Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Week 4 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Saturday, January 31st, 2015
Created on Jan. 30th, Seattle, Washington. I clipped all the botanical elements from my garden and I purchased the beautiful tulips from Alm Hill Gardens (Pike Place Market vendor of WA-grown tulips)

Created on Jan. 30th, Seattle, Washington. I clipped all the botanical elements from my garden and used beautiful tulips from Alm Hill Gardens (Pike Place Market vendor of WA-grown tulips)

Welcome to Week 4 of the Slow Flowers Challenge as we wrap up the first month of 2015! 

The year is off to a great start, and I thank you for joining me in this celebration of locally-grown flowers, from our gardens, meadows and farms. Seattleites are of course wrapped up in Super Bowl preparations, but I’ve been anticipating the return of homegrown tulips from Alm Hill Gardens, an organic food and flower farm in Everson, Washington, just two miles from the Washington-British Columbia border.
Owned by Gretchen Hoyt and Ben Craft, Alm Hill is known for raising luscious cut tulips. At Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the sign in their stall reads, “Alm Hill Gardens: A Small Sustainable Family Farm Since 1974.”
I greeted flower-seller Max Clement, who I’m always happy to see, and selected 20 apricot-hued and melon-orange tulip for $20. He wrapped them up in white paper and sent me off to play with the floral gifts that my own backyard offered as companion elements to the first tulips of 2015.
Here’s what I arranged yesterday:
My vintage cream McCoy vase is filled with magnolia foliage, pieris, hellebore flowers and foliage, witch hazel and local tulips.

My vintage cream McCoy vase is filled with magnolia foliage, pieris, hellebore flowers and foliage, witch hazel and local tulips.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'). This otherworldly flower excites the winter garden - and one must cut judiciously to preserve the shrub's beauty in the landscape. I used 5 stems with copper-orange flowers for my arrangement.

Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’). This otherworldly flower excites the winter garden – and one must cut judiciously to preserve the shrub’s beauty in the landscape. I used 5 stems with copper-orange flowers for my arrangement.

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TIP: Magnolia grandiflora foliage

Magnolia foliage with spring tulips

Magnolia foliage with spring tulips

The arrangement I created above took its inspiration from a winter bouquet that I included in my book Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Flowers.

 
With this design, I raved about the fact that my neighbors Kim and Jake have a stunning Magnolia grandiflora that I view from my sitting room.
They are always so generous to allow me to walk across our shared driveway and clip a few glossy evergreen stems for my arrangements. The leaves measure up to 9 inches and the underside of each is slightly fuzzy and rusty-brown, which looks especially enticing with orange and apricot companion flowers like early spring tulips.
Anyone who thinks the winter garden is limited need only to consider broadleaf evergreen shrubs and trees – they are long-lasting and reflect the light when we desperately need it!
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GET INVOLVED AND SHARE YOUR SLOW FLOWERS ARRANGEMENTS!

A beautiful January bouquet submitted by Winnie Pitrone, a flower grower and arranger in Mendocino, Ca who uses only seasonal, local flora from her garden or nearby gardens.

A beautiful January bouquet submitted by Winnie Pitrone, a flower grower and arranger in Mendocino, Ca who uses only seasonal, local flora from her garden or nearby gardens.

Amaryllis, camellia, quince, peiris in urn from Erika's Fresh Flowers, a locally owned flower farm and design studio in Warrenton, Or., with a garden style that's inspired by the wild, unique botanicals nearby.

Amaryllis, camellia, quince, peiris in urn from Erika’s Fresh Flowers, a locally owned flower farm and design studio in Warrenton, Or., with a garden style that’s inspired by the wild, unique botanicals nearby.

Here’s a link to our January 2015 Slow Flowers Pinterest Board. Please share your arrangements with me and I’ll add them – or, like many of you, create your own Slow Flowers Pinterest board and invite me to join. I’ll be starting our February 2015 board this coming week!

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Flowers on Your Head with L.A.’s Mud Baron (Episode 178)

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Some of the beautiful faces who've allowed Mud Baron to photograph them with flowers on their heads.

Some of the beautiful faces who’ve allowed Mud Baron to photograph them with flowers on their heads.

Mr. Baron, bouquet-maker

Mr. Baron, bouquet-maker

This past week took Slow Flowers to Southern California, where I combined business, pleasure, flowers and friends, in a whirlwind five days. I successfully cornered Mud Baron, one who rarely slows down himself, to record today’s interview. I’ve wanted to have Mud on the podcast for more than a year, ever since I visited Muir Ranch, the school garden he manages at John Muir High School in Pasadena.

You may not know him as Mud Baron. Yes, his nickname is Mud! But if you’re a follower of beautiful flower images on Instagram, you may know him by Co-Co-Zoe-Chee, or @cocoxochitl, his alias there, with 4,500 followers and thousands of posts. And many contain the hashtag #flowersonyourhead – one of Mud’s gleefully subversive campaigns to place photos on one’s head and snap a photograph, Frida Kahlo-like, for Instagram and other places.

As we discuss in the interview, I have succumbed to Mud’s flowers on your head shenanigans and also witnessed Mud at work, getting complete strangers to comply with his outrageous (and quite poignant ) requests. Check out his gallery of portraits by searching #flowersonyourhead.

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Mud, photographed by me in Seattle (March 2014) with flowers on his head.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote in August 2013, after a visit to Muir Ranch. I hope it round out this introduction of Mud.

In 2011, a dedicated team of volunteer teachers and students began converting 1.5 acres of Pasadena, California’s John Muir High School campus into a school-based farm.

Today, Muir Ranch grows a variety of flowers, vegetables and fruits that are included in weekly CSA boxes as well as school cafeteria lunches. Students can complete community service or internship graduation requirements by enrolling in classes at the Ranch. Muir Ranch also provides paid internships to students, which are funded by private donations, special events, farmer’s market sales, and subscriptions to the produce box program (CSA).  

Edibles and flowers grow together.

Edibles and flowers grow together at Muir Ranch.

Every week, Muir Ranch CSA subscribers get a box or bag of about 7-10 different types of fruit and vegetables grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Customers pick their shares up at central distribution sites throughout Pasadena. Muir Ranch CSA partners with several local farms for seasonal fruit and vegetables to supplement what they can produce, providing tax-deductible weekly boxes to over 100 subscribers. It is the CSA program that generates much of the income that keeps this place operating.

Mud Baron, a passionate school garden advocate who serves as the Executive Director of Muir Ranch, is one of the people at the hub of this endeavor. That sounds like a high-falutin’ title, but in all reality, he is true to his nickname. Mud gets down and dirty – and REAL – with his kids, teenagers whose horizons are much brighter after they’ve learned to grow and sell food and flowers to local customers.

How did this former design-build contractor end up teaching gardening and farming skills to urban youth? I’m still trying to figure out the exact path of Mud’s career, but suffice it to say he’s in his element growing food and flowers.

One of the talented student farmers designed a gorgeous bouquet for me on the spot

One of the talented student farmers designed a gorgeous bouquet for me on the spot

Many programs besides the CSA are supported under the umbrella of Muir Ranch, such as partnerships CSAs run by with other local schools and learning gardens. Muir Ranch also and hosts monthly “Plug Mobs” to help other groups in the community plant their own gardens.

In Mud’s mind, no Southern California-based teacher should go wanting for school garden supplies. “The Plug Mob program means that finding seeds and plants is no longer a factor for 2,000 schools,” he says. Muir Ranch operates like a plant nursery, helping source and distribute seeds, bulbs and flats of plant starts. Like modern-day Johnny Appleseeds, Mud and his supporters share what they have and spread around the love.

As more young people “connect the dots,” they become involved in how food is grown, distributed, and finally cooked into healthy meals. Besides being a center for education, Muir Ranch hosts a variety of ongoing and special events. The program is known for its floral arrangements, and I love that Mud has taught his interns and student workers how to harvest and assemble bouquets.

Word is getting out about Muir Ranch’s flowers. One of Mud’s interns just earned $400 selling wedding flowers to a market customer. According to Mud, that experience opened her eyes to possibilities for a bright future.

Here's a beautiful student-crafted bouquet, an impromptu gift that I cherished.

