Debra Prinzing

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Episode 269: Living on a U-Pick Flower Farm and channeling your inner flower farmer, with Cathy Lafrenz of Miss Effie’s Country Flowers in Donahue, Iowa

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016
The cutting garden at Miss Effie's is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

The cutting garden at Miss Effie’s is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

Do you need to relax? Do you need a break from traffic jams and hectic schedules? Then you need to come to Miss Effie’s. Miss Effie’s is a U-Pick flower farm on the east coast of Iowa.

Called the "corn-zebo," this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here's where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

Called the “corn-zebo,” this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here’s where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

That’s the invitation from Cathy and Cliff “Honey” Lafrenz the real human flower farmers who preside over Miss Effie’s Country Flowers (and Garden Stuff), a picture-perfect, two-acre country farm. Visiting was on my to-do list this past September, when I traveled to the Quad Cities area, which is a metro hub that connects Iowa and Illinois across the Mississippi River.

Two views of "The Summer House" at Miss Effie's, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

Two views of “The Summer Kitchen” at Miss Effie’s, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

I was lured to the area for several reasons, including an invitation from a local garden club in Moline, Illinois, which invited me to present a lecture about the Slow Flowers Movement, followed by a hands-on design workshop for 25 members using only Iowa-grown flowers.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view -- from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view — from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

When the garden club booked my lecture, I told them I wanted to source local flowers — and fortunately, Miss Effie’s isn’t too far outside of the urban core. The garden club members arranged their pickup of hundreds of Cathy’s beautiful blooms and took time to process and every beautiful stem in time for our workshop.

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her "corn-zebo"

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her “corn-zebo”

That left room in the schedule for me to visit Cathy for a private tour, for refreshments and to record this podcast. I couldn’t have done any of this without the help from my dear, longtime friend Jean Zaputil of Studio Z – Design & Photography in Davenport, Iowa. I’ve called Jean my “garden muse” for years and now that she has moved back to her childhood state after being in Seattle for more than two decades, I don’t get to see her very often. The occasion of coming to Quad Cities to lecture was really a chance to visit and play with Jean, tour Iowa, go antiquing, sit by the fire as her husband Mark played old Beatles songs on his guitar, and generally soak up the Iowa life.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

As it happens, Jean and Cathy are also friends, and we made a fun morning of our visit. Jean documented Miss Effie’s charm, character and creativity with her camera, and I have her permission to publish those photos on the podcast show notes. All images are (c) Jean Zaputil.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie's.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie’s, plus the clothesline and flagpole flapping in the breeze.

Here’s more about Miss Effie’s from the farm’s welcome page:

READ MORE…

Slow Flowers Creative Workshop with Bonny Doon Garden Co.

Friday, August 26th, 2016

FINAL_with_Bonny_Doon_00539_DP_CreativeWorkshop-01 (2) This past weekend provided a hugely rewarding experience for my friend Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. and me. We teamed up to teach the first-ever Slow Flowers Creative Workshop at Castle House & Garden, her private, “secret garden” setting in Santa Cruz.

The idea behind our curriculum was twofold:

I wanted to share “Floral Storytelling” techniques and Teresa wanted to share her approach to “Garden-Inspired Design.”

My arrangement, in Syndicate Sales' black cherry bowl. The palette inspired me to pick dahlias, grevillea blooms, zinnias and alstroemeria in the same color family.

My arrangement, in Syndicate Sales’ black cherry pedestal bowl. The palette inspired me to pick dahlias, grevillea blooms, zinnias and alstroemeria in the same color family.

Floral Storytelling and Garden-Inspired Floral Design concepts are central to the idea of creating a personal brand for flower farmers, floral designers and farmer-florists who support Slow Flowers, local sourcing and sustainable design practices — and who wish to differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

Teresa (center) with several of our students. The group is standing under the massive redwood trees in Teresa's garden, a perfect source of inspiration.

Teresa (center) with several of our students. The group is standing under the massive redwood trees in Teresa’s garden, a perfect source of inspiration. From left: Dyana Zweng, Terri Schuett, Teresa, Daniele Allion Strawn, Laura Vollset and Liz Marcellus. Missing: Michelle Bull, Kellee Matsushita and Dawn Mayer.

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Episode 247: Flowers and Happiness with LauraLee Symes of Portland’s Sellwood Flower Co.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

12931012_881008078682740_4476982057037024788_n When I was a teenager, I dreamed of someday owning a fabric shop. For many of you, I’m guessing that dream was to own a flower shop. How many of you ad a similar dream and realized it? Being able to work around flowers — whether you grow them, design with them, or do both, and ultimately selling them to satisfied customers — is clearly one reason you’re in this business, right?

Love this jumbo red-white-and-blue array, and if you look closely, LauraLee is peering out from behind it!

Love this jumbo red-white-and-blue array, and if you look closely, LauraLee is peering out from behind it!

