Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

Floral Therapy, or what to do with six hydrangea shrubs!

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Start with some gorgeous garden hydrangeas, at the perfect moment in late summer when you can pick them for drying.

Start with some gorgeous garden hydrangeas, at the perfect moment in late summer when you can pick them for drying.

Sixty hydrangea heads later . . . you end up with a romantic floral wreath.

Sixty hydrangea heads later . . . you end up with a romantic floral wreath.

It has been a long few months.

All good, or mostly good. But I’ve been on too many airplanes since July1st and I’m so happy to be home for a while.

Yet even though I’ve been home, way too much of my time has been commanded by the desk chair, computer screen and keyboard (oh, and the telephone). I’m definitely NOT unplugged.

Needless to say, I’ve been itching to do something to fill the creative void in my soul.

Since last week, I’ve been dreaming about making a Hydrangea wreath with the prolific mop-head flowers that line our driveway and front walk. I can’t take any credit for their beauty or the successful way they thrive here in our garden. The previous owners must have loved Hydrangea shrubs. There are no fewer than six of them. And I’ve planted one more to make it seven.

At the same time, Lola Honeybone and Marla Kramer, my publicists on Slowflowers.com, have been planning a holiday wreath PR pitch to promote the site’s flower farmers who make and sell wreaths from the crops they grow. So as I have sought wreaths made from protea, willow, lavender, greenery and other everlasting ingredients, my imagination has been fueled.

Getting started with a repurposed grapevine wreath, bind wire and snips.

Getting started with a repurposed grapevine wreath, bind wire and snips.

I kept looking at those tawny-hued, fluffy blooms on my own hydrangea shrubs. It’s still summer, but this is the time – end of August – when the pale green, vivid blue and hot pink blooms take on a lovely faded patina. And that means you can cut the flowers and they’ll air-dry beautifully.

My plan was to stop by the floral supply outlet to pick up a blank wire wreath form. . . but I hadn’t found time to make the trip.

Then, on Monday, when I was down in our crawl space grabbing props for another photo shoot, I was delighted to spy an old grapevine wreath (see above). Measuring about 20 inches in diameter and wrapped in a dusty ribbon, it was leaning against a wicker chair, forgotten for several seasons. My answer to the wreath project! No more procrastinating!

Start by wiring individual flowers to the grapevine wreath base.

Start by wiring individual flowers to the grapevine wreath base.

Hope this detail gives you a better sense of how to wire on the flowers.

Hope this detail gives you a better sense of how to wire on the flowers.

Brilliant! I spent about 2 hours today, stealing time between phone interviews (for stories with imminent deadlines, of course).

Making the wreath was the perfect distraction for writer’s block. In and out I went, from the office to the driveway. Every time I hit the wall (and let’s just say I don’t typically suffer from writer’s block, but I do sometimes suffer from boredom or fatigue, depending on the topic about which I’m writing), I would race out to the driveway and lash on a few more flowers.

Making progress . . .

Making progress . . .

It was so fun to create all the details and interest by varying the pink, blue and green flower heads. Some were large and some were small, but by alternating the colors and sizes, I basically achieved a balanced look.

More progress . . .

More progress . . .

Finally, I was done. I think I used 60 flower heads. The good news is that you can’t really even tell that I clipped from the shrubs – that’s how abundant they are.

And by hanging the wreath outside, on our covered porch, the flowers will stay cool and will “dry” slowly. This is much better than letting them dehydrate too quickly indoors where the house is still late-August stuffy.

All finished and hung!

All finished and hung!

If you want to try this project, here are some steps:

1. Begin with a wreath base in the size you prefer. Use a wire frame, a moss frame or a grapevine form. Do NOT use one of those pre-made florist foam wreaths.

2. Gather good clippers and a spool of bindwire. That’s the paper-wrapped wire that looks like twine but behaves like a twisty-tie. It’s perfect for lashing short hydrangea stems to the wreath base. I used dark green wire, but the product also comes in natural. Both colors will nicely disappear from view.

3. Clip as you go. I set up my work table in the driveway, just a few feet from the hydrangea shrubs. That proximity allowed me to play around with shape and color as I determined how to repeat large/small flower forms and to vary the colors.

4. Attach stems to wreath base in any-which-way you can manage. The good news about clipping Hydrangeas at this time of the summer is that the stems are still fleshy and pliable. They won’t snap if you have to bend them a bit and then tie them onto the wreath base with the bind wire. I found that I could actually “weave” the flower stems through the braided grapevines, letting the openings in the vine grab the hydrangea stems. Then I tied each stem into place using the “twistie-tie” method. Tight as possible without turning the bind wire into a tourniquet. Clip away excess stems and wire.

5. Continue this process around the wreath until you’re finished. As I said above, I think I used a total of 60 flowers.

6. Hang and admire. You can actually “trim” Hydrangeas like you’d clip a hedge. Some of the larger flower heads bulged awkwardly to make my wreath appear lopsided. All I had to do is snip away the excess florets to even things out. Voila!