Here’s a beautiful student-crafted bouquet, an impromptu gift that I cherished.

Things are ever-changing at this school garden, with new crops of kids getting involved and older ones graduating and enrolling in college. And Mud continues his radical outreach on behalf of school gardening, food justice and the importance of flowers in our lives.

I promise you our conversation is all over the place, bouncing between sentimental and serious to hilariously irreverent, a lot like Mud himself.

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My photographer friend Jean Zaputil, of Studio Z Photography and Design, took this portrait of me after Mud plunked a huge bunch of flowers on my head, March 2014.

I will devote the next two weeks to Valentine’s Day, turning the focus to American grown flowers for this top floral holiday.  If we can’t show our love with local flowers, what’s the point?

I’ll introduce you to some of the people who are doing exciting things to innovate at Valentine’s Day, getting their clients out of the gift-giving rut that involves thinking a generic bunch of a dozen red roses equates true affection and gestures of love. Please return to gain new ideas – and let me know what you’re doing this Valentine’s Day – I’d love to share your own efforts with our listeners.

Thanks to the Slow Flowers Tribe, this podcast has been downloaded more than 32,000 times. In fact, the month of January hit an all-time high as our most popular month to date, with more than 3,000 downloads of current and archived interviews – and I’m encouraged to know that more listeners are discovering this flower-powered podcast every day.

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

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

The Slow Flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts.

Week 3 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
Miniature cymbidiums in all their glory, offset with calla lily foliage from Danielle Hahn's private landscape at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA.

Miniature cymbidiums in all their glory, offset with calla lily foliage from Danielle Hahn’s private landscape at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA.

On the road with the Slow Flowers Challenge, I’m in Southern California this week to do some story scouting, podcast interviews and to attend the winter board meeting of the Garden Writers Association in Pasadena.

So naturally, I wasn’t able to create my own seasonal and local bouquet!

For Week 3 of 2015, I want to showcase this exquisite arrangement designed by Danielle Hahn at Rose Story Farm. I visited her in Carpinteria, CA, this week (USDA Zone 10) and was delighted to see a vase of miniature cymbidium orchids and calla foliage on the kitchen island at the Hahn family farmhouse.
Rose Story is an American flower farm, specializing in organically-grown old garden roses, David Austin’s and heirloom varieties for the floral industry. That means their field-grown roses bloom mostly in May, June, July and August! Since it’s winter now, the farm’s rose production is limited.
Orchids are a wonderful winter-blooming option for every climate.

Orchids are a wonderful winter-blooming option for every climate.

A few years ago, Dani’s father brought her a wide array of winter flowers that would bloom in her garden when the roses were dormant. She wrote this on her Instagram post of these orchids: “It’s cymbidium time . . . these are a teensy variety and first to bloom. A gift from my late father who decided we needed something during our rose dormancy. One thousand plants and some are fragrant!”
There’s something quite powerful and lovely about associating our floral choices with memories and the people we love – and Dani, how beautiful that your own remembrances of your father are connected to these orchids.
Love this glossy calla lily foliage, another seasonal option from Dani's garden.

Love this glossy calla lily foliage, another seasonal option from Dani’s garden.

Okay, I know not everyone lives in Carpinteria (just a stone’s throw from Santa Barbara), so what’s going on in other parts of the country?
Here are a few designs from Slowflowers.com Members in colder corners of the U.S.
I share these to illustrate how much beauty each region has to offer – if only you look!
From Ann Sensenbrenner, owner of Farm to Vase in Madison, Wisconsin. This was her New Year's arrangement featuring conifers and evergreens, ilex berries, dried grasses, dried seed heads and dried flowers.

From Ann Sensenbrenner, owner of Farm to Vase in Madison, Wisconsin. This was her New Year’s arrangement featuring conifers and evergreens, ilex berries, dried grasses, dried seed heads and dried flowers.

From Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens in Oakdale, Pennsylvania. Kate posted this arrangement on Jan. 16th as part of her "Friday Night Romance" series, a peek at the bouquets she creates each week. I love how this arrangement features late-season Dusty Miller, as well as gorgeous juniper berries, dried hydrangea flowers, dried grasses. I actually think I see a few succulents in this bouquet, too!

From Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens in Oakdale, Pennsylvania.
Kate posted this arrangement on Jan. 16th as part of her “Friday Night Romance” series, a peek at the bouquets she creates each week.
I love how this arrangement features late-season Dusty Miller, as well as gorgeous juniper berries, dried hydrangea flowers, dried grasses.
I actually think I see a few succulents in this bouquet, too!

TIP: From the Flower Farmer

Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) with Cymbidium 'Sleeping Dream Castle'.

Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) with Cymbidium ‘Sleeping Dream Castle’.

Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) with Cymbidium 'Sleeping Dream Castle'.

Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) with Cymbidium ‘Sleeping Dream Castle’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orchids make great cut flowers!

According to Sandra Peterkort Laubenthal, whose family grows roses, lilies and orchids in greenhouses outside of Portland, Oregon, cymbidiums can be displayed as a flower-studded stem or cut individually off the stem for floating or inserting in floral tubes.
 
It’s hard to know, however, how fresh the flower is. “What makes the most difference is if they are cut right after blooming,” Sandra says.
 
“Look at the lip to see if it has turned pink or is otherwise discolored. This is an indication that the flower has been pollinated by an insect – and that dramatically shortens the cymbidium’s lifespan.”
 
(c) Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Flowers, by Debra Prinzing

Chet and Kristy Anderson of Colorado’s Fresh Herb Co. (Episode 177)

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Chet and Kristy Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co. with their late-harvest scabiosas in front of the old stone schoolhouse that's now the kitchen wing of their farmhouse.

Chet and Kristy Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co. with their late-harvest scabiosas in front of the old stone schoolhouse, circa 1887, that’s now the kitchen wing of their farmhouse.

Chet, as captured by my camera in 2011.

Chet, as captured by my camera in 2011.

It is my pleasure to introduce you this week to Chet and Kristy Anderson, veteran flower farmers and owners of The Fresh Herb Co., based in Boulder, Colorado.

If you’re a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers or if you’ve read the “Rocky Mountain Flowers” chapter in The 50 Mile Bouquet, you’re already familiar with the Anderson name — and their beautiful flowers.

The Fresh Herb Company is a specialty grower of culinary and ornamental greenhouse crops and fresh field-cut flowers, proudly serving the Rocky Mountain West local market for over 30 years.

Chet and Kristy grow fresh greenhouse and field-cut flowers May through October. They market field fresh bouquets, peonies, phlox, sunflowers, zinnias, delphinium, larkspur, and many more varieties to customers throughout the Rocky Mountain Region — including grocery chains, weddings and special events., as well as at the Boulder County Farmers Market,

The Fresh Herb Co. Farm, in a pre-flood photo Kristy recently shared.

The Fresh Herb Co. Farm, in a pre-flood photo Kristy recently shared.

Warm, intelligent, creative and engaging, this couple has been so generous over the years in sharing their home and time with me. I visited their farm in May 2011, after being part of a lecture series at the Denver Botanic Garden.

We reconnected in November 2012, when Kristy and Chet came to the ASCFG national conference that was held in Tacoma. And when it turned out that I was going to fly through Denver on my way to a conference for professional speakers this past November, well . . . I basically invited myself to Longmont, about 20 minutes from Boulder, where the Andersons live on the most picturesque flower farm.

Chet emailed me back almost immediately, saying “yes.” Hi Debra…..we would love to see you. Let’s count on seeing you here at the farm at 12:ish.  We’ll have a bite here and get you on the road in time to make it to the Springs by 4:00. Sound ok? Thanks, C.

The big, blue, Colorado sky, as captured on my visit last November. Wow! I know why this place is so special to the Anderson family.

The big, blue, Colorado sky, as captured on my visit last November. Wow! I know why this place is so special to the Anderson family. Note farmhouse on lower right corner of this sweeping photograph.

I was eager to see Kristy and Chet and to get an update on how things had progressed in the previous 12 months.

