Debra Prinzing

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Archive for the ‘floral design’ Category

Episode 315: Flower Farmer Nellie Gardner’s New Chapter in Historic Garden and Landscape Preservation

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Nellie Gardener, cut flower farmer, horticulturist and historic landscape preservation consultant.

SLOW FLOWERS IN THE NEWS

Nellie Gardner at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, where she led tours recently for attendees of the Garden Writers Association annual symposium.

Nellie, pictured on the grounds of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, NY, where she is in charge of landscape restoration.

Today’s guest is a woman who I met “virtually” nearly six years ago, but we only recently connected face-to-face. Her name is Nellie Gardner. When the two of us corresponded in late 2011, Nell was the proprietor of Flower Fields, based outside Rochester, New York.

At the time, I was wrapping up the final manuscript for The 50 Mile Bouquet, and one of the last chapters I wrote was about the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, called “From Their Fields to Your Vase.” I was a member of ASCFG, and a frequent reader of the members’ bulletin board where flower farmers posed questions and engaged in discussion on all sorts of topics.

One question caught my eye — from Emily Watson of Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based Stems Cut Flowers. As it turns out, Emily is a past guest of this podcast; we featured her in Episode 185 a few years ago when we discussed her decision to add a new floral studio called Wood Violet to her business model.

Emily’s question about the viability and sustainability of working 80 hour weeks as a flower farmer and wanting to know that it was worth it prompted heartfelt reactions from fellow ASCFG member-growers around the country. One message came from Nellie Gardener, who wrote this:

“I have been able to make a frugal living by growing cut flowers for 20 years, with no outside income or partner with an income. I can only do it by working like a madwoman most of the year, doing weddings, developing many outlets, and extending my Zone 5 season by making Christmas wreaths (and) offering workshops and classes. To make a living with cut flowers, you not only have to grow efficiently, have quality (product), sell to florists, wedding and special event designers, and sell in both retail and wholesale channels, you also have to reinvent yourself to sell all your skills to the public who is hungry for anything real. The competition is cheap labor in South America and the use of flowers as loss leaders in stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s. Only some consumers will buy on conscience, not price.”

Flower Field Farm in Spencerport, NY, where Nellie’s cut flower farm is located.

After reading her comments online, I contacted Nellie to ask for her permission to include them in The 50 Mile Bouquet and I promised to send her a copy of the book as my thanks. She agreed, and I believe the honest and sincere answers she wrote in reaction to Emily’s initial question gave readers an unusual peek into the life of a small-scale specialty cut flower grower.

Another view of Flower Fields Farm.

Over the years I would catch glimpses of Nellie and her flowers, including a beautiful spread in Country Gardens magazine, for which I’m a contributing editor. It was one of those lavish, romantic flower farming stories that prompted me to say, “oh, I wish I had been able to write that!”

Flower Field Farms’ array of fresh, field-grown blooms.

After all these years, Nellie and I finally met in person this past August, when she presented a roundtable topic at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium in Buffalo. I was ecstatic when I saw her name on the program. And the topic was a departure for Nellie — I thought. Rather than discussing cut flower farming, Nellie was there to share the story of gardening at the historic Graycliff Estate, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home on Lake Erie, built in 1926 for the Darwin Martin family. The grounds at Graycliff were originally designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman, a well-known landscape architect and contemporary of Wright’s. Once grand, like the estate, the gardens declined with age — and Nellie has assumed the role of horticulturist who is restoring the flower borders, harvest gardens and outdoor living spaces.

Well now, this was a new role for Nellie and it all makes sense now that I see this title on her web site for Flower Fields: “Cut flower grower, horticulture and gardening consultation.”

I reintroduced myself to Nellie and asked if she would join the podcast to share her story. What you’ll hear today is our rather spontaneous interview, recorded in the lobby of the Buffalo Marriott Hotel.

Dahlias on display!

Here’s a short intro from Nellie’s “about” section of the Flower Fields web site:

Nellie grows cut flower on her Historic Spencerport Farm, and is also the Horticulturist at the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House in Buffalo. Her experience growing up on a hardscrabble farm on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia gave her motivation to put herself through College to learn the science of soils and plants.

With no formal high school education and no money she earned a degree in Agriculture from Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Cornell University. Working for The Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and her own private consulting business, has given her a wide range of experience she applies to her approach to horticulture.

Seeing opportunity and making use of everything she finds grew out of necessity and reuse and repurposing are instinctive. She has grown cut flowers for over 20 years and consults in horticultural problem solving and cut flower growing.

Wow — at a time when so many are seeking ways to diversify their brand and business, I love seeing how one flower farmer’s  path is taking her in a direction that is creatively challenging, professionally rewarding and thoroughly relevant to growing cut flowers.

Nellie worked hard to diversify her business model at Flower Fields Farm, including wreath-making in the fall and winter months.

Find and Follow Nellie Gardner at these social places:

Flower Fields Farm

Nellie Gardner on Facebook

Nellie Gardner on Instagram

Thanks again for joining me today. The Slow Flowers Community continues to grow, with close to 1,500 members having joined our Facebook group and increased engagement on a daily basis over our other social platforms, including Instagram. We are gaining momentum and your participation is key. The media continues to pay attention and Slow Flowers has received some great press lately, both in the trade media thanks to our new partnership with Florists’ Review, as well as in print and online places.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 235,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music credits:
Chords For David
by Pitx
Creative Commons Attribution (3.0)
Acoustic 1
by Dave Depper
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

 

 

Slow Flowers, Montana Style

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Our lovely gathering of Slow Flowers aficionados, pictured at Hart’s Garden & Nursery in Missoula.

Earlier this month, I flew to Missoula, a Western Montana, college town where there is quite a bit happening on the local flower farming scene. t was on my way to speak at the Rocky Mountain Gardening Live conference held on September 11-12 at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana, just 30 minutes outside the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Kathy Sherba, Carly Jenkins and Kristen Tack — all cohorts in Missoula’s Westside Flower Market

Jamie Rogers and Carly Jenkins of Killing Frost Farm, with me (right)

A giant sunflower puts a smile on my face, snapped during my tour of Mighty Fine Farm.