Lovely above our outdoor fireplace. The cool evening temperatures will keep these blooms from drying out - and since the porch is covered, they won't fade.

Lovely above our outdoor fireplace. The cool evening temperatures will keep these blooms from drying out – and since the porch is covered, they won’t fade.

I’ll keep you posted on how long it takes for this wreath to dry and how long into the fall and winter months it looks nice. I suspect it will live on the stone facade of our backyard fireplace until next spring!

Lovely detail showing the diversity of bloom size and hue.

Lovely detail showing the diversity of bloom size and hue.

Now, back to those deadlines. Have a great holiday weekend!

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Grocery Floral with New Seasons Markets’ Katie McConahay and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s Molly Sadowsky (Episode 156)

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014
New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon - a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon – a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of all floral transactions in the U.S. take place at the supermarket cash register?

While that statistic may not bode well for the corner flower shop, it does represent opportunity for flower farmers who find a way to work with this ever-changing dynamic.

There are so many reasons for the shift from the corner flower shop to the grocery store, but according to my guests in today’s podcast one of its primary causes is time and convenience.

In other words, consumers are so pressed for time in all facets of their lives that the grocery store has become the one-stop place to purchase not just food, but so many other things.

Think about it: The grocery store, when done well, is now our coffee shop, our bank, our drug store, our greeting card store, our liquor/wine store, our bakery, our deli, and oh, yes, our flower shop.

Please enjoy today’s conversation about the fast-paced world of grocery floral – as I seek to understand where the opportunities are from two perspectives: the floral buyer (the supermarket) and the floral seller (the flower farmer).

"Slow Flowers" supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

“Slow Flowers” supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

Katie McConahay is the floral merchandiser for New Seasons Markets, a Portland-based chain of 13 neighborhood grocery stores. With the motto, “the friendliest store in town,” New Seasons nurtures its local suppliers.

On its web site you will find this message: “As a locally owned business, we take pride in supporting local farms, ranches and other small businesses through our Home Grown program.

“The Home Grown symbol points out products from produce and meat to hand lotions and scented candles that come from local companies. So, you can support the local and regional economy with your dollars. And we can further our strong commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

Unfortunately, there is a lot of lip-service paid to LOCAL and I’ve witnessed first-hand the amount of green-washing that can take place at grocery stores that tell their shoppers one thing and then do something completely opposite that . . . such as trying to pass off imported flowers as local or simply not caring enough to properly label the sources.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

After getting to know Katie over the past year, I have to say how impressed I am with her philosophy of transparency about the origins of the flowers she and her employer sell. “Not many people think of buying local when it comes to flowers. Making beautiful selections available from local growers is how we’re making a difference, one stem at a time.”

A CA-Grown floral display at one ohe Portland area New Seasons.

A CA-Grown floral display at one Portland area New Seasons.

Katie began her career in floral at the age of 15 when she took a position as a floral clerk at a local grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Early on she decided that she wanted to make unique and beautiful flowers available to everyone, even daily grocery shoppers.  She went on to become the youngest ever floral manager for Wisconsin’s largest grocery chain by the age of 18, taking her department to number one in sales in a region with over 60 stores.

Katie has been involved in all facets of the floral industry, from large scale grocers to small, elegant design studios in Portland.

She found her “happy medium” in the New Seasons Market floral program where she began as a floral manager in 2010, eventually assuming the head merchandising position in 2012.  Since that time she has nurtured the floral program to unprecedented growth levels adding dozens of local and California vendors in 2014.

Katie remains committed to cultivating relationships with local growers and promoting a sustainable, local floral program that supports small growers while continuing to supply the 13 New Seasons Markets with the very best that the floral industry has to offer.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

When I visited Portland last month I scheduled an interview with Katie and I asked her predecessor at New Seasons, Molly Sadowsky, to join us.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral  selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly, the program manager at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, was the link who first introduced me to Katie. That’s when we all attended the California Cut Flower Commission’s field-to-vase dinner held in Portland last October where I was invited to speak.

At the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a cooperative of Northwest flower growers in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Molly oversees the selling of flowers to grocery customers and maintaining a year-round floral inventory.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Molly is such a valuable asset at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. One reason is her background, having previously built and ran the floral program at New Seasons Market in Portland where she initiated a seasonal buying program that relied on product from 80 growers, including more than 50 in Oregon.

Molly embraced the buy-local philosophy as a restaurant owner in the early 2000s, when she forged relationships with local farmers to supply her vegetarian breakfast-and-lunch café. Molly lives in Portland with her husband, Dan, and their six-year-old Belgian Malinois, Leyna.

Thanks to listeners like you, this flower-powered podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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.

