Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Little Flower School of Brooklyn comes to Oregon (Episode 143)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

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'Who needs a prince' - seriously great iris name!

‘Who needs a prince’ – seriously great iris name!

Last week was quite amazing in so many ways. First of all, I was on assignment for Country Gardens magazine, working with the uber-talented photographer Laurie Black, my collaborator in so many great articles that we’ve created over the years for editor James Baggett and art director Nick Crow.

With her partner-husband Mark King (ever the calm one and a genius when it comes to all the technical aspects of location photography), Laurie and I were tasked with capturing the story of Schreiner’s Iris Farm, the lovely and alluring bearded iris, and the two women who are nearly single-handedly reviving interest in these old-fashioned spring flowers. 

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Those women are my guests today – Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua and Nicolette Owen of Nicolette Camille. While they independently own their own Brooklyn-based floral studios, together the friends collaborate as teachers through The Little Flower School of Brooklyn. 

'Oh Jamaica'

‘Oh Jamaica’

Smitten by the bearded iris, especially watercolor-washed varieties in apricot-peach-pink; smoky browns; mustardy-yellow; mahogany and silvery-lavender spectrums, Nicolette and Sarah have been fans of Schreiner’s Irises for years.

They worked with the Salem, Oregon-based, third-generation family farm to create a one-day Iris-intensive and invited students to join the fun.

Here’s how the workshop was described:

In this class, students will bask in the glory of the fields at peak bloom, and in a tour of the display gardens witness first hand the incredible diversity of color and form this unique perennial offers. We’ll discuss and demonstrate the tenets of composing an arrangement in our elegantly layered Little Flower School style. Special emphasis will be placed on flower selection, color blending and the mechanics of building a low lush sprawling arrangement without the use of floral foam. Working with the very best of the Schreiner’s specimens, along with a menagerie of other locally grown Oregon flowers, students will receive in-depth. one-on-one instruction as they build their own rambling garden style arrangement.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises and perennials.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises, annuals, foliage and perennials.

The day was packed with beauty and creativity. It was an inspired, sublime experience — from the first moment when we met, toured the gallery of irises and the gorgeous display beds showcasing irises and their favorite companion perennials — to an afternoon of floral design instruction. Meeting many members of the Schreiner family was a bonus! Thanks to Steve Schreiner, Ray Schreiner and sister Liz Schmidt (plus we met sister Paula, who stopped by while leading an iris tour for Portland’s Japanese Garden).

About 18 students gathered for the workshop, from established floral designers to apprentices and those considering a career switch, and me – a floral dilettante! Together, we fixated on Sarah and Nicolette’s language of flowers. 

These two communicate with such beautiful interlocking poetry and prose. And you’ll just have to wait for the summer 2015 issue of Country Gardens to learn more, read my story and see Laurie’s awesome photography!

 

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner's Iris Farm.

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner’s Iris Farm.

After our workshop, however, the three of us sat down in the double-Adirondack benches so generously provided by the Schreiner family. We talked a lot about the farmer-florist concept, the Slow Flowers movement, and the importance of staying close to the source of your flowers.

 

Nicolette at work.

Nicolette at work.

Here’s a little more about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn:

The Little Flower School is the teaching project of Nicolette Owen (Nicolette Camille) and Sarah Ryhanen (Saipua); each known for their loose, natural, garden-focused floral designs. Fueled by their reverence for flowers and penchant for travel, the two traverse the globe teaching, learning, and hunting down the most beautiful floral specimens.

Sarah and Nicolette first met over dinner in July of 2008 – a time when each of their separate floral businesses were first establishing. As distinct competitors, their friendship championed a spirit of collaboration and – they hope – has helped to foster an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration amidst a new wave of New York floral designers.

Students of The Little Flower School are men and women; novices, floral enthusiasts, designers in other medium, those looking to start their own floral business, and those with established floral businesses looking to broaden their design knowledge. Classes are seasonally oriented and often exalt a particular flower or design concept. 

Here’s more about Nicolette: 

Nicolette Owen runs her custom floral design studio, Nicolette Camille Floral, in Brooklyn NY. Her work is known for its romantic effusions, nuanced color and texture. Each arrangement is evocative of both the wild and formal garden. Nicolette’s first book collaboration, Bringing Nature Home, was released by Rizzoli in April 2012.