Today’s guest is definitely one of those flower fanatics whose also dreamt of opening a flower shop You’ll enjoy the story and perhaps it will inspire you! Please meet LauraLee Symes, owner of the Sellwood Flower Company in Portland, Oregon, a Slowflowers.com member.

Specializing in flowers, gifts and plants, Sellwood Flower Co. is an inviting place, located in a century-old Victorian house on Antiques Row, in the Southeast Portland neighborhood also called Sellwood.

Love the black-and-white awning stripes, which are part of Sellwood Flower Co.'s visual brand evoking a Parisian flower shop.

Love the black-and-white awning stripes, which are part of Sellwood Flower Co.’s visual brand evoking a Parisian flower shop.

There, you’ll find LauraLee and her team tending their blooms in the garden just outdoors from their neighborhood shop filled for fresh, local flowers and plants, European and garden style floral design, and unique gifts from around the world.

LauraLee says she has been messing around with flowers since she was a little girl growing up on the family farm in Scholls, Oregon. Her other passion, happiness – or, more specifically, the study of what makes people happy – led her to pursue a bachelors degree in psychology, a masters in organizational development, and a career as a counselor and consultant to both individuals and business organizations.

Flower lover, LauraLee Symes of the Sellwood Flower Co.

Flower lover, LauraLee Symes of the Sellwood Flower Co.

Her most recent venture, the Sellwood Flower Co., is a marriage of her two passions, a Parisian-styled flower shop specializing in creative arrangements of fresh, local blooms and whimsical gifts curated to inspire joy and delight in her customers.

“I spend a whole lot of time thinking about, looking at, and dreaming of more creative ways to use the crazy abundance of plant life that surrounds us here in the Northwest. I look at a handful of flowers and I see a handful of happiness!”

In addition to being a busy entrepreneur and business owner, LauraLee hosts frequent floral design workshops and writes a blog on ideas and trends in the flower industry. She and her husband Bill live and work in the historic Sellwood neighborhood in southeast Portland, Oregon.

What a wonderful evening -- meeting and sharing our mutual passion at the Slow Flowers Meetup @Sellwood Flower Co.

What a wonderful evening — meeting and sharing our mutual passion at the Slow Flowers Meetup @Sellwood Flower Co.

I was in Portland last month for a series of events, including a Slowflowers.com meetup at Sellwood Flower Co., which I co-hosted with LauraLee.

sm_group_IMG_5026 We enjoyed meeting and reuniting with such a great group of flower friends — flower farmers, studio florists, retail shop owners — all who care about sourcing local and domestic botanicals for their businesses. I was so encouraged by the turnout and I especially thank LauraLee for sharing her beautiful store and nursery grounds for our gathering.

We shared Slow Flowers books & resources with our community

We shared Slow Flowers books & resources with our community

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 98,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

Awed by Allium: The Starring Ingredient of a Stunning Bouquet

Monday, April 18th, 2016
This summertime bouquet features gorgeous alliums and their companions.

This summertime bouquet features gorgeous ‘Globemaster’ alliums and their companions.

The smaller, darker drumstick allium echoes form and hue of its larger cousin.

The smaller, darker drumstick allium echoes form and hue of its larger cousin.

Jan shares his vast knowledge with regular farmers market customers each weekend.

Jan shares his vast knowledge with regular farmers market customers each weekend.

Jan Roozen of Choice Bulb Farms is a good friend and brilliant (not to mention charming) flower farmer.

I’ve known Jan through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market where he is a member who grows a beautiful variety of flowers.

The selection from Jan and Ritva Roozen’s farm in Skagit Valley north of Seattle features specialty spring and summer bulbs.

Their alliums are some of the best I’ve seen — when I can, I come home with an armload of dramatic blooms and arrange with them.

Jan literally grows 15 varieties of Alliums — can you believe that? Here is the list — click on each cultivar name to see its unique form, color and stature.

Home floral designers can find Jan at the Choice Bulb stall every Saturday at the University District Farmers’ Market and every Sunday at the Ballard Farmers’ Market, both in Seattle.

Fresh-from-the-field, these flowers inspired me to make a summer bouquet a few years ago. I hope you enjoy this textural design in shades of apricot, cream, lemon, lavender and bluish purple and get ready to grow your own alliums (and companions like eremurus and dahlias) in the cutting garden.

READ MORE…

Episode 240: Williams Wildflowers – Growing and Designing with Native and Wild Plants in New York and Florida

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

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The "wild" design work of Annie Schiller (Florida, left) and Rachel Andre (New York, right)

The “wild” design work of Annie Schiller (Florida, left) and Rachel Andre (New York, right)

I first met Annie Schiller of William’s Wildflowers when she introduced herself via email in 2013. The subject line: Slow Flowers in South Florida.