This podcast was engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

 

Sunset Magazine’s Best of the West names Slowflowers.com as “Best Way to Buy Flowers”

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

September_14_Sunset_BestofWest

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Pittsburgh’s Local & Seasonal Floral Designers – Jimmy Lohr & Jonathan Weber of greenSinner (Episode 155)

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Last week, this podcast came to you from Homer, Alaska.

This week, my travels brought me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let’s just say I’m coping with a little jet lag, but summer is my busy season for lectures and photo shoots, so I’ve learned to enjoy my MVP Gold status on Alaska Airlines.

Green_Sinner_IMG_1067 But the other thing I have thoroughly enjoyed has been the chance to connect with great flower farmers and floral designers – coast to coast – who are part of the Slow Flowers movement. In the coming weeks you’ll hear from several of these awesome folks who I first “met” virtually, through social media and — more importantly — because they have joined Slowflowers.com.

Pittsburgh's Floral "Who's Who" -- from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Pittsburgh’s Floral “Who’s Who” — from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Today you will meet two of them: Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner, an urban role model that promotes American-grown flowers in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood (by the way, Lawrenceville is now called “new Brooklyn” for hipster, indie, design-focused vibe).

Peek through the chain link fence - from the urban parking lot into greenSinner's cutting garden.

Peek through the chain link fence – from the urban parking lot into greenSinner’s cutting garden.

Jonathan and Jimmy state their beliefs up-front-and-center on the home page of their web site:

“greenSinner brings you local, sustainable cut flowers and plants. We love fresh flowers (don’t you?), but we don’t love that they come from Ecuador drenched in chemicals (yuck). We’re trying to make the world — our world and yours — a little greener and a little more beautiful. We grow flowers right here in western PA and source as many materials and plants as we can in a 500-mile radius. Not only is it better for the environment, but you also get fresher flowers and more local and unusual varieties. Beyond flowers, we focus on vintage or re-purposed containers and event decor and sustainable practices.”

The guys at greenSinner first caught my attention when they contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year. Not knowing anything about their business, I looked them up and sent them a note of thanks.

A littleclassical detail in the "front garden" at greenSinner's studio.

A littleclassical detail in the “front garden” at greenSinner’s studio.

Only a few weeks after the campaign ended, I found myself in early March attending Holly Heider Chapple’s NYC Chapel Designers’ conference, where I was included in the speaker lineup. Of course, I was there to encourage her members to consider joining the American Grown flower movement, to refocus their wedding and event work to include seasonal and local flowers and to introduce these designers to the notion of working closely with flower farmers.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner's studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner’s studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

And there was Jimmy, a charming teddy bear of a guy, front and center, making me feel welcome. He wasn’t the only one who “got it,” but he was definitely the most enthusiastic. I learned that he and his partner Jonathan believe in designing weddings and events with locally grown flowers and plants and that they owned a postage-stamp-sized cutting garden behind their shop. We made plans for me to visit in August when I knew I’d be in Pittsburgh for the Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what's growing within.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what’s growing within.

In the ensuing months, not only did we stay in touch, but when I worked with Kasey Cronquist on the launch announcement of the Certified American Grown brand on July 1st, we invited Jimmy to speak on behalf of floral designers.

Jimmy picked me up at my hotel in downtown Pittsburgh early one morning and we drove a short distance to greenSinner’s studio. After a walking tour to see their backyard growing operation, their greenhouse and the small cutting garden they planted behind a neighboring studio where their stained-glass artist friend works, we sat down for a short podcast interview.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

Before we get started, let me introduce you to the two men you’ll hear next. This is straight from greenSinner’s web site:

Jimmy Lohr, Chief Eccentric Officer:

Jimmy, in a limerick:
There once was a boy from the sticks
Who grew up and left all the hicks.
He studied the arts
And big event parts
Then moved home to share all his tricks.

Jonathan Weber, Farmer-General
Jonathan, in a haiku:
Jonathan Weber
internet marketing dude
now he’s a farmer

These guys definitely express their values in everything they do as designers and business owners – and it was such a pleasure to spend time on their turf in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for joining this lively conversation. I’m grateful for listeners like you who have downloaded this flower-powered podcast more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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: Debra & Christina’s Alaska Peony Adventure (Episode 154)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

I know I’ve raved about Alaska-grown peonies for a few years and YES, they are one of my floral obsessions. No apologies here. When it comes to peonies, The 50 Mile Bouquet is now The 1,500 Mile Bouquet.

But the exciting news is that these flowers are proving to be a very important value-added crop for farmers in Alaska; their lovely peonies satisfy demand at a time when no one else on the planet can supply the popular flower – and these blooms have stimulated economic development in a state that greatly needs it.