You see, in mid-September of 2013, we got word that an autumn storm in their area caused devastating floods from Lefthand Creek, wiping out a huge portion of The Fresh Herb Co.’s farm. Right after the disaster, Chet wrote this in an email:

” . . . pretty bad here. House is fine; greenhouse is mostly OK. Barn and coolers are still taking on water but are mostly OK. Pump house is gone. The pond is FULLY silted in (very amazing!). All roads to and from our facilities are gone and there is only one way out of here to town. Flower fields very rough….not sure what will survive, though the peonies fared the best (ya gotta love peonies, eh?). Biggest bummer may be that I have 3,000 bunches of sunflowers and nearly 500 beautiful bouquets in the cooler with no place to go! Dang! . . . “

And then he concluded with a few words that tell you volumes about Chet’s rather upbeat outlook on life:

“As we all know, things could always be worse. Very thankful that family and friends, and house are all safe. Now simply the cleanup.”

Growing fields from a prior season.

Growing fields from a prior season, with the greenhouse in the distance.

I always say that American flower farmers are tenacious and resilient. Listen to our conversation as evidence.

After a delightful lunch featuring butternut squash soup (so beautiful that I had to photograph it!), we walked the farm, saw the enlarged and repaired greenhouse, now 17,000 square feet in size, admired all the new peonies and perennials that were in the ground, ready to hunker down through winter in anticipation of spring.

Colorado peonies in the coolers at The Fresh Herb Co. (photo courtesy Chet and Kristy Anderson)

Colorado peonies in the cooler at The Fresh Herb Co. (photo courtesy Chet and Kristy Anderson)

Here's a photo I snapped in May 2011 inside the greenhouses - hanging baskets overhead and crates of lilies beneath them.

Here’s a photo I snapped in May 2011 inside the greenhouses – hanging baskets overhead and crates of lilies beneath them.

Chet (center), flanked by his lovely women -- mother Belle and wife/partner Kristy. Photogaphed by me at the Boulder Co. Farmers' Market, May 2011.

Chet (center), holding an armload of lilies and flanked by the lovely women in his life — mother Belle and wife/partner Kristy. Photogaphed by me at the Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market, May 2011.

Then Kristy, Chet and I sat outdoors on their stone patio. Yes, it was early November in Colorado, and yes, it snowed just a few days later at the conference where I was, at least, in Colorado Springs. But I felt the sunshine on my shoulders and was truly warmed by our conversation. Thanks for listening in . . .

50MileBouquet_book I’d love you to read the entire story about Chet and Kristy, as included in The 50 Mile Bouquet.

Download the PDF of their chapter here: Rocky_Mountain_Flowers_The_50_Mile_Bouquet

And if you are lucky enough to make it to Boulder, Colorado, make sure to schedule a day at their famous Farmer’s Market and stop by to say hello to these intrepid and passionate folks!

Listeners like you are downloading and listening to the Slow Flowers Podcast more than ever before! We have exceeded 30,000 downloads and every time that figure climbs, I’m encouraged that more people are learning about the farmers and florists who are keeping American-grown flowers thriving.  So I thank you!!! If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

Week 2: Slow Flowers Challenge

Friday, January 16th, 2015
January 15, 2015 Slow Flowers Challenge arrangement

January 15, 2015 Slow Flowers Challenge arrangement

SlowFlowersChallengeCover.jpg (2) I hope you are having a wonderful beginning to your New Year of Local Flowers!

This season and the subsequent ones throughout the year will provide us with beautiful, American Grown botanicals. As we train our eyes, plan our gardens and seek local sources for our flowers, I hope that the Slow Flowers Challenge will inspire and inform you!
Week 1: We launched the Slow Flowers Challenge on January 5th and to date, more than 250 people have downloaded the Resource Design Guide to get their own Slow Flowers Project started. Please feel free to share this project with your friends. I encourage people to begin whenever the timing is right – and continue regularly by week, month or season.

For my own arrangement, for Week 2 of 2015, I was inspired by these vivid magenta-purple snowberries,which I saw growing en masse at Jello Mold Farm  in Mt. Vernon.

This is the farm portrayed on the cover of The 50 Mile Bouquet, one of the most productive and sustainable small cut flower farms I’ve ever visited.

A huge stand of snowberry shrubs look gorgeous against the red barn at Jello Mold Farm

A huge stand of snowberry shrubs look gorgeous against the red barn at Jello Mold Farm

Owners Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall encouraged me to cut as many of the stems as I wished. It was already dusk and there was something quite wistful about harvesting floral elements in the waning winter light of January 10th.

I was excited to create an arrangement worthy of all that brilliant fuchsia. I filled a glass pitcher with the snowberry stems when I came home, and then . . . of course, GOT TOO BUSY to design.

Tuesday, while walking my elderly dog Zanny on what was actually a slow craw down the sidewalk of my neighborhood, I spotted my next design ingredient! Branches of blue atlas cedar covered the ground, knocked from a majestic tree during a recent storm. They looked like a graceful gesture depicted in a black-and-white sumi painting. I gathered a few and carried them home.
The teal-blue tinge of the needles seemed the perfect complement to the snowberries. Later that day, I eyed a piece of vintage turquoise pottery, something I ordered from eBay.com a few years ago, mainly because the glaze was so beautiful – darker than most of my other vintage vases.
Lots of texture, color, detail and seasonal interest!

Lots of texture, color, detail and seasonal interest!

That’s when the entire design came together in my mind’s eye. I just had to walk the rather dormant winter garden with clippers in hand to find the remaining elements to complete my design. Here’s what I clipped yesterday before getting started: 
  • Sweet box (Sarcococca ruscifolia), with glossy green foliage and tiny white fringes of super-fragrant, vanilla-scented flowers.
  • Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica), a fantastic shrub with chains of flowers emerging from the tips. I cut mine pre-bloom, so the strings of tiny buds are a pale pinkish-gold color.
  • Bishop’s hat (Epimedium sp.), a rather generic evergreen groundcover (the previous owner of our home planted way too many of them!) with wiry stems and a pointed leaves – thus, the “bishop’s hat.” Some of the varieties turn dark red-brown when temperatures drop, like the ones that I used in my bouquet.
  • Cedar branches, that echo the pottery glaze beautifully. A few of the curved stems drape downward from the rim of the container, which I love.
  • Lichen-covered bare branches from a weathered azalea. You can’t see them well in the photo, however, let me assure you that the pale green lichen also echoes the vase’s glaze.
  • Lots of snowberries, which arch quite nicely above most of the foliage, just where I wanted them in the vase.
  • Three stems of ‘Joseph’ Hellebores, clipped from a container in front of my home. Blooms are rare so I used these for impact.
  • Finally, I knew I wanted something bold, so I added three stems from a Rex Begonia houseplant. I believe this variety is called ‘Iron Cross’ and you can see why.

TIP: American Grown Flowers

Winter can be a challenge to find more conventional blooms, especially if you live in Zones 3-6, right? I was inspired by an event held last week at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market (full disclosure – I’m on the board of this farmer-to-florist cooperative).
We hosted Christina Stembel of SF-based Farmgirl Flowers, and you can see her design here. Christina discussed the huge variety and availability of California-grown flowers that she relies on, year-round. She encouraged Seattle area designers to draw a larger circle in their definition of “local” during the times when most local flower farms are dormant or experiencing lower productivity.
Look for CA-Grown labeling when you’re shopping at the supermarket. You’ll find beautiful flowers that are grown by U.S. farmers – all part of keeping it SLOW!
Christina’s design features California-grown eucalyptus, privet berries, garden roses, tulips, fancy-leaf pelargonium, ornamental cabbage & scabiosa.
Share Your SLOW FLOWERS Bouquets
About Our Pinterest Boards

When I launched the SLOW FLOWERS CHALLENGE for 2015, I asked people to create their own designs using American grown, local and seasonal botanicals, and then to “share” their designs on our Pinterest board, which I had planned to set up for each month of the year. Here is the January Board.
Easy, right?
Not so easy. I did not realize that I have to INVITE YOU to join this board. I hope you create your own boards, which is something I’ve seen lots of you do. Please invite me to post to your Slow Flowers Challenge Pinterest Board and I will reciprocate and invite you to join ours, which I have made a “Group Board.” Let’s use the #slowflowerschallenge hash-tag when possible, so we can find and enjoy each other’s beautiful and seasonal work!

