Earlier this summer, I joined my husband on a beautiful drive that culminated at the point where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean; the Columbia is the natural border between the states of Washington and Oregon.
Here, there is a historic maritime town called Astoria, which was first visited by explorers and fur traders in 1811 and founded in 1876.
The reason I wanted to tag along with Bruce was because I’ve been meaning to visit Kathleen Barber of Erika’s Fresh Flowers.
Kathleen grows and designs flowers in a secret garden adjacent to her home in Warrenton, Oregon, the town just south of the metropolis of Astoria.
We met up at 3 Cups Coffee House in downtown Astoria, where owner Carly Lackner displays Kathleen’s weekly arrangements. This is the seeming “heart” of the community where people come in for a designer cup of caffeine and a home-baked pastry and stay for meetings, conversation, reading and fascinating views of the Columbia River shipping traffic.
After we jumped in Kathleen’s car, I accompanied her on a bouquet delivery to the Astoria Co-op Grocery. Another important home-grown business, the Co-op is a source of local food from local farms, and local bouquets from Erika’s Fresh Flowers. After a delicious lunch at a farm-to-table restaurant specializing in vegetarian and vegan options, we drove back to Kathleen’s home and garden-farm.
I followed her through the rows, raised beds, high tunnels and borders inside a fenced area about 3/4-acre in size. You can hear me asking her about specific flowers and foliage that she grew and harvested for an arrangement she had in mind to promote American Flowers Week.
Here’s more about Kathleen, from the Erika’s Fresh Flowers web site:
Erika’s Fresh Flowers is named after my daughter, Erika, who at 14 years old took over my mother’s flower stand, which was simply a way to make extra money from the joys of gardening. As Erika picked and picked, another stand was built on the other side of town.
A local florist put in a request to buy several bunches at a time directly from Erika. On one delivery to the flower shop, the florist made the check out to“Erika’s Flowers“ and therefore named the business. Erika started her first job working for that florist at 17 years old and continued through college. She has since graduated, married and lives further South in the Willamette Valley but her passion for flowers is still part of her life.
Kathleen received a degree in Business Management and began a career as an Office/Operations Manager. After having her second child she decided to stay home with her children. In 2005, her passion for all things floral blossomed into a family business and Kathleen formally launched Erika’s Fresh Flowers.
She also writes: I enjoy the ability to play with flowers and be with my family. I love creating lush bouquets and arrangements with ingredients that I grow myself. The pleasure of giving others something I created just for them and seeing their response is fun and fulfilling.
We are a locally owned flower farm and design studio with a garden style inspired by the wild, unique botanicals around us. We tend to a cutting garden with a vast selection of flowers, foliage and herbs grown with sustainability practices in mind so as to preserve our land here on the North Oregon Coast.
A word about the quite excellent growing conditions that Kathleen enjoys. True confessions, this description comes from Wikipedia, but since I am a former Oregon resident, this feels pretty darned accurate: Astoria lies within the Mediterranean climate zone with very mild temperatures year-round, some of the most consistent in the contiguous United States; winters are mild for this latitude (it usually remains above freezing at night) and wet. Summers are cool, although short heat waves can occur. Rainfall is most abundant in late fall and winter and is lightest in July and August, averaging approximately 67 inches of precipitation annually. Snowfall is relatively rare, occurring every few years or so.
Astoria is tied with Lake Charles, Louisiana, and Port Arthur, Texas, as the most humid city in the contiguous United States. The average relative humidity in Astoria is 89% in the morning and 73% in the afternoon. (a side note, with cooler temperatures in the air, this ‘humidity’ is altogether different from what you’d experience in Louisiana or Texas, perhaps this is why Kathleen has such beautiful skin!)
Temperatures reach 80 °F only four days per year and only rarely reach 90 °F. Normally there are only one or two nights per year when the temperature remains at or above 60 °F.
With 191 days annually producing measurable precipitation, irrigation isn’t Kathleen’s problem! She enjoys the benefits of being able to grow and harvest some type of crop — flowers and foliage — nearly year-round, keeping her local customers quite delighted with Slow Flowers, Coastal Style.
In our interview, Kathleen demonstrates how she weaves together art and commerce in both her flower farming and floral design work, making it look much easier than I know it is.
Here is how to find and follow Erika’s Fresh Flowers:
The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 116,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much. Last month marked our highest listenership to day — 5,561 people downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast during August. If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on the home page at right.
Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2016: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers. To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.
More sponsor thanks goes to Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.
A big bouquet of thanks goes to Longfield Gardens… providing home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Heartfeld thanks to Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com
And finally, Welcome to our new sponsor, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org
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.