Blue Pine box. Notice the detailed dovetail joinery at the corners.

FLORAL DESIGN MADE EASY

I started with a very special Blue Pine box that was hand-crafted in Colorado from reclaimed wood. This piece was designed by Chet and Kristy Anderson’s son (“young Chet”) of The Fresh Herb Co., in Longmont, CO. The Andersons gave it to me as a sample when I visited their farm last November.

The box is exquisitely hand-crafted from distressed pine (also called “beetle kill,” which tells you why the tree was distressed), but that when milled reveals a distinctive “blue” grain pattern. The longer box was designed to hold four Mason jars, – how cool is that?

Start with four jars. Fill them with yellow-and-white blooms. Pop the arrangements into the box. Voila!

Start with four jars. Fill them with yellow-and-white blooms. Pop the arrangements into the box. Voila!

Detail showing the season's exquisite beauty.

Detail showing the season’s exquisite beauty.

ONE MORE

I had a lot of extras, so after I made this first arrangement, I thought: Don’t I have another wood box in the garage? And miraculously, I put my hands on it. This was a much wider box that originally came with a mail-order amaryllis-planting kit. It was large enough to hold 8 Mason jars (two rows of four jars). You can see that design at the top of this letter.

Here is the "flower box," gracing the luncheon table.

Here is the “flower box,” gracing the luncheon table.

I ended up taking this one to the baby shower – nothing like a larger arrangement for more impact. It is simply stunning to have all of these bloom shapes and forms at eye level when you’re enjoying a delicious meal and wonderful conversation. And it’s easy to give each guest one of the “mini” bouquets as a party favor to take home.

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#FarmerFlorist at a Crossroads – Redefining A Business with Emily Watson of Stems Cut Flowers (Episode 185)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Emily Watson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based flower farmer, floral designer, entrepreneur -- today's podcast guest.

Emily Watson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based flower farmer, floral designer, entrepreneur — today’s podcast guest.

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Emily on the farm, with her beautiful Wisconsin-grown peonies

I first met today’s guest “virtually,” when I reached out to her asking permission to use a portion of a online discussion she had started with other flower farmers.

Emily Watson is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and since 2008 she has owned Stems Cut Flowers, a specialty cut flower business based on her grandparents’ farm about 45 minutes west of Milwaukee. She is a founding member of Slowflowers.com, having supported our launch by contributing to the initial Indiegogo campaign.

Emily and I finally met in person last October at the ASCFG national meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, and that was when we spoke further about the possible “course-correction” she was considering as she juggled flower farming and a successful floral design aspect to her business. Recently we connected over Skype for a conversation that I believe you’ll find quite honest and forthcoming.

And ironically, it harkens to that bulletin board comment Emily made in 2011, the one I included in The 50 Mile Bouquet. She posed this question:

“I’ve been growing for less than five years, on a small plot, and I’m wondering if this is a good idea. I’m not looking to get rich overnight, or even at all. But I need to pay the bills, maybe support a family and retire some day (before I’m 90). I do not have a
problem working a few 80-hour weeks but I do not want that to be the norm. Am I crazy for thinking this? The bottom line is I need to know if this is possible before I sink any more money into it?”

The responses Emily received were encouraging and honest; no one tried to sugarcoat the truth about the backbreaking reality of running a small farm. They also revealed that people do not grow and market flowers because it’s lucrative, but at least in part for a love of the land and a passion for the independent lifestyle it brings.

Emily with her husband

Emily with her husband Nich Love

Here’s more about Emily:

Emily's tagline for Wood Violet, her new design studio, is "floral design inspired by nature." How fitting!

Emily’s tagline for Wood Violet, her new design studio, is “floral design inspired by nature.” How fitting!

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

She grew up in a small agricultural town not terribly far from Milwaukee with three brothers and lots of cousins nearby, playing outside all the time.

After high school, Emily attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison where that love for the natural world led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in Biological Aspects of Conservation.

She worked as a landscaper, which led to work in a flower shop, which somehow led to managing a Chinese restaurant. As she puts it: “I learned a lot about business at that Chinese restaurant and made a lot of friends, but the call of the outdoors was too strong.

By 2008, Emily had started Stems Cut Flowers at her grandparents farm in East Troy, the town in which she grew up. As a small farming business, Stems flourished into a floral design business.

Emily considers herself lucky enough to live in the city and spend a few days every week at the farm, the best of both worlds.

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

Her intention has always been to run a thriving flower farm that sells its crops to florists and to the public at farmer’s markets, picking up occasional wedding design work. The reality, however, is that the idea of “occasional” wedding design has turned into a nearly every weekend occurrence. It soon became evident to Emily that she was running two separate businesses. Last year she decided to create a separate identity for the design portion of her business.

