Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Week 21 // Slow Flowers Challenge with Mock Orange and Garden Peonies

Saturday, May 30th, 2015
Back Porch Bouquet - with every bloom clipped from my garden.

Back Porch Bouquet – with every bloom clipped from my garden.

After all the traveling I’ve done since March, it’s so nice to be HOME. So for the last week of May, the Slow Flowers Challenge has stuck close by. All of these flowers are straight from my garden. You could call it the “5 Step Bouquet.”

I wish you could inhale the light fragrance of the peonies combined with the sweetly scented mock orange blossoms (Philadelphus coronarius). Wow! It’s a perfect pairing to grace the small table in our home’s entry, allowing me to share the garden perfume and perfection with anyone who might stop by this weekend.
Two types of peonies, a profusion of mock orange, and young hydrangea buds.

Two types of peonies, a profusion of mock orange, and young hydrangea buds.

I especially love using this vintage American-made vase. It is also featured on pages 50-51 of Slow Flowers, where it holds beautiful garden roses that I paired with smoke tree and the ‘Black Knight’ Queen Anne’s lace. The 7-inch tall McCoy jardiniere is from the 1940s era and has a raised design of vertical bands (maybe suggesting picket fencing?) and a rim of flowers. It’s the ideal scale vase for such blousy bouquets!
By the way, here’s that design from Slow Flowers where you’ll spot the familiar vase:
Analogous color palette of pinks, mauves and purples! This design was originally published in my book, Slow Flowers

Analogous color palette of pinks, mauves and purples! This design was originally published in my book, Slow Flowers

Below are a few more images from yesterday’s bouquet. The ingredients:

  • Two types of peonies, both inherited when we moved to this home. So I don’t know the cultivars. I love the pale pink with the fringey yellow centers, but I think I love the single white variety even more, especially for its dense centers, some cream; some rose-tinged.
  • Mock orange branches and blossoms
  • Immature hydrangea stems, used as a lime green accent.
Quite delicious to the eye and fragrant to the nose!

Quite delicious to the eye and fragrant to the nose!

More delicious details!

More delicious details!

Slow Flowers in the UK: A visit to Petersham Nurseries in Surry

Monday, May 25th, 2015
The Garden Shop at Petersham's Nurseries

The Garden Shop at Petersham Nurseries

Lovely spring urn with heuchera, ferns and more.

Lovely spring urn with heuchera, ferns and more.

After a harrowing taxi ride (one hour for 12 miles?) from London, my mom and I arrived on Wednesday at Petersham Nurseries. And once we discovered what was inside the gates, we concluded that our 40 pound fare was totally worth it!

We took the journey in order to meet up with Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement, an up-until-now virtual flower friend, who had invited us to spend a few days with her in Yorkshire.

She was also in London for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and made the brilliant suggestion that we use Petersham as a meeting place before driving to Hebden Bridge, where she lives and designs flowers (and more on that later!).

Petersham Nurseries dates to the 1970s when it was a local garden center carved out of the Petersham House estate.

After years of neglect, the nursery reopened in 2004 after extensive restorations by Gael & Francesco Boglione, the current owners of Petersham House.

Plant displays on old carts - what's more perfect?

Plant displays on old carts – what’s more perfect?

Foxgloves galore! It is spring, after all.

Foxgloves galore! It is spring, after all.

Lunch at Petersham Nursery: pea-and-mint soup with tomato and burrata salad.

Lunch at Petersham Nursery: pea-and-mint soup with tomato and burrata salad.

Beautiful garden furniture, gifts, tableware and antiques can now be found amongst the plants which adorn the vintage glass greenhouses.

In a ramshackle wooden teahouse we found delicious pastries and homemade cakes (as well as lunch!).

There is also a popular restaurant to which I would love to return some day.

This is a thoroughly charming destination not far from London.

It has history, an obviously talented team of horticulturists, beautiful plants and that timeless character you can’t get in the U.S.

The cutting garden, where we met up with Caroline and Rosie. This lovely long raised bed supplies flowers for Petersham House, as well as the Restaurant and Cafe.

The cutting garden, where we met up with Caroline and Rosie. This lovely long raised bed supplies flowers for Petersham House, as well as the Restaurant and Cafe.