Since touring Alaska’s three primary growing regions for cut peonies in 2012, I’ve been a passionate booster for this fabulous American-grown crop – sharing the story of uncommonly beautiful summer peonies available in July, August and even September. My magazine articles, blog posts, lectures and even a previous podcast episode have highlighted peonies for the cut flower trade – and I believe consumers are just as smitten by these peonies as I am.

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners' Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

So it is with a huge amount of joy that I bring you today a special episode about peonies in Alaska. Thanks to the Homer Garden Club and co-chairs Brenda Adams and Roni Overway, I returned to speak at the popular “Homer Gardeners’ weekend,” an event-packed two days featuring lectures, tours and a fun reception at Homer’s only winery.

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

I spoke about floral design with seasonal ingredients and led an afternoon hands-on workshop using only Alaska-grown flowers. Against all this activity was the beautiful backdrop of Homer and its water, glaciers and expansive skies. The landscape is unforgettable and I loved being able to look across Kachemak Bay to Grewinkg Glacier – a sight that one never tires of.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

In this episode you will hear from Beth Van Sandt, owner of Scenic Place Peonies in Homer – And – Christina Stembel, owner of San Francisco-based Farmgirl Flowers.

Beth’s peonies blew us away. It was so wonderful to share my excitement with Christina, who joined me on this fun floral vay-cay. Christina is a foremost advocate for domestic cut flowers. Through her company Farmgirl Flowers, this woman has been a tireless advocate for local and seasonal flowers, as she sources and promotes flowers from California flower farms and sustainable design.

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

When I told Christina back in March that I was heading to Homer in early August, she said: “I’d love to come” – and I took her seriously. While I enjoyed the companionship, I also loved the intellectual and creative stimulation of being with a kindred spirit – a fellow American Grown flower advocate and a designer who walks the talk with what she uses in her daily designs for customers who shop at farmgirlflowers.com.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

Christina and I sat down one morning to record our musings about what we were both personally experiencing on this trip. We owe a huge thanks to Beth and her husband Kurt Weichhand. Their Scenic Place B&B was our home for four nights and we were cozy, comfy and happy. It was a magical trip for me in so many ways and I’m grateful to Christina, Beth and the other Homer peony farmers for giving me such a memorable experience.

On Scenic Place Peonies’ web site, Beth writes: “We are long time Alaskans who work, play and enjoy living on the Kenai Peninsula. Located on the scenic East Hill side of Homer, overlooking beautiful Kachemak Bay, Beth grows 14 different cultivars of peonies for the cut flower market. At elevation 1,150 feet, Scenic Place Peonies is one of the latest producers of fresh cut peony stems grown in America – with flowers harvested from mid July, August and September.”

The farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation. “Because we value our family, community and the wild creatures that we share our farm with, we choose to grow naturally without the use of harsh chemicals and with the utmost care and love. When you see, touch and smell our flowers you will only experience the true beauty and fragrance of the peony,” Beth writes.

Scenic Place Peonies thrives on a perfect combination of climate, rich black soil, cool temps and crazy sunshine of up to 20 hours a day. These assets produce magnificent flowers with long, robust stems and exceptional blooms.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design.

Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Farmer-Florist News – from Gretel Adams, Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt (Episode 153)

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

This iconic photo is showing up everywhere and I am so lucky it's mine! So symbolic of American Grown. Design and truck: Tara Kolla, Silver Lake Farms (Los Angeles) (c) Debra Prinzing

This iconic photo is showing up everywhere and I am so lucky it’s mine! So symbolic of American Grown. Design and truck: Tara Kolla, Silver Lake Farms (Los Angeles) (c) Debra Prinzing 

It’s summertime and the Slow Flowers Podcast is on the road. And it’s no surprise to learn there’s at least one awesome American flower farmer everywhere I seem to go.

There are passionate floral designers to be discovered right alongside and that means more beautiful Slow Flowers experiences for the nation’s consumers, coast to coast.

This week I’m sharing a fabulous conversation with a farmer-florist team from Portland, Oregon – Elizabeth Bryant, owner of Rose Hill Flower Farm, and Kailla Platt, owner of Kailla Platt Flowers.

But first, a bonus conversation that I recorded on July 16th at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, Ohio.

Owned by Steve and Gretel Adams, previous guests on this podcast, Sunny Meadows is leading the way in changing how flowers get to market in several Ohio cities. The reason for my return to Sunny Meadows was to work with James Baggett, editor-in-chief of Country Gardens magazine, and Kritsada, an uber-talented photographer, to produce a feature story about Gretel and Steve – and their farm, flowers and floral design.

 

Some might call this "flower farm porn," but who cares? Gretel and Steve were really good sports about posing in the flower fields (isn't that vintage tractor a great "prop"?)

Some might call this “flower farm porn,” but who cares? Gretel and Steve were really good sports about posing in the flower fields (isn’t that vintage tractor a great “prop”?) 

You can keep an eye out for that nothing-but-gorgeous story in the summer of 2015 – and of course, I’ll remind you here when the magazine hits the newsstands.

