Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

Fall Dahlia Season

Sunday, September 28th, 2014
The vivid "hot" bouquet that I brought home with me today - $10 by JoAnn Mahaffey, who works for Dan's Dahlias booth.

The vivid “hot” bouquet that I brought home with me today – $10 by JoAnn Mahaffey, who works for Dan’s Dahlias booth.

Dan Pearson of Dan's Dahlias, with his 8-yr-old daughter Alyssa.

Dan Pearson of Dan’s Dahlias, with his 8-yr-old daughter Alyssa.

This morning, bright and early, we drove to the Olympia Farmers’ Market to shop for dahlias.

Yes, there are dahlias available closer to me in Seattle, but I wanted to see what dahlia farmer Dan Pearson was up to at this market. You see, he is nearly 41 years old and he has been growing and selling dahlias at this market for 31 years.

YES, you read that correctly. Dan’s Dahlias is a long-established cut flower farms that so many others emulate. The Olympian newspaper recently called him the “Dahli Lama of cut flower growers” in this story.

In the winter and spring, Dan runs his very successful online Dahlia Tuber store (and PS, I find his web to be user-friendly with easy searches by petal color, flower size, and may other variables).

In the summer and fall, he sells cut dahlias to loyal customers at the Olympia Farmers’ Market and to the floral community through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

I’ve known Dan personally for the past three years, but anyone who shops at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show or the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show has been drawn into the colorful and highly organized Dan’s Dahlia booth – where you see gorgeous photos of hundreds of dahlia varieties, each one aligned with pre-bagged tubers to take home and grow yourself.

Add in a few zinnias and you have an incredibly eye-pleasing floral palette.

Add in a few zinnias and you have an incredibly eye-pleasing floral palette.

Just wanted to share these luscious photos as they represent just a small portion of the incredible variety of forms and colors available from Dan. And here’s a story I wrote about Dan for Pacific Horticulture magazine – from 2012:

Dan Pearson, dahlia expert, flower farmer, tuber marketer. Plus, he designs a pretty sweet bouquet!

Dan Pearson, dahlia expert, flower farmer, tuber marketer. Plus, he designs a pretty sweet bouquet!

BLOOM TIME FOR A CUT FLOWER FARMER
Growing dahlias began as a childhood hobby and evolved into one man’s livelihood 

You might say Dan Pearson is a poster child for the young farmers’ movement. Except that he started earlier than most of his contemporaries, growing and selling one-dollar bunches of dazzling red, pink, orange, and purple dahlias to customers who drove past the family dairy farm in Oakville, Washington, when he was just ten.

Sales of the alluring flower eventually put Dan through college and set the course of his career. 

Why are we wooed by dahlias? Perhaps it’s their amazing diversity in color, form, petal shape and size, Dan speculates, a grin spreading across his face. “They vary in size from less than two inches to ten inches. People are drawn to those dinner-plate-sized flowers for the wow factor, but soon they realize that the smaller to medium-sized flowers are useful for bouquets.”

As a boy, Dan demonstrated his affection for the flowers that his father, Clarence Pearson, planted along the edge of the vegetable garden by memorizing the names of more than 30 varieties. In 1984, when he was 11, Dan’s folks helped him open a flower stall at the Olympia Farmers Market. “My mother, Colleen, hand-painted a sign that simply read Dan’s Dahlias,” he recalls.

JoAnn Mahaffey designs flowers in Dan's Dahlias stall at the Olympia Farmers' Market.

JoAnn Mahaffey designs flowers in Dan’s Dahlias stall at the Olympia Farmers’ Market.

Today, if he’s not harvesting flowers from more than 600 varieties of luscious dahlias, you can still find Dan at the Olympia Farmers Market, Thursday through Sunday. His bunches of dahlias mixed with summer annuals go for the bargain price of $9, satisfying an endless stream of regulars and market visitors. Dan likes this market’s philosophy, which mandates that all farm products must be locally grown within a five-county area. Operating year-round, it is the state’s second-largest after Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.

Dan Pearson' Washington-grown dahlias on display at the Seattle Wholesale Growers' Market -- from farmer to florist.

Dan Pearson’ Washington-grown dahlias on display at the Seattle Wholesale Growers’ Market — from farmer to florist.

A lot has been written about young farmers and the growth of America’s small family farm. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently began documenting this demographic, in recognition of the increasing ranks of young women and men who are leaving cities for a rural life on the land. Earlier this year, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced a nationwide drive to recruit up to 100,000 new farmers with resources including a “Start2Farm” web site, as well as farm loans and grant programs.

