Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Landscape Design’ Category

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 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, 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, so check them out and feel proud of what we’ve accomplished!


And here’s another mindboggling fact: If we tried to purchase a 1/6-th page advertisement for 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

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 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 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 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 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 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.


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

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

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

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!

Week 10 // Hellebores!!! (and More)

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Week10 Oh joy! The hellebores are blooming quite early this year.

Up close, the detail is so lovely and intricate

Up close, the detail is so lovely and intricate

For better or worse, Seattle’s uber-mild winter means that many of our early flowers are emerging weeks ahead of schedule.

I’m worried that our gardens and fields will need a lot more water this summer, but we can only say that Mother Nature decided to give us warmer temperatures and extra sunshine this year – more than previous winters in recent memory.

Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm grew the hellebores you see here – and let me tell you, their luscious blooms were flying out of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market when they arrived.

I snagged the *last* bunch of the plum hellebores and grabbed only 4 stems of the beautiful pale speckled ones.

Gorgeous specialty tulips also caught my eye – so much more substantial and visually arresting than the hothouse ones coming out of Canada. These were lovingly grown by Gonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms, a member of the SWGMC who farms in Ethel, Washington. One bunch of 10 stems, while short, provided plenty of tulips to add dazzle to two vases.

Plum and berry hues with pale green & butter yellow in a vintage white vase.

Plum and berry hues with pale green & butter yellow in a vintage white vase.

Jasmine isn’t winter-hardy here in Seattle, but boy do I remember it clambering over the stucco retaining wall in our former garden in California’s Ventura County. On the first Thanksgiving we lived there – after moving from Seattle in 2006 – my friend Nancy, visiting from Seattle, created our entire Thanksgiving tablescape from the bounty of our new backyard – including that lacy jasmine.

Molly Sadowsky, the SWGM’s manager and principal buyer, has a secret California source for evergreen Jasmine – and the designers here in Seattle absolutely love it! Me, too! I love that the jasmine foliage is also a gorgeous aspect of this arrangement, a bonus to the fragrant flowers and buds.

Oh, and there is one element from my Seattle garden: the delicate pale yellow flowers from Epimedium, a beautiful groundcover. I only had a few stems to add, but their petals echo the Hellebores’ centers, adding a delicate texture.


Hellebores for the People
Designed by Mick & Olivia Payment,
owners of 
Flowers for the People 

Hellebores with orchids, roses, pincushion protea, jasmine and more - designed by Olivia and Mick Payment

Hellebores with orchids, roses, pincushion protea, jasmine and more – designed by Olivia and Mick Payment

Earlier this week, the SWGM hosted its first Orchid Spectacular to showcase a wide array of Local and American-grown potted and cut orchids. The Market staff invited Mick and Olivia, a brother-and-sister design team, to demonstrate how they design with orchids in arrangements and interior planters.

You’ll be wowed by one of their designs pictured here. I wanted to share it because of the diversity of flowers they incorporated, including Lady Slipper orchids from Orchidaceae  of Walla Walla, Washington, and hellebores from Jello Mold Farm (the “leftovers” ended up in my design above).
The yellow-green-pink palette is such a breath of fresh air! Mick and Olivia also used CA-grown roses and pincushion proteas to masterfully express their inspiration to use domestic flowers.

The Flowering of Detroit, with Lisa Waud of Pot & Box (Episode 181)

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

After the crazy week of Valentine’s Day, I’m shifting my thoughts to springtime, aren’t you? That’s a little easier for me to say here in Seattle, where the thermometers climbed above 60 degrees last week and flowers are popping up everywhere. But someone reminded me today that spring is only 30 days away. Hold on, everyone!

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The Slow Flowers Movement and attracted major media attention last week – on wire services, television, radio, print and blogs. I am so grateful for the attention that is turning to American flowers, the passionate farmers who grow our favorite varieties and the talented designers who create magic with each local and seasonal stem they choose. Here is a sampling of some of the headlines we saw last week:

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“Slow Flowers Movement Pushes Local, U.S.-Grown Cut Flowers” (that story was written by Associated Press agriculture reporter Margery Beck and it literally went viral — appearing in media outlets large and small – from the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune to member Megan Hird of Farmstead Flowers in Bruning, Nebraska was also featured in this piece.