 

Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves - biannual and perennial forms.

Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves – biannual and perennial forms.

And more about Sarah: 

Sarah Ryhanen is a self taught flower designer, grower and  co-founder of Saipua. Her compositions have a haunting, sensual quality. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Vogue and Martha Stewart. She splits her time between the Saipua studio in Red Hook Brooklyn and Worlds End, her new flower farm in upstate NY.  And listen to my earlier podcast interview with Sarah here, in which we speak of her decision to begin growing her own flowers with her partner Eric Famisan.

Please enjoy this conversation and join in by sharing your comments below. 

Thank you for joining me this week. Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 12,200  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts. 

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

A Personal Cutting Garden That You Can Eat, Too!

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

Radishes, rainbow chard, purple kale and spider mums.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

READ MORE…

A (American Grown) Flower-filled Road Trip, Part Three

Saturday, May 24th, 2014
The hot, new "ice cream" tulip - spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane Devries's desk!

The hot, new “ice cream” tulip – spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane DeVries’s desk!

I’ve been home for an entire month from an 11-day road trip that took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car. 

I have many fond memories (as well as the photographs that I collected), while stopping along U.S. Hwy. 101 on my way north to Seattle. My first post featured Rose Story Farm and the Carpinteria flower scene; my 2nd post was about visiting author-friend Sharon Lovejoy and her husband Jeff Prostovitch in San Luis Obispo. [I'm going to save the photos and stories of my stop in Healdsburg-wine country for another day.]

So here is my third travelogue installation – all about The Sun Valley Group of Arcata, California.

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Visiting Sun Valley and touring its vast flower-growing universe has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with CEO Lane DeVries and his staff over the past few years to promote American-grown flowers and flower farms. In fact, Lane was a podcast guest last year – you can listen to that interview here. But I had never been able to see Sun Valley up close and personal!

Still on the road last month, I routed myself through Eureka, Calif., where I first visited another writer-friend, Amy Stewart of Flower Confidential and The Drunken Botanist fame (listen to our Podcast interview here).

The following morning I continued north to the next town on the map, Arcata – home to Sun Valley’s headquarters and one of the company’s farm locations. 

Sun Valley is a leading grower of cut bulb and field flowers in the United States. According to its web site, Sun Valley chose this area as an ideal environment for growing bulb flowers, due to its mild winters, cool summers, generous humidity and coastally moderated sunlight. The fields surrounding the greenhouses also provide excellent growing conditions for spring, summer and fall iris, and summer flowers including crocosmia, hypericum, monkshood and montbretia.

Bill Prescott, the farm’s social media/communications guru, met and escorted me on a whirlwind tour. It’s a good thing that I brought my rubber-soled Merrills, cuz the ground gets muddy and wet at a flower farm – in the shade houses and in the greenhouses. These farms practice water conservation, of course, but the puddles and wet spots still exist.

We started by walking through the tulip operations. By the way, click here to see the farm’s mind-boggling array of tulip varieties – you’ll not believe it!

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

 

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

 

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

 

I couldn't take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It's not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It’s not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this! 

 

Hello, tulip!

Hello, tulip! 

 

The tulip harvest - this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting!

The tulip harvest – this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting! 

 

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground - bulbs and all - to ensure the longest stems.

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground – bulbs and all – to ensure the longest stems.

Some other popular crops include irises and lilies:

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises!

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises! 

 

And the classic purple ones, too!

And the classic purple ones, too! 

 

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers.

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers. 

 

Having fun with the lilies - Bill is a bit of a ham!

Having fun with the lilies – Bill is a bit of a ham!

Bill sent me home with a huge bucket filled with irises and tulips – gorgeous, fresh, just-picked and more than I could ever use in a single Easter arrangement. They survived the 10-hour drive to Seattle that day and still looked awesome when I gave an arrangement of those blooms to my mother on Easter. We both enjoyed those American-grown flowers for nearly two weeks – especially the lilies, with so many plump buds that kept opening up, a few new blooms every day.