The note continued:

I’m reaching out to you to say hello and to say thanks for your work. Our award-winning native plant nursery in south Florida, Florida Native Plants has just expanded to offer wildflower bouquets featuring Florida native and Florida-friendly wildflowers that we grow ourselves. We are growing them sustainably, without irrigation, pesticides or chemical fertilizers. We want to provide the bouquets already arranged for clients. I’m just writing to see if you can list us on your upcoming search website for locating locally-sourced flowers or anywhere else you might have a list of resources?

This is our website: www.williamswildflowers.com.

We are really excited about this new venture, and could use any advise you might have for start-up slow flower businesses.

A lovely Williams Wildflowers infographic used to educate customers and wedding clients.

A lovely Williams Wildflowers infographic used to educate customers and wedding clients.

Our conversation continued and Annie connected me with an extension agent for the Sarasota, Florida, area who was working on a Florida Small Farms Conference. He planned to feature Slow Flowers at the conference and noted that “we love the concept of Slow Flowers as it’s the perfect complement to our conference’s emphasis on local foods, producers, advocates and systems.”

A flower girl's floral crown in New York

A flower girl’s floral crown in New York

Annie and her sister Rachel Andre were early supporters of the Slow Flowers Indiegogo campaign, which ultimately meant their Williams Wildflowers design studios appeared on Slowflowers.com when it launched in 2014.

I’ve been wanting to feature Rachel and Annie on a podcast and we finally found time to schedule an interview when they were together rather than thousands of miles apart. We recorded this episode when I was in St. Louis a few weeks ago and Rachel had traveled to Sarasota, from upstate New York to help Annie with a wedding. We had some audio difficulties due to  recording over Skype, but hopefully you’ll forget about them as you’re drawn into the conversation, the laughter and the  fabulous story these two young designers will share.

A Williams Wildflowers (Florida) wedding bouquet (c) Brenna Foster

A Williams Wildflowers (Florida) wedding bouquet (c) Brenna Foster

As a design studio, Williams Wildflowers specializes in sustainably and locally-grown, eco-friendly floral arrangements featuring native plants and wildflowers for weddings and special events of all types and sizes. Williams Wildflowers grows, forages and sources local material to create custom and artistically designed floral arrangements directly inspired by the seasons and the local environment. Annie and Rachel’s designs are truly farm to table, with a fresh, one-of-a-kind floral palette.

A centerpiece created by Rachel for Williams Wildflowers New York.

A centerpiece created by Rachel for Williams Wildflowers New York.

The types of cultivated wildflowers and native plants that Rachel and Annie use in their designs are unique to their regions, but there is some overlap, which really surprised me. As they point out, many varieties are native to the eastern part of North America, covering a huge geographic range. Think of black-eyed Susans, white mountain aster, goldenrod, coneflower, bergamot, Queen Anne’s lace, phlox, wild marjoram, yarrow, joe pye weed, sunflowers, bee balm, fleabane, and so many more. See this lovely gallery of flowers from the Williams Wildflowers website:

New York Wildflowers

Florida Wildflowers

Rachel Andre in New York

Rachel Andre in New York

One half of Williams Wildflowers is operated by Rachel Andre, who is based in the Rensselaerville, NY. Her upstate New York studio is located about 150 miles from NYC. She is a graduate of Hunter College in New York City with a background in art history and sculptural design. Rachel has worked as a horticultural intern at Florida Native Plants Nursery and was a volunteer for SF’s Golden Gate Park Botanical Garden. She has a passion for all wildlife with a particular interest in floral design, edible gardening and promoting native flora for sustainable environments. Rachel is currently designing for, managing and establishing the upstate NY location for William’s Wildflowers.

Annie at Williams Wildflowers Florida

Annie at Williams Wildflowers Florida

The other half of Williams Wildflowers is operated by her sister, Annie Schiller. Annie has worked at Florida Native Plants Nursery in Sarasota, Florida, for four years, but she was born in the Bronx and raised in both Chicago and in Florida. She designs butterfly gardens, grows and maintains native and Florida-friendly plants, designs and maintains social and print media (including Williams Wildflowers’ web site) and that of Florida Native Plants. She is interested in wildlife and edible gardening, permaculture, homesteading, vermicompost, sustainable practices, eco art, and floral design. Annie has a background in visual art, art history and graphic design from Florida State University and from her years spent living and working in New York City. Annie currently designs ‘growing bowls’ and arranges and designs wildflower bouquets for the Florida branch of William’s Wildflowers.

Their Mom Laurel Schiller is a wildlife biologist with an extensive background in higher education and in the Native Plant world. She runs Florida Native Wildlife Nursery.

Grandpa Bill, inspiration for Williams Wildflowers, his grand-daughters' floral ventures.

Grandpa Bill, inspiration for Williams Wildflowers, his grand-daughters’ floral ventures.

The William of Williams Wildflowers was Dr. William E. Keller, Annie and Rachel’s grandfather. Thirty years ago he turned the pasture next to their upstate NY home into a wildflower meadow.