Dan is atypical, however, in that he’s not an urban escapee, but a fourth-generation farmer. He was raised by educators who also ran an 80-acre dairy farm in Washington’s Grays Harbor County, southwest of Olympia.

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This lovely mix of gold, orange and red dahlias was a gift from Dan when I was working on “Slow Flowers,” the book. I added fountain grass, crocosmia and millet to the bouquet.

Todays Dahlias

The season for dahlias is almost over, but these vivid selections are a reminder of how much we LOVE this amazing flower.

“My great-grandfather and grandfather were both loggers and dairy farmers,” Dan says. “My father was a dairy farmer and a teacher. My children are the first in our family not raised on a dairy farm. I have fond memories of the experience of growing up on a dairy farm but eventually the transition to a different livelihood had to be made. I have no regrets about transitioning my family to raising dahlia flowers and bulbs. This area is where I chose to raise my family, and I hope if there are the economic means, my children can do the same.”

Encouraged to attend college, Dan earned a landscape architecture degree from Washington State University. Then he spent seven years on the staff of a large architecture-engineering firm in Olympia.

“But I like to grow things,” Dan explains, shoving his hands in his jean pockets and gazing out across four acres of land where in late July (thanks to a wet, cold spring), the first dahlia buds were only starting to open—a few weeks behind schedule. “Even when I was working as a landscape architect, I was growing dahlias on my evenings and weekends–getting my hands in the dirt.”

In 2002, Dan’s dahlia business was so demanding he quit his landscape architecture practice. The timing coincided with marrying his wife Mieke (“a woman from the city who’s moderated my workaholism,” he contends). It also took place as the Internet began to explode, allowing www.dansdahlias.com, Dan’s nascent web site, to reach a world of customers: gardeners, flower farmers, hobby growers, and members of the American Dahlia Society. Tubers represent 85 percent of his annual sales, while seasonal cut flower sales make up the balance.

With their two young children, Dan and Mieke live one mile from their growing fields. His farming practices are partly old-fashioned and partly modern. For example, Dan does nearly everything by hand with the help of a small, seasonal farm crew. He solves problems the way farmers have done for centuries, using a cash-free barter system when possible. Dan has expanded his dahlia plantings on two acres of his neighbor’s land in exchange for allowing the neighbor to harvest hay from his acreage that’s not suitable for dahlia crops.

When his flower production began to outpace farmers’ market capacity, Dan made a timely choice to join a collective of like-minded specialty cut flower growers in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska in 2011. More than a dozen growers formed the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a year-round, farmer-to-florist wholesale market in Seattle’s hip Georgetown neighborhood. There, in a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse near artist studios, bistros, and vintage furniture stores, the region’s healthiest, just-picked blooms bypass middlemen and are eagerly snatched up by florists, event and wedding planners, restaurants, supermarket floral buyers, and other design-savvy customers who value fresh, local, and sustainably grown flowers.

“The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market came along at the perfect time because it allows me an additional sales outlet,” Dan says. “I just acquired five more acres I’ll plant for Growers Market buyers.”

I can't get enough of this gorgeous flower!

I can’t get enough of this gorgeous flower!

Plant details: Dahlia (Dahlia species and cultivars)
History: The dahlia originated in highland areas of Mexico and Central America. According to experts, centuries after cuttings were brought by plant explorers to Spain, the parentage of tens of thousands of today’s hybrids can be traced to those original plants. The dahlia is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). Dahlia tubers, potato-like clumps with an “eye” at one end, are actually modified stems that store nutrients and water underground while producing show-stopping blooms on tall, leafy stems.
Best features: Picture-perfect, symmetrical flowers feature subtle to intense colors in a wide array of forms. Flowers are formed by many petal-like “ray florets” arranged around a center of “disk florets.”
Hardiness: Zones 9-11 “Dahlias can be grown in all fifty states,” Dan says. Dan’s Dahlias ships tubers throughout the United States, as well as to customers in several overseas markets.
Conditions: Full sun, humus-rich, well-drained soil
Bloom time: Late summer to early fall; Dahlias are cut-and-come-again flowers that respond well to frequent harvesting.

Art as Inspiration for Floral Design

Saturday, September 20th, 2014
'Dianthus', by Jean Bradbury.

‘Dianthus’, by Jean Bradbury.

I think all artists and designers love to experiment with new media because it challenges us to think more creatively and with inventiveness.

'Zinnias', by Jean Bradbury

‘Zinnias’, by Jean Bradbury

And that’s what makes me so excited about the upcoming class I’ll be teaching on Saturday, October 4th (1-3 p.m.). “From Art to Vase” is a hands-on floral workshop that takes inspiration from the Inflorescence exhibition at Kirkland Art Center, just across Lake Washington, east of Seattle.