And speaking of lilies . . . did you know that “Lily,” the voice of Sun Valley’s blog, is none other than Mr. Bill Prescott? On the blog, he channels his inner florist supremely well! Check out “Flower Talk: Grow with Lily” here - and subscribe to receive notices of the frequent installments. 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Fabulous Bows and Arrows of Dallas (Episode 142)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

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Adam and Alicia, flower arranging at Cynthia Alexander's Quarry Flower Farm in Frisco, Texas (c) Ryan Ray

Adam and Alicia, flower arranging at Cynthia Alexander’s Quarry Flower Farm in Frisco, Texas (c) Ryan Ray 

 

Another great moment on the flowe farm, captured by their frequent collaborator, photographer Ryan Ray.

Another great moment on the flowe farm, captured by their frequent collaborator, photographer Ryan Ray.

 

Alicia, up close, with some of her favorite just-picked, fresh-from-the-field flowers.

Alicia, up close, with some of her favorite just-picked, fresh-from-the-field flowers. (c) Ryan Ray

Today’s guest is Alicia Rico, co-owner with her husband Adam Rico of the Dallas-based floral and events studio Bows and Arrows.

This playful business name sums up their his-and-her style: Alicia is the feminine “bow” and Adam is the masculine “arrow.”

 

Their work has been showcased twice in Martha Stewart Weddings, and on every popular design and floral blog, as well as in countless other magazines. 

Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot about Alicia and Adam – and their fabulous floral aesthetic at Bows and Arrows. That’s because my friend Whitney White spent some time working with them as a studio manager when she lived in Dallas.  

Whitney White in a 2012 Bows and Arrows photo shoot. Love this imagery!

Whitney White in a 2012 Bows and Arrows photo shoot. Love this imagery! photo: (c) Apryl Ann

So last month, when Whitney and her beau Ryan Page were wed in Seattle, where they now live, Alicia and Adam came to join the celebration.

They were here as guests, and as part of the “friends of the bride” creative team who conjured up seasonal spring magic for Whitney & Ryan’s outdoor wedding — including at the wedding site, a local park, and at the reception venue – an intimate Italian restaurant that is a favorite of Whitney & Ryan’s. 

Erica Knowles of Botany 101 Floral here in Seattle served as lead wedding designer and Texas flower farmer Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Flower Farm, a previous guest on this podcast, lent her creativity, as well. 

Just hours before the ceremony, Alicia Rico taught seven bridesmaids how to make floral crows to adorn their locks.

Just hours before the ceremony, Alicia Rico taught seven bridesmaids how to make floral crows to adorn their locks. (c) Debra Prinzing

 

Alicia (right) with her former studio manager and bride-of-the-moment, Whitney White (left)

Alicia (right) with her former studio manager and bride-of-the-moment, Whitney White (left) (c) Debra Prinzing

 

Modeling a floral crown.

Alicia, modeling a floral crown. (c) Debra Prinzing

Much of this flower-making took place before, during and after the bridal brunch that Cynthia and I hosted at my house the morning of the wedding. After hearing about her from Whitney, I was thrilled to meet Alicia and learn more about her design philosophy, the business she and Adam have built, their work as conceptual floral artists and more.

And after a spirited, hands-on, mini-floral crown workshop for 7 bridesmaids (only one of whom had any floral design experience), which took place on our back porch, I grabbed Alicia and convinced her to sit down with me for a short podcast interview. I wanted to get to know her – and I wanted YOU to get to know her, too. 

More artistry from Bows and Arrows (c) Ryan Ray.

More artistry from Bows and Arrows (c) Ryan Ray.

On their website, they describe having a philosophy as follows:

Just as each flower is unique from the next, we carry the belief that each bride is unique from the next. Founded in 2009, Bows and Arrows is dedicated to the creation and communication of beauty via the art of floral and event design. We approach each event with the desire to preserve the integrity and natural presence of flowers and environments. Inspired by art, nature and culture, we build our aesthetic and design around what personally resonates with each bride to create an event that is purposeful, hand-crafted and lovely. 

Please enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit my web site, debraprinzing.com to see photos of Alicia and Adam, of their floral work, and to get details about their forthcoming design workshop in Marfa, Texas, the hip and hot destination.

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 BowsArrowsMarfaWorkshop

 Thank you for joining me this week. Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 11,600  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts. 

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Henry Hudson’s Amy Nardi on Australia’s Love for Local Flowers (Episode 141)

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

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Today we’re celebrating local flowers – both in the U.S. and in Australia. Seasonal and local flowers are flourishing in Australia, too!