I recorded a short interview with Gretel and two of her summer design interns, Katie Vontz and Danica Jones. They all agreed to chat briefly about what is becoming a popular way for would-be flower farmers and new floral designers to gain training: via internships, apprenticeships or seasonal work-study-style programs. I think you’ll be intrigued and inspired to hear how Gretel filled her need via social media, too.

This is the "ad" that Sunny Meadows used on Instagram to recruit its summer design interns.

This is the “ad” that Sunny Meadows used on Instagram to recruit its summer design interns. 

 

From left: Me, design intern Katie Vontz, Gretel Adams (Sunny Meadows Flower Farm co-owner), design intern Danica Jones and Sunny Meadows floral designer   Kumiko Matsuura.

From left: Me, design intern Katie Vontz, Gretel Adams (Sunny Meadows Flower Farm co-owner), design intern Danica Jones and Sunny Meadows floral designer Kumiko Matsuura.

Next up: A dynamic conversation with collaborators Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt. 

Elizabeth Bryant (left) and Kailla Platt (right), photographed in their Portland studio.

Elizabeth Bryant (left) and Kailla Platt (right), photographed in their Portland studio. 

Kailla was trained in fine art and landscape architecture and logged a decade designing gardens. But she traces her primary training in floral design to time spent in the lush green of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where she fell under the floral spell cast by her grandmother Jane K. Platt. 

Kailla's work, a seasonal and local floral bouquet.

Kailla’s work, a seasonal and local floral bouquet.

As Kailla puts it: “she filled my young heart with a love of gardens, plants and flowers.  She would generously send me out into her amazing garden with a basket and clippers, telling me I could pick anywhere.  Then, as we selected frogs and filled vases, she would tell me the names and the stories of all these beautiful flowers.  Her garden was a fairy land to me as a child and it continues to inspire me and influence my work today.”

Kailla Platt Flowers, a delightful composition.

Kailla Platt Flowers, a delightful seasonal composition.

Kailla Platt Flowers is a young floral studio inspired by Kailla’s lifelong relationship with flowers. On her website, Kailla writes: “I care about where my flowers come from. I want to know the farmer who grew them.  When possible, I want to gather and forage botanical material myself.  The flowers we give to others, wear in our hair and lift to our faces and smell, should be free of pesticides and harmful chemicals.  Farm to table, garden to vase, me to you.” 

Seasonal design by Kailla Platt Flowers.

Seasonal design by Kailla Platt Flowers. 

Kailla works collaboratively on wedding and event design with another amazing force, Elizabeth Bryant, a flower farmer, floral designer, and founder of Rose Hill Flower Farm, a small, sustainable urban flower farm and design studio in Portland. 

Elizabeth and Kailla at Prettyman's General, a neighborhood mercantile where they  sell their local bouquets.

Elizabeth and Kailla at Prettyman’s General, a neighborhood mercantile where they sell their local bouquets.

Elizabeth and her wife Jill grow flowers on three acres of family land in West Linn, Oregon, about 15 miles southeast of Portland. 

She says: “Our farming and land-care practices are organic and ecologically grounded, with the utmost care given to creating a healthy soil ecology and rich pollinator habitat.  We grow a range of both common and unique specialty cut flowers for use in weddings and events, through our CSA, and direct to florists.”  Rose Hill also provides lush, locally grown arrangements weekly for restaurants, businesses and individuals, or for any special occasion.  

Mixed bouquets by Rose Hill Flower Farm.

Mixed bouquets by Rose Hill Flower Farm.

What you’ll enjoy about this interview is hearing how two creatives – Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt – have distinct points of view and floral businesses that are different from one another, but that they also are collaborative in a way that benefits both of their work – and their clients.

Spring ephemerals, grown by Rose Hill's Elizabeth Bryant.

Spring ephemerals, grown by Rose Hill’s Elizabeth Bryant.

 

Rose Hill's Elizabeth Bryant's flowers and floral design.

Rose Hill’s Elizabeth Bryant’s flowers and floral design.

Kailla and Elizabeth share studio space with Portland photographer Katie Prentiss. In a charming little cottage in Southeast Portland, the three us a combined design and meeting/event space for floral projects.  Together they enjoy great artistic synergy and often partner on projects, including weddings and large events requiring florals.

A floral collaboration.

A floral collaboration.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design. Even after a year of producing and hosting the Slow Flowers Podcast, I can guarantee that the list of future guests is very long and I don’t imagine running out of names we need to hear from – inspiring people who are changing the way Americans gather and enjoy flowers in all aspects of life.

Floral design by Kailla Platt.

Floral design by Kailla Platt.

Next week Slow Flowers comes to you from Homer, Alaska, where I’ve happily returned after my 2012 peony-hunting excursion. After that, the road tripping continues, and you can anticipate Slow Flowers interviews with flower farmers and floral designers in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. 