Inflorescence_IMG_1362

Friday night's opening of INFLORESCENCE at Kirkland Arts Center.

Friday night’s opening of INFLORESCENCE at Kirkland Arts Center.

Inflorescence is a terrific new show that opened on September 19th at KAC, curated by Seattle artist Susan Melrath.You can see the show now through November 25th. Click here for gallery hours and address and please note that KAC is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Three of Susan Melrath's pieces, arranged in a verdant triptych.

Three of Susan Melrath’s pieces, arranged in a verdant triptych.

'Green Theory', by Susan Melrath.

‘Green Theory’, by Susan Melrath.

An incredibly gifted artist (and the daughter of a florist) who loves to play with color, texture and scale, Susan dreamed up this show and invited six other Northwest artists to exhibit their works in response to the show’s title. Inflorescence features the work of Jean Bradbury, Lisa Conway, Patty Haller, Stephanie Hargrave, Fred Lisaius and Liz Tran, in addition to Susan Melrath.

So what is “Inflorescence”?

Liz Tran's exuberant still-life's of flowers in their vase.

Liz Tran’s exuberant still-life’s of flowers in their vase.

Think back to your high school botany or college hort science class. Many of you know of the term as it describes a blooming part of a plant. For the purposes of the KAC show Susan uses this definition: “A group or cluster of flowers growing from a common stem in a characteristic arrangement.”

A lovely piece by landscape artist Patty Haller.

A lovely piece by landscape artist Patty Haller.

I love the idea that each work of art in this beautifully curated show is a part of the whole, just like the cluster of flowers that may emerge from a single stem.

Patty Haller's painting  'Whidbey Yarrow' (left); Fred Lisaius painting 'Mossy Log' (right).

Patty Haller’s painting
‘Whidbey Yarrow’ (left); Fred Lisaius painting ‘Mossy Log’ (right).

Each artist is collectively of like mind while also incredibly individual. They use what is seen and experienced through nature as well as the botanical beauty of plants (real or imagined) to express themselves creatively.

When I say the show is beautifully curated, I’m referring to the harmonious way Susan has grouped and hung or placed pieces throughout KAC’s gallery. The works speak to one another with a pleasing rhythm — through various palettes, forms and canvas sizes. Please consider a day trip to Kirkland to observe and admire these works.

Lisa Conway ceramic piece (left) Stephanie Hargrave paintings (right).

Lisa Conway ceramic piece (left) Stephanie Hargrave encaustics (right).

So where do I come in? More than a year ago, Susan sent me a note asking if I would be willing to teach a floral arranging workshop in conjunction with the show she was pulling together.

Inflorescence Postcard Front 1 When I said “sure,” she wrote back:  

I spoke with the Exhibitions Coordinator today and she loved the idea of an education component that wasn’t just another painting class. Floral arranging will bring a new crowd into the arts center. 

And here I have to take a little commercial break for the way social media can bring people together. I met Susan briefly in 2012 when my friend Lorene Edwards Forkner brought me with her to see a prior exhibit featuring Susan’s paintings (and I’m not even sure I know how the two of them originally connected).

We had a brief conversation with the artist, exchanged cards and then began to follow each other on Facebook. I loved seeing Susan’s work via her period newsletters and I suspect she was the recipient of my newsletters. Funny how that works. And I’m so thrilled to be a small part of this amazing show that she dreamed up in her fabulous imagination.

Now it is a reality. I hope you can see how perfect these pieces are for a starting point to create arrangements that express one’s response to the pigments, inks, glazes and washes of color.

More gorgeous forms by ceramic artist Lisa Conway.

More gorgeous forms by ceramic artist Lisa Conway.

There’s still room in the workshop. I’m going to provide all the flowers and instruction. All you have to do is bring a vase, clippers, and an open mind.

Each participant will select a specific work of art as a starting point for their creative arranging. You’ll find just the right piece to inform your floral palette, structure/scale and proportion/form. It’s Art for the Vase!

Cost: $50 Pre-registration required here.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Growing Hardy Annuals with “Cool Flowers” author & flower farmer Lisa Mason Ziegler (Episode 159)

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
Lisa Mason Ziegler's new book "Cool Flowers," introduces the concept of planting hardier annuals in the fall - for super-early spring harvest!

Lisa Mason Ziegler’s new book “Cool Flowers,” introduces the concept of planting hardier annuals in the fall – for super-early spring harvest!

I’m so pleased to share today’s conversation with you, recorded in August at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Pittsburgh.

Lisa is a American cut flower farmer, a writer, speaker and garden entrepreneur.