Amy Nardi, creator of Henry Hudson, the beautiful, Australia-based floral blog.

Amy Nardi, creator of Henry Hudson, the beautiful, Australia-based floral blog.

Like many of this podcast’s guests, Amy Nardi and I met “virtually,” through an email correspondence. Originally, she contacted me to ask permission to link to my web site from hers.

I was aware of her beautiful website: HenryHudson.co.au, but I didn’t know her personal story. We decided to record our conversation so I could share it with listeners of the Slow Flowers Podcast

With a professional background in the fashion and floral industry, Amy Nardi created Henry Hudson to be a place where all kinds of floral folk could head to, gain inspiration, find out what is happening in the floral world, and find new floral friends all over the globe to floral exchange ideas with. 

"Bouquet of Scraps," from a Henry Hudson photo shoot.

“Bouquet of Scraps,” from a Henry Hudson photo shoot. 

 

Australia Fashion Week Installation.

Australia Fashion Week Installation. 

 

A floral still-life, from a Henry Hudson post.

A floral still-life, from a Henry Hudson post.

She says: “We love flowers so much, we thought there must be other people out there who love them just as much, too (and want to talk about them!).”

Indeed that’s true. And I know you’ll be fascinated to learn about the locally-grown influences in Australia, where flower farmers there are a valued resource to florists throughout the country.

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Floral Art, ‘Frozen Windflowers’

Here’s a little bit more about Amy, in her own words: 

“I grew up in rural New South Wales (Australia) in a very small town. My parents are farmers, although we grew oranges and grapes (juice and wine). I was creatively influenced at a young age — my mum was not only a keen gardener, she’s an amazing seamstress and painter. When it came to floral industry influences my Aunt and Uncle were flower farmers and another Aunt was a florist. I used to follow her around like a shadow at work and at home picking up scraps and making posies. 
 
“I have always been a creative person. If I wasn’t sewing something, I was drawing or crafting something. Or dancing. At University I studied Design, majoring in Fashion. I have always loved design. This is really where I cemented my understanding of the elements and principles of design and how they can translate into anything and everything. 
 
“After Uni, I decided I wanted to work in the corporate world and I got into HR (Human Resources). However, to feed my creative side I formally studied Floristry in my spare time for 3 years. One day I decided I wanted to try out the creative industry full-time and left my corporate world to work full-time in Floristry. However, after a few years of work for a Floral studio that predominately had large event work, I was diagnosed with Arthritis in my hips (in my early 20′s) and was told I had to go back to a job where I wasn’t on my feet for more than 3 hours continuously a day. While I was devastated, I knew that this wasn’t the end for flowers and me. I went back into the HR world and still did my own small weddings and events on the side. Now I work for a great American Management Consulting firm, in their HR department, and I curate the Henry Hudson website also. It keeps me very busy! 
 
“I started Henry Hudson just over a year and a half ago, I wanted to bring together the floral community and share the work and stories of innovative and cool floral designers and amazing local growers. I have a keen interest in economics, statistics and interactions and I wanted to involve that somehow into Henry Hudson, hence the trend predictions!”
A bronze and green suspended floral installation.

A bronze and green suspended floral installation.

Follow Henry Hudson here:

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A Slow Flowers Celebration

Please join me in celebrating the launch of my long-awaited resource: SLOWFLOWERS.com

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What is Slowflowers.com? It’s a sister project to this podcast. A free, online directory of American-grown flowers and the designers, shops, studios and farms who source those blooms.

The mission of Slowflowers.com is simply this:

To promote American-grown flowers, to make it easy for flower consumers to connect with florists, shops, studios and farms who provide American-grown flowers, and to encourage truthful and transparent country-of-origin labeling in the floral industry. 

If you haven’t done so yet, please visit the site and check it out. There are already 250 domestic floral resources listed there — and my goal is to grow that list to one thousand! 

If you’re a flower consumer, sign up to receive our quarterly e-newsletter. If you own a floral business focused on seasonal and local flowers, please create a listing so others can easily find you!

I want to give a special thank you to the 229 individuals and businesses who contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year. Together, they helped to raise more than $18,000 to complete this project. 

An extra special thank you goes to our three main supporters. The California Cut Flower Commission, our premier sponsor, and the San Francisco Flower Mart and Mellano & Co., established growers of beautiful flowers, the two presenting sponsors. 