Floriography’s Emily Calhoun grows and designs with local flowers in New Mexico (Episode 176)

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015
Emily Calhoun of Floriography, lover of the Southwest and grower of flowers.

Emily Calhoun of Floriography, lover of the Southwest and grower of flowers.

Last week’s featured guest was Fran Sorin, gardening and creativity expert, and author of the just-released 10th Anniversary edition of Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening.

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

“Digging Deep,” by Fran Sorin

Fran graciously contributed a copy of her book for me to give away to our listeners. The lucky recipient from our drawing is Wendy Gorton. In her comment on my web site, Wendy shared her earliest memory of flowers or nature – and I know that when Fran hears this, it will bring a huge smile to her face. Wendy wrote:

I’m adopted and lucky enough to have had an adoptive mother who loved working in the garden. She would take me out with her at a very early age, where we would plant vegetables and flowers and make mud puddles. This time with my mother was such a gift and taught me how to reconnect to what is important in life. A beautiful story in relation to this…my mother told me that one time, after one of our sessions in the garden where we both came in just covered in mud, the social worker stopped by, as was the case with adoptions. My mother was mortified and tried to explain why we were covered filthy. The social worker just smiled and said, “no worries; it looks like this little one is having a healthy childhood.” 

Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment and I hope you come back to win something in one of our future drawings!

The gorgeous floral designs of Emily Calhoun, Floriography NM. This is the project that reminds me of Frida Kahlo!

The gorgeous floral designs of Emily Calhoun, Floriography NM. This is the project that reminds me of Frida Kahlo!

Bringing local flowers to the weddings and celebrations of New Mexico.

Bringing local flowers to the weddings and celebrations of New Mexico.

I’m super excited to introduce you to today’s guest, Emily Calhoun. A farmer-florist who owns Floriography, Emily has established her growing fields and design studios in two locations — Albuquerque and Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Albuquerque is in the center of the state and Las Cruces is in that little niche near El Paso, Texas where New Mexico, Texas and Mexico come together. We’re talking 235 miles apart!

Floriography blossomed in 2012 when Emily saw the need, even a thirst, for responsibly grown flowers and a fresh, new design aesthetic that was modern, yet steeped in tradition (just like her!).

She proudly produces and utilizes stunning heirloom flower varieties alongside all-time favorites like sunflowers and tulips.

Check out the arrows that indicate Albuquerque in the north/central part of the state - and Las Cruces in south/central.

Check out the arrows that indicate Albuquerque in the north/central part of the state – and Las Cruces in south/central.

Floriography’s business model is unique in that Emily collaborates with other growers, landscapers, and home owners to harvest many local and native plants, cacti, and foliage, bringing a special touch from New Mexico’s beautiful landscape through her floral designs to table, event, or special occasion.

Sourcing botanicals locally eliminates many of the extra costs associated with the floral industry, thus making it affordable to enjoy the benefits of fresh flowers.

Floriography is the expression of Emily’s pleasure and skill in providing beautiful, unique, natural, and innovative floral design while honoring her agricultural heritage through sustainable best growing practices.

The name Floriography (while it is indeed a mouthful!) reinforces Emily’s belief that flowers carry profound meaning for the thoughtful giver and the lucky recipient.

Backlighting lends a Southwest glow to this Floriography bouquet.

Backlighting lends a Southwest glow to this Floriography bouquet.

Floriography, defined as the language and the art of communicating through flowers, gained popularity in the days of Victorian England. This interest in the language of flowers had roots in Ottoman Turkey, when during the first half of the 18th century the court in Constantinople became obsessed with tulips .

Floriography is founded on this powerful and romantic notion that flowers are such wonderful communicators.

“Our mission is to help our clients express their fondest thoughts, hopes, and feelings through our flowers and design,” she says. “I believe in flowers…”

Emily continues, and this is excerpted from the Floriography web site:

Such a sense of place here. The flowers are as vivid as the architecture, the sun and the sky.

Such a sense of place here. The flowers are as vivid as the architecture, the sun and the sky.

“I am constantly in awe of the natural beauty that surrounds us in the Rio Grande valley.

I love walking through the farm land and down the drainage ditches collecting pods, grasses, and other unique vegetation. 

After living around the country, working in Latin America and Europe as a travel guide and cook, and traveling through several Asian countries, I always knew I’d return to my agricultural roots in southern New Mexico and West Texas to join my family’s farming business.

“Upon returning to New Mexico after one of my adventures, I threw a big dinner party and was  shocked to discover that while we live in a beautiful and productive valley, the closest source for buying “farm fresh” cut flowers was more than 500 miles away.

As an avid dinner party and entertaining enthusiast, I was sad and discouraged that the flowers for my events had to be sourced from such a distance (even South America), and may not have been grown in a way respectful to the environment or the workers.

So, I decided it was time that our beautiful valley should add specialty cut flowers to its agricultural repertoire. Thus began Floriography.”

Full of character and style ~ a Floriography bouquet.

Full of character and style ~ a  New Mexico-grown Floriography bouquet.

“We believe in honoring our environment and agricultural heritage in a way that delights the senses.” is one that resonates with me – and I know it will with you.”

On a sunny, but chilly morning last November, I got to play in the garden with Emily Calhoun of Floriography.

On a sunny, but chilly morning last November, I got to play in the garden with Emily Calhoun of Floriography.

I recorded this podcast in mid November when I was able to visit Emily while traveling through Albuquerque for a day. We had a lovely interlude on her homestead that included playing with all sorts of gorgeous ingredients gleaned from the farm in Las Cruces as well as from the growing fields on her land outside Albuquerque. Here are the November bouquets we designed. I think they’re simply sublime:

Quintessentially local - A gorgeous arrangement, foraged and harvested from only New Mexico-grown ingredients. Design: Emily Calhoun

Quintessentially local – A gorgeous arrangement, foraged and harvested from only New Mexico-grown ingredients. Design: Emily Calhoun

Here's my interpretation of the Floriography style.

Here’s my interpretation of the Floriography style.

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I want to conclude today’s podcast by sharing the very sad news that the Slow Flowers community lost a lovely and wise flower farmer on December 25th. Peg Moran, owner of Friends in the Country, a flower farm in Pawtucket, Connecticut, was Stonington Farmer’s Market’s flower vendor for 17 years, since the market began in 1997.

Peg Moran, Connecticut flower farmer and author of "An Acre Plus: Invitation to A Growing Life"

Peg Moran, Connecticut flower farmer and author of “An Acre Plus: Invitation to A Growing Life”

Here is what the Stonington Farmer’s Market shared on their Facebook Page:

During the growing season, she supplied the Market with a wide range of flowers, from common favorites to unique wonders that she grew on an acre of land she cultivated in Pawtucket. It was always a banner day at the Market when Peg returned for the season wearing her signature straw hat, the back of her car filled with buckets of beautiful flowers.

Her book, An Acre Plus, An Invitation to a Growing Life, describes her journey to becoming an experienced flower grower and building her business, Friends in the Country. She used sustainable farming techniques to raise cut flowers for weddings, parties and local farmers markets. She brought on teen garden apprentices from Stonington High School to learn agricultural techniques and help in her business. She grew annuals in long raised beds and fifty varieties of perennials in terraced beds that curve around her farmhouse on Mary Hall Road. Recently, responding to growing demand, she modified her business model and began growing bulbs for the holiday and early spring seasons, working with other local growers to extend and broaden her seasonal offerings.

Peg was a fervent entrepreneur, and she shared that passion with others, developing entrepreneurship courses and teaching at the University of California as well as far-flung schools in Estonia and Russia. She developed curriculum and taught peer-based programs for microloan lending agencies in Boston, Massachusetts, Willimantic and New London, Connecticut.

She was devoted to sustainable, local and small-scale agriculture. She spearheaded CLUC*K (Chicken Lovers Urge Change), the organization that promoted back-yard chicken farming and successfully worked to change planning and zoning regulations to permit such farming in Stonington.