The timing is perfect for today’s interview because Emily is in the midst of launching a floral design studio in Milwaukee. She’s named it Wood Violet, an eco-friendly studio that focuses on locally grown flowers as much as possible, offering wedding flowers and daily deliveries.

As we discussed in the interview, Emily hopes to offer gardening classes and floral design workshops at Wood Violet, inspiring people with the beauty of each season. I admire the way she’s playing to her strengths as both a flower farmer and a floral designer, and I admire that her new hybrid business model includes supporting other local flower farmers in her community while still keeping her fingers in the soil.

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

You know, I think Emily has answered the question she posed back in 2011 better than anyone else could have done – and I wish her great success.

Here’s how to find Emily on all her platforms:

Wood Violet on Facebook

Wood Violet on Instagram

Wood Violet on Pinterest

Before we close, I want to give you the news of the week.

Bloom Instagram Slowflowers.com has partnered with the Ethical Writers Coalition to present Bloom: A Sustainable Workshop, that will take place on Sunday, March 29th at the Mode Marteau Studio in Brooklyn.

Participants can sign up for one or more intimate classes for a hands-on and creative experience in sustainability, and of course, locally-grown flowers.

Learn to make your own fresh flower crown, create a perfect bouquet, or plant a DIY a reclaimed vase at three different workshops.

Three members of Slowflowers.com will join together for the 3rd workshop: Local Flowers 101 with Taproot & Molly Oliver Flowers

Rachel Gordon of Taproot Flowers and Molly Culver and Deborah Greig of Molly Oliver Flowers will teach flower arranging tips & tricks, discuss the importance and sourcing of sustainable flowers, and how to best care for your arrangement. All materials included with the $65 workshop fee.

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I want to thank the Ethical Writers Coalition for producing this awesome event and for inviting Slowflowers.com to participate. The Ethical Writers Coalition is a very cool group of journalists, writers, and bloggers who seek to support and further ethical and sustainable living online and in print. Through my publicists, I met co-founder Alden Wicker of the EcoCult Blog when I was in New York last October – and she attended a SlowFlowers.com gathering where this event idea germinated.

After we connected, Alder wrote an insightful post about Slow Flowers, which you can read here. Elizabeth Stilwell, who blogs at TheNotePasser.com, has taken the lead on creating Bloom and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her on this project – sadly, I can’t attend. But I’m so pleased that Slowflowers.com will be well represented, getting the word out about American flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

I love how the roots of sustainable living intertwine so perfectly with the American Grown Flower movement. It’s exciting to see the idea of local, seasonal and sustainable flowers move from the alternative/fringe world closer to the mainstream.

donate-grist-logo Last week Grist.org fellow Ana Sofia Knauf published an interview with me and titled it “There’s a Local Flower Movement Blooming,” and I’d love for you to read it. Check out the link to her piece here.

Thanks for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

Thanks to listeners, this podcast has been downloaded more than 39,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

Week 10 // Hellebores!!! (and More)

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Week10 Oh joy! The hellebores are blooming quite early this year.

Up close, the detail is so lovely and intricate

Up close, the detail is so lovely and intricate

For better or worse, Seattle’s uber-mild winter means that many of our early flowers are emerging weeks ahead of schedule.

I’m worried that our gardens and fields will need a lot more water this summer, but we can only say that Mother Nature decided to give us warmer temperatures and extra sunshine this year – more than previous winters in recent memory.

Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm grew the hellebores you see here – and let me tell you, their luscious blooms were flying out of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market when they arrived.

I snagged the *last* bunch of the plum hellebores and grabbed only 4 stems of the beautiful pale speckled ones.

Gorgeous specialty tulips also caught my eye – so much more substantial and visually arresting than the hothouse ones coming out of Canada. These were lovingly grown by Gonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms, a member of the SWGMC who farms in Ethel, Washington. One bunch of 10 stems, while short, provided plenty of tulips to add dazzle to two vases.

Plum and berry hues with pale green & butter yellow in a vintage white vase.

Plum and berry hues with pale green & butter yellow in a vintage white vase.

Jasmine isn’t winter-hardy here in Seattle, but boy do I remember it clambering over the stucco retaining wall in our former garden in California’s Ventura County. On the first Thanksgiving we lived there – after moving from Seattle in 2006 – my friend Nancy, visiting from Seattle, created our entire Thanksgiving tablescape from the bounty of our new backyard – including that lacy jasmine.