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“Slow Flowers’ Movement Champions Sustainable Blooms,” by Indiana Public Radio’s Sarah Fentem. member Harvest Moon Flower Farm of Spencer, Indiana was also featured in this piece.

“About those flowers you’re buying today; Where did they come from? ask Oregon Growers” from Janet Eastman of The Oregonian. member Oregon Flowers was also featured in this story.

“Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: Introducing Farm-to-Table’s Pretty, Flowery Cousin,” by Sarah McColl on the sustainability blog which also featured Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers in Brooklyn, a member.

Denver Post reporter Elizabeth Hernandez wrote: “Colorado farmers, florists seek renaissance for local flower scene,” featuring member Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co.

And Reuters writer P.J. Huffstutter’s piece “Exotic US Blooms Flourish amid roses in Cupid’s bouquet,” featuring the “slow flower” movement, as well as the CCFC and ASCFG.

We can’t even tally the tens of thousands of impressions that came from this great media coverage – but suffice it to say that, according to Kasey Cronquist, CEO/Ambassador of the CCFC, “In my tenure at the Commission, I can confidently say that this past week of media attention and interest was greater than all of the my other years of doing interviews and monitoring Valentine’s Day coverage.”

He went on to say: “I can also quickly point to the three things that made the difference this year.

  • Debra Prinzing’s
  • Launch of Certified American Grown
  • Increasing Awareness of Caring Consumers, Designers and Buyers” is growing with our 500th member! is growing with our 500th member!

On top of all of that excitement, I want to celebrate a major milestone! This week marks the addition of the 500th member to the web site. Please welcome Shelly DeJong of Home Grown Flowers in Lynden, Washington. Shelly’s tagline is “Flowers as fresh and local as possible,” and she specializes in ball-jar bouquets delivered to customers in her community, throughout the year and for special occasions. Welcome to, Shelly!

We can already feel that 2015 might be THE year when the story of American grown flowers hits an important inflection point. As we witness a critical shift in consumer mindset at the cash register, I believe we’ll also see a change — in a good way — in the behavior of wholesalers and retailers who make those important flower sourcing decisions.


One of the things I’m most excited about this year is a series of flower farm dinners that celebrate American grown flowers, as well as the farms and florists who bring them to life. To hear more about this cool project, called the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, I’ve asked special events manager Kathleen Williford to share details.

As I mentioned, you are invited to take part as a guest at one or more of the flower farm venues. The promo code for a $25 discount is DREAM, so be sure to use it when you order your seat at the flower-laden table.


The Flower House logo, designed by Lily Stotz

Speaking of being flower-laden, our featured guest today has flowers on her brain in a big way. I am so pleased to introduce you to Lisa Waud of Pot and Box, a flower shop and floral and event studio with two Michigan locations – in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Lisa is a member of, but I think we originally met when Jill Rizzo of SF’s Studio Choo suggested to Lisa to reach out and tell me about her ambitious project called The Flower House.

Here’s the scoop:

Beginning over the first weekend of MAY, Lisa will host a preview event for an innovative art installation in Detroit.

Imagine this abandoned storefront - filled with Lisa's floral dreams. (c) Heather Saunders Photography

Imagine this abandoned storefront – filled with Lisa’s floral dreams. (c) Heather Saunders Photography

There, potential sponsors, partners, friends and volunteers will get a whiff of the “big project” on a smaller scale. In a tiny storefront, they will install a breathtaking floral display, just next door to a once-abandoned urban property where Lisa and fellow designers ultimately hope to transform an aging, 11-room duplex into The Flower House.

“We’ll generally work our future audience into a flower frenzy,” Lisa says of the kickoff event.