Peg—author, entrepreneur, farmer and agricultural advocate—lived a busy, engaged life. She was a mother, grandmother and mentor to many. She worked hard, crusaded for causes in which she believed, and supported herself through her lively intellect and avid interests. She will be remembered as “the flower woman” to her customers and “quite a woman” to her friends.

I only met Peg recently – this past November at a Slow Flowers farmer/florist gathering at Robin Hollow Farm in Rhode Island.  It was such a lovely evening and I’m so grateful Peg drove nearly an hour to join us.  I came home to Seattle immediately and ordered An Acre Plus, Peg’s memoir that she self-published in 2009.

After reading every word I sent Peg a note only a few weeks ago telling her how much I adored her book. I didn’t hear back from her and she died six days later. But hope she read my note and that it made her smile.

My condolences to Peg’s family and her vibrant farming community. If you want to be moved by her beautiful language and honest insights about making a living as a flower farmer, I urge you to get a copy of An Acre Plus. I had hoped to have Peg on this podcast as a guest in 2015. Now, sadly, you’ll have to listen to her voice through the pages of her book.

30k Thanks for joining me today.  My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.  Listeners like you are downloading and listening to the Slow Flowers Podcast more than ever before! We reached 30,000 downloads this week. So I thank you!!! If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

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

Music credits (Creative Commons License)
Marcus Eads – Johnson Slough
Marcus Eads – Canoe Launch

Playing with Flowers and Digging Deep with Fran Sorin (Episode 175)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Awaiting early tulips and hyacinths . . . we're just weeks away!

Awaiting early tulips and hyacinths . . . we’re just weeks away!

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Before we get started, I want to announce our new Slow Flowers Podcast Sponsor for 2015 – the California Cut Flower Commission.

The Commission is committed to making a difference as an advocate for American Grown Flowers.

I’ll be working closely with CCFC on a number of initiatives to promote domestic flowers in 2015, and I promise to keep you posted as details unfold.

SlowFlowersChallengeCover.jpg (2)

 

Today on the Slow Flowers Podcast we launch the Slow Flowers Challenge, share all about a new urban flower farm in Pittsburgh, and explore the meaning of flowers on a personal level with author and gardening personality Fran Sorin.

To kick off 2015, I invite you to join in the fun and creativity of the Slow Flowers Challenge. This project was inspired by Katherine Tracy, a talented plantswoman, designer and owner of Avant Gardens Nursery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Katherine blogged about taking the “Slow Flowers Challenge” after hearing my presentation at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens in Rhode Island this past fall…and she started using the hashtag #slowflowerschallenge, which in turn prompted other people to create seasonal bouquets, photograph them and share their designs on Facebook, Instagram and personal blogs.

Katherine’s artistic arrangements reveal her love of the natural world, the seasons, the plants, the gifts of the garden and wilder places. I’ve so enjoyed seeing these bouquets pop up across the web – thoroughly serendipitous and seasonal – representing pure joy for a moment in time. SO I thought, “why don’t we make the Challenge available to everyone who loves local flowers?”

I encourage you to check out these very simple rules and download a free SlowFlowersResourceGuide2015 here. Sign up to receive weekly design updates and follow a link to the Slow Flowers Pinterest Gallery, where you are welcomed and encouraged to post your seasonal arrangements.  Let’s have fun, make beauty, and change the American floral industry with new (and more seasonal) habits.

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Briefly, before getting to our main guest, I also invited Jonathan Weber to share what’s going on with greenSinner, a Pittsburgh-based floral design, wedding and event studio and urban micro flower farm that he owns and runs with partner Jimmy Lohr.

Past guests of this podcast, the two have made good on their dream — to buy more land and establish a working flower farm. Jonathan and Jimmy recently purchased 4 acres of long-neglected land inside the Pittsburgh city limits. It’s called Midsummer Hill Farm.

I couldn’t be more excited to see them take this major step, but so much is needed to get seedlings and bulbs into the soil in time for flowers to bloom in 2015. Here’s a recent article featuring greenSinner, Midsummer Hill Farm and Jimmy and Jonathan’s crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, which runs through January 27th. I encourage you to check it out and perhaps invest in the growth of local flowers in Pittsburgh.

Fran Sorin, author of "Digging Deep."

Fran Sorin, author of “Digging Deep.”

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

Today’s guest Fran Sorin is an author, gardening and creativity expert, and deep ecologist. Her book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, was groundbreaking when published in 2004. It was the first book to address gardening in the context of creativity, and as a tool for well-being and personal transformation. Here is a link to my blog post about “Digging Deep for Flower Lovers,” sharing favorite excerpts from Fran’s book.

Fran recently released an updated 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep. The book is even more vital today, because our culture has become increasingly obsessed with technology and progressively more “nature deprived.”

From the moment Fran decided she wanted to share her passion for gardening with a large audience and approached the local Fox TV station in Philadelphia about the idea, she became a fixture on the TV circuit. She spent years as a gardening authority on Philadelphia’s Fox and NBC stations; she was the regular gardening contributor on NBC’s Weekend Today Show, and made several appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Lifetime, HGTV, DIY, and the Discovery Channel. She is one of the creators of the popular weekly dose of garden news at Gardening Gone Wild Blog.

Fran is celebrating her tenth year as a CBS Radio News correspondent. Her Digging Deep gardening features are heard several times a week on CBS Radio stations throughout the United States. She has also written dozens of articles about gardening and well-being for USA Weekend Magazine, Radius Magazine, and iVillage.

She has spent more than twenty-five years initiating and working on community projects that have served the diverse community of West Philadelphia, most recently initiating a community garden and learning center on the grounds of a church in an underprivileged neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

Even prior to becoming an ordained interfaith minister, Fran was ministering to folks whether she was taking on the role as a garden designer, a media trainer, a TV personality, or a radio host. Fran’s greatest strengths are in connecting to audiences and individuals and galvanizing them to take action. In these tumultuous and technologically obsessed times, when so many of us feel stuck, scared, and disconnected from ourselves and others, her optimistic, grounded values, and empowering message are needed more than ever.

Here is Fran’s video – she’s a woman on the street, sharing her inspiring “Give a Flower. Get a Smile” project:

Follow Fran here:

Facebook

Give a Flower Facebook Page

Twitter

If you want to participate in the drawing for a free copy of Digging Deep, post a comment about your earliest memory of gardening or experiencing nature. Your comment enters you into the drawing, which takes place at midnight Pacific Time, this Saturday, Jan. 10th. We’ll announce the winner next week.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.  Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more frequently than ever before.  We’re at nearly 30,000 downloads, which will be an exciting milestone to reach in the coming week. So I thank you!!! If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

Take the Slow Flowers Challenge in 2015

Monday, January 5th, 2015

ChallengeInvite_2015 What better New Year’s Resolution than to resolve to live locally with your flowers and floral designs for the coming year?!

This week launches the Slow Flowers Challenge, and I invite you to join in the fun and creativity.

A possible collection of stems and fruit inspired by Slow Flowers, photographed by Katherine Tracy of Avant Gardens Nursery.

A possible collection of stems and fruit inspired by Slow Flowers, photographed by Katherine Tracy of Avant Gardens Nursery.

This inclusive project was inspired by Katherine Tracy, a talented plantswoman, designer and owner of Avant Gardens Nursery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Katherine's Nov. 7th arrangement, created the week after we met at Blithewold in Rhode Island.

Katherine’s Nov. 7th arrangement, created the week after we met at Blithewold in Rhode Island.

Katherine wrote on her Garden Foreplay Blog about taking the “Slow Flowers Challenge” after hearing my presentation at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens in Rhode Island this past fall.

She started using the hashtag #slowflowerschallenge, which in turn prompted other people to create seasonal bouquets, photograph them and share their designs on Facebook, Instagram and personal blogs.

Katherine’s artistic arrangements reveal her love of the natural world, the seasons, the plants, the gifts of the garden and wilder places where she lives and gardens in New England.

I’ve so enjoyed seeing these bouquets pop up across the web – thoroughly serendipitous and seasonal – representing pure joy for a moment in time. These personal expressions resonated with me – they brought me back to the year I spent making one bouquet per week from the flowers that grow around me.

“Why don’t we make the Challenge available to everyone who loves local flowers?”