All who walked by stopped to admire it. Grandchildren chased each other down the paths. Weddings took place there. The meadow of wildflowers remains a living legacy to “Grandpa Bill,” a passionate gardener.

I know you’ll be inspired to incorporate regional wildflowers and native plants from your state into your design language.

Follow Williams Wildflowers Florida on Facebook

Follow Williams Wildflowers New York on Facebook

Find Williams Wildflowers on Pinterest

Follow Williams Wildflowers New York on Instagram

Follow Williams Wildflowers Florida on Instagram

Williams Wildflowers New York (left) and Williams Wildflowers Florida (right)

Williams Wildflowers New York (left) and Williams Wildflowers Florida (right)

Thanks for joining today’s podcast.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 90,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Until next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

 

Branding A Slow Flowers Philosophy with Gloria Battista Collins of New York’s GBC Style (Episode 233)

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
A garden-fresh bouquet design by Gloria Battista-Collins of gbc style (c) Karen Hill Photography

A garden-fresh bouquet design by Gloria Battista-Collins of gbc style (c) Karen Hill Photography

Today's Slow Flowers Podcast guest, Gloria Battista-Collins

Today’s Slow Flowers Podcast guest, Gloria Battista-Collins

I’m so pleased to introduce you today to Gloria Battista-Collins, owner of gbc style, a design studio based in Montebello, New York.

I first met Gloria in 2014 when Holly Heider Chapple invited me to make a presentation about the Slow Flowers/American Grown Movement to the Chapel Designers Conference in New York.

At least 75 florists from around the country were gathered and I was grateful to have the platform for introducing them to American Grown values and the Slow Flowers approach.

To be truthful, I worried a little that my message would be received as something novel or just a “fringe” concept.

However, I was so pleased that Holly’s instincts were right – many wedding and event florists who make up the Chapel Designers’ membership were interested in learning how to rebrand themselves with a local and seasonal story.

I reunited with Gloria (left) and flower farmer Ellen Lee of Butternut Gardens (center), a Connecticut-based Slow Flowers member, at the Field to Vase Dinner held last September in Brooklyn.

I reunited with Gloria (left) and flower farmer Ellen Lee of Butternut Gardens (center), a Connecticut-based Slow Flowers member, at the Field to Vase Dinner held last September in Brooklyn. (c) Linda Blue Photograph

Gloria was one of those in the room with whom I felt an instant connection. And in the two subsequent years, we’ve had some meaningful conversations about how she has successfully repositioned her studio, GBC Style, with a local sensibility.

A gorgeous, all-local wedding bouquet by Gloria Battista-Collins

A gorgeous, all-local wedding bouquet by Gloria Battista-Collins

Having trained with some of floristry’s top instructors, Gloria received all the technical and mechanical essentials as she developed her craft. But when it comes to sourcing botanicals, she has had to re-imagine the New York traditions of “just shopping in the 28th Street Flower District” especially when that does not align with her commitment to using only local flowers.

Certainly that’s easier said than done. And for a designer whose garden is located in USDA Zone 6b (with average minimum temperatures from zero to minus 5 degrees), winter months are challenges.

READ MORE…

Lessons from a Historic “Picking Garden” with Quill Teal-Sullivan of Meadowburn Farm (Episode 228)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
Meet Quill Teal-Sullivan of Meadowburn Farm, this week's Podcast Guest.

Meet Quill Teal-Sullivan of Meadowburn Farm, this week’s Podcast Guest. Photo: (c) Eric Hsu

Well, we’ve made it through the first week of 2016 and I wonder if you’ve been seeing those social media promises like one that read: “78 days ’til spring,” or whatever the number happens to be at that countdown point.

The New Year causes us to take a deep breath and consider what is essential for our life, our purpose, our creative endeavors. At least that’s how it’s always been for me!

Whether that means taking a baby step or making a radical change, we tend to measure our future choices on or around the first of the New Year. It’s universal. Setting goals and striving to achieve them is what makes us human. I’m excited for 2016 and what it promises in our community, with so many exciting Slow Flowers-inspired gatherings, events, stories and connections on the horizon.

Before I introduce you to this week’s featured guest, I have some newsy items to share.

 

Yay! Check it out!!!

Yay! Check it out!!!

First off: the HUGE news that Martha Stewart Living is featuring Slow Flowers and the slowflowers.com directory in the February 2016 issue – aka the Valentine’s Day issue!

Here’s the text:

“The benefits of choosing locally grown foods over those from all over the world extends to flowers as well. That’s why garden and features editor Melissa Ozawa likes Slowflowers.com, an online directory of more than 600 florists and flower farms across the United States. The site offers local blooms in season (for instance, winter tulips or anemones, if you’re in the Northwest). Have your heart set on classic roses? It also helps users find growers in California and Oregon that ship nationally.” 

There you have it! Short and VERY sweet!