The reason for this Seattle-to-Missoula leg of my trip was to meet up with Carly Jenkins and Jamie Rogers of Killing Frost Farm, Kathy and Adam Sherba of Mighty Fine Farm and George and Marcia Hart of Hart’s Garden & Nursery — all in the Missoula flower farming and Slow Flowers community.

Carly and I met in person earlier this year when she attended Tobey Nelson’s Whidbey Island Flower Workshop, which featured Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events and Kaleb Willis of Kaleb Norman James Design. Carly, or CJ, as she’s often called, gave me the big news about the second-season launch of Westside Flower Market, a wholesale farmer-to-florist venture that she and Kathy incubated beginning last summer in Missoula garage owned by Carly and Jamie. You can hear our Slow Flowers Podcast interview from that visit here.

Great recent coverage on local & slow flowers in The Missoula Independent.

This year, six additional flower farmers have joined the momentum and they are doing some really awesome things. Read more about the Slow Flowers Missoula story in this excellent piece that just ran in The Missoula Independent.

George and Marcia graciously hosted a barbecue, farm tour and meet-up at their property.

And while I didn’t count totals, I bet we had about 30 folks in attendance,  including some who drove up to 4 hours from places like Kalispell to join us!

From left: Special guest Rep. Willis Curdy, George Hart & Marcia Hart, flower farmers and hosts.

I was delighted to introduce the Slow Flowers Movement to all those who attended, including Montana Rep. Willis Curdy, member of the agriculture committee for the state legislature, who just wanted to learn more about flower farming in his district — very cool!

A quartet of fabulous flower farmers: Jeriann Sabin and Ralph Thurston of Bindweed Farm, Carly Jenkins of Killing Frost Farm and Kathy Sherba of Mighty Fine Farm. Photographed at Mighty Fine Farm in Missoula.

We also had some very special guests in attendance — Jeriann Sabin and Ralph Thurston of Bindweed Farm in Blackfoot, Idaho! Jeriann and Ralph are past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast, which we recorded last year upon the publication of their fabulous book, Deadhead: The Bindweed Way to Grow Flowers.

A last-minute flower farmers’ vaycay (thanks to an invitation from Carly), their 350-mile road trip . . .  and we were blessed with Jeriann and Ralph’s generous souls, playful personalities and amazing wisdom. People soaked up every word they had to say. Southeastern Idaho’s growing conditions are similar enough to those of Western Montana’s that our crowed wanted to hear every word — and wanted to buy signed copies of Deadhead!

Ralph and Jeriann shared their story and their flower farming wisdom at our Meet Up. Photographed at the beautiful grounds of Hart’s Garden & Nursery, Missoula

High tunnels filled with late summer dahlias at Hart’s Garden & Nursery.

An unnamed dahlia at Hart’s Garden & Nursery. The brilliance offset the smoky skies caused by Western Montana’s forest fires.

That night, Carly, Kathy, Ralph, Jeriann  and I stayed up late, talking and visiting under the Montana moon. It has been a rough few months there, with the rampant wildfires, so we all were delighted that the breezes cleared the skies for one beautiful evening. A very special thank you to Adam Sherba’s parents for lending us use of their fabulous Missoula home. Jeriann, Ralph and I stayed there in great Montana luxury. In the morning, I watched deer and wild turkeys roaming through the hillside below the home.

Chico Hot Springs, a favorite of everyone in Montana.

I drove from Missoula to Pray (about 250 miles east) on Sunday, September 10th, arriving before dinnertime to check into Chico Hot Springs. CHS is a very special place — historic for its dude ranch vibe, its restorative 104-degree soaking pools fed by the springs and its adjacency to Yellowstone. The original lodge, where I stayed, dates to 1900, but the first recorded reference to the Hot Springs goes back to 1865. This is a place for kicking back and relaxing, which I did lots of. But now that there is a Conference Center to host corporate events, people come for multiple reasons.

All local flowers from Bozeman floral designer Remy Greco-Brault, owner of Labellum. Remy taught a pin-on floral workshop after my lecture.

Rocky Mountain Gardening LIVE, with dahlias grown by #kangaroohousegardens in Hamilton, Montana

I was there as guest of Dan and Andra Spurr, editor and publisher of Rocky Mountain Gardening magazine.

This wonderful quarterly magazine is for gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountains, encompassing stories and subscribers from the Canadian-US border down to Colorado and includes Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.

I was delighted to speak about Slow Flowers and share the story of what’s happening in Montana and beyond to an audience of more than 80 attendees.

Several flower farmers and florists were there, which made me feel welcome and allowed me to brag about their achievements — including Cindy Hanson of The Herb And Garden in Helena, a Slow Flowers member who I recently featured in Florists’ Review/Slow Flowers Journal.

After my time at Chico Hot Springs, I left knowing that even more folks are supportive of our movement, our cause, and our purpose. I met florists who promised to join and list their businesses on Slowflowers.com and I made lifelong friends with Dan and Andra, who couldn’t have been more generous in their hospitality.

A final bonus — spending two days with my siblings, Scott Prinzing and his wife Kristen Rickels Prinzing. They live in Billings and have both contributed to Rocky Mountain Gardening in the past, with articles (Kris) and photography (Scott). As a very special treat, they agreed to record the upcoming holiday special music episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast — listen for that Episode 328 on December 20th. I have no musical talent, but it’s nice to have siblings who do!

Episode 314: The Flowering of Toronto with urban farmer-florist Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard, a Toronto-based micro urban flower farmer and floral designer.

In 2011, I traveled to Toronto to give a Slow Flowers presentation at the Garden Writers regional meeting held at Canada Blooms, the mega indoor flower and garden show. And although that was during the frigid month of March and I knew finding locally-grown flowers would be challenging, my fellow GWA members foraged from their gardens for the greenery and branches I used in my demonstration.

I spent one early morning in early August following Sarah on her neighborhood harvest route

But one of the main items on my agenda for that trip was to meet Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard, today’s guest. Her unique approach to urban flower farming first caught my attention when My Luscious Backyard’s story appeared in a feature article in one of Canada’s national newspapers.

Sarah’s business starts in her own backyard, which is certainly LUSCIOUS!

Sarah studied film-making and spent her student summers working on a certified organic farm in British Columbia called Nanoose Edibles. The daughter of flower gardeners, she learned to love the rhythmic farm rituals of weeding and harvesting, not to mention the importance of sustainable growing practices.