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 17,000 times. In fact, the month of July was our all-time most popular month of interviews with 2500 downloads – and I’m jazzed to know that more listeners are discovering this flower-powered podcast every day.

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

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Day in the Life of Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers (Episode 152)

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers

Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers    

 

Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

As we launch this podcast’s second year, I’m honored to continue bringing great conversations to you each week.

Some of the most rewarding side benefits of interviewing flower farmers, floral designers and other influential voices in the field-to-vase floral industry are the “field trips” that bring me close-up and in-person to see the sources of our American flowers – the farms, the studios, and the retail spaces where such amazing beauty connects us with nature and the seasons. 

This happened again last week when I invited myself to Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Washington, for a visit.

Owned by veteran grower Vivian Larson, this established cut flower farm is a sight to behold. Viv is a precision grower, who cares deeply about her flowers – from the first seedlings emerging from trays of and trays of soil to the voluptuous bunches of blooms that are picked with great attention to detail, processed, bunched and delivered to her design customers.  

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv's house.

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv’s house.

Located about an hour north of Seattle, Everyday Flowers is situated on a gorgeous piece of land with a more than 180-degree view to the Puget Sound’s many islands – Camano, Whidbey, the San Juans – all the way up to Canada – and north toward Mount Vernon. Vivian and her husband Jim, a commercial fisherman, raised two children here and are now helping raise three grand-children. It is a bucolic place with a beloved horse who adds agricultural character to the scene, as well as rows and rows of field-grown annuals and perennials located next to several large and very tidy hoop-houses containing even more flowers. 

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed - one of Viv's specialty crops.

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed – one of Viv’s specialty crops.

Vivian is a founding member and board vice president of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, and I’ve known her for several years through that relationship. Some would say she is the glue that holds that place together, a true diplomat when it comes to synthesizing points of view and navigating the true meaning of a cooperative – one that benefits all members for the greater good. 

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers.

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers. That’s “Sassy” grazing in the background.

Vivian is the daughter of farmers who taught her those intangible skills of building good soil and caring for the land. “I always had a patch of earth where I grew flowers as a child,” she recalls. When Vivian’s own children were small, in 1990, she asked her husband to prepare a large area of ground. She began growing flowers and selling her bouquets at a nearby farm stand. “People would wait there to get my flowers or I’d have standing orders,” Vivian recalls. “Good flowers sell themselves – I’ve never had to advertise.” 

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

Experience has taught Vivian to know which varieties are successful as cut ingredients, which colors are reliable over time and which flowers produce the longest stems. “I’ve always known there were certain types of flowers that lasted better than others, especially if cut at the right time, and treated properly post-harvest,” she explains. “The fact is, I have a choice of what to grow and I choose to grow plants that are going to be happy at my farm and hold well in the vase.” 

This shot is a little silly, but viv humored me when  I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

This shot is a little silly, but Viv humored me when I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

For example, Vivian grows larger quantities of white, pink and yellow lilies because they are more popular with buyers. Similarly, the Karma dahlias have been bred for 18-20 inch-long stems and longer vase life, so she focuses on those. 

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly's mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly’s mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian has a good idea of what wedding designers and their clients are looking for and how they use each flower. While she has in the past done some of her own design work, the bottom line is that Vivian is first of all a flower farmer. “Honestly, I just enjoy growing more than anything else!”  

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.

 

Alicia's gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

Alicia’s gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

We were lucky to have another guest along for my flower adventure – Alicia Schwede, a floral designer and owner of the Flirty Fleurs blog, joined Vivian and me for dinner and then returned early the following morning, clippers and urn in hand – for a floral designers’ whirlwind session. We loved creating arrangements and bouquets with Vivian’s flowers.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including a cluster of unripe grapes.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including dahlias, budleia, golden dill, calendula, Shasta daisies, leonitis, gooseneck loosestrife, and a cluster of unripe grapes and grape tendrils.

 

Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Everyday Flowers uses sustainable growing practices and the farm is Salmon Safe certified. No herbicides are used on the farm and on the rare instance when insecticides are used, they are OMRI-approved (Organic Materials Review Institute) products, Vivian explains. 

“I have a good beneficial insect population, including bees and ladybugs and I grow cover crops to suppress weeds and add more organic matter back in the soil,” Vivian explains. “I also have ‘Sassy’ my horse who does her share by producing great compost.” 

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 16,000 times. I truly appreciate the guests, listeners and sponsors who have supported the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing! Together, we’re changing the broken floral industry for the better!!

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.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Floral and Event designer McKenzie Powell (Episode 150)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
A McKenzie Powell floral bouquet, photographed by Jasmine Star.

A McKenzie Powell floral bouquet, photographed by Jasmine Star.

I’ve experienced real joy in producing and hosting the Slow Flowers Podcast this past year.