Individually, none of us could have earned this type of media attention from a magazine with paid circulation of more than 2 million subscribers, monthly newsstand sales of 115,000 issues and total audience reach of more than 9 million. The demographics of the Martha Stewart reader are in close alignment with your own floral business. You can find the reader statistics on my show notes at Debraprinzing.com, so check them out and feel proud of what we’ve accomplished!

MSL_Media_Kit

And here’s another mindboggling fact: If we tried to purchase a 1/6-th page advertisement for Slowflowers.com in this issue, it would cost approximately $45,000.

Simply put: those 82 words mean so much to our Slow Flowers community and also represent the incredible value to you as a member of Slowflowers.com.

We can only pursue this type of media coverage if you join the site and support it financially – so keep that in mind as you plan your own business marketing budget in the coming year. For just $200 a year, you can have a significant impact in the success of the Slow Flowers Movement.

When I hear from editors who ask for flower farming and floral design images I often send a call for submissions to members of Slowflowers.com. Recently that paid off in an article by an Associated Press features writer Sarah Wolfe, who wrote about succulents in bridal bouquets.

The work of several Slow Flowers members was featured in her AP wire story that ran in countless daily newspapers across the U.S., including Holly Chapple of Holly Heider Chapple Floral Design, Kelly Sullivan of Botanique and Erika Knowles of Botany 101.

When it came to illustrating the Slowflowers.com piece, Martha Stewart Living‘s art directors reviewed our gallery of choices, including floral images submitted by several Slow Flowers members who responded to my call for artwork.

Kathleen Barber of Erika's Fresh Flowers grew, arranged and photographed these lovely Oregon-grown flowers.

Kathleen Barber of Erika’s Fresh Flowers grew, arranged and photographed these lovely Oregon-grown flowers.

Flower farmer, floral designer, floral photographer, Kathleen Barber

Flower farmer, floral designer, floral photographer, Kathleen Barber

The art directors were drawn to a beautiful, early spring bouquet from Erika’s Fresh Flowers in Warrenton, Oregon.

Erika’s is owned by Kathleen Barber, a gifted flower farmer, floral designer and photographer – all her talents came together for the image you see here.

Our podcast today features a mini-interview I recorded with Kathleen last weekend when I called to congratulate her.

Check out Kathleen’s work at these social places:

Erika’s Fresh Flowers on Facebook

Erika’s Fresh Flowers on Instagram

Kathleen Barber Fine Photography

Enjoy this lovely profile of Kathleen Barber that ran in a local publication last summer. I so appreciate her including the Slow Flowers movement in the story!

And if the image you submitted for consideration for the Martha story wasn’t chosen don’t feel disappointed. I have been asked to share images with another prominent publication for a pre-Valentine’s Day web gallery coming up soon — and you can be sure your floral submissions will be included — I’ll share details once they’re published.

10628400_887376461342199_5702140127668746605_n Next, Amy McGee of the blog Botanical Brouhaha hosted a guest post from me last week in which I shared the Slow Flowers story.

I am so appreciative that Amy dedicated her time (and valuable online space on her popular floral blog) to share the Slowflowers.com story with her readers.

One lucky reader won our giveaway of a one-year Premium Listing to promote her floral business.

Congratulations to Eden Frei of The Garden of Eden Floral Design. I’m so pleased that visitors to Slowflowers.com will soon discover This Idaho-based floral design business that also serves the Spokane, Washington area.

Okay, it’s time to introduce you to Quill Teal-Sullivan, horticulturist, flower farmer and floral designer.

MB_mast3 Quill is the garden manager of Meadowburn Farm, a historic garden and working farm located in the Warwick and Vernon Valley, just 90 minutes from NYC.

There, she is leading preservation efforts and saving the century-old “picking garden” and heirloom floral varieties once grown by the original owner, Helena Rutherfurd Ely (1858-1920), a pioneering figure in American horticulture at the turn of the 20th century and founding member of the Garden Club of America.

Meet Quill Teal-Sullivan, today's inspiring guest.

Meet Quill Teal-Sullivan, today’s inspiring guest.

Quill has worked with the owners of Meadowburn Farm for the past six years to preserve their significant historic gardens, which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and sit at the center of Meadowburn’s 590 acre preserved farm.

As a graduate student in the Longwood Graduate Program, she spent two years researching the garden’s history and possibilities for their preservation, which served as the topic of her master’s thesis.

Today she acts as Meadowburn’s Garden Manager, working day in and day out to bring the 130 year old gardens back to life.

An aerial view of Meadowburn Farm today.

An aerial view of Meadowburn Farm today.

Helena Rutherford Ely

Helena Rutherford Ely

Here’s a bit more about Meadowburn from the beautiful web site:

Helena Rutherfurd Ely built her gardens surrounding her country home Meadowburn over the course of a forty-year period with the help of her loyal gardener, Albert Furman.

Through trial and error she developed the practical hands-on horticultural knowledge that informed and inspired  her three widely influential books on hardy gardening.