Sarah planned a huge surprise for us – a private tour of the Petersham House grounds. Her friend Caroline is gardening here as a volunteer, working alongside Rosie, who is the genius behind many of the landscape plantings you see in these images.

Not much more to say than this: Please gaze upon the beauty of a 150-foot-long English garden double-border in May. Few can replicate this, due to lack of time, money, or land – but please feel free to borrow a few ideas for your own patch! And if you will be in London on June 7th, you can visit the private grounds of Petersham House as part of the National Gardening Scheme charitable program.

Petersham House, as seen from the long border.

Petersham House, as seen from the long border.

The glorious Petersham double border. Sublime!

The glorious Petersham double border. Sublime!

Week 20 // Slow Flowers Challenge with #Britishgrown flowers

Sunday, May 24th, 2015
Beautiful Yorkshire-grown blooms from the garden of Sarah Statham and James Reader

Beautiful Yorkshire-grown blooms from the garden of Sarah Statham and James Reader

I promised to share an uniquely British-themed arrangement for this week’s Slow Flowers Challenge  and the floral offerings you see here are indeed straight from the garden of Sarah Statham, my host these past four days.
Sarah is the owner of a wonderful enterprise called Simply by Arrangement, a floral workshop-culinary experience created with her friend Christie Buchanan.
I met Sarah “virtually” when introduced by Gill Hodgson of Flowers from the Farm. Gill is the champion behind the organization that promotes British flowers and the farmers and florists involved with the renaissance of their domestic floral industry (sound familiar?). When I told Gill that I would be in England to tour the Chelsea Flower Show, she arranged an ambitious itinerary for me and my traveling companion, my mother Anita.
After four days in and around London, we headed to Northeast England with Sarah. She and her husband James hosted us at their lovely home in the Yorkshire village of Hebden Bridge.
We’ve had many wonderful moments together, including joining a gathering of the Yorkshire flower farmers and florists who are part of Flowers from the Farm. They graciously asked me to share the story of Slow Flowers and news of the American grown floral movement. And that was a rare privilege made more special by the service of afternoon tea, in the most proper fashion.
On Friday, Sarah gave me a pair of clippers and a bucket and let me loose in her garden. Together, we both designed truly local and seasonal Yorkshire arrangements to share with you here.
The green glass vase contains an exhuberant display of spring Yorkshire flowers - and captures a moment in time as I clipped and designed with flowers from Sarah and James's garden.

The green glass vase contains an exhuberant display of spring Yorkshire flowers – and captures a moment in time as I clipped and designed with flowers from Sarah and James’s garden.

The flowers and foliage used above in my bouquet include:

  • White Centranthus ruber ‘Albus’
  • A type of acid-green euphorbia
  • Rodgersia foliage (large, dramatica and a beautiful dark rust color)
  • Astrantia blooms (whitish-green)
  • White bleeding heart (Dicentra) – flowers and foliage
  • Meadow rue (Thalictrum) flowers
  • Peach tulips
  • Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’ – a NEW perennial to me with deep burgundy, thistle-like flowers and long prickly foliage.
Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum'

Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’

Here's Sarah, putting the finishing touches on her lovely design.

Here’s Sarah, putting the finishing touches on her lovely design.

Sarah made me thoroughly envious when I saw her collection of vintage copper containers, including a few she picked up at a Chelsea Flower Show vendor who I’d completely overlooked. The copper informed her designs, as she opted for a sultry burgundy, plum and apricot palette.  

It is stunning, as you can see below:

A copper-inspired bouquet by Sarah Statham - so gorgeous!!!

A copper-inspired bouquet by Sarah Statham – so gorgeous!!!

Here are the ingredients Sarah selected:

  • Two types of Japanese maple foliage
  • A variety of tulips, including peach, plum, white and almost-brown
  • Geum with an apricot flower
  • White Astrantia
  • White-flowering Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Raven’s Wing’
Here are the ingredients Sarah selected: Two types of Japanese maple foliage A variety of tulips, including peach, plum, white and almost-brown Geum with an apricot flower White Astrantia White-flowering Anthriscus sylvestris 'Raven's Wing'

Up close, Sarah’s design is completely shimmery.

The photo shoot: In the courtyard of Sarah's ancient stone cottage in Yorkshire. So magical to be there!