Molly Sadowsky, the SWGM’s manager and principal buyer, has a secret California source for evergreen Jasmine – and the designers here in Seattle absolutely love it! Me, too! I love that the jasmine foliage is also a gorgeous aspect of this arrangement, a bonus to the fragrant flowers and buds.

Oh, and there is one element from my Seattle garden: the delicate pale yellow flowers from Epimedium, a beautiful groundcover. I only had a few stems to add, but their petals echo the Hellebores’ centers, adding a delicate texture.

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Hellebores for the People
Designed by Mick & Olivia Payment,
owners of 
Flowers for the People 

Hellebores with orchids, roses, pincushion protea, jasmine and more - designed by Olivia and Mick Payment

Hellebores with orchids, roses, pincushion protea, jasmine and more – designed by Olivia and Mick Payment

Earlier this week, the SWGM hosted its first Orchid Spectacular to showcase a wide array of Local and American-grown potted and cut orchids. The Market staff invited Mick and Olivia, a brother-and-sister design team, to demonstrate how they design with orchids in arrangements and interior planters.

You’ll be wowed by one of their designs pictured here. I wanted to share it because of the diversity of flowers they incorporated, including Lady Slipper orchids from Orchidaceae  of Walla Walla, Washington, and hellebores from Jello Mold Farm (the “leftovers” ended up in my design above).
The yellow-green-pink palette is such a breath of fresh air! Mick and Olivia also used CA-grown roses and pincushion proteas to masterfully express their inspiration to use domestic flowers.
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Slow Food meets Slow Flowers at the first Field to Vase Dinner with designer Margaret Lloyd of Margaret Joan Florals (Episode 184)

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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A great spread about the Field to Vase Dinner appeared recently in the local Santa Barbara News-Press.

A great spread about the Field to Vase Dinner appeared recently in the local Santa Barbara News-Press.

I spent a few days last week in Carpinteria, California, working with the team that’s producing the 2015 Field to Vase Dinner Tour, a program that’s designed to put local flowers at the center of the table when local food and wine are also served.

You could call it Slow Food meets Slow Flowers.

For the past several years, my involvement with the California Cut Flower Commission has been as an informal, pro-bono advisor.

This year, I’ve assumed the role as a part-time paid communications consultant, editor and writer, lending my energy to the Field to Vase Tour and other important projects on the regional and national stage.

This opportunity allows Slow Flowers to cross-promote with many other programs, and, I hope, ensures that a wider audience hears the message of America’s flowers.

The Field to Vase Dinner Tour fits perfectly with the Slow Flowers agenda – drawing attention to the farmers who grow our flowers and the designers who create beauty with them.

Margaret Lloyd, owner of Margaret Joan Florals - the guest designer for the first Field to Vase Dinner.

Margaret Lloyd, owner of Margaret Joan Florals – the guest designer for the first Field to Vase Dinner.

The 10-city national Field to Vase Dinner Tour was developed to highlight flower farms and floral designers who source local and domestic flowers. It’s intended to make a stronger connection between the sources of both flowers and food, reminding people that flowers are an equally important facet of our agricultural landscape.

I also am thrilled that Slow Flowers’ partnership with the Field to Vase Dinner Tour means members of Slow Flowers are being asked to showcase their design work, alongside the chefs who are cooking up a delicious, locally-sourced menu.

Today’s guest is Slow Flowers member Margaret Lloyd, owner and creative director of Margaret Joan Florals – the designer for the first Field to Vase Dinner, held on March 5th at Westland Orchids in Carpinteria.

She started Margaret Joan Florals from her home-based studio in Montecito, to provide unique, nature-inspired floral arrangements, for weddings and events. Margaret is a Certified California Florist with 15 years retail experience in floral and event design.

Here’s a clip from Margaret’s television appearance last week – as she used Carpinteria-grown flowers (including greenery from her own backyard) to teach two newscasters how to arrange:

In addition to her involvement with Slowflowers.com, Margaret is a Chapel Designer, a member of Las Floralias, which is a Santa Barbara-based Western Style Flower Club, as well as being a student of Ikebana and an avid gardener.

She explained to me that her aha moment in floral design came from an article in Victoria magazine some twenty-plus years ago. She said:

The article showcased an English country estate garden in winter, and on the next page was a floral arrangement all harvested from their bleak winter cutting garden. It was dramatic and stunning with moody colors, bold shapes,lines and interesting textures.

This led me to be captivated by each season’s bounty, and a love of  locally-sourced, seasonal botanicals. This old-world design is presently having a resurgence in appeal, so I stepped away from my wire service formula design job, and stepped out on my own in January of 2014. My approach is to utilize locally-sourced flowers however I can.