Flowers flourish in Toronto’s postage-stamp-sized front yards, lovingly planted by Sarah.

Armed with a B.F.A. degree from Concordia University in Montreal, Sarah moved to Toronto to create documentary films, train as a yoga instructor and plant her own first garden in the city. Little did she know that growing a cutting garden would turn her into an urban flower farmer.

“I was growing so many flowers that I started giving them away,” Sarah recalls.

The notion of starting a flower CSA took root and she launched My Luscious Backyard in 2002.

Early on, Sarah’s 30-by-50 foot patch of ground yielded annual sunflowers and zinnias, flowering shrubs and lots of perennials. She shopped seed catalogs for new varieties and gained knowledge and inspiration from The Flower FarmerLynn Byzcynski’s essential guide to small-scale cut-flower farming.

Weekly subscriptions expanded into requests for Sarah to design wedding flowers, and soon, My Luscious Backyard was at capacity. Sarah asked a few friends if she could plant cutting gardens in their yards. “Then I put an ad on Craig’s List, and now people usually approach me,” she says.

It’s certainly a fair swap: Sarah gains planting space and the homeowner gains a flower farm. “People seem to be eager to have someone else garden for them,” she points out.

With more than 50 varieties of everyday and unusual blooms, My Luscious Backyard is known for producing the freshest, most romantic flowers around. Sarah harvests, designs the bouquets and delivers them to customers on the same day. She uses organic principles, reminding customers that “no environmentally damaging pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers are used.”

Here’s a fun video clip produced by a local newscast, which introduces you to Sarah’s passion for seasonal, organic and locally-grown flowers:

On her web site, Sarah emphasizes the value-added of buying local:

“Many varieties available through us are impossible to find at a conventional florist due to the arduous travel requirements (of imported flowers). And because they are grown locally they haven’t used a lot of fuel to reach you, unlike most commercially available flowers which travelled thousands of miles before arriving in Toronto.”

Photo by Andréa de Keijzer

Her wildflower- and nature-inspired bouquets satisfy weekly subscribers between the months of May and October to customers who pay $45 to $85 per arrangement with a 4-bouquet minimum. Sarah also supplies bouquets to restaurants, offices and area grocery stores.

And picture this: Sarah often utilizes a low-carbon-footprint bicycle, complete with a trailer. ”It holds six flower buckets,” she points out.

I hope you are as inspired as I am by Sarah’s “intentional” story. She lives with integrity – and beauty. And I hope more of us can do the same – even in our own backyards.

Here’s how you can find and follow Sarah:

Follow My Luscious Backyard on Instagram

See My Luscious Backyard on Pinterest

Find My Luscious Backyard on Facebook

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 233,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Red City Theme
by Blue Dot Sessions
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

 

Episode 313: Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems pursues a different floral path

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems, photographed at her Homer farm with her two daughters, Sadie and Linnea.

Welcome to the first week of September! Summer isn’t quite over but we’re all well aware of Fall’s pending arrival. As someone who manages to turn every trip into a working vacation, I’m excited to bring you my last interview recorded when I spent several days at the magnificent Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska, in late July.

Rachel, left, during a wedding design install, and a peek at her Homer Farmers’ Market stall (right)

Today’s guest, Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems, is one of the many volunteers who came alongside peony farmer (and my lovely host) Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and floral designer Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore.

I first met Rachel in 2014 when I spent several beautiful days in Homer, principally as the keynote speaker for Homer Gardeners’ Weekend. Rachel donated flowers to be used in the design workshop I taught for the Homer Garden Club and she also invited me over for a tour of her flower farm.

Alaska Stems’ land overlooks the beautiful Kachemak Bay and all the Glaciers that create Homer’s exquisite views.

It turns out that Rachel is unlike most other flower growers in Homer. She has decided that while she loves growing peonies for her design work, there is an opportunity in the market to grow a diverse mix of everything else that a full-service floral designer needs — annuals, perennials, woody shrubs for foliages, herbs, bulbs and much, much, more.

Rachel shared her talents with Beth and Kelly and others involved in decorating Scenic Place Peonies for the Field to Vase Dinner held on July 29th. If you need any encouragement that you can grown beautiful, organic cut flowers and serve a marketplace that perhaps isn’t as large as you’d like it to be, then listen up. You’ll gain insights and inspiration from Rachel’s story.

Alaska Stems specalizes in early-spring tulips, which feed the floral hunger of the Homer marketplace – and beyond!

Left: Ben and Rachel, from my 2014 visit; Right: Zinnia production in the high tunnel from that summer.

Here’s a little more about Alaska Stems, excerpted from the web site.

Alaska Stems is a locally-owned flower farm and design studio located in Homer, Alaska. Rachel and her husband Ben Gibson grow over 40 varieties of cut flowers for sale at local markets and for use in Rachel’s natural and elegant designs for weddings and events. Their flowers can be seen at businesses around town, at the Homer Farmers’ Market, at weddings and special events, and always on our table – and we hope on yours as well!

An Alaska Stems bouquet, with peonies and lots of other gorgeous, truly local, elements. (c) Joshua Veldstra Photography

Rachel and Ben started selling flowers, vegetables, and herbs in 2011, after adding a large high tunnel to their garden. Their love of flowers was solidified that year when delivering the farm’s first bouquets. As they write: “There is no denying that fresh, local flowers light up not only a room, but the people in that room. This is soul food, and it is brilliant to witness and foster in our community! Since then, we have focused exclusively on growing flowers and floral design work.”

Alaska Stems is truly a small farm with less than a half-acre in production, three high tunnels and approximately 6,000 square feet of outside raised beds. The gardens support the Lord-Gibson family, as well as their flowers, and it’s not unusual to find veggies in Rachel’s floral arrangements! The couple believes strongly in local food and flowers, sustainable growing practices that nurture plants and soil for the long term, and connecting with the community to promote and encourage these things.

When Rachel isn’t working at Stems, she can be found filling in at Cook Inletkeeper – a regional non-profit organization that works to protect the Cook Inlet and the life it sustains, valuing clean water and healthy salmon for everyone. Rachel also sits on the Board of Directors for the Homer Farmers Market.

Ben and his family own and operate Small Potatoes – a local sawmill that produces rough cut lumber and beautiful tongue and groove boards. He sawmills, carpenters, advises, and generally is a (fairly reluctant) man-about-town.

Eldest daughter Sadie arrived in August 2013, and her sister Linnea came on the scene in November 2015. Farming with two little ones is an exercise in patience, joy, love and commitment.

One more look at the farm, the high tunnels — and that VIEW!!!

From the archives: My 2014 visit to Alaska Stems where Rachel Lord and Ben Gibson grow flowers, veggies, children and community.

Please enjoy this conversation and here’s how to find Alaska Stems at the farm’s social places:

Find Alaska Stems on Facebook

Follow Alaska Stems on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 230,000 times by listeners like you. The month of August was our second highest ever in the history of the Slow Flowers Podcast for listener downloads with 11,470, just 48 downloads shy of March 2017, our highest month to date. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Wingspan; 
Inessential
by Blue Dot Sessions
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 312: Growing a Start-Up Floral Business with Melanie Harrington of Ontario’s Dahlia May Flower Farm

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Today’s guest: Melanie Harrington of Dahlia May Flower Farm, based in Trenton, Ontario, Canada. This portrait of Melanie and all photography featured (c) Ashley Slessor Photography

At the very beginning of this month, after spending several days in Buffalo at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium, I picked up a rental car and drove to Ontario, crossing the vast Niagara River on the beautiful Peace Bridge.

My destination was the Niagara region where the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ regional meeting was taking place on a number of flower farms in the area.

It was well worth the extra travel and time, because the wonderful community of flower farmers and farmer-florists there put together a fantastic series of farm tours, presentations and floral demos, giving us an in-depth understanding of the vibrant local floral scene there.

Of course, I had my digital recorder along with me on the trip. A few weeks ago, you heard my bonus interview with Gillian Hodgson of Flowers from the Farm, our UK kindred spirit, who shared her update on the British Grown flowers scene.

There were others to interview, including today’s fabulous guest. I briefly met Melanie Harrington of Dahlia May Flower Farm in person last November at the ASCFG annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but had never really spent the time with her that I wanted. She agreed to break away from the schedule so we could sit down in a field, under a tree, in order to share her story.

Here’s a little more about Melanie and her farm. Founded in 2014, Dahlia May Flower Farm is a small family operation specializing in growing romantic and fragrant, often heirloom, varieties of flowers. Nestled in the beautiful rolling Murray Hills of southeastern Ontario, Dahlia May supplies fresh seasonal cut flowers and distinctive bouquets to farmers’ markets in the greater Quinte area, and also offers both rustic and elegant floral design services, inspired by nature and changing with the seasons.

A native of the Quinte area and a lover of nature, Melanie brings to her work a background in art and horticulture as well as a passion for growing beautiful flowers. Melanie completed studies in horticulture and floral design at Loyalist College, and has taken a course in flower farming and design with Erin Benzakein of Floret.

Melanie wrote a personal essay on her web site, as well. You’ll want to read the entire piece here. But to give you a small glimpse of this amazing young woman, I’ll share this small excerpt, in her words:

Years ago my parents farmed the very land I now cultivate. Their first wish was to grow their own food; before long they were supplying our local farmers’ market with fresh produce. Between rows of tomatoes and beans were the inevitable patches of cut flowers, my fathers favourites and my personal joy. Already as a young child, I helped my father plant the seeds. There were bold sunflowers which would tower over me. Vibrant zinnias to surround me with colour. Cheerful asters…. Together we nurtured them and watched them grow. Later we worked side by side to pick them. I remember standing on a milk crate arranging this colourful harvest in tins cans lined up on the tailgate of our truck. I was hooked. . . 

When my father passed away in 2012, my husband and I returned to the family farm. With my perennial awareness of how short life can be, I left my job as a floral designer to rediscover what flowers truly meant to me. I didn’t know where this path would lead me; I was, however, certain that the best way to honour my father’s memory was to find my true passion and live it.

 This journey, full of bumps and hurdles and unexpected turns, culminated in the founding of Dahlia May Flower Farm. I am back where it all began, farming lush and romantic cut flowers on our beautiful homestead, working out of our 1885 farmhouse. Many of these blooms are sold at the same Quinte West farmers’ market where my parents sold their garden bounty all those years ago. Others may be found at farm markets and speciality stores throughout the area. 

We strive to grow high quality, long-lasting, and distinctive blooms. Our flowers connect people, create memories, and bring joy. As one of my customers shared with me: “Flowers make my heart happy, it’s as simple as that.” At Dahlia May Flower Farm we are committed to cultivating happy hearts, and making the world more beautiful.

Melanie and her new Farm Stand where customers can shop for locally grown flowers several days each week during the high season

Please enjoy this highly personal conversation with Melanie and be sure to check out the photos she’s shared – of her flowers and farm and her charming farm stand. And, if you haven’t yet discovered Dahlia May Flower Farm on social media, here’s how to follow along:

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Instagram

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Facebook

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Pinterest

Thanks again for joining me today. My take-way from this conversation with Melanie is to have a clear vision of what you do best, while also being open and experimental when new doors open. Hard work and long hours are a given, yet Melanie still takes time to revel in the awe-inspiring presence of nature that surrounds her natural world day in and day out. And she is willing to be vulnerable as a way to keep it all real and honest, despite the allure of social media and its promise of fame and fortune for those who chase those things.

I learned volumes from Melanie during her presentation at the ASCFG meeting earlier this month. In her presentation: “Make Your Social Media Accounts Bloom!” she offered a simple tip about the “grid” of the 9 most recent images that appear in your feed. ALWAYS post a self-portrait or an image of you on your farm, or in your studio, or engaging with flowers in that 9-square-grid. It’s a reminder to followers that there is a human flower lover behind the stats and metrics. Love this tip!

On her instagram bio for Dahlia May Flower Farm, she includes this: Flower farmer. Florist. Forager. Lover of dirty hands. Finder of magic in nature. Practicing graditude.

Those are terms that many of us embrace. So I know you share my appreciation for Melanie’s story. Thanks for listening.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 227,500 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.

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

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Simple Melody; Turning on the Lights
by Blue Dot Sessions
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 311: The Bloom Project’s Heidi Berkman and the healing influence of flowers

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Through flower donations from farms and wholesalers, and through tens of thousands of volunteer hours, The Bloom Project brings flowers into the lives of people in hospice and end-of-life care.

The phrase “flowers feed the soul” is one you often hear, on greeting cards, on hand-painted signs, in all sorts of sentiments.

And in the opinion of today’s guest, flowers not only feed the soul and spirit, they play an important nurturing role in health care. My guest today, Heidi Berkman, is the founder and president of The Bloom Project. Based in Portland, Oregon, The Bloom Project has been giving the gift of fresh floral bouquets to hospice and palliative care patients since 2007. 

I’m posing with Heidi Berkman (left), who runs The Bloom Project, driven by the mission to harness the healing power of flowers. We gathered earlier this week for a  “Seattle Whirlwind” auction package to which Slow Flowers donated a workshop at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Heidi reached out to me to introduce herself several years ago, and then, through our mutual friend Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers, I really got to spend time with Heidi, both talking about the floral business, but also doing fun things like when all three of us traveled to Detroit last October at Lisa Waud’s invitation to speak at Detroit Flower Week.

Volunteers make hundreds of bouquets each week for delivery to hospice caregivers. (c) Byron Roe Photography

The first time Heidi and I actually met in person was April of 2016, when I was in Portland to speak at the Portland Garden Club’s annual flower show. Heidi put together a tour and reception for me to learn more about The Bloom Project, and to meet key board members and volunteers, as well as to see the beautiful workshop and studio headquartered at Teufel Holly Farm, just west of Portland. Donated by Larry Teufel, flower farmer and nurseryman, the space is akin to what you’d see at any large production facility, with tall work tables, great light, and plenty of cooler space for the flowers. Pretty impressive to see where The Bloom Project’s volunteers receive and processes donated stems of flowers and foliage, as well as where the gift bouquets are created, packaged and prepared for delivery to the ultimate recipient.

Heidi and I have been talking about when would be an ideal time to feature The Bloom Project on the Slow Flowers Podcast and with our mutual travel schedules, we waited until now. This week, I’ll be hosting a fun event as a Slow Flowers donation to The Bloom Project. At the annual Bouquets of the Heart auction that benefits the organization, I joined Larry Teufel in donating a “Seattle Whirlwind” day-of-flowers package for five guests.

Larry Teufel (left, with me) flew the auction package winners and their guests to Seattle (from Portland), on his beautifully-restored classic aircraft.

This week, Larry, who pilots his own plane, flew the winning bidder and a few of her friends to Seattle . . . I hosted them on a tour of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, which gave me a chance to talk about the mission of Slow Flowers and the importance of supporting local, seasonal and sustainable flowers, and the people who grow and design with them.

Debbi, Susan, Debra (me), Leianne and Susan — showing off our bouquets in Seattle as part of the auction package benefitting The Bloom Project.

We had a short design session and everyone left holding a bouquet with a story. I think that story — the story of showing compassion through flowers — is what The Bloom Project is all about — and Heidi is a powerful communicator for her cause and mission.

Before we get started, let me tell you a little more about The Bloom Project.

The project started in Heidi’s Central Oregon garage, beginning with a few flowers and a few volunteers who wanted to create something special — bringing beauty and joy to those in end-of-life care. Many, including Heidi, had experienced the loss of a loved one in hospice care, and recognized that they could make use of resources (flowers) that would otherwise be tossed out.

Photos (c) Byron Roe Photography

Over the last decade, The Bloom Project has continued to grow and support hospice and palliative care agencies across the state of Oregon, with the Portland Metro area as its base. Volunteer teams have flourished, supporting the organization’s goal of serving additional patients and families.

Donated workspaces, supplies and equipment, provide a wonderful place for volunteers to come together to create hundreds of beautiful bouquets each week. The Bloom Project relies on a committed group of floral and community partners who support its efforts and mission.

Heidi has twenty-five years of meeting and event planning experience with a strong background in retail marketing and extensive nonprofit experience. Her deep appreciation for the work of hospice comes from the personal experience of watching a loved one being cared for.

She has always enjoyed working with flowers and says she is grateful to be able to create bouquets with donated flowers that can provide encouragement to others instead of being discarded. Heidi’s passion for The Bloom Project has motivated her to share the story and spread the word about the power of flowers.

The Bloom Project’s Bouqets of the Heart event takes place on October 27, 2018, in Portland.

Her vision for the organization is to continue to network people and resources in communities where hospice and palliative care organizations are serving patients and their families during end-of-life care. This simple act of kindness can be given by gathering a team of committed volunteers, sourcing flowers and supplies, establishing a workspace and obtaining the support of the surrounding community to provide in-kind products and services along with financial contributions to support the growth and impact of the organization.

Details on The Bloom Project’s Bouquets of the Heart event, October 27th, in Portland. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Thanks again for joining me today. My take-way from this conversation with Heidi is that we shouldn’t ever discount the impact that flowers have in the lives of our community, team members, customers, and clients. These are more than luxury goods, more than perishable indulgences. A flower contains the expression of life and beauty — and can touch the heart and the senses where words may not be adequate.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 225,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

LaBranche
by Blue Dot Sessions
 
Wholesome 5
by Dave Depper
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 310: Gill Hodgson and Flowers From the Farm — an update on the British-Grown Floral Community

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

I’m smiling along with today’s guest, Gill Hodgson (L) of Fieldhouse Flowers and Flowers from the Farm, a UK-based association of flower farmers and florists who promote British-grown botanicals.

Flowers from the Farm, the UK’s nationwide network of cut flower growers

In 2014, when this podcast was in its first year of existence, I met Gillian Hodgson “virtually,” as is the case for so many of us who value the positive attributes of social media.

On February 18, 2014, appearing on what was only the 30th episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast, I introduced you to Gillian and called her the Mother of the British Flowers movement.

A Yorkshore-based flower farmer and owner of  Fieldhouse Flowers, Gill founded Flowers from the Farm in in 2011.

The not-for-profit network run and administered solely by volunteers has grown to more than 500 members.

Most members are sole traders running small or micro businesses: farmers, smallholders and gardeners, who are using their knowledge of horticulture and floristry to grow and present a different range of flowers from those available in the supermarkets and the wholesale markets.

From Cornwall up to Scotland, and every region in between, these artisan flower farmers are growing old favourites: Sweet Peas, Bells of Ireland, Dahlias and Aquilegia, as well as trying out lots of new varieties.

Flowers from The Farm’s members grow for wholesale, sell to retail and event florists, as well as to the public at farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Some have farm gate sales or have teamed up with local shops to sell their bunches and bouquets.  There are also have online retail florists, and utterly brilliant wedding and event florists among the membership. Sound familiar? It’s a lot like Slowflowers.com, of course.

Love the beautiful new website for Flowers from the Farm (and PS, this image shown was one that Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement and several other Yorkshire members created for the 2015 British Flowers Week campaign)

Flowers from the Farm’s map of flower farmers and florists in the UK!

On the beautiful, new, 2.0 version of Flowers From the Farm’s website, relaunched recently, we learn this: Although the majority of British flowers are sold during the summer months, flowers can be grown in Britain all year round.  Scented Narcissi start to come out of Cornwall and the Scillies in October; tulips from Lincolnshire are in the shops for Christmas. Many members are skilled at forming gorgeous winter foliage, scented shrubs and the winter flowers into amazing displays during the shortest days.

Flowers from the Farm brings together all these growers and florists and provides local meetings and events, encouraging members to come together to build displays at all the big flower shows, holding workshops to improve members’ skills and – equally importantly – provide the place where you’ll make friends with like-minded people who will become your new work colleagues. Again, sounds a lot like our Slow Flowers community, right?

It was lovely to meet Gill Hodgson face-to-face after our long-distance friendship! She is as committed to putting British flowers on the map as I am about doing the same with American grown flowers.

Just over a year after Gill and I recorded our long-distance Podcast interview via Skype, I met her in person! Along with many other Flowers from the Farm colleagues, farmers and florists in the Yorkshire region, we gathered at a very special high tea hedl at RHS Harlow Carr, a beautiful botanical garden.

On that same trip, I met and interviewed Helen Evans of London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market who encouraged me to emulate British Flowers Week and launch American Flowers Week. I also met Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement, who hosted me in Hebden Bridge, a village in Yorkshire, and showed me (and my mother, Anita) the most magnificent, unforgettable time.

Here are links to those conversations, captured for past episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast:

Learn About British Flowers Week with Helen Evans of London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market (Episode 197)

A Perfect Recipe: Floral Design Workshops and Delicious Local Food, with Sarah Statham of UK’s Simply by Arrangement (Episode 198)

Why am I going on and on about these wonderful British friends and their homegrown flowers?

Well, today, I have a lovely update for you — a new conversation with Gill Hodgson. To my complete surprise, and delight, I reunited with Gill in person last week at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ regional meeting in Ontario, Canada.

I attended the fabulous and well-attended 2-day conference, hosted by many ASCFG Canadian members, after spending a few days at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Buffalo, NY. Once I realized that I could add a few days to my travels and spend time with ASCFG members, many of whom are involved in the Slow Flowers Community, I jumped at the chance.

And there, walking alongside me during a tour at Green Park Nurseries was my friend, Gill! On a whim, she decided to fly over to Canada to attend the conference and have a fun vacation with her husband.

Of course, with my digital recorder in my backpack, Gill had little choice but to sit down with me for a 30-minute interview. I asked her to update the Slow Flowers Community on news about the British-grown flower community and you’ll love hearing about what’s happening in a very dynamic hub for local, British-grown flowers ~seasonal, local and sustainable, much like the Slow Flowers narrative.

Here’s how you can follow Flowers from the Farm:

Flowers from the Farm on Facebook

Flowers from the Farm on Instagram

Flowers from the Farm on Twitter

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 222,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Our music today:

Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
by Shake That Little Foot
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Shake_That_Little_Foot/Shake_That_Little_Foot/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

Episode 309: Meet Michelle LaFriniere of Chilly Root Peonies of Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Chilly Root Peonies in Homer, Alaska

There are hundreds of small farms growing hundreds of thousands of stems of beautiful, romantic peonies across the state of Alaska and I suspect that each farmer is as unique and passionate as the next. As you may remember from last week’s episode featuring Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, I spent last weekend in Homer, Alaska, one of three major hubs for peonies in the state.

While there, I was delighted to reunite with today’s guest, Michelle LaFriniere of Chilly Root Peony Farm. She and her husband Michael Poole are early adopters who have been growing peonies as cut flowers since planting their first roots in 2009. Their focus wildly beautiful blooms are produced naturally and sustainably, with no chemicals.

Michelle LaFriniere and Michael Poole recently hosted peony fans on the Alaska Peony Marketing Group’s farm tour.

I met Michelle and Michael on my first trip to Alaska in 2012. Then, I was lured to the 49th state because of its emerging peony agriculture and I had to see what was happening with my own eyes.

At the time, just five years ago, people didn’t really use the words Peonies and Alaska in the same sentence, but I think that’s changing, if the floral industry has anything to say about it.

There are acres and acres of peony fields, flourishing in June and July as far north as Fairbanks (Latitude 64). Further south, peonies bloom in Homer until August and even early September. The cool thing about this chilly state is that an intrepid group of farmers has made a cut flower industry possible. With an entrepreneurial spirit, access to land and a serious can-do approach to farming in Alaska, they seized the opportunity and created a market for their lovely crops at the exact same time when a huge percentage of weddings takes place in the Lower 48.

It’s a sweet spot flower farmers dream of finding. After learning about Alaska’s emerging peony scene in 2011, I set my sights on a first-person trip. In late July 2012, I spent one week there, logging more than 1,500 miles on Alaska’s highways and byways (and a few dirt roads to nowhere!), visiting 15 peony farms and meeting with dozens of wonderful people behind the blooms. I came home totally enthralled with the hardworking character of flower farmers everywhere, especially in Alaska where no one expects you to grow anything except those oversize cabbages that win blue ribbons at the state fair.

Michelle and I enjoyed time together in late July when I attended the Field to Vase Dinner as a guest of Scenic Place Peonies, where this photograph was taken.

Here’s why it’s so exciting:

Peonies are one of the top bridal flowers in the country, according to many industry sources. Yet in the lower 48 states peonies peak in late May and early June. If you are a bride yearning to hold a bodacious bouquet of peonies on your special day in July, August or September. . . you are simply out of luck. The next chance for peonies comes in the fall, around October, when they bloom on Australia and New Zealand flower farms – and those have to be shipped to you at outrageous expense and a serious carbon foot print.

Luscious peonies from Chilly Root Peony Farm

So, when the folks in Alaska, inspired by the research of professor Pat Holloway, now retired from the department of high altitude agriculture at U of A/Fairbanks and the Georgeson Botanic Garden, discovered they how easy it was to grow peonies and harvest them in July and August, well, a brand-new seasonal flower crop emerged on the scene. The marketplace has responded with a voracious appetite for the pale pink, coral, cream, wine and hot pink blooms. Brides and their floral designers are jumping for joy – and Alaska has its first agricultural export crop. Not fish. Not oil. But PEONIES!

This micro-flower story has taken place in less than a decade, gradually at first, as a few folks planted a few hundred peonies on an acre or two. Then, armed with Pat’s research and information gleaned from her workshops on growing and harvesting, more joined the peony revolution. Like many perennials, peonies take at least three years to become productive, so it has only been in the last five years that significant quantities of blooms have been cut and shipped out of state.

If you are wondering “what’s so special?” about these flowers, I can only tell you that there’s some kind of magical fairy dust in the soil, air, sunlight and altitude of Alaska that adds up to fields of robust, healthy and vivid flowers. Some have stems like you’ve never seen before – 30-inches and longer. The foliage is healthy and true green; the petal colors are intense and vivid when you want them to be and subtly quiet when that’s preferred (in other words, better than the catalog photos!). These plants are extraordinarily responsive to the 20-plus-hours-of-sunshine in the land of the midnight sun – and the sunlight seems to be that secret ingredient for the flowers’ success.

Michelle and Michael are two of the state’s veteran growers. Their farm, Chilly Root, is a family-owned enterprise located on the Kenai Peninsula overlooking stunning Kachemak Bay. Established in 2009 on their rural home site, Chilly Root is a compliment to the couple’s 30-plus-year ongoing commercial fishing business.

The farm is among the latest to produce peony blooms in the state – and that’s a good thing. Chilly Root’s flowers thrive at an elevation of 1,495 feet, which delays their harvest date and extends the peony shipping season for florists and their clients wanting the flowers for late summer or early fall weddings.

Michelle and Michael grow more than 30 different varieties of herbaceous peonies. As they say on their web site: “From root to bouquet, we tend our flowers with pure passion. We bring organic, sustainable and natural beauty to the market and hope to leave the Earth better than we found it.”

A dreamy sea of peonies at Chilly Root Peony Farm

You can follow Chilly Root Peony Farm at all these social media places:

Chilly Root Peonies on Facebook

Chilly Root Peonies on Instagram

Chilly Root Peonies on Pinterest

Thanks again for joining me today and getting in on the peony craze!

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 219,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Episode 308: Kelly Shore’s Unforgettable Year and what happens when one floral designer embraces a local, American-grown sourcing philosophy

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Kelly Shore, framed by Alaska peonies grown by Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska

Fun times in the 49th State and the Land of Peonies, with my Slow Flowers sister, Kelly Shore

Earlier this week, I returned home from five glorious days spent in Homer, Alaska, which has become one of my favorite places in the world. It was my fourth trip to Alaska in five years and my third to Homer, where peony farmers and Slow Flowers members Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies offered me the most generous hospitality and friendship.

Alaskan Grown, our hosts: Beth Van Sandt and Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies.

If you haven’t met this flower farm, here are two podcast episodes from our archives worth listening to:
Episode 282: News from the Alaska Peony Growers Association, including a conversation with Beth Van Sandt
Episode 154: Debra and Christina’s Alaska Peony Adventure, including Christina Stembel and Beth Van Sandt

Peonies and Glaciers = Homer, Alaska Beauty that inspires today’s guest, Kelly Shore

I was surrounded by flowers — not just peonies, which of course, steal the show, but all sorts of naturally and cultivated beauty in their high tunnels and the gardens around their home, as well as along the fields’ edges.

That beauty also lured today’s guest to Scenic Place Peonies and I couldn’t pass up a chance to record this interview with Kelly Shore, owner of Petals by the Shore, based in Olney, Maryland.

A sneak peek at the setting where last weekend’s peony-filled F2V dinner took place

The abundant fields at Scenic Place Peonies

As the featured floral designer for last weekend’s Field to Vase Dinner, produced by the Certified American Grown program, to which Scenic Place Peonies belongs, Kelly Shore brought passion, sensitivity, respect and love to everything she touched. The tablescapes incorporated both peonies and other foraged and cultivated botanicals — all from Scenic Place Peonies. And beyond that, Kelly shared Beth’s vision that the table designs reflect a sense of place, of Homer itself, of the fishing culture there, and of the rugged beauty of the state of Alaska.

Kelly Shore, on site in Washington, D.C., this past May, as part of the lead team of designers who created the First Lady’s Luncheon florals.

Here’s a little more about Kelly. Much of this introduction is excerpted from the January 2017 article I wrote for Florists’ Review magazine, which accompanied an extensive gallery of photography, called “Four Seasons of Floral Design.”

Kelly Shore began shopping at the local farmers’ market in her community several years ago. She was enchanted by the unique, fresh, just-picked flowers on offer and struck up friendships with the vendors, becoming a regular customer at the Olney Farmers & Artists Market, located in Olney, Maryland.

Having begun her career at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus flower shop in 2000, Kelly later worked in retail and freelanced as a wedding and event floral designer, while her boyfriend (now husband, Joe Shore) was deployed in Iraq.

Kelly and Joe moved to the Washington, DC area in 2010, where she expected to put her Education M.A. to work as a teacher. But classroom positions were hard to find, so she returned to floristry, not realizing it would become her lifelong profession.

Through friendships with other florists, she networked, studied and expanded her wedding and event floral design business, Petals by the Shore.

Petals by the Shore serves wedding clients in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania, a densely-populated area where, Kelly says, “everybody seems to come back to when they get married.”

Kelly and I met briefly in 2014 when I spoke at the Chapel Designers’ New York Conference, but our friendship and mutual admiration has been cemented in 2017, thanks to the many ways our work has overlapped.

Kelly, Christy and Margaret formed the lead design team for the 2017 First Lady’s Luncheon. (c) Susie and Becky Photography

Some of the First Lady’s Luncheon florals created by Kelly and the team.

A few months after we collaborated on the Florists’ Review article, I was asked to recommend a floral designer to take the lead on the First Lady’s Luncheon, a time-honored, nonpartisan event that is presented by the Congressional Club. 2017 was to be the second time that Certified American Grown flowers were donated and designed for this luncheon and I immediately thought of Kelly as a candidate for the role. She joined the project and collaborated with Margaret Lloyd of Margaret Joan Florals, and Christy Hulsey of Colonial House of Flowers, two other Slow Flowers members who’ve designed for past Certified American Grown events.

This is one of my fav pics of Kelly, snapped while she wasn’t looking — and while she was Instagramming a peony that caught her fancy at neighboring peony farm, Chilly Root

I have to say, I think Kelly felt like it couldn’t get any better than being part of the featured design team at the First Lady’s Luncheon . . . and then she was invited to take on the peony-themed decor for the Field to Vase Dinner in Homer last weekend.

What a year she’s had and I think you’ll be inspired by her story, her commitment to working with flower farmers whenever she can, and her vision for changing how wedding and event flowers are sourced and used.

Thanks again for joining me today and sharing in Kelly’s enthusiasm about American grown flowers — from Maryland to Alaska and everywhere between.

Here’s how to find and connect with Kelly Shore:

Petals by the Shore on Facebook

Petals by the Shore on Instagram

Petals by the Shore on Twitter

Petals by the Shore on Pinterest

Here’s how to find and connect with Scenic Place Peonies

Scenic Place on Facebook

Scenic Place on Instagram

I invite you to share your story, too — I’d love to hear it! You can find more stories about floral designers and farmer-florists in the inaugural issue of the Slow Flowers Journal — print edition — out now in the August issue of Florists’ Review.

Look for the August issue at Floral Supply Syndicate and your local wholesale florist, or take advantage of the special subscription offer that Florists’ Review has shared — 12 issues for $21 (which is 62% off the cover price) and I promise you that you’ll find inside each Slow Flowers Journal, our mini-magazine, the stories, news and resources important to you.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 217,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors for 2017:

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Slow Flowers Summit Recap and Review

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

It’s hard to believe that one month ago, nearly 100 of us gathered together in Seattle for the first Slow Flowers Summit. Before too much time passes, I want to personally thank you everyone who attended and invested their time and presence in sharing this incredible experience with me and others in the Slow Flowers Movement!

Here are a few of the Raves we’ve received to date:

The Slow Flowers Summit was a great platform for discussing important issues, the most important for me being diversity and inclusivity in the business. . . a fantastic event with something for everyone that didn’t shrink from the more challenging issues facing us.

The Slow Flowers Summit was hugely inspiring to me as a grower and an entrepreneur. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other like-minded people who are successfully uniting their passion for flowers with a vision for a better world.

The Summit offered a day of inspiration and conversations. Being in the presence of other men and women who are passionate about their craft and the world behind the flowers was inspiring and uplifting. The value of the people that I met, the conversations that we united around, and the ideas that I left with made the day invaluable. I hope to be back year after year.

My participation in the Summit has sparked new ideas regarding how I grow my business. I’m inspired to think bigger and connect with a larger audience of like-minded flower people.

Thank you to our presenters for their intelligence, ideas and wisdom:

Above, from left: James Baggett, Riz Reyes, Nicole Cordier Wahlquist, Chantal Aida Gordon, Emily Ellen Anderson, Teresa Sabankaya, Amy Stewart, Debra Prinzing, Lisa Waud and Leslie Bennett

Who attended? Here’s a breakdown of how attendees identified themselves* in our post-Summit survey:
Florist/Floral Designer: 50 percent
Flower Farmer/Farmer-Florist: 27 percent
Educator: 14 percent
Media: 10 percent
Flower Gardener/Floral Enthusiast: 10 percent
Other categories: Wholesale floral managers, horticulturists, online floral retailer
*respondents were allowed to choose more than one category

We asked: “Was the Summit content relevant to you and your business?” Attendees ranked this answer 4.22 out of 5.0 
We asked: “What elements of the Summit were valuable to you? Attendees ranked these choices as follows:
1. Connecting with other Attendees
2. Connecting with Speakers
3. Learning about new Resources & Skills
4. Playing with Flowers (Flower Wall and Flowers on Your Head)

Panelists, from left: Chantal Aida Gordon of thehorticult.com blog; Leslie Bennett of Pine House Edible Gardens; Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture; and Nicole Cordier Wahlquist of Grace Flowers Hawaii

Our Master of Ceremonies, James Baggett of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative

Keynote speaker Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential and many other bestselling titles.

Lisa Waud of pot & box, Flower House Detroit and Detroit Flower Week

Enjoy our PICTURES!! Summit photos are here for your enjoyment and use. Follow this link to see/download.
Please credit (c) Hannah Brenlan and Luke Holtgeerts and use these hashtags: #slowflowersummit #americanflowersweek when you use any of these images. Thank you!

READ THIS. #SlowFlowerSummit 2017 is a HIT!
I loved reading one attendee’s thoughtful response with her takeaways from the Summit. Kit Wertz of Los Angeles-based Flower Duet wrote an extensive review in her July newsletter. You’ll want to subscribe to her newsletter! Thanks, Kit!

I can’t close without thanking all of our Sponsors and Volunteers.

I especially want to thank Stephanie Downes of Vanita Floral, @vanitafloral, our Event Manager Extraordinaire, and Niesha Blancas @nieshamonay, our Social Media Maven, from Poppy Social Media.

Seriously. Could. Not. Have. Done. The. Summit. Without. Them. xoxo

Our Audio/Visual Team was the best! Thank you to Hannah and Andrew Brenlan and the Brothers Holtgeerts (Henry and Luke).

A few of the many flowered and beautiful heads, thanks to Mud Baron for Flowers on Your Head

Thanks to Mud Baron of Muir Ranch for adding a festive, Instagram-worthy “flowers on your head” element to the day!

I’ve received personal notes from so many of you — and I promise to write back as time allows. I hope to announce a save-the-date for our 2018 Summit — on the East Coast — very soon.

Until then, continue to Inquire, Inform, Include, Instigate and Inspire!