When October 16th-18th rolls around, cutting-edge florists from Michigan and across the country will fill the walls and ceilings of an abandoned Detroit house with American-grown fresh flowers and living plants for a weekend installation.

The project will be featured in local, national, and worldwide media for innovation in floral design and repurposing forgotten structures in the city of Detroit.  

Visitors will be welcomed to an opening reception and a weekend of exploration, and a few reserved times will be offered to couples to hold their wedding ceremonies in The Flower House.  

Re-flowering an abandoned home in Detroit - a glimpse of Lisa Waud's grand idea (c) Heather Saunders Photography.

Re-flowering an abandoned home in Detroit – a glimpse of Lisa Waud’s grand idea (c) Heather Saunders Photography.

When the installation weekend has passed, the structures on The Flower House property will be responsibly deconstructed and their materials repurposed. The land will be converted into a flower farm and design education center on a formerly neglected property. 

For more details on The Flower House, follow these links:

The Flower House on Facebook

The Flower House Inspiration on Pinterest

The Flower House on Twitter

The Flower House on Instagram

I feel like I’m saying this week after week, but today’s conversations, with Kathleen and Lisa, are so truly encouraging.

This IS the Year of the American Grown Flower. Please join efforts like the Field to Vase Dinner Tour and Detroit’s The Flower House to get in on the excitement. Both projects are community focused, with the potential for engaging huge numbers of people.

By exposing lovers of local food and floral design to the immense creativity that comes from sourcing our flowers locally, in season and from American farms, we are deepening the conversation, connecting people with their flowers in a visceral way. All the senses are stimulated, as well as our imaginations.

Thank you for downloading and listening to the Slow Flowers Podcast! Each week I share with you our “download” count and we have hit 35,000 downloads to date. I’m encouraged to know more people are learning about the farmers and florists who keeping American-grown flowers flourishing.

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

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.


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.


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.

Flirty Fleurs: Meet the Farmer-Florist

Friday, December 12th, 2014
Feast your eyes on "Flirty Fleurs," a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Feast your eyes on “Flirty Fleurs,” a new magazine celebrating the love of flowers.

Alicia Schwede

Alicia Schwede

My friend Alicia Schwede of the Flirty Fleurs blog recently set for herself a huge new creative challenge: To design and produce her own floral magazine. The result is simply beautiful and last night, I finally got my hands on the brand new issue of Flirty Fleurs: For the Love of Flowers, Edition One.

Alicia asked me to pen a story for her inaugural issue and she gave me the assignment of interviewing two of her favorite design studios: Botanique, owned by Kelly Sullivan of Seattle and Verbena: Flowers & Trimmings, owned by Karin Plarisan and Karly Sahr of Roseville, California.

Of course, since all three are involved in the Slow Flowers Movement and members of, it was an easy “yes” on my part.

I’m sharing a little preview of my involvement in the Flirty Fleurs magazine here. Click to order a digital or printed copy so you can read every word.

For $19.95, the printed copy is worth every penny. You’ll love the luscious look, the pearly-matte paper stock, the elegant graphic design and pages bursting with flowers. Alicia and her team pulled off something that many people dream of doing, but few can ever take from idea to reality.

The story I wrote: “Meet the Farmer-Florist,” begins this way:

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Kelly Sullivan of Botanique, photographed in her Seattle cutting garden.

Karen and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Karin and Karly of Verbena, photographed at their Roseville, California flower farm.

Meet the farmer-florist

Marrying science and art, a new crop of floral designers are growing their own botanical ingredients

By Debra Prinzing

I first wrote about a “farmer-florist” in 2012, with the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet (St. Lynn’s Press). In a chapter titled “The Accidental Flower Farmer,” which profiled San Francisco floral designer Baylor Chapman, owner of Lila B. Design, I documented Baylor’s decision to start growing many of her own flowers, vines, ornamental shrubs, succulents and herbs, in order to diversify the palette with which she designed.