I witnessed this philosophy first hand at the Field to Vase Dinner last week. Because the event took place inside an orchid greenhouse, you can only imagine what Margaret had to work with!

The table was set for a flower- and food-centric evening with an emphasis on local agriculture. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

The table was set for a flower- and food-centric evening with an emphasis on local agriculture. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

She took inspiration from the forest of cymbidium orchids grown by Jerry Van Wingerden and his son David Van Wingerden. Here are some tempting images that illustrate Margaret’s creative use of Westland’s beautiful orchids.

The Flower Power Design Team, from left: Laura Cogan, JIll Redman, CCFC Event Planner and Florist Kathleen Williford, Margaret Lloyd and Rebecca Raymond. All that talent in one place!

The Flower Power Design Team, from left: Laura Cogan, JIll Redman, CCFC Event Planner and Florist Kathleen Williford, Margaret Lloyd and Rebecca Raymond. All that talent in one place!

The signature design using cymbidiums grown byWestland Orchids and roses grown by Myriad Farms, two local flower farms.

The signature design using cymbidiums grown byWestland Orchids and roses grown by Myriad Farms, two local flower farms. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

Designing more than 100 vases for the centerpieces and takeaway gifts wasn’t easy, given the short production timeline. Margaret had some help, thanks to friends and fellow designers.

Rebecca Raymond of Sunnybrooks Florals of Vashon Island, Washington, along with Jill Redman of Forage Florals in Solvang, California, and Laura Cogan of Passion Flowers Design in Buellton, California, joined the design team — all as volunteers.

Together, they wanted to make a dramatic statement for arriving guests.

The top of the entry arbor towered above the doorway to the orchid greenhouse. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

The top of the entry arbor towered above the doorway to the orchid greenhouse. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

The four constructed a 10-foot-tall-by-12-foot wide birch-tree arbor to grace the doorway to the orchid greenhouse.  Acacia foliage, green cymbidium orchids, yellow gerberas and white snapdragons draped from the branches and created a magical moment for everyone who entered.

This photo gives you a sense of scale that the floral arch achieved. With Laura Cogan, Margaret Lloyd and Rebecca Raymond.

This photo gives you a sense of scale that the floral arch achieved. With (from left): floral designers Laura Cogan, Margaret Lloyd and Rebecca Raymond.

I applaud these talented women for what they achieved. The floral environment they created will set a high standard for future Field to Vase Dinners.

It was "work" - I promise you! I enjoyed working with the event time, including Adrienne Young, CCFC's social media and branding expert. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

It was “work” – I promise you! I enjoyed working with the event time, including Adrienne Young, CCFC’s social media and branding expert. (Linda Blue/CCFC)

You might have missed the first Field to Vase Dinner but there are nine more venues on the calendar for 2015. Please check out the full schedule here – and secure your seat at one or more of these very special settings on America’s flower farms, coast to coast.

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I also want to alert you to an opportunity for flower farmers and floral designers in the New York area:

Farmdale

On Wednesday, March 25th, the department of Urban Horticulture & Design at Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York (on Long Island) is hosting its 5th Annual Sustainable Garden Conference. This year’s theme is Flower Power: Growing and Designing With Flowers for All Seasons.

Speakers and workshops will focus on commercial cut flower farming and floral design, with a special presentation by SlowFlowers.com member Lynn Mehl, owner of Good Old Days Ecoflorist in New Windsor, New York, who will speak on “Working with Local Cut Flowers – a Designer’s Perspective.”

There is even a presentation scheduled about the Slow Flowers Movement, although I won’t be able to give it in person. For anyone in the tri-state area, or even from farther away, this will be an exciting opportunity to meet with area cut flower farmers, educators, advocates and florists who care about sourcing their flowers locally. The cost for students is $35 and $65 for the general public and you’ll find links to registration here.

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Thanks for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Thanks to listeners, this podcast has been downloaded nearly 38,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com

Week 9 // Heady Hyacinth for the Slow Flowers Challenge

Sunday, March 8th, 2015
A trio of bud vases displays the season's first hyacinths from my garden, paired with striking black pussy willow twigs grown in Washington by Jello Mold Farm.

A trio of bud vases displays the season’s first hyacinths from my garden, paired with striking black pussy willow twigs grown in Washington by Jello Mold Farm.

It has been a busy few weeks so my floral design time has been limited. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to create an epic arrangement or centerpiece — and of course, we know that those expectations take the joy out of the total experience.