It’s official and you’re invited to join The Slow Flowers Challenge 2015.

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The Rules: Live in the season. Source locally. Use earth-friendly materials and supplies. The more frequently you arrange flowers, the more familiar you’ll become with each of these aspects.

What: The Slow Flowers Challenge is an ongoing practice of creating seasonal arrangements and sharing your designs with the Slow Flowers Tribe.

Why:  The practice is timeless. The gesture is universal. Inspired by the exquisite beauty of a garden or by the sentiment of a special occasion, we gather flowers and foliage and place them in a vessel to display in our homes or give to another. Floral design is a three-dimensional art form that blends horticulture and nature with sculptural composition. At its best, bouquet making is a personal expression unique to the designer’s tastes and point of view.

When: This is the 2015 Challenge. It will run from January 2015 through December 31, 2015. You can join at any time during the year.

How Often: The Challenge format allows you to participate at whatever frequency works for your schedule. We like to suggest these options: 365 Days, 52 Weeks, 12 Months or 4 Seasons.

When I created the Slow Flowers book, I designed one bouquet per week for 52 weeks. But you might decide to create a monthly bouquet, or a seasonal arrangement – or, if you’re really dedicated – a daily design! The main thing is that you decide what works for you and get started.

Share! Post a photo of your arrangement to our Slow Flowers Challenge Pinterest Page. And if you share it elsewhere, please use #slowflowerschallenge or tag @myslowflowers link on Twitter so others can see what you’ve created.

Resources to Help & Inspire You:

  • Sign up here to Join and Receive a weekly email with season-perfect Slow Flowers Tips for your cutting garden and personal floral design studio. Each will include what to plant now, what to harvest now, how to find key resources like seeds, plants or cut ingredients, and essential tools/supplies for the Slow Flowers Challenge
  • Submit photographs of your arrangements to our Monthly Slow Flowers Challenge Pinterest Page.
  • Share your designs on Social Media. Please use #slowflowerschallenge or tag @myslowflowers link on Twitter so others can see what you’ve created.
  • Win prizes and the admiration of your fellow Slow Flowers Tribe members
  • Achieve Certified Slow Flowers Designer status.

Let’s have fun, make beauty, and change the American floral industry with new (and more seasonal) habits.

2015 Floral Insights and Industry Forecast (Episode 174)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
What a joy it has been to live a bloom-filled year of flowers. These images are from a floral design photo shoot for a Seattle design blog this past May.

What a joy it has been to live a bloom-filled year of flowers. These images are from a photo shoot for a Seattle design blog this past May.

Welcome to the final Slow Flowers Podcast of 2014.

Every single week this year; in fact, every single week for the past 18 months, I’ve had the immense privilege of hosting a dynamic and inspiring dialogue with a leading voice in the American floral industry.

The segment I recorded one year ago, for the January 1st episode, asked: Will 2014 be the year we save our flowers?

In reflecting on that and other questions I posed, I have to say that over the past 12 months we’ve witnessed some amazing and encouraging strides in the Slow Flowers Movement.

Here are a few highlights:

I was one of five persons who participated in the press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. From left: Debra Prinzing, Diane Szukovathy, Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Duncan Hunter; Lane DeVries is partially seen behind CCFC's Kasey Cronquist (standing).

I was one of five persons who participated in the press conference on Capitol Hill to announce the formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus. From left: Debra Prinzing, Diane Szukovathy, Rep. Lois Capps, Rep. Duncan Hunter; Lane DeVries is partially seen behind CCFC’s Kasey Cronquist (standing).

  1. The formation of the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

    Co-chaired by a bipartisan leadership team of Representatives Lois Capps and Duncan Hunter, this new endeavor is both strategic and symbolic as it engages policymakers in a tangible program to promote cut flower farming in their own districts and states. I was privileged to speak alongside Capps and Hunter, as well as with two American flower farmers Lane DeVries and Diane Szukovathy, at the February 2014 press conference announcing the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus on Capitol Hill. That remarkable experience is a milestone for all of us, one we’ll reflect on as this movement gains further momentum in the hearts of American consumers around the country – as they make conscious choices at the cash register, at the farmers’ market, at the florist and from online e-commerce sellers who identify domestic and local flower sources.

    (c) Washington Post image of California irises and Florida tropical foliage.

    (c) Washington Post image of California irises and Florida tropical foliage.

  1. Also in February, the White House used American flowers and foliage to decorate a State Dinner hosting French president Francois Hollande.

    Beautiful domestic flowers from across the country – grown in California, Florida and other states, adorned the event and even prompted a feature article in the New York Times. As I wrote at the time: I predict this is beginning of a White House commitment to give as much attention to the origins of its flowers as it does the origins of the food and wine it serves to guests. There’s much more ground to gain when it comes to White House flower procurement. Yet, I believe that State Dinner was just the beginning of many more occurrences where American flowers at the White House represents so much more than simple decoration choices. It will represent American jobs, the American farm, the Environment, Economic Development and a Sustainable Floral Industry here at Home. SlowFlowers_Badge_640x480

  1. In May, after nearly a year of planning and development, I launched Slowflowers.com.

    Slowflowers.com is the directory I’d been dreaming of creating for several years. We launched with fewer than 250 listings and now, by year-end, there are 435 businesses — flower farms, floral shops, studios and designers who grow and create American grown floral beauty, coast to coast.
    We’ve had more than 52,000 page views and more than 11.5 thousand unique visits to the site. In 2015, with your help, I hope to expand this online directory to include one thousand members – companies that grow, design with and sell American flowers. I can’t take any credit for the success of Slowflowers.com without thanking the 229 contributors who helped me raise $18,450 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo. All of those funds have been used to build, develop and promote this site. I’m humbled and awed at the groundswell of support from individuals and small businesses alike. Slowflowers.com has so much potential as THE single resource to connect consumers with American grown flowers. And I look forward to making Slowflowers.com even better in the coming year.

  2. Print Certified American Grown Flowers

    Motivated to promote domestic flowers and foliage in a new and strategic way, the American Grown Flowers & Foliage Task Force developed and launched a single domestic floral brand in 2014.
    The ad-hoc group included flower farms large and small, established and emerging. A cross-section of support came from many groups, including the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, where my own energies are directed.
    The seed funds created an initial promotion budget, a brand name, “Certified American Grown Flowers,” a tagline, “take pride in your flowers,” and a contemporary logo that evokes Americana and agriculture, as well as fashion and style.
    Third-party certification ensures origin – that Flowers and foliage are grown in the U.S. by American farmers; as well as assembly — that all ingredients in mixed bouquets are 100% grown and assembled in the U.S. Thirty-three farms are already certified and in the coming year, this brand’s visibility will expand and increase as more flower farms seek certification to signify the domestic origin of their flowers.

    In 2015, we’ll see this branding appear on the sleeves of mixed bouquets and consumer bunches, as well as on point-of-purchase signage at supermarkets around the U.S. The brand answers the inevitable questions: Where were these flowers grown? And it gives supermarket shoppers transparent and truthful labeling about their purchases.

    Best of West

  1. Best in the West

    Slowflowers.com has received great attention in the media, thanks to the compelling story of American grown flowers. Dozens of articles, interviews and broadcasts have shared the web site as a free consumer resource – and one special highlight for me was being named a “Best in the West” resource by Sunset magazine for “best way to buy flowers.” Web

Debra Prinzing’s 2015 Floral Insights and Industry Forecast

10 must-watch ideas that are taking hold in the American floral world.

As we track the momentum and direction of American Grown Flowers, I know some of you have already experienced these developments. In fact, my conversations with guests of this podcast have influenced this list.

I look forward to your reaction and thoughts, as well as input on items I’ve overlooked or missed! I invite you to share yours in the comment below:

Earth- and florist-friendly, the advent of Floral Soil is revolutionizing the conventional floral industry.

Earth- and florist-friendly, the advent of Floral Soil is revolutionizing the conventional floral industry.

  1. Eco/Non-toxic floral design

For several years, eco-conscious designers have openly rejected floral foam while adopting other techniques and mechanics for arranging flower stems (chicken wire, vintage frogs, twig matrixes, and tape grids are some of those methods).