You could say it’s purely selfish to have a personal, 30-minute conversation with an influential and interesting leader in the American floral industry, right?

Yet I am so happy to invite you to share in our dialogue; doing so has allowed flower farmers, floral designers and flower sellers to reach so many others by simply sharing their personal stories. And I sincerely hope that listeners who care about the source, seasonality and growing methods of the flowers they enjoy in their lives are inspired by the guests I’ve been able to feature this past year.  

MPD-logo-new Today’s delightful guest is McKenzie Powell, a young floral artist and event producer based in Seattle. I’ve been wanting to interview McKenzie for a couple of years. And too often, when we run into one another at the flower market, we promise, “let’s get together for coffee, okay?”  

This past week, we finally made that happen. McKenzie’s star is on the ascent. In just four years since she launched her studio, the work of this talented designer has been showcased twice in Martha Stewart Weddings, as well as in local bridal publications in our area like Seattle Bride and Seattle Met Bride & Groom. After recording our interview, she also sent me this link to a 2013 project of hers that landed on Martha Stewart’s Real Weddings’ blog. 

McKenzie Powell with one of her beautiful arrangements (c) Belathee Photography.

McKenzie Powell with one of her beautiful arrangements (c) Belathee Photography.

She’s also been showcased on a gazillion websites, including but not limited to: Junebug, 100 Layer Cake, Coco & Kelly, Elizabeth Ann Designs, Style me Pretty, Once Wed, Apartment Therapy, Wedding Wire, and others.

McKenzie says this about her business: We are a boutique and floral event design studio located in Seattle, Washington, and available for travel. We bring flair, elegance, and creativity to each and every event – from an intimate dinner party to a grand affair. Our goal is to learn your story, your style, your vision – then design an event unique to you and incredibly beautiful. 

A wedding tablescape, all-white and lovely.

A wedding tablescape, all-white and lovely. (c) Bryce Covey

McKenzie was raised among gardens and trained as a graphic designer. She brings a broad appreciation and knowledge of design to the floral and event industry, a niche that combines so much of what she enjoys and finds inspiring. Interiors, flowers, fashion, food, travel – they all seem to play an important part in a well-crafted and thoughtful event. 

A Summer Bouquet from McKenzie's Seattle Garden.

A Summer Bouquet from McKenzie’s Seattle Garden.

After two years working for an angel investment firm, planning large-scale corporate events, she launched McKenzie Powell Floral & Event Design, quickly earning a reputation for her lush, romantic designs. While her floral work may be what she is most notably known for, she encourages her clients to think beyond the centerpiece. Using an approach that considers the entire table, the entire environment, McKenzie creates truly beautiful events. 

Her perfect lazy day is spent lakeside at her family’s cabin, in the company of a good book, a fresh grapefruit cocktail, and her handsome husband. 

You can find and follow McKenzie at these places:

McKenzie on Facebook

McKenzie on Instagram

McKenzie on Twitter

McKenzie on Pinterest

We are coming up on a one year anniversary next week. I have a very special guest who is going to share a big announcement about American Grown Flowers, so be sure to tune in.

Last week, thanks to listeners like you, this podcast hit the 15,000 download mark and I couldn’t be more grateful. I truly appreciate the guests, listeners and sponsors who have supported the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing!!! Together, we’re changing the broken floral industry for the better!!

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.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A new brand of floral entrepreneur, Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery (Episode 149)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery, wearing one of her beautiful floral crowns (c) Jana Williams

Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery, wearing one of her beautiful floral crowns (c) Jana Williams

CC_Logo_final.ai-page-001 Today’s guest is Bess Wyrick, founder and creative director of Celadon & Celery, a floral design and events studio based in New York City and Los Angeles. 

I first learned of Bess when researching florists to possibly feature in The 50 Mile Bouquet – I wanted to document the emerging business model of floral designers who actively promoted green practices, such as using seasonal and local flowers, embracing earth-friendly products and promoting anti-mass market style. 

I later learned that this category is called “eco-couture,” and it’s quite possible that Bess coined the phrase herself.

 

May 5, 2013 cover of New York Magazine, featuring Bess Wyrick's floral crown on the head of artist Jeffrey Koons.

May 5, 2013 cover of New York Magazine, featuring Bess Wyrick’s floral crown on the head of artist Jeffrey Koons.

In 2009, Bess’s Celadon & Celery was featured in a New York Times blog post about “organic flower” sourcing. The writer cited Bess’s policy of sourcing flowers within a 200-mile radius of NYC and also noted that when seasonal flowers aren’t available, she purchased Fair Trade, Veriflora and USDA organic flowers from certified vendors. 

The following year, in 2010, BizBash, a web site devoted to event planning, published a piece about Celadon & Celery that stated: “. . . sustainability is important to Wyrick. She composts, grows many of her own plants in her Chelsea studio, sources flowers from local growers or certified organic suppliers, and scavenges for materials to repurpose.” 