So this week’s little moment is a reminder that a few stems are often all we need to bring nature indoors and provide a glimpse of beauty when life is crazy!

These vases are widely featured in a charming book released last year by  Nancy Ross Hugo called Windowsill Art: Creating one-of-a-kind natural arrangements to celebrate the seasons (St. Lynn’s Press). Nancy describes this small vase as “the little black dress of windowsill arranging . . . the perfect foundation for whatever else you might add.”

After interviewing her for the Slow Flowers Podcast (click here to find the interview) and spending time reading this lovely book, I had to order my own set of these four bud vases. They are available fromThe Arranger’s Market, an online shop that specializes in hard-to-find, easy-to-use vases and other arranging equipment.

You can order a set of 4 “glass pyramid” bud vases for $24 plus shipping. I believe they are made from recycled glass bottles. Dimensions: Height = 4-1/4″; Width = 2.3/8″; Opening = 7/8″.

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More from Slow Flowers
Seasonal choices

A sweet bunch of spring hyacinths, from Slow Flowers.

A sweet bunch of spring hyacinths, from Slow Flowers.

About the long stems you see here:  The typical garden hyacinth blooms on a relatively short stem – maybe 4-5 inches at the most. This limits the way hyacinths can be used in floral arrangements. According to flower farmer Gretchen Hoyt, of Alm Hill Gardens in Everson, Washington, the way to stretch those stems is to trick them into wanting more light.

“The longer you can deny them light, the more they stretch,” she explains. At the commercial flower farm, this process begins in dark coolers where bulbs are pre-chilled. When they are transferred to the greenhouse, the hyacinth crates are placed (in the shadows) beneath tables where tulips grow. If Gretchen wants to elongate those stems even further, “I’ll throw newspaper over them,” she says. Leaving bulbs on the stems is optional, but some designers do so to give the arrangement a rustic appearance.
To arrange these lovely, farm-fresh hyacinths, I opted for a simple European-style bouquet. I wrapped linen twine around the gathered stems and foliage, tied a bow, and placed the spiraled bunch in a glass vase. Seeing the twine through the glass adds a touch of whimsy to this effortless bouquet.

Flower Farming in the nation’s Capitol with Bob Wollam of Wollam Gardens (Episode 183)

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
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I’m so pleased that Slowflowers.com members Rachel Bridgwood and Lauren Anderson of Sweet Root Village (left) and flower farmer Bob Wollam of Wollam Gardens (center) joined Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers (right) and me at a D.C. reception celebrating American Grown Flowers. (CCFC photograph, used with permission)

Today's guest is Bob Wollam of Wollam Gardens, which serves  florists, grocery stores, farmers markets and brides around the nation's capitol.

Today’s guest is Bob Wollam of Wollam Gardens, which serves florists, grocery stores, farmers markets and brides around the nation’s capitol.

I returned to Washington, D.C., this past week to join a delegation of flower farmers who invested their own resources of time and money to travel to our nation’s capital to meet with members of Congress and talk about the issues facing our industry.

First of all, I congratulate the folks who do this – they are the ones putting their money where their mouths are to elevate the awareness of policymakers who are in a position to make decisions that affect America’s flower farmers. I was honored to share this experience with them for the second year in a row. And for those of you who question why this is an important step to take, we have a lot of wins to point to.

For all of us, having the bipartisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus, formed in 2014 and co-chaired four members of Congress who have flower farms in their districts – Lois Capps and Duncan Hunter from California, Jaime Herrera Beutler from Washington State and Chellie Pingree from Maine – means that there is now a tangible body of policymakers that you can ask your own elected officials to join. If you are interested in reaching out to your member of Congress, please contact me offline – and I will help you make that introduction. What is this Caucus doing? For one thing, we have them to thank for keeping the dialogue about seeing local and domestic flowers used for White House functions.

In 2015, the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus has been asked to join the Congressional Wine Caucus – one of the most popular of caucuses (right?) – to host an event where local wine and local flowers will be highlighted. I’ll keep you posted on that event because your participation will be needed to showcase your own region’s cut flowers.

Kevin Stockert (left), a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Patty Murray (Washington), has invested time and interest in listening to and visiting flower farmers in her state.

Kevin Stockert (left), a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Patty Murray (Washington), has invested time and interest in listening to and visiting flower farmers in our state.

Another important reason for these DC visits are the relationships that emerge. When you meet your elected officials, you never know what it will lead to.

For two years in a row, I’ve been privileged to meet with the agriculture policy staff of Senator Patty Murray.