In her day, Helena was considered one of the premier garden experts in America and her gardens at Meadowburn were recognized as among the finest in the country.

The process of rehabilitating Helena Ely’s gardens—interpreting her vision and philosophy and tending the landscape day-to-day—is a deeply rewarding and very personal journey for Quill, who has been gardening since she was a girl helping in her mother’s garden in the Pacific Northwest.

The three influential books written by Helena Rutherfurd Ely in the early 1900s.

The three influential books written by Helena Rutherfurd Ely in the early 1900s.

In bringing Helena’s story and the important historic gardens at Meadowburn back to life, Quill has begun to find her own voice as a horticulturalist.

The feature on Meadowburn Farm appeared in Martha Stewart Living September 2015

The feature on Meadowburn Farm appeared in Martha Stewart Living September 2015

Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living, on my friend Ken Druse’s podcast Real Dirt, and on Green Wedding Shoes.

Then and Now, the "Picking Garden" at Meadowburn Farm.

Then and Now, the “Picking Garden” at Meadowburn Farm.

I first met Quill two years ago. We started an email correspondence after Quill made a contribution to the Slowflowers.com Indiegogo campaign and she replied to my thank-you email with this note:

I just saw that you are based in Seattle, which is where I will be for another week and a half before making the trek back East to wake up the gardens at Meadowburn Farm.  If you have any free time in the next week, I would love to take you out to coffee and talk about my project at Meadowburn and perhaps get your advice.  

In a nut shell, I am managing the restoration of a 6 acre historic garden outside of NYC, and working with the family to set up a business which hopefully will incorporate cut flowers. For 100 years the garden had a 1 acre ‘picking garden’ which filled the house with fresh cut flowers from may until frost. We still have over 500 linear feet of heirloom peonies, and hundreds of heirloom dahlias.  I have done quite a bit of research on the possibility of selling our cuts, and have spoken with several other growers such as the folks at Jello Mold. Would you be willing to meet with me?  I would be so grateful.

That turned out to be a lovely moment in the midst of my busy Indiegogo campaign when Quill and I met at my neighborhood bakery.

The beautiful and timeless bearded irises at Meadowburn Farm.

The beautiful and timeless bearded irises at Meadowburn Farm.

She shared the fascinating story of her own journey into horticulture and tempted me with tales of a once famed but nearly forgotten American garden writer whose historic gardens were coming back to life in Quill’s hands. In retrospect, I realize what an opportunity I missed to share her story with the larger community, mainly because that was months before we launched this Podcast.

Meadowburn's famous dahlia garden.

Meadowburn’s famous dahlia garden.

So now I’m making up for that oversight and while Quill was back in the Seattle area over the holidays we sat down to record this interview. Consider this our delayed-by-2-years “do-over” and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

peonies-960

Thank you for joining me today. I hope you’re inspired to check out the Meadowburn Farm web site to learn more about this important living artifact in America’s gardening narrative.

Dahlia 'Jane Cowl'

Dahlia ‘Jane Cowl’

Home gardeners and florists alike are now able to order heirloom dahlia tubers that are the offspring of ones grown by Helena Rutherfurd Ely at Meadowburn Farm in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Meadowburn Farm’s Sustainably grown, fresh cut flowers from the 130-year-old picking garden are available wholesale to florists and markets.

Peonies are available starting in May until July; Dahlias are available July until mid October.

Other flowers often available include: foxglove, lily of the valley, iris, cornflower, ammi, phlox, nicotiana, nigella, and an assortment of other unusual, rare, and unlikely cut flowers and foliage from the gardens, meadows, and woodlands.

Please contact Quill directly for bulk and wholesale orders and to join her weekly wholesale availability list. You can incorporate a bit of American gardening history into your arrangements and support the restoration of an amazing garden while you are at it!.  Send your name and e-mail address confirming your interest in cut flower availability to quill@meadowburnfarm.com.

NYC florists can often find our flowers at 28th St Wholesale Flowers in Manhattan.

Follow Meadowburn Farm on Facebook

Follow Meadowburn Farm on Instagram

If you are in the NYC area, you are invited to hear from Quill next Wednesday evening in a lecture she’s giving entitled “Finding my Way.” It takes place from 6 to 7:30 pm on Wednesday, January 20th.

This is the first in Wave Hill’s 2016 Horticultural Lectures, a winter series hosted by the Friends of Horticulture Committee and devoted to the subject of garden making and garden design and the meaning of our interactions with plants and the natural world.

The series of three lectures continues February 17 with  garden writer Marta McDowell; and on March 16th with Katherine Tracey, co-owner of Avant Gardens, a nationally known mail-order nursery and garden design/build firm in Massachusetts (and as you all may remember, the instigator of the Slow Flowers Challenge).