Lisa is a American cut flower farmer, a writer, speaker and garden entrepreneur.

My guest is Lisa Mason Ziegler, owner of The Gardener’s Workshop.

Lisa’s organic flower farm is located in the midst of Newport News, in southeastern Virginia, on a little less than 3 acres. What began as a small cut flower farm in 1998 has grown into a vibrant operation:  The Gardener’s Workshop produces over 10,000 stems a week in season (mid-April to mid-November) and sells to upscale florists, to nearby Colonial Williamsburg, to area supermarkets and direct-to-consumers with a Garden Share program.

Lisa spends her time out of harvest season teaching others about organic gardening and growing cut flowers through lecturing and writing. Her lectures have reached from Texas to New York City—far beyond any dream she ever imagined.  In 2005, Lisa added a shop to her business, offering the tools, supplies and seeds that she uses in her own garden and cut flower farm.

This little book is packed with great tips for the gardener who wishes to have a productive patch for cutting flowers.

This little book is packed with great tips for the gardener who wishes to have a productive patch for cutting flowers.

I first learned of Lisa when I stumbled upon her self-published book, “The Easy Cut-Flower Garden,” a handy 92-page guide to growing a season of fresh-cut flowers from a 3-by-10-foot garden that Lisa wrote and produced in 2011.

I ordered the book and often refer to it, especially when I’m fantasizing about tearing up some of my lawn and add more cutting garden real estate to our yard.

Not too long ago, Lisa’s name popped up again, when my publisher Paul Kelly, owner of St. Lynn’s Press, told me that she was writing a new book for their list.

That’s one reason we were able to connect in Pittsburgh, our publisher’s home base. Lisa’s new book, Cool Flowers,  is all about how to grow and enjoy hardy annuals. In it, she shares her 16-years of growing experiences and the sheer joy of this group of flowers that are often left out of gardens.

Cool Flowers is all about how and when to plant hardy annuals so that spring in the garden will be nothing short of sensational.

A field-to-market bouquet from The Gardener's Workshop.

A field-to-market bouquet from The Gardener’s Workshop.

Once their needs are met, this diverse yet easy group of flowers will change spring in the home garden forever.  The most important thing is to allow them to get established during cool weather. Plant them in the right spot at the right time, nestle their roots deep into rich organic soil, and stand back.  When happy, these hardy annuals need little intervention, other than having someone gaze on their beauty, or perhaps to cut a few for the kitchen table. Some of Lisa’s favorites include snapdragons, Bells of Ireland, sweet peas and sweet William.

Every flower gardener needs this book! Lisa Ziegler’s Cool Flowers brings to flower gardening a brand new point of view that introduced me to all sorts of possibilities for my floral palette – as a gardener and floral designer. Her valuable tips for success with hardy annuals will extend your garden’s blooming season, no matter where you live. If you want to make the most of all seasons in your garden, Cool Flowers is a must-have.

Serious production!! Lisa says her farm produces 10,000 flower stems a week!

Serious production!! Lisa and her crew harvest 10,000 flower stems a week!

Thanks to support from listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 20,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: American-grown meets Australian-grown (Jennie Love & Lindsey Myra) – plus a bonus interview with Holly Heider Chapple (Episode 158)

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
Welcome to Love 'N Fresh Flowers

Welcome to Love ‘N Fresh Flowers

35_photo_343 Last month I spent 24 glorious hours at Philadelphia-based Love ‘N Fresh Flower Farm, owned by Jennie Love.

I’ve known Jennie for a few years, in fact, she was a previous guest of this podcast.

But the occasion was my first-ever visit to her beautiful farm, to work with the very talented Rob Cardillo to photograph a feature story about Jennie, her urban flower farm and her design work in a 2015 issue of Country Gardens magazine.

Jennie Love (left) hosted a wonderful field-to-table dinner for so many wonderful friends. I'm next to Jennie, followed by Lindsey Myra and Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore.

Jennie Love (left) hosted a wonderful field-to-table dinner for so many wonderful friends. I’m next to Jennie, followed by Lindsey Myra and Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore.

Lindsey_logo When we were planning the shoot, Jennie mentioned that Lindsey Myra, a flower farmer from Australia, would be spending a month at Love ‘N Fresh on a “fellowship” — and she asked whether I’d like to record a conversation with them? Umm . . .  YES – that wasn’t a hard decision to make!

Before I introduce you to Jennie and Lindsey, though, here’s a bonus update about a recent conversation I had with Holly Heider Chapple.

Holly and I met early in 2014 and since then we have had an ongoing conversation about the American Grown flower movement and how the members of Chapel Designers, her group of wedding and event florists, can get more involved in the Slow Flowers project.