Last year, after my fellow Seattle Wholesale Growers Market board members, flower farmers Diane Szukovathy and Vivian Larsen, and I made those connections, two of the Senator’s staffers took the time to visit our market, meet farmers and enjoy our local flowers. These folks want to know what their constituents are doing in areas such as sustainable agriculture, job creation, economic development and more. We’ve received offers of support for future projects, such as USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant funding we may seek, and I know I can speak for Diane and Vivian that we truly feel there is someone in our nation’s capital who will return a phone call or email and listen to a concern. That is priceless!

Bob Wollam brought his Virginia quince branches to Washington, D.C. -- they added a lot of local beauty to the conversation at an evening reception!

Bob Wollam brought his Virginia quince branches to Washington, D.C. — they added a lot of local beauty to the conversation at an evening reception!

While I was in DC, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to visit a local flower farm and interview a flower farmer, right? So please enjoy today’s conversation with Bob Wollam of Wollam Gardens, based in Jeffersonton, Virginia.

Bob joined the flower farmer Delegation to meet with his own Virginia congressman, as well as participate in meetings with other offices.

The amazing thing is that the staffers of members of Congress from many states live and work in our nation’s capitol, where Bob sells Virginia-grown flowers at the DuPont Circle Farmers’ Market (where he was a founding member).

So the dots were connected between LOCAL and AMERICAN GROWN – and why they are both so integral in saving our domestic cut flower industry. We suspect that these young legislative assistants will now come find Bob, seeking out the flowers he grows on land less than a 75-mile radius from DC. Like the other flower farmers in our group this past week, Bob is the face of the farmer; the face behind the poppies, ranunculus, anemones, tulips, sweet peas, peonies, hydrangeas, viburnum, dahlias and more. Here’s some more background on our guest today:

Bob Wollam, seated on the front porch of the historic farmhouse in Jeffersonton, Virginia where Wollam Gardens is based.

Bob Wollam, seated on the front porch of the historic farmhouse in Jeffersonton, Virginia where Wollam Gardens is based.

The beautiful green viburnum that bloom gloriously in April at Wollam Gardens.

The beautiful green viburnum that bloom gloriously in April at Wollam Gardens.

Bob Wollam has now been a flower farmer for 21 years. While he will be quick to tell you he had an exciting life before 50, he’ll be even quicker to tell you his addiction to beautiful cut flowers has been nothing but thrilling — and he intends to continue the addiction well into his nineties.

In 1987, Bob Wollam moved to Washington, D.C. This was his first step of an old dream of being a flower grower.  Two years later, he asked a realtor in Warrenton to show him land in Virginia.  He said he wanted at least 10 acres and an old house.   He purchased his historic Farm House with a pre-Revolutionary history and of course 11 acres of farmland in the hamlet of Jeffersonton.

For three years, Bob grew perennials which he sold at the Alexandria, (Virginia) Farmer’s market.  After seeing a small “cut your own” garden during a trip to Central NY, he shifted his energy into cut flowers. Bob began selling to florists in Washington DC and adding more farmers’ markets near, or in, the city. He initiated an internship program in 1994 and has hosted adventurers and flower lovers from around the world.  Many of those are still active in cut flowers, some on their own farm.

A hoophouse filled with Icelandic poppies at Wollam Gardens.

A hoophouse filled with Icelandic poppies at Wollam Gardens.

In the winter of 2006-2007 he developed a 25 year plan for his flower farm and is well on the way to implementing that plan. Bob is driven to grow unique, difficult to grow and difficult to ship cut flowers for specialized florists, designers and farmer’s market customers.

Oh, those hydrangeas!!!

Oh, those hydrangeas!!!

One of Bob's first spring crops is the fanciful and alluring anemone.

One of Bob’s first spring crops is the fanciful and alluring anemone.

With no background in agriculture except a gene handed down from both grandparents, Bob has turned Wollam Gardens into an exceptional destination for flower lovers. He learned quickly by reading everything he could find and with the guidance of other cut flower farmers who  are part of the ASCFG (the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers), an association for which Bob served as a 2-term President.

Wollam Gardens now grows over 80 varieties of cut flowers on 11 acres, plus a few acres on his neighbor’s land. In addition 4 cold frames for growing cool season plants like stock, campanula, delphinium, ranunculus, and the well-known Temptress poppies, Bob has a continuing interest in flowering shrubs as cuts (quince, hydrangea, physocarpus, and viburnum), as well as fragrant bulbs (Oriental lily, Mexican tuberose), and, of course, close to 9000 dahlias.

Ready for market: Zinnias galore.

Ready for market: Zinnias galore.

In 2009, the Washington Post featured Wollam Gardens in a big story.