All three talks are  held at the New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan. and you can purchase the series ticket for $60/$50 Wave Hill Member or student. Individual lecture tickets are: $25/$20 Wave Hill Member or student. Seating is limited, and advanced reservations are recommended, online or by calling 718.549.3200 x216.

download (1) And one more piece of last-minute news: If you haven’t yet heard, next week on January 18th, Ohio flower farmers are gathering in Cinncinati for their second annual “Meet Up.”

You can find all the details on Buckeye Blooms’ event page, where Susan Studer King and others have created a info-packed and inspiring program.

The meeting will take place at Sunny Meadows Flower Farm outside Columbus, thanks to hosts Steve and Gretel Adams. I’ll be there in spirit, via a Slow Flowers surprise package we’re donating for a door prize. When I checked in with Susan earlier this week, she said that the registration is nearing capacity – but if you’re interested in attending, they may be able to squeeze in a couple late entrants.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 78,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Until next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

Shade Plants for Floral Design with Author Ken Druse (Episode 204)

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
While recording our conversation for this podcast episode I asked Ken if he would design a shade-lover's floral arrangement and share a photo. Here's what he harvested from his garden earlier this week. Beautiful!

While recording our conversation for this podcast episode I asked Ken if he would design a shade-lover’s floral arrangement and share a photo. Here’s what he harvested from his garden earlier this week. Beautiful! See footnotes for ingredient list.

Hear from Ken Druse, who shares his love of shade gardening and all its joys.

Hear from Ken Druse, who shares his love of shade gardening and all its joys.

Author/photographer, lecturer and radio host Ken Druse has contributed to nearly every garden and home design magazine in America.

He is probably best known for his books, which the New York Times called “bibles for serious gardeners.”

The American Horticultural Society chose his book, The Passion for Gardening, as best book of the year; and the Wall Street Journal recommended it as one of the “five garden books to own.”

Ken has authored 20 gardening books, including recent titles PLANTHROPOLGY: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites and Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Companions, which features both Ken’s photography and that of digital artist Ellen Hoverkamp.

Solomon's seal (Polygonatum hybridum), a popular spring "cut" for floral design.

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum hybridum), a popular spring “cut” for floral design.

In 2004, the Garden Club of America awarded Ken the Sarah Chapman Francis medal for lifetime literary achievement. In 2013 Garden Writers Association awarded Ken the gold medal for photography and the silver medal for writing. In 2013, the Smithsonian Institute announced the acquisition of the Ken Druse Collection of Garden Photography, comprising 100,000 images of American gardens and plants.

Digitalis purpurea 'Alba' from p. 179.

Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’ from p. 179.

I have interviewed Ken for stories about his work that appeared in the San Diego Union Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, so it is with great pleasure that I welcome him to the Slow Flowers Podcast. Ken is a pioneer of gardening podcasts, having been on the air for a decade with his national podcast and public radio show “Ken Druse Real Dirt,” which listeners can hear through their computers and iPods.

web_cover New Shade copy 3 - Copy We’re here today to discuss Ken’s timely new book, The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change, published in May by Stewart Tabori & Chang.

Ken reveals the low-stress environment of shade (cooler temperatures; fewer water demands) and how shade is extremely beneficial for our plants, our planet and us.

The thriving garden of the future might just exist in the understory!

I come to floral design from the residential garden and a love of plants. And the floral designers in my world are always on the lookout for uncommon, ephemeral lovelies.

Guess what? Many of those special fronds, flowers, leaves and branches can be found in the shade garden. Learning from a master like Ken Druse is a huge treat — I hope you found what he shared as inspiring as I did.

I highly recommend this comprehensive guide to “all things shade.” For gardeners and floral designers alike, “The New Shade Garden” is packed with inspiration and with ideas for having a lush, textural and fragrant garden where many colors exist!

logo KDRD plain And just for fun, to get a flavor of Ken’s wonderful and welcoming interview style (and to hear his radio-perfect voice!) here are links to the two Ken Druse Real Dirt episodes where I appeared as his guest:

May 11, 2012, “Field to Vase”

March 22, 2013, “The Local Flower Movement’s Champion”

From page 223 of The New Shade Garden: Ken repurposed an outdoor fireplace as a staging platform for his summering houseplants.

From page 223 of The New Shade Garden: Ken repurposed an outdoor fireplace as a staging platform for his summering houseplants.

On his web site, Ken writes:  Spending time in nature, especially nurturing plants, strengthens our connection with the natural rhythms of life. In the garden, we often experience a kind of “meditation therapy”–weeding actually becomes a time to sort through the other parts of our busy lives. 

Hosta clausa in all of its glory brightens up any dark spot in the garden. From page 80.

Hosta clausa in all of its glory brightens up any dark spot in the garden. From page 80.

I couldn’t agree more, and like Ken, I see the garden as a metaphor for life.

On August 15th, if you are in the Northeast, you have a chance to hear Ken Druse lecture on shade; take his hands-on garden-photography workshop; shop a rare-plant sale; and tour the garden of fellow garden writer, editor and podcaster Margaret Roach in Copake Falls, New York as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Day in her area. Here are details for purchasing tickets and to find the full day’s schedule.