My goal with this project is that anytime someone wishes to purchase or send flowers, they stop and ask themselves: Can those flowers be American grown? Slowflowers.com provides that answer.

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

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

 All photographs appear, courtesy of Amy Nardi and Henry Hudson. The photo of the white ‘Henry Hudson’ rose (top of page, center – in collage) is from Connon Nurseries.

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

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom.

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she was right.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

What’s in bloom now: Spring seasonal floral design

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Yesterday, I hosted a hugely inspiring gathering of floral designers

We celebrated spring with a hands-on workshop to explore color, texture, form and scale

Below is the result of our creative expression 

2_bouquets

Floral Designs Above, from top: SUSAN WADE and TRACY STRAND (Mother & Daughter)

4_bouquets_May_3_set_2

Floral Designs Above, clockwise from top left: DEBRA PRINZING, SUSAN CARTER, SUSAN KESE and SHAWN CHAMBERLAIN

4_bouquets_May_3

Floral Designs Above, clockwise from top left: KEITA HORN, KRISTIANN SCHOENING, MAIJA WADE and KRISTIN MATTSEN

Zapote_Gregory_2_IMG_9904

Floral Design Above: ZAPOTE GREGORY

Floral Sources:

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Curly willow, Oregon Coastal Flowers

‘Peony’ Tulips, Ojeda Farms

Bleeding Heart, Ojeda Farms

Sweet Peas, Jello Mold Farm

Bupleurum, Foxglove, Gerrondo Gerberas, Yarrow and Veronica — California Grown

Florabundance (thanks for the donation of California-grown products!)

Garden Roses from Rose Story Farm

Dusty Miller

Lilacs

Parrot tulips

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Hear from a Floral Wholesaler who Promotes American Grown (Episode 139)

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014
I recently visited Joost Bongaerts, floral wholesaler and owner of Florabundance.

I recently visited Joost Bongaerts, floral wholesaler and owner of Florabundance.

Over the past several weeks you’ve heard my conversations with floral designers who are leading the way when it comes to sourcing their flowers, leaves and branches from local farms. They place high value on seasonal blooms, because they know their bouquets and arrangements will be all the more beautiful and cherished by the customer – a customer who is also asking, Where do my flowers come from?

 

Yet many of these florists whose operations are not large enough to guarantee sizeable orders or meet minimum purchase requirements face a dead-end when they ask their local wholesaler to provide domestic or locally-grown product.

The wholesaler is basically a broker, an agent between the grower and the designer. The way the wholesale florist makes money is to buy low and sell high. I know this is an essential truth in any modern-day distribution system, but – to me – it can lead to a situation where the wholesaler holds all the power to set price, to determine what is brought to market, to manage the flow of goods from producer to end user. And in floral, over the years, that set up has led to a near-total obscurity of sourcing and certainly NOT truth in labeling.

It has been close to impossible for designers seeking flowers from the wholesaler in their town to ever know WHERE those flowers came from or WHO grew them, let alone what growing practices were used.

This model is only beginning to change. As we heard from Foxglove Brooklyn and The Local Bouquet, two studios featured in recent episodes, their big breakthroughs occurred when a light bulb went off in the mind of their wholesale florist. The energy and enthusiasm these designers express whenever they can source American grown flowers has stimulated a shift in thinking at the wholesaler. It might not even be the owner of that wholesale business who gets it, but perhaps an enterprising salesperson or account manager who says: “Ah ha! I get it – they want more local product and If I can source it – my sales will increase.”

So . . . in the coming months, in an effort to crack the code and inspire more wholesale florists to “see the way to the future,” I’ll be featuring conversations with the ones who are committed to transparency in their sourcing practices.

Florabundance

Today, we’re kicking it off with Joost Bongaerts, owner of Florabundance in Carpinteria, California.

Joost has been involved in the horticulture and floral industry his entire life – and through Florabundance he sells flowers to retail florists and designers all around the country.

Located as they are in the flower-basket of the U.S., Florabundance has the unique ability to source from small and large flower farms in California and in many other states on an almost a year-round basis.

I applaud Joost for labeling all of the CA-grown options on the Florabundance web site. In the future, we should see other wholesalers adopting this practice. And next, we’ll urge them all to identify other states, as well as use the soon-to-launch American Grown Flowers logo.