In 2009, the Washington Post featured Wollam Gardens in a big story.

During the season, Wollam Gardens is open to the public for customers who wish to purchase flowers and plants, Monday through Saturday 9-5, and for wedding and event consultations. People are welcome to stroll the property and look for one of the crew or interns to help with their flower needs!

Eventually Bob hopes all sales will be from the farm. Today, he also markets flowers to 15 florists in the DC metro area as well as at 5 area farmer’s markets.

Wollam Gardens’ flowers can be found at select Whole Foods stores in Virginia, Maryland and DC during the most abundant growing months of the season.

New this season, Bob is in the process of restoring a beautiful pavilion using cedar logs harvested directly from our property! It will be an artistic, rustic, and charming venue that will add even more character to this green space.

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Thanks for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

I’ve been on the lookout for good news, wishing to focus on the positive connections in my life rather than those that are less-than-positive. One of those pieces of good news fell into my in-box a few days ago and I just have to share it with you. I hope it makes you smile as much as it did me!

Here’s what my friend wrote: “Funny coincidence. Our mutual friend (let’s call her Susan) has been doing a little online dating. Yesterday for their first meeting, she had lunch with a retired lawyer who . . . is getting into gardening as a second career.  He is taking a propagation course at a Horticultural College in preparation for creating a slow flower and herb farm.  He began by telling Susan how inspired he has been by Debra Prinzing, the Godmother of the “Slow Flower” movement.  He had even brought along a printout of one of your recent online interviews. Susan really surprised him when she told him that she was friend and that you had visited our town and its gardens several times!  Boy, that really boosted his estimation of Susan.  He wants another date, this time to a public garden or arboretum.  So your work is paying off not only in better flowers, but also in better romance!

That was the best news I heard all week and I thank my dear friend who sent me that note!

Thanks to listeners, this podcast has been downloaded more than 36,000 times. Last week’s downloads were more than 1,100, our highest ever since this podcast started in July of 2013.

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.

This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

And a special thanks to our lead sponsor for 2015, the California Cut Flower Commission, committed to making a difference as an advocate for American Grown Flowers. Learn more at ccfc.org and American Grown Flowers.

The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com

Week 8 // My Slow Flowers Birthday Bouquet

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
Springtime (almost) in a vase with flowers from my Seattle garden and pussy willow branches from a local farm.

Springtime (almost) in a vase with flowers from my Seattle garden and pussy willow branches from a local farm.

Welcome to Week 8 of the Slow Flowers Challenge!

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent a few quiet hours playing around with these elements from my garden, observing and clipping; processing and arranging — all in a favorite vintage McCoy vase.

What a lovely way to celebrate a personal new year. I apologize to friends and family members who were calling and texting. I really tried to unplug and contemplate the many gifts in my life.

Ingredients, clockwise from left:  Pussy willow, sweet pea tendrils, various daffodils, spurge (Euphorbia characias) and Pieris japonica.

Ingredients, clockwise from left: Pussy willow, sweet pea tendrils, various daffodils, spurge (Euphorbia characias) and Pieris japonica.

This design incorporates green, white and yellow ingredients. The long-lasting pussy willow branches were “leftovers” from more than a week ago. I had purchased them from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in anticipation of a demonstration at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Of course, I planned for more than I could use, so today was the ideal opportunity to pair the pussy willow with cuttings from my own garden.

Here, you can appreciate the creamy white pieris flowers and the downy pussy willow against the milky glazed pottery.

Here, you can appreciate the creamy white pieris flowers and the downy pussy willow against the milky glazed pottery.

The white vase offsets the fresh green tips of the spurge.

Many people worry about using this perennial as a cut flower – Euphorbia characiasis, after all, a relative of poinsettia, exuding milky white sap when snipped. See the info box for tips on caring for your spurge/euphorbia cuttings.

It’s not a super long-lasting cut, but anyone who has this plant in their garden probably has more than necessary.

I could easily replace any wilted stems with an abundant supply of more spurge.

The white blooms of Pieris japonica add texture and contrast, echoing the pussy willow “tails.”

 

Daffodils beneath the flowering cherry trees - on the parking strip in front of our home.

Daffodils beneath the flowering cherry trees – on the parking strip in front of our home.

I didn’t have many flowers on hand, but this mix of specialty daffodils caught my eye.

Plucked from the parking strip in front of our home, they were originally planted by a benevolent prior owner.

I looked around for something to “trail” over the rim of my vase and found some sweet pea tendrils, volunteers from a prior year’s sowing. They add just the right playfulness and carefree spirit to the arrangement.