Nothing had emerged to fulfill the role of formaldehyde-based flower foam. That’s until now. Mickey Blake, a “green chemistry” entrepreneur, has developed a plant-based, 100% compostable alternative to toxic foam called Floral Soil. She has applied for numerous patents for the product and is scaling up for production and national distribution in first quarter 2015.

Floral Soil replaces a chemical-based product that has been on the market since 1954. With so many concerns about our personal health, and the health of our planet, Floral Soil has created a huge buzz among florists and floral retailers. If you want to learn more, follow this link to my September episode featuring a conversation with Mickey Blake, the first media interview she granted.

Giving the floral industry more green choices will continue to move from the fringes to the mainstream. There are other notable introductions you may wish to check out, including Eco-Fresh Bouquet, a new hydration sponge wrap designed by former florist Debbie DeMarse. The product is geared to the retail-online-grocery marketplace and utilizes a plant-based composition as a way to keep stems fresh during transport or shipping.

Wrapped around the cut stems of a bunch or bouquet of flowers and moistened in water, the product hydrates stems for up to 12 days. I’ll be trialing this product in the coming weeks. Visit Eco-Fresh’s website, where there are reviews from florists who have used the product and information on request a product sample to trial yourself.

Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt

Elizabeth Bryant and Kailla Platt

  1. Couture/Custom Growing

Small-scale flower farmers are offering their floral clients (florists and wedding parties) the opportunity to pre-order seasonal crops that will be harvested and used for their wedding. The service is called “Custom Growing.”

This couture, artisanal approach to floral design involves and engages couples who want to specify the exact flower, fragrance and color palette for their nuptials. It also elevates the flower to a starring role in the ceremony, one that’s as significant as other design choices (clothing, venue or menu). I was introduced to this idea by Elizabeth Bryant of Rose Hill Flower Farm and Kailla Platt, owner of Kailla Platt Flowers, both of Portland, as we discussed their custom grow-design wedding program in a Podcast interview this past August. If you missed it earlier, here’s a link to that interview here.

American Grown Floral Visionary, Ellen Frost.

American Grown Floral Visionary, Ellen Frost.

  1. Micro-lending/Flower Futures

Demand for specific flower varieties often outpaces supply, especially when it comes to highly-desired colors and cultivars. Forward-looking floral designers are investing in “floral futures” that is, crops they know their clients want, by pre-buying bulbs, seeds and seedling stock from the source: the farms who supply them. Farmers may not have the financial resources or ability to take the risk to invest in planting acres of flowers ‘on spec’, but they are often eager to expand capacity.

Enter the florist who wants to pre-order (and offer important guarantees), which offers an unique partnership that is paying off for everyone. Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore is a leader in micro-lending, and I anticipate that other florists will join her efforts to ensure a more beautiful, local, fresh and abundant supply of the flowers they desire. If you missed the conversation, here’s a link to my October interview with Ellen.

Floral CSAs at Boston's Floral Couture in Louisville.

Floral CSAs at Boston’s Floral Couture in Louisville.

  1. Floral CSAs

I know that CSAs in the food world are well established, but when it comes to floral CSAs, I have been overwhelmed by the volume of Slow Flowers members who are now offering such programs — and I expect this marketing method to grow in 2015.

Just like Community Supported Agriculture or CSAs for food, Floral CSAs are based on seasonal and locally-harvested farm-fresh flowers. When you become a member of a flower CSA, you are buying a “share” of the flowers that a local farm produces each season. By paying for that share before the growing season gets underway, we support small flower farms as they plan, invest and plant. With your help, they are able to purchase new seed varieties, restock supplies, and make repairs to equipment and infrastructure. Community and customers are connected to their local flower farms — and reap the bounty of that botanical harvest, by the week, month or season. Instead of flavorful food, these CSAs deliver fragrant, intricate and beautiful flowers – a reflection of place and time on a local farm. The programs ensure a regular stream of local flowers for the home and give customers the satisfaction of supporting local agriculture and family farms.

Wildflower-inspired bridesmaid bouquets, grown and designed by Robin Hollow Farm.

Wildflower-inspired bridesmaid bouquets, grown and designed by Robin Hollow Farm.

  1. Cultivated Wildflowers

Wildflowers are a carefree, ephemeral expression of America’s connection to the land – from meadow and stream bank to forest and trail. But thanks to increased understanding of saving wild places and preserving public lands, there’s a newfound awareness that picking wildflowers is not smart (and in many places it’s illegal).
There are many sources for collected wildflower seeds; this allows flower farmers to safely and legally grow enduring favorites like black-eyed Susan and lupines. The look is quintessentially American. The just-gathered style carries over to floral crowns, garlands, bouquets and centerpieces.
This past fall, Slowflowers.com collaborated with Brooke Showell, a writer for Four Seasons Magazine, in a story called “Wedding Wildflowers,” highlighting the choice of Naturalistic flowers that appear freshly picked from a garden, meadow or farm.
The good news is that most domestic field-grown flowers fit this free-spirited, uncontrived aesthetic – and I know we’ll continue to see talented designers express the look in their arrangements.

A brighter floral palette is super romantic and feminine. Design: Buckeye Blooms

A brighter floral palette is super romantic and feminine. Design: Buckeye Blooms

  1. Bright pastels, Saturated Jewel Tones

For the past few years, pale palettes have populated wedding bouquets and driven demand for subtly-colored flowers like blush-toned ‘Café au Lait’ dahlias. Next seasons, color palettes promise to be richer and more vivid, reflecting a deeper saturation of petal color. Watermelon pink, orchid purple, cerise red – these sun-drenched hues are wooing brides who want a more vibrant flowers to hold and wear. There’s a gradual departure from an all-neutral bridal bouquet. Blush hasn’t left completely, but she’s sharing the stage with brighter hues.

Beautiful, wistful clematis. Flowers and design by Kaye Heafey, Chalk Hill Clematis

Beautiful, wistful clematis. Flowers and design by Kaye Heafey, Chalk Hill Clematis

  1. Vines, vines, vines

Demand for trailing tendrils outpaces the available stock that farmers are able to produce, signaling a market opportunity for innovative growers and designers.  All types of vines are considered “premium” floral ingredients, producing a far better-than-average return on investment for farms that grow vines and florists who integrate vines into their designs.

The unstructured silhouette and whimsical shoots and tendrils portrayed by  vines lend distinctive character to floral arrangements, headpieces and bouquets. Florists who have trouble sourcing clematis, jasmine, passion vine and other varieties are turning to horticulture (or friends’ gardens) to find the vines they want.

I recently asked Slow Flowers members to weigh in on some of these stylistic shifts in bridal preferences. With so much influence from wedding blogs and magazines, from instagram and pinterest, it’s no wonder that brides are curate their own look and feel from many sources.

Susan Studer King of Buckeye Blooms in Elida, Ohio, shared her perspective, which actually addresses the three points I just made, this way:

“We are consistently finding that brides covet the lush, loose look of natural garden flowers with interesting textural elements and slightly cascading finishing accents such as tendrils of clematis or sweet pea vine. We are also seeing a steady shift in interest away from blush tones and more toward more vivid, vibrant shades and jewel tones.”

Suppliers like Jamali Garden are introducing a wide array of hammered metal, brass, bronze and copper vessels.

Suppliers like Jamali Garden are introducing a wide array of hammered metal, brass, bronze and copper vessels.

  1. Good-bye, Mason Jar

Like many, I’m pleased with Ball’s recent reissue of its aqua blue and bottle green canning jars for the contemporary marketplace, but this American classic glass jar seems to have hit its saturation point.

Designers are seeking out the next easy and affordable vase for wedding reception centerpieces on a dime.

The solution, it seems, is at the thrift store, where inexpensive brass vessels are readily available. Mellower than tarnished silver, brass is versatile and suits both old-world and contemporary designs. A close relative to brass is old copper, which develops its own alluring patina with time.

Now, floral suppliers have releasing full lines of tarnished and hammered metal vessels, so it’s possible to avoid that trip to the thrift shop, yet those new introductions are all imported.
So the big search is on for American-made glass vases in contemporary rather than dated shapes. I know of a number of designers pushing for an American made option – and we’ve yet to find stylish choices. Will that come in 2015?