Bess shared this photo of a floral teepee, a recent installation.

Bess shared this photo of a floral teepee, a recent installation.

To read about that philosophy today – in 2015 – doesn’t seem all that unusual. But five years ago, it was rare. Believe me, I counted on one hand the number of designers proactively taking the green approach. I saved that article in my folder of inspiring designers. 

So how cool was it that when Celadon & Celery brought its floral design workshop series to Los Angeles, Bess’s publicist pitched me to write the story. 

Local flowers in a beautiful palette, designed by Celadon & Celery

Local flowers in a beautiful palette, designed by Celadon & Celery 

I was definitely intrigued. Intimate hands-on floral design workshops had hit the East Coast, and the New York Times had run a piece in 2010 about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn (and owners Sarah Ryhanen and Nicolette Owen, two recent guests of this podcast). I’d even led a few seasonal floral workshops for Ravenna Gardens in Seattle in 2010, but I hadn’t seen much like this happening elsewhere on the West Coast. 

My editor at the Los Angeles Times agreed, and I did a short Q&A interview with Bess about the workshop series in fall 2011. At the time, Celadon & Celery was charging $300 for its two-hour sustainable-design workshops at Bess’s loft-studio in New York’s Chelsea Flower District. For the Los Angeles expansion, she dropped the tuition to $125 and used social media channels to promote the classes. 

Overwhelmed by the positive response, Bess rented a photography studio in downtown Los Angeles and turned it into a classroom. She hired a few local freelancers to help and ran three classes a day for three weeks. “In that time we taught floral design to more than 800 people,” Bess marvels.

bliss! a Celadon & Celery seasonal creation

bliss! a Celadon & Celery seasonal creation

50MileBouquet_book I was able to witness the excitement in person and cover it for a chapter in The 50 Mile Bouquet. In the book’s pages, you can read about the explosion of DIY interest in floral design.

In that piece, Bess offered this observation: “The word ‘eco’ has a bad reputation implying something weedy,” Bess says. “But we’re creating flowers that are sophisticated, chic and tailored. ” You can read the entire chapter by clicking this link.

I’ve connected with Bess many times since the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet, in both New York and Los Angeles, depending on where our travels intersect. She is a generous supporter of the new Slowflowers.com and you can find Celadon & Celery featured in the online directory under studio florists and weddings/events.

I’ve been wanting to have her on as a guest and I’m delighted to include our conversation here today. Please enjoy our discussion about how floral design – and this designer in particular – has evolved to encompass event production, conceptual storytelling and artistic installations.

a singular bouquet.

a singular bouquet.

You’ll learn that floral design can be as multidisciplinary and multidimensional as you choose it to be. And, according to Bess, florists who advocate for their vendors, the family flower farm in particular, have an edge. She says: “I like to sell the fact that I’m a luxury brand and luxury brands work with really small artisans and that’s really important because you want to make sure that your flower farm vendors keep doing what they’re doing and creating unique and unusual flowers that the higher luxury market will pay for.”

(c) Jana WIlliams

(c) Jana WIlliams

I love how generous and frank she is and a few more of her interview comments really resonated:

For one thing, volunteering on flower farms has educated Bess to understand that “it’s not okay for clients to negotiate the cost of flowers because it is back-breaking work and there aren’t enough people who know how to grow flowers.”

And second: This quote is powerful and I hope it more than a few people in the floral industry to rethink their practices: “I don’t think that any florist in California should be importing flowers at all. That’s just being lazy.”

(c) Jana Williams

(c) Jana Williams

Ahem. Thank you, Bess, for stating the obvious. You’ve lent a lot of credibility to the Slow Flowers Movement with that proclamation!

Here are links to all of Bess’s social outlets:

Life with Bess Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Flickr

Instagram

And Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded nearly 15,000 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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

A July 4th Homegrown Bouquet, from an American flower farm

Friday, July 4th, 2014
Just picked, from the cutting garden and fields at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA

Just picked, from the cutting garden and fields at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA

Composing this arrangement for the July 4th holiday is my reward for 48 hours of hard work.

I’ve been here in Southern California on assignment for Country Gardens magazine and Deck, Patio & Outdoor Rooms magazine.

I worked with Michael Garland, an LA-based photographer, to capture two wonderful garden stories that you’ll see in the pages of these publications next year (summer 2015). 

Today, after wrapping up at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, which has been the subject of past blogs and a podcast interview with founder Danielle Hahn, I got to play with the extra flowers from our photo shoot.

Everything that grows here is lush, and organic, and seasonal and simply devine! Here’s what my flower playtime yielded. Only in Santa Barbara area do the dahlias, roses, hydrangaes and succulents look at their peak on the same day.

If you have to work on a holiday, let it be July 4th and let it be at a American flower farm, right?