A detail of the fresh textures and hues of the season.

A detail of the fresh textures and hues of the season.

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More from Slow Flowers
From the Farmer: Working with Euphorbia

A detail from a spring arrangement featured in Slow Flowers, with donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

A detail from a spring arrangement featured in Slow Flowers, with donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

Most plants in the spurge family produce a milky-white substance when cut. It can be irritating to the skin, so be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant.

While harvesting, I place the stems in a bucket of water, separating them from any other cut ingredients. Then I bring them into my kitchen where I dunk the tip of each euphorbia stem into a bowl filled with boiling water from the teakettle. This seals the stems.
Some experts recommend searing the tips in a stove top flame, but that has proven too messy for my liking.
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Week 7 // Winter-blooming camellias paired with a Frances Palmer vase

Saturday, February 21st, 2015
Red garden camellias (Camellia japonica) and glossy green foliage look stunning as a single variety in my Valentine's Day vase. I believe this is called the 'anemone' form, but the cultivar is unknown.

Red garden camellias (Camellia japonica) and glossy green foliage look stunning as a single variety in my Valentine’s Day vase. I believe this is called the ‘anemone’ form, but the cultivar is unknown.

Welcome to Week 7 of the Slow Flowers Challenge! 

My wonderful husband and our two sons gave me this beautiful vase for Valentine’s Day. It is a one-of-a-kind bud vase by Frances Palmer, a Connecticut-based ceramic artist whose work I admire greatly.

Prior to Valentine’s Day, Frances Palmer Pottery released a special limited edition collection of handmade white ceramic bud vases. There were only 36 in the series, so I knew they would go quickly. I hinted not so subtly to Bruce, asking if he would consider selecting one of the vases as my gift. When I opened it on V-Day, the card read: “Your wish is our command,” love Bruce, Benjamin and Alex.

You can really appreciate the classical form of the vase in this photograph.

You can really appreciate the classical form of the vase in this photograph.

I can’t think of a better gift for a flower-lover than an extraordinary vase in which to display favorite, seasonal stems – from the garden or the flower farm.

By now, you may realize I am obsessed with American-made vases as ideal vessels for containing American-grown flowers. When you know who the artisan or maker is behind the vase, it heightens your appreciation for that object.

We gain similar appreciation when we know the story of the flowers, including the farmer who grew those stems.

Another closeup with camellias against the creamy white glaze

Another closeup with camellias against the creamy white glaze

In this case, my camellias are straight from the landscape. I live in a community of four houses – three are only 10 years old, including mine; one is from the 1950s. The landscape here is mature and I’m guessing this camellia dates back to the era when the first home here was built. It is tree-like in scale, prolific in bloom, and provides a distinct vegetative “screen” to the southern perimeter of our property.

As you may know, camellias aren’t long-lasting cut flowers. But over the years, I have found two things about camellias:

1. When they are cut in bud or only partially open, the flowers do last longer in the vase; and

2. When you have such an abundant source of flowers, you simply replace the spent blooms whenever you wish, at least during the four-week period when camellias are at their peak.

 

Back to our artist. Here is a statement from Frances Palmer’s web site, which tells a little more about her philosophy:

I don’t make or grow things to hold onto them, but rather to send them out into the world for others to live with and enjoy. My handmade ceramics are functional art – dishware or vases that can be used on a daily basis. Each piece, no matter how large or small, is considered and individual.  

I am honored and happy to think that people across the USA are using my work when they gather in friendship to share a meal and good times.   
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More from Slow Flowers
Design 101: A very special vase.

"Summer Confections," from my book, Slow Flowers. This design features local flowers with a Frances Palmer vase.

“Summer Confections,” from my book, Slow Flowers. This design features local flowers with a Frances Palmer vase.

I was first introduced to the work of Frances Palmer when Stephen Orr profiled the American potter and her Connecticut cutting garden in Tomorrow’s Gardens. Then Frances appeared on Martha Stewart’s television show, where she discussed how she creates her exquisite one-of-a-kind vessels and dinnerware, including vases for the flowers she grows. Her delightful pottery style – classical with a touch of whimsy – is a floral designer’s dream come true.

Naturally, I set my sights on acquiring one of Frances’s pieces. I chose this fluted vase because of the generous diameter of its opening (nearly 5 inches). And to me, this butter-yellow glaze is a perfect foil for all sorts of flowers, but especially the zinnias and dahlias.

If you want to learn more about Frances Palmer, I recommend listening to this fabulous interview of her by Design*Sponge’s Grace Bonney on her “After the Jump” podcast.