As it turns out, several Chapel Designers are members of Slowflowers.com, and we just added Holly Heider Chapple Flowers, Holly and her husband Evan’s design studio, to the site.

After discussing the All-American concepts with Holly, I began to understand that some designers feel I’ve made it a black-and-white issue. Either you use 100% percent seasonal or local flowers, or you use 100% imports. However, the reality for many is somewhere between.

Holly's Instagram bouquet that started the conversation!

Holly’s Instagram bouquet that started the conversation!

The impetus behind today’s conversation began last week when Holly posted a beautiful arrangement on her instagram feed and I made a comment saying: Holly, those look American Grown. She responded that it was mostly all domestic flowers, but she didn’t want to make the #americangrown claim just in case one or two stems were not.

I love what Holly wrote in one of our text exchanges:

“If we add the percentage of how much is American grown, I think it will really get people – designers and brides – thinking and causing us all to learn. I like this (idea) because it pushes us to think about it and (to) really understand where things are coming from. It would also allow us to post designs that are barely American grown – and people will see how the looks vary, depending on how much local product there is. I also think it will be very interesting to have a documented board of images that show the differences of the designs between those that are heavily American grown flowers and those that are sourced from other countries.”

So if you follow this percentage concept, post photos of your designs and use this hashtag: #americangrown50% or #americangrown100%. Please remember to add #slowflowers and #fieldtovase and other relevant hashtags, too!

Over time, I bet this approach will engage even more floral designers in thinking about the origins of the stems they use. I love where Holly is going with this. The natural beauty and inherent character of domestic flowers will go far to demonstrate the value of staying close to home when you source. That’s exactly what Slowflowers.com is all about.

Holly on Instagram

Holly on Twitter

Holly on Facebook

NEXT, our MAIN FEATURE: A lovely story of how Jennie and Lindsey met through social media and how they cooked up an international flower farmer exchange.

Lindsey (left) and Rob Cardillo (right), hauling chairs that we planned to use in a vignette of flowers.

Lindsey (left) and Rob Cardillo (right), hauling chairs that we planned to use in a vignette of flowers.

Since it was winter at Lindsey’s flower farm in Australia, the chance to spend the month of August on a U.S. flower farm was enticing. Similarly, in the future, perhaps even this coming winter, Jennie hopes to visit Lindsey during her peak season – when Philadelphia flower fields are under snow.

These nontraditional ways of doing business fascinate me to no end. I love the way creative flower farmers and florists are circumnavigating conventional methods of commerce and proving that one plus one equals way more than two.

Meet Lindsey Myra, a Slow Flowers #farmerflorist from Australia.

Meet Lindsey Myra, a Slow Flowers #farmerflorist from Australia. (photo courtesy LindseyMyra.com)

Let me tell you briefly about Lindsey Myra. She is an artist, a florist, a writer and a flower grower. She writes on her web site: ” I am stumbling upon wonder every day. Enchantment and fascination in the natural world infuses my work and stimulates my enthusiasm for botanical culture.”

In 2012, motivated by a desire to provide a positive alternative in the cut flower industry, Lindsey started The Little Flower Farm, her own small-scale, organic flower farm, planting flowers on a borrowed backyard in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

A Lindsey Myra arrangement (LindseyMyra.com)

A Lindsey Myra arrangement (LindseyMyra.com)

The Little Flower Farm is the first of its kind in Victoria. According to Lindsey, the farm is motivated by three key ambitions: to offer a more environmentally sustainable product, to encourage others to embrace the living world within their own lives and lastly, a personal desire to create beauty and lots of it! The Little Flower Farm produces organic, true to type, heirloom blooms. Founded on the principles of permaculture and rooted in a true passion for flora,  she provides a positive and sustainable approach to cut flowers.

Lindsey at The Little Flower Farm (LindseyMyra.com)

Lindsey at The Little Flower Farm (LindseyMyra.com)

2014 has seen The Little Flower Farm move to a larger, rural plot in the Macedon Ranges, an hour north of the city. Last season Lindsey’s flowers were consistently retailed by Cecilia Fox and North St Botanical, floral studios in Melbourne. This year she plans to also offer a Community Share Agriculture (CSA) subscription to deliver  seasonal, farm fresh, organic flowers direct to floral customers. All flowers are grown out in the open air and as such are truly seasonal, September to June.

Jennie Love of Love 'N Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love of Love ‘N Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love had her first flower patch at age four in her mother’s huge kitchen garden on a 5th generation family farm in central Pennsylvania — growing straw flowers and nasturtiums. She writes: “My soul has ever since been connected to the shifting of the seasons and the nurturing of unfurling petals and