Even two years ago, I didn’t know that the “farmer-florist” category was going to be the phenomenon it has since become. In that chapter, I wrote: “Increasingly, there are designers who, by necessity, harvest floral ingredients from their own gardens. As well, there are growers who assume the role of floral designer, satisfying a bridal customer’s request for unique, straight-from-the-farm bouquets. That these two world are happily intersecting is due to curiosity, innovation and experimentation on the part of designer and grower alike.”

Today, more than two years later, all you have to do is search the hashtag #farmerflorist and dozens of self-references appear on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Designers and flower farmers alike are describing themselves as farmer florists, including two of the most recognizable names in the industry, Erin Benzakein of floret and Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers. No longer considered something outside the accepted scope of what a flower farmer is supposed to do (grow flowers) or what a floral designer is supposed to do (create beautiful bouquets using flowers that someone else cultivated and harvested), there is a lovely blurring of the lines between those formerly  conventional roles.

But to give credit where it is due, an entire generation of specialty cut flower farmers has been designing bridal bouquets and farmers’ market bunches for a long time. Lynn Byczynski first wrote about the business opportunities for flower farmers to design and sell their bouquets back in 1997 when her book The Flower Farmer was first published (the second, updated edition came out in 2008). But long before then, British designer-to-the-royals Constance Spry (the first celebrity florist) cut blooms, branches and foliage from her family’s land to sell in her London flower shop as early as the 1930s.

Thanks to a newfound passion for local and seasonal floral ingredients, more floral designers are putting on their gardening gloves and cultivating small and large patches of earth for cutting gardens, rose borders, raised beds and hedgerows – anywhere a few extra flowers can be planted and cared for. So we asked three Farmer-Florists to share their motivations for doing just that.

Here’s hoping that Alicia will continue her project to plan her 2nd edition of Flirty Fleurs. And here’s to farmer-florists everywhere, for bringing beauty to our lives!


Digging Deep for Flower Lovers: A cyber book party, complete with gardening giveaways

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Let's Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in "Digging Deep."

Let’s Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in “Digging Deep.”

I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.

For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.

Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.

And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.

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!

So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.

Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.

I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).

In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!

Here’s a little more about this book:

Observe a peony - this flower is one of Fran's first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

Observe a peony – this flower is one of Fran’s first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.

From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.

The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former  Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).

p. 35-37

“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.

smclippersIMG_3807 When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage –

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”

“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.

This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.

When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”

Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub - and inhaling the fragrance.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub – and inhaling the fragrance.

In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:

. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.

    I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.

    I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.

. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.

       So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.

Here are some more goodies that might make your day.

Thanks to the support of others fans of  Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.

In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:

1. Dee Nash –

2. Helen Yoest-

3. Jenny Peterson-

4. Rebecca Sweet-

5. Brenda Haas-

6. Fran Sorin-

The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:

1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.

2. By making a comment here on, you will be entered into each of two drawings:

Blog_Seed_Giveaway_000_4239.jpg_-_Baker_Creek_Seeds-_Cyber_Giveaway-_19_hand_picked_selections_of_veggies_and_flowers 10818534_10205168719757714_1314615647_n.jpg-_Authentic_Haven_Brand_Soil_Conditioner

Prize #1Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner  that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.


Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.

Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable.  All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers  (retail $149).

Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Kelly Norris on the must-have bearded iris for flower farmers and floral designers (Episode 162)

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014
'Jack's Pick' - a miniature tall bearded iris with gorgeous tawny petals.

‘Jack’s Pick’ – a miniature tall bearded iris with gorgeous tawny petals.

It’s not unusual to find a clump of purple-flowering bearded irises in the beds and borders surrounding many older American homes. For decades they’ve been forgotten or dismissed as a “grandmother’s garden flower,” but bearded irises are enjoying a renaissance of sorts.

Kelly Norris, plantsman, writer, horticultural visionary and iris expert.

Kelly Norris, plantsman, writer, horticultural visionary and iris expert.