Here’s a little more about Joost and his background:

Born in 1959 in Den Hague, The Netherlands, Joost grew up in Holland. His father managed agricultural land holdings all over the country. Joost spent summers working on his family’s farm in northern Holland and became interested in agriculture and horticulture as a result. He attended The Land en Tuinbouw School in Dordrecht and continued his education in Gouda, graduating with a degree in plant science.

Joost also spent a semester at Michigan State University as part of an exchange program, which led to his desire to work and live in the United States. Joost began his professional career in 1981, marketing fresh cut flowers from Holland for The Dutch Flower Auctions & Exporters Organizations which was located in Livonia, MI.

From 1983 to 1991 Joost worked for several Dutch companies selling flower bulbs and perennial plants to specialty cut flower growers in the United States and Canada.

In 1991 Joost and his wife Alexandra opened BonFleur, a European-style retail flower shop in New Canaan, CT, which they sold to their manager in 2002. During this time Joost also imported flowers from Holland and started to do business with Florabundance, becoming a partner in 2002 and eventually full owner in 2008.

Joost’s background and experience in selling flower bulbs to growers, importing cut flowers and running a successful retail flower shop provides a unique perspective from which he has developed the Florabundance brand into one of the premier wholesalers in the United States.

Here’s a bonus feature: a UBloom episode about Florabundance, produced by J Schwanke for his California Grown Experience video series.

 

I predict that by sharing my conversations with “floral middlemen,” three things will happen in the coming months and year:

1. Other wholesalers will begin to hear the buzz – and they’ll be curious about the successes of their peers like Florabundance’s Joost Bongaerts.

2. More florists will point to these examples and nudge along their own wholesaler, asking them to source domestically, seasonally and locally – for good reason.

and . . .

3. The consumer will benefit – and have more confidence in the purchases he or she makes.

Please send me your suggestions for who you’d like to hear from on future episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

And tune in next week to hear from a special guest. Author Amy Stewart, who wrote Flower Confidential in 2007, will join me for a conversation about that groundbreaking book. Don’t miss it!

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

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley.

A (American Grown) Flower-filled April, Part One

Sunday, April 27th, 2014
Agaves and climbing roses thrive in companionable harmony at Rose Story Farm.

Agaves and climbing roses thrive in companionable harmony at Rose Story Farm. 

My 11-day road trip took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car as I happily drove north on U.S. Hwy. 101 through a beautiful and ever-changing coastal landscape.

The trip began on April 6th when I landed at Burbank Airport, my favorite airport destination these days. I picked up the rental car and hit Ventura Freeway, passing by scenery so familiar to me from the four years we lived in this area. 

The arbor creates a rose allee that intersects growing fields - with the natural landscape creating a lovely backdrop

The arbor creates a rose allee that intersects growing fields – with the natural landscape creating a lovely backdrop

My destination was Carpinteria and Rose Story Farm. The setting sun ahead of me as I drove northwest, I turned off of the freeway at Casitas Pass Blvd. and headed away from the ocean, toward the foothills.

A humble sign, “Rose Story Farm,” greeted me at the end of a long, one-lane driveway (curses, speed bumps!) that runs along the edge of several acres of farmland. Current crop: sunflowers. Then, up ahead, towering palm trees, their presence here oddly normal, and an iron gate. I rang and heard Danielle Hahn’s voice through the speaker box: “Welcome! We’re just about to eat dinner – meet us in the barn.”

The facade of the old stables is clad in a vigorous climbing rose.

The facade of the old stables is clad in a vigorous climbing rose. 

 

The roses are in the foreground; the stable's rooftop in the background.

The roses are in the foreground; the stable’s rooftop in the background.

I’ve been to Rose Story Farm on three previous occasions (read previous blog posts here and here), and yet the charm and old-Santa-Barbara character still excites. Dani and her husband Bill Hahn have converted the former horse stables into the headquarters for their organic cut rose business. What once was the large tack room is now a grand family room, with a giant stone fireplace, soaring beams, cozy upholstered sofas and a big trestle table where three generations of the family were sharing dinner. I joined them for some of the most delicious Mexican take-out I’ve ever eaten.

I shared that meal with Dani and Bill, their son Will and his girlfriend Anne, and Dani’s lovely mother Patti D’All Armi. The stimulating conversation set the tone for a magical visit surrounded by friendship and fragrant roses. It was just the beginning of my three days in the Carpinteria-Santa Barbara area.  