Follow Ken Druse on Facebook here.

Find Ken Druse on Great Garden Speakers here.

A pale-colored wall illuminates the garden where a Magnolia grandiflora tree is espaliered.

A pale-colored wall illuminates the garden where a Magnolia grandiflora tree is espaliered.

Ken Druse’s “The New Shade Garden” floral arrangement includes:

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’

Foliage from three different hostas

Flowers from two hosta varieties

Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ (slightly faded to green)

Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata’

And “whips” (actually flower spikes) from Persicaria virginiana ‘Painter’s Palette’

Listeners like you have downloaded this podcast nearly 58,000 times. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Until next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

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

Week 23 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Saturday, June 13th, 2015
Sea holly (Eryngium sp.) looking dazzling!

Sea holly (Eryngium sp.) looking dazzling!

This week’s arrangement comes to you courtesy of a special event in which I participated to benefit the King County Library Foundation.

Called an “Author Salon,” the private gathering was one of several offered at the Library Foundation’s recent annual Literary Lions Auction. Library supporters  Elaine & John Hogle  and  Felicia Dixon & Lucas Hoban  hosted the Author Salon last weekend at theBellevue Botanical Garden – one of my very favorite public gardens in the Seattle area. Landscape architect Liz Browning of Swift Company also participated by leading a tour of the newest garden BBG installations area designed by her firm.

The Author Salon team, standing, from left: Felicia, Liz and Elaine; I'm seated in front.

The Author Salon team, standing, from left: Felicia, Liz and Elaine; I’m seated in front.

What a beautiful venue! I was asked to talk about Slow Flowers, the book, as well as the slow flowers movement to source domestic and local flowers rather than rely on imports.

Local flowers and the Slow Flowers book go together well!

Local flowers and the Slow Flowers book go together well!

My publisher, St. Lynn’s Press, generously donated copies of Slow Flowers so that everyone in attendance took home a signed copy. And all the proceeds of the afternoon benefit the King County Library Foundation. Cindy Sharek and Andrea Quigley of the Foundation ensured that we had a lovely reception to hear the message of supporting literacy education!

And about the flowers you see here. I asked – and received special permission – to cut from the famed Perennial Border at the Bellevue Botanical Garden for my demonstration.

While you might think I focused on which blooms to choose first, it was the oak leaf hydrangea that caught my attention before anything else.

My vase had a fairly wide opening of about 7 inches, so I needed larger, structural branches and leaves as my design’s starting point. Plus, I absolutely love the hydrangea’s stage right now. The leaves are large and supple and the flowers are still in bud so they’re the same color green and the foliage.

Susy Hutchison took home the Slow Flowers bouquet.

Susy Hutchison took home the Slow Flowers bouquet.

See my entire plant list below. As I was basically designing on the fly, (I only clipped the blooms 30 minutes before the event!), it occurred to me that I had three primary hues and three secondary hues of blooms — and naturally, that gave me an organizing structure to discuss a bit of color theory.

I had a few longtime friends in the audience who surprised me by attending, people I hadn’t seen for years!

How cool that my friend Susy Hutchison, former news anchor for KIRO-TV (CBS affiliate) won the doorprize to take home my arrangement. Seriously, it was not a fix!

Susy reported to me that the bouquet was “still going strong,” one week after she brought it home. Yes, folks, that’s another great reason for sourcing locally – your arrangement’s vase life will be extended!

The finished "color wheel" bouquet - clipped just steps away from our event.

The finished “color wheel” bouquet – clipped just steps away from our event.

Three sets of complements: Blue & Orange; Purple & Yellow; Red & Blue (with lots of green thrown in for good measure)

Three sets of complements: Blue & Orange; Purple & Yellow; Red & Blue (with lots of green thrown in for good measure)

Three sets of complements: Blue & Orange; Purple & Yellow; Red & Blue (with lots of green thrown in for good measure)

Three sets of complements: Blue & Orange; Purple & Yellow; Red & Blue (with lots of green thrown in for good measure)

Here's that essential oak leaf foliage

Here’s that essential oak leaf foliage

Here is the recipe, with all ingredients from the Perennial Border at Bellevue Botanic Garden:

  • Oak leaf hydrangea foliage & flowers (Hydrangea quercifolia)
  • Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Red/Maroon: Astilbe
  • Green: Allium ‘Hair’ (a mutation of  A. sphaerocephalon)
  • Orange: Geum (Geum chiloense) possibly ‘Totally Tangerine’
  • Purple: Catmint (Nepeta sp.)
  • Yellow: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • Blue: Sea holly (Eryngium amethystinum)
  • Bonus stems: I added a few beautiful stems of pale orange and yellow foxglove
The lady's mantle and oak leaf hydrangea blooms add a touch of lime.

The lady’s mantle and oak leaf hydrangea blooms add a touch of lime.

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!