It’s thanks in part to the activities of today’s guest, Kelly Norris, a 20-something horticultural rock star whose obsession with bearded irises dates back to his 12-yr-old curiosity.

The breeding and hybridizing efforts of Kelly and others has greatly broadened the palette of these unique flowers which bear a set of upright petals (called the ‘standard’) offset by an equal number of downward cascading petals (described as the ‘fall’).

According to Kelly, late summer to early fall is the best time to plant bearded iris rhizomes- so that means you have a few more weeks to add some of these beauties to your cutting garden. And if you’ve never before considered growing or designing with bearded iris, I promise that my interview with Kelly will inspire you to do so!

Kelly D. Norris is the award-winning author and plantsman from Iowa and the first horticulture manager at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, a newly revitalized 14-acre public garden in Des Moines, Iowa.

Want to know more about bearded irises? Check out Kelly's award-winning book.

Want to know more about bearded irises? Check out Kelly’s award-winning book.

He’s popularly known for his book A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts from Timber Press, which won the 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award. He’s at work on his next project tentatively titled Dig This: Stylish Gardening with Kickass Plants.

As a speaker, Kelly has garnered acclaim for his high-energy, zealous presentations on the national stage, leading many to call him one of the rising stars of American horticulture.

Kelly’s unique 10 years of experience in the industry began at age 15 when he talked his parents into buying a nursery (Rainbow Iris Farm), and in that time he’s become one of the few gurus on marketing horticulture to emerging demographics.

At the Botanical Garden, Kelly directs and manages a team of horticultural professionals in all aspects of design, curation, programming, and garden maintenance and has a principal leadership role in the $12 million renovation and expansion currently underway.  He is also the editorial director for the organization’s award-winning member magazine Bloom, leads several programming initiatives aimed at fulfilling the Garden’s mission of “exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants,” and is the artistic director of the newly minted Spring Garden Festival which had its debut in May 2014.

Kelly Norris

Kelly Norris

Kelly is the youngest person to receive the Iowa State Horticultural Society’s Presidential Citation, Award of Merit and Honor Award in the organization’s 150 year history, awards that exemplify service and contributions to horticulture in Iowa.

In 2011, he was also honored by the Perennial Plant Association with the Young Professional Award, recognizing early contributions to the advancement of herbaceous perennials in American horticulture.

In 2013, he won the Iowa Author Award for Special Interest Writing, the youngest Iowan to be recognized in the history of the awards program.

I caught up with Kelly at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Pittsburgh several weeks ago.

'Red Rock Princess' - another favorite Miniature Tall Bearded Iris.

‘Red Rock Princess’ – another favorite Miniature Tall Bearded Iris.

'Hot News" - love this color bloom!

‘Hot News” – love this color bloom!

Our topic: miniature tall bearded irises. That sounds like an oxymoron, but in the interview we’ll learn why Kelly believes this iris classification is ideal for cut flower farms to grow and floral designers to request.

According to the American Iris Society, the MTB classification, as this type is called, is also known as ‘table iris’ or ‘bouquet iris,’ terms that give you a clue about their suitability for floral design. With bloom stalks measuring 16 inches to 27.5 inches, the flower is far daintier and has a more slender bloom than the more prevalent tall bearded iris flower.

Love this one: 'Apricot Drops'

Love this one: ‘Apricot Drops’

'Rayos Adentro', a sultry MTB iris.

‘Rayos Adentro’, a sultry MTB iris.

Garden writer Ken Druse wrote this of Kelly in an article for Organic Gardening Magazine:

“People tend to say yes to Norris due to his confidence, positive attitude, and infectious enthusiasm . . . he is a modern-day Andy Hardy, rallying friends and admirers to get excited about his latest enterprise . . . .”

'Cedar Waxwing'

‘Cedar Waxwing’

I couldn’t agree more. I hope you’ve been inspired to check out the beautiful options of Miniature tall bearded irises, including some gorgeous ones you can find at Rainbow Iris Farm, the Norris family’s mail order company.

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My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

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