The gathering location for my Slow Flowers/American Grown lecture to the Garden Club of Santa Barbara

The gathering location for my Slow Flowers/American Grown lecture to the Garden Club of Santa Barbara

The impetus for my arrival was Dani’s invitation a year in advance to speak to the Garden Club of Santa Barbara at one of its monthly meetings. We dreamt up a two-part event, with my Monday morning lecture about the American Grown Flower Movement, followed by a lunch break, leading to a hands-on floral design workshop.

Typically, I like to cap hands-on design workshops at 25 students, maximum. Well, somehow this workshop climbed to 52!!! Yikes, without Dani, Patti and Anne’s help, not to mention a few other people on the Garden Club program committee, we could not have pulled it off.  

Anne Steig saved the day in so many ways - I'm so grateful she was there to help us with the workshop.

Anne Steig saved the day in so many ways – I’m so grateful she was there to help us with the workshop.

Here we were in the “flower basket” of America, the one place in our country where more cut flowers are produced than anywhere else. And while one might worry that I would be “preaching to the choir,” it simply wasn’t the case. The reaction to my lecture was sadly familiar. Comment after comment, as I signed books, visited with the Garden Club members, or helped a student assess her arrangement, went like this: “I had NO idea that so many flowers are imported. I am so glad to learn what I can do to change this practice.” 

Workshop participants were asked to bring their own containers and tools, as well as greenery from their gardens to share. We were able to underscore the message about the benefits and pleasures of local, seasonal flowers with a powerful visual aid: ROSES! Bless her heart, Dani harvested and donated 500 gorgeous roses from her fields. Talk about intoxicating! These old garden roses, David Austins, pre-1950s American hybrid tea roses and European varieties are simply stunning. The colors, forms, petal shapes and fragrances will instantly convert you into a believer in locally-grown flowers.

One of my demonstration arrangements features all California-grown roses, anemones, scented geranium foliage and more.

One of my demonstration arrangements features all California-grown roses, anemones, scented geranium foliage, lilacs, agonis and more.

 

A yummy detail, featuring a dark purple rose that is so gorgeous it made me faint!

A yummy detail, featuring a dark purple rose that is so gorgeous it made me faint!

In addition to using roses and several other cool ingredients from Rose Story Farm (including velvety scented geranium foliage), we procured some donations from other local sources. I want to thank Florabundance, a floral wholesale business owned by Joost and Alex Bongaerts, for their generous donation to match our purchase of a variety of really beautiful, healthy and unique annuals, perennials and foliage – all California grown. And two other flower farms donated interesting varieties for our students to use. Thanks to Marcus Van Wingerden of Pyramid  Flowers Inc., of Oxnard, and Igor Van Wingerden of Ocean Breeze Farms in Carpinteria, for their support.

That evening, after the day-long workout hauling huge buckets of flowers and standing on our feet all day, Dani pulled off yet another classy event. She hosted a garden party for her fellow committee members to celebrate our successful day. It was a delight – and I know you’ll be mesmerized by the enormous arrangements that her staff created for the evening. I certainly was seduced by them, especially in that dewy, coastal air as the sun descended toward the Pacific, illuminating each petal in vivid relief.

sm_yellow_bucket_IMG_9420 sm_wagons_IMG_9433 sm_wagon_roses_IMG_9434 sm_table_IMG_9416 sm_french_bucket_IMG_9421 sm_bouquet_IMG_9418 backlit_IMG_9424 bicolored_IMG_9501 lavender_citrus_IMG_9456 bench_roses_IMG_9540 Rose_Story_IMG_9414

After a late-night gab, Dani’s family long since retired for the night, we finally stopped talking and headed to bed ourselves. My destination: The Hydrangea Cottage. This was my home in the midst of the rose fields. How lucky can one woman be? 

Here's where I stayed for three days . . . a charming vintage cottage, courtesy of the Hahns and Rose Story Farm. Sublime!

Here’s where I stayed for three days . . . a charming vintage cottage, courtesy of the Hahns and Rose Story Farm. Sublime!

Lots more took place during the ensuing days, but I have so many wonderful photos to share from my time at Rose Story Farm that I need to postpone the narrative for subsequent chapters! To be continued . . .