Love the shades, shapes and textures of green foliage in one of my favorite containers.

Love the shades, shapes and textures of green foliage in one of my favorite containers.

  1. Superstar Foliage

You might call this style “50 Shades of Green” and thanks to flower farmers who are planting interesting new foliage, we’ve all decided that a bouquet with generic greenery is yawner. An uncommon palette of distinctive foliage ups the character of a floral arrangement, bouquet or centerpiece. The options are exploding, moving far beyond salal, ferns and bear’s grass. Look for options like raspberry foliage, baptisia, scented geranium and other herbs, smoke bush, ninebark, pittosporum, box, myrtle, magnolia, camellia, and other uncommon types of greenery to upgrade the ordinary bouquet. Hand in hand with awesome foliage is where we source it – from the landscape, orchard or forest is so much more beautiful than the prosaic selection the industry has typically offered florists. It takes ingenuity, perhaps, to develop sources of unconventional leaves, but increasingly, that ingenuity means success for the designer who wants to differentiate him or herself from the everyday marketplace.

Man bouquet, designed by Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture.

Man bouquet, designed by Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture.

Guys in Baltimore, modeling their floral facial hair for Local Color Flowers' Baltimore Beards Project

Guys in Baltimore, modeling their floral facial hair for Local Color Flowers’ Baltimore Beards Project

10. Man-bouquets and floral beards

Real Men Love Flowers. Other than donning a boutonniere on their suit lapel, the masculine floral consumer has been ignored for too long. Cutting-edge guys want flowers, too – and innovative designers are responding. Riz Reyes, a Seattle-based horticulturist and floral designer, has created the “man bouquet,” a cluster of woodland blooms attached to a hand-carried grapevine wreath. Certainly, it’s for the more adventuresome groom, but as Riz asks, “why not?”

Irene Donnelly, a staff designer at Local Color Flowers in Baltimore has taken the idea of “personal wedding flowers” to a new level by weaving, pinning or gluing the green stems of tiny botanicals into the facial hair of hipster male customers. Designed floral beards are made from sedums, succulents, poppies, ranunculus, tiny pods. A few guys have even worn floral eyebrows and mustaches.

So Happy to Share My Year in Flowers With YOU!

So Happy to Share My Year in Flowers With YOU!

So that’s my take on the pulse of America’s floral industry.

I hate to use the term “trend,” when what we’re really talking about is a cultural shift.

The question for you is this: are you part of the shift? Are you helping to propel the Slow Flowers Movement forward through your own actions, through the way you communicate to your customers and the marketplace?

The goal of the Slow Flowers Podcast is to put more American flowers on every table, one vase at a time. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 28,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

I wish each and every one of you a happy new year, one that’s filled with prosperity and peace as we join together to change the broken U.S. floral industry. I believe that we’ve already changed things for the better – and that momentum will continue in 2015.

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

Music credits:
Tryad – Our Lives Change
Tryad – Lovely
Tryad – Star Guide
http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Marcus Eads – Johnson Slough
Marcus Eads – Praire’s Edge
http://marcus-eads.bandcamp.com/album/sherburne-county-instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

A lovely conversation with NYC floral artist Emily Thompson (Episode 173)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
Emily Thompson (c) Photo by Maria Robledo

Emily Thompson (c) Photo by Maria Robledo

Emily Thompson is an iconoclast, an anything-but-predictable designer and artist – and owner of the NYC studio and shop that bears her name, Emily Thompson Flowers.

Three years ago at this time, the flower world was celebrating the fact that Emily and her team helped Michelle Obama achieve her dream of bringing the outdoors inside the White House at Christmas.

This year, Emily is settled into her charming new emporium in lower Manhattan, a huge space compared to her former flower-closet in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood.

I arrived to meet her early one October morning, a totally spontaneous visit prompted by the designer’s invitation when I took her class the evening before at Flower School New York.

As I wrote on my blog at the time, it was so gratifying to be introduced to Emily at her workshop and realize she’d been wanting to meet me, too.

An Emily Thompson botanical creation, displayed in a one-of-a-kind vase by artist Mark Gagnon (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

An Emily Thompson botanical creation, displayed in a one-of-a-kind urn by artist Mark Gagnon (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

That two-hour workshop was thoroughly inspiring. Every single word that Emily uttered was like listening to a Master instructor in a MFA program. I jotted down these lovely Emilyisms:

“I want to make things that are impractical. That are surprising to me.”

“The proportions I design with are more akin to the natural garden or landscape. I’m looking for powerful contrast, for things that resist one another. That draw the eye in and push it away.”

“I love to work with seasonal flowers, with things of our landscape. And then I’ll add bits of the exotic.”

“So much of design is done in selection of materials. I want a flower arrangement to feel like you’ve dug through the wilderness to find a treasure.”

Emily, designing with wild  and cultivated materials (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily, designing with wild and cultivated materials (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

I love how the annual vines are climbing up the facade of this historic storefront (c) Debra Prinzing photo

I love how the annual vines are climbing up the facade of this historic storefront (c) Debra Prinzing photo

As I mentioned, Emily invited me to visit her brand new shop on Beekman Street, so the following morning we squeezed in a shared cup of tea/coffee and a tour of the new digs. I asked permission to turn on the recorder (natch) and Emily agreed.

Here’s a bit more about Emily:

Raised in Vermont, in a place she calls “the Northeast Kingdom – a place of uncompromising beauty,” Emily was deeply influenced by that sense of place, of the natural wildness of her childhood.

She was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy for the Arts, the University of Pennsylvania and UCLA, where she earned her Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture.

A floral arrangement in a beautiful Frances Palmer ceramic vase (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

A seasonal spring arrangement in a beautiful Frances Palmer ceramic vase (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily is fascinated with the decorative arts and their history as she continues to collaborate with the rough hand of nature. Her flowers and banquet decor balance the uncultivated organic world with the delicacy of classical ornamental design. These pieces burst with unconventional materials like wild smilax, peaches and real butterflies, and always maintain sculptural grace. And most importantly, they are built in harmony with the space where they are displayed – as if they grew there.

One of Emily Thompson's nature-inspired assemblages (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

One of Emily Thompson’s nature-inspired assemblages, paired with a Frances Palmer vessel (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily likes to cite William Gilpin, 18th century theorist of the picturesque, who directed builders of follies and artificial ruins, “to do so as if these ruins were not designed but naturally chosen.” What’s more, writes Gilpin, “they must be in magnificent style.” Emily’s work, like her ideal faux ruin, evokes nature in magnificent style.

Simply sublime (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Simply sublime (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Emily Thompson Flowers provides custom designs for special events and for all occasions. Using the freshest seasonal flowers, fruit, and foliage as well as unconventional and wild materials, each project or arrangement is individually conceived to suit the architecture and palette of its setting or to transform a room entirely.

At Emily Thompson Flowers in the Historic Seaport district of Manhattan, you can find flower arrangements and bouquets, artist-designed decorative objects, and all kinds of wildly beautiful things. The new shop is on a sunny corner in a building erected in 1865 by George B. Post (architect of the Stock Exchange), which is adorned with cast iron starfish and terra cotta sea monsters.

Old World-meets-Emily Thompson (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

Old World-meets-Emily Thompson (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

If you’re lucky enough to live in the New York area, you can order arrangements for delivery, but if you’re not a resident, visit Emily Thompson’s web shop to peruse the art, objects, tools and gifts that can be ordered online.

Emily Thompson designs powerful and poetic florals. She loves the peculiar, the quirky and the wondrous. To me, she gives us permission to redefine beauty in our own personal way, to ignore dictates that the vast floral industrial complex tries to force on us. On her blog, when Emily wrote in early 2014 about moving from a tiny Brooklyn studio to a full-fledged Manhattan flower shop, she wrote “We promise to do everything in our power to bring alchemy to all who need it on this island.”

(c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

More of Emily’s botanical alchemy (c) Sophia Moreno-Bunge

There is one more episode left for 2014 – and that’s my very special episode that will air on December 31st. I plan on sharing my insights for the New Floral Year, so plan to join me!

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.  Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 28,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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