The photo shoot: In the courtyard of Sarah’s ancient stone cottage in Yorkshire. So magical to be there!

Week 19 // Slow Flowers Challenge with Flowering Branches

Friday, May 15th, 2015
Some of Springtime's most alluring flowering branches include: Magnolia, Dogwood, Apricot, Quince and Plum.

Some of Springtime’s most alluring flowering branches include: Magnolia, Dogwood, Apricot, Quince and Cherry.

We’re digging into the archives this week for the  Slow Flowers Challenge. That’s what happens when I find myself on too many airplanes, which is ironic, isn’t it? It’s sort of the opposite of my “Slow” aspirations!

However, I’m just back home from speaking and teaching in Orlando, Florida. And now, after recharging for the past five days in Seattle, I’ve re-packed and am heading to the airport tonight to fly to London!!!

That’s right! I’m off to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I’ll also be meeting many of the people active in the British Flowers scene – U.K. flower farmers and florists who have many of the same objectives that we have here in the U.S. To put local, seasonal and sustainably-grown flowers at the center of our tables!

Stay tuned, because I promise that next week’s Slow Flowers Challenge will be decidedly British!

The acid green of variegated hostas and euphorbia create a "skirt" effect for flowering magnolia branches.

The acid green of variegated hostas and euphorbia create a “skirt” effect for flowering magnolia branches.

I absolutely love the images you see here. I created these arrangements for a national magazine story that was, sadly, never published. The editors, as they say, went in a different direction.

But my photos live on and I’m delighted to share them with you here.

The vase at left is filled with Pieris and Dogwood; the vase at right has both flowering Dogwod and twig dogwood.

The vase at left is filled with Pieris and Dogwood; the vase at right has both flowering Dogwod and twig dogwood.

Flowering Cherry with Snowball Viburnum.

Flowering Cherry with Snowball Viburnum.

Simple: Quince in two hues, plus swordfern.

Simple: Quince in two hues, plus swordfern.

Flowering plum, paired with Lamb's Ear foliage.

Flowering plum, paired with Lamb’s Ear foliage.

Spring hellebores paired with flowering apricot branches.

Spring hellebores paired with flowering apricot branches.

Week 15 // Spring Awakening

Sunday, April 19th, 2015
The pods and buds are waking up. They're shouting, "we're here!"

The pods and buds are waking up. They’re shouting, “we’re here!”

It’s been a crazy week here in Slow Flowers Land, but after 8 days of travel, I’m so delighted to be home in Seattle for a week. Seattle has been good to us, with mid-60s to 70-degree weather.
 
Today was no exception. I clipped a bit of this and that – all from my awakening garden. It truly is a Spring Awakening here!
Just unfurled: a vivid yellow poppy

Just unfurled: a vivid yellow poppy

The delicate leaves and flowers that are pushing up through the April soil are each special in their own way. Here’s what I included in my spontaneous spring arrangement:

Variegated hosta leaves
Acid yellow smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’)
The young tips of deer fern (Blechnum spicant)
Green-and-rust-variegated Epimedium leaves and a few flowering stems
Yellow poppies, flowers & buds

The final arrangement - all from April 18th in the garden

The final arrangement – all from April 18th in the garden

Love how all the season's new foliage works together.

Love how all the season’s new foliage works together.

A word about the vase. Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers turned me onto“Wine Punts,” 100% recycled, made in USA, these beautiful vessels are wine bottles that have been repurposed into drinking glasses. Or, small vases. Available in sets of 4 in many colors. Love the size and the pale green hue.

Week 14 // A Visit to Laguna Beach to Play with Local Flowers & New Friends

Sunday, April 12th, 2015
A golden and green floral palette - with a beautiful echeveria as a focal element

A golden and green floral palette – with a beautiful echeveria as a focal element. (c) Perry Stampfel

 

Welcome to Week 14 of the Slow Flowers Challenge! 

Greetings from Southern California, where I have been teaching this week! It’s a great excuse to show off some of the flowers grown in Encinitas, California – by Dramm & Echter, an established farm that grows beautiful blooms.

At the invitation of Lynn Stampfel of Laguna Beach Garden Club, I traveled to Southern California earlier this week. This established and active group of gardeners graciously welcomed me to lecture about American Grown Flowers and the Slow Flowers Movement. We had 125 in attendance and it was a whirlwind. Why? Well, for some crazy reason, I had agreed to give a 30-minute slide lecture, followed by a 30-minute eco-design demonstration.

Above is the arrangement I created for the demo. I used a vintage brass planter – low and wide – in order to show how to use chicken wire as the internal mechanics of the container.

 

The floral elements were all grown locally – well, the next county over – at Dramm & Echter, an American grown flower farm with 40 acres of field-grown crops and 950,000 square feet of greenhouses. Dramm & Echter’s primary floral crops are gerberas, lilies, spray roses and protea varieties. Then there’s so much awesome foliage and textural varieties, including solidago, leucadendron, ruscus, eucalyptus and more.

Demonstrating with the flowers from Dramm & Echter

Demonstrating with the flowers from Dramm & Echter. (c) Perry Stampfel

Working with the Dramm and Echter sales team, I ordered $800 of their flowers and foliage varieties for Laguna Beach Garden Club’s afternoon event: A hands-on design workshop.

Twenty-five participants gathered in the courtyard of the local church that hosted our workshop under the lovely canopy of a melaleuca tree, we spent two hours arranging with those blooms. Everyone was encouraged to try using chicken wire or fluffy foliage or curly willow as the stabilizing matrix — all great alternatives to conventional chemical-base flower foam. I’m pleased to have been able to demonstrate the brand new Floral Soil plant-based product in one of my designs, shown below.

This vintage footed glass bowl contains Dramm & Echter florals, including gerberas, spray roses, wax flower, and two types of eucalyptus branches.

This vintage footed glass bowl contains Dramm & Echter florals, including gerberas, spray roses, wax flower, and two types of eucalyptus branches. (c) Perry Stampfel

Twenty-five Slow Flowers designers, all members of the Laguna Beach Garden Club, at work on their personal projects.

Twenty-five Slow Flowers designers, all members of the Laguna Beach Garden Club, at work on their personal projects. (c) Perry Stampfel

Week 13 // It started with the apricot hyacinths

Friday, April 3rd, 2015
Here is the full view, photographed today on my back porch. So wonderful that the Japanese maple in the background is leafing out, too.

Here is the full view, photographed today on my back porch. So wonderful that the Japanese maple in the background is leafing out, too.

Welcome to Week 13 of the Slow Flowers Challenge!
To be perfectly honest, it started with those yummy apricot-hued hyacinth and the very first fragrant lilacs of the season – both from Northwest fields.
I love  the soft, billowy generosity of spring's early blooms - weed that right now after a winter of stiff conifers.

I love the soft, billowy generosity of spring’s early blooms – weed that right now after a winter of stiff conifers.

And then I couldn’t take my eyes off of the most luscious of tulips, a two-toned pink and green variety called ‘Renown Unique’, grown by my friends Pam and Kelly Uhlig of Sonshine Farms on Whidbey Island, Washington. (You can find incredible fancy tulips and bulbs grown by them and other local farms at the  Seattle Wholesale Growers Market right now).

In addition, I came home with a bunch of the dark-centered white anemones, also grown by Pam and Kelly. All are quite lovely but I wanted to add some goodies from my own garden to enhance this week’s arrangement.

You can see that the cotton-candy-pink flowering cherry branches and the pale blush-apricot rhododendron clusters — and the just leafing out apricot foliage of an old azalea add their seasonal sparkle to the farmers’ flowers. Combining gifts from the garden with gifts from flower fields is a good thing!

My dear friend and San Diego garden TV personality  Nan Sterman gave me this lovely pot for a birthday several years ago. I’m using it for my Easter bouquet, but I’m sending her best wishes for a blessed Passover celebration that I’m sure she’s having with her family tonight.Our worlds continue to overlap and connect, especially when we love the garden, plants and nature.

A close-up shows those tulips, anemones and the delicate azalea foliage.

A close-up shows those tulips, anemones and the delicate azalea foliage.

Here is the entire recipe:

From my garden: Flowering cherry branches, rhododendron clusters (cut when most of the flowers are in bud, to encourage a longer vase life) and branches of just-emerging azalea foliage.

From the flower farm:

  • Apricot-peach hyacinths, grown by Oregon Flowers in Aurora, OR
  • White lilacs, grown by Tosh in Snohomish, WA
  • Renown Unique pink-and-green tulips, grown by Sonshine Farm on Whidbey Island, WA
  • White anemones with a black center, grown by Sonshine Farm on Whidbey Island, WA

HappyEaster

Santa Cruz’s Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. draws inspiration from her own garden and nearby flower farms (Episode 187)

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Inspiring floral designer Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co.

Inspiring floral designer Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., captured while gathering flowers in her garden

In 2007, Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential introduced readers to a Santa Cruz-area floral designer named Teresa Sabankya. She wrote:

Teresa Sabankaya has the kind of flower shop that you would dream about opening, if you are the kind of person who dreams of opening a flower shop. It’s in a little green metal kiosk outside Bookshop Santa Cruz in coastal California. The flowers – all interesting, unusual, old-fashioned, ephemeral, perfumy, not-your-typical-florist kind of flowers – dance and wave from buckets crowded around the stall. Her inventory is highly seasonal: in summer you’ll find larkspur and poppies, and in winter it’s all heathers and holly and berries. If you’ve been so busy that you haven’t noticed that spring has arrived, you’ll stop short at the sight of the pink cherry blossom branches bursting out of her shop in early March, and it’ll make you resolve to slow down and enjoy the season. Even if you don’t buy a flower – and Teresa would be happy to sell you a single flower – just the sight of her little stall will lift some of the weight off your shoulders. Anyone who doubts whether flowers can change a person’s emotional state has never watched the people walking by Teresa’s shop.” 

Amy continued: ” . . . The Bonny Doon Garden Company fit with my idea of how floral commerce must work – you’d grow some flowers in your garden, you’d buy some from a farmer down the road, and you’d put them in buckets and sell them to your neighbors.”

Bonny Doon's retail space inside New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz, CA.

Bonny Doon’s retail space inside New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz, CA.

Well, anyone who read all of Flower Confidential knows that it’s about the international, multibillion dollar floriculture industry – a far cry from the charm of selling flowers from one’s garden in Santa Cruz.

I was always in awe of Teresa – she was a rock star profiled by Amy Stewart, for goodness sake’s. Until last week, Teresa and I had never met in person, but we felt connected through our friendship with Amy and because we both want to advance a new normal in the floral industry: where mindful practices of local, seasonal and sustainable flowers trump designing with imported ones.

Last year, when I launched the Slowflowers.com web site, Teresa created a listing for Tessa’s Garden, her studio business, and we started an occasional email correspondence.

Oh my gosh: the dream garden! Here's where many of the flowers, branches, herbs and vines that Teresa uses originate . . . in her private garden.

Oh my gosh: the dream garden! Here’s where many of the flowers, branches, herbs and vines that Teresa uses originate . . . in her private garden.

Another view, including the veggie and herb garden in the foreground.

Another view, including the veggie and herb garden in the foreground.

An intricate detail in the Posie that Teresa created for me.

Intricate details emerge as part of the hand-tied Posie that Teresa created for me.

Teresa had taken a break from the fast pace of running a retail flower shop and sold The Bonny Doon Garden Co. in 2012.

She then pivoted toward wedding and event design work, including hosting private ceremonies under the giant redwoods at her bountiful landscape in the hamlet of Bonny Doon, a few miles up the Coastal Highway from Santa Cruz.

Earlier this year, Teresa extended an invitation for me to stay a few days in the bridal cottage on her family’s property.

We planned ahead to schedule that visit – and this podcast interview – after my gig speaking at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show on March 22nd.

READ MORE…

Week 12 // Backyard greenery and seasonal blooms

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

A Slow Flowers Birthday Bouquet

Vivid details of melon orange and dark plum hues.

Vivid details of melon orange and dark plum hues.

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

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

Happy Birthday, Steve!

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

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

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

Orange double tulips, Ojeda Farms, Ethel, WA

Phalaenonpsis orchids, Orchidaceae, Walla Walla, WA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily with her husband

Emily with her husband Nich Love

Here’s more about Emily:

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

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

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

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

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

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

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

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

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

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

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

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

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

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

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

Wood Violet on Facebook

Wood Violet on Instagram

Wood Violet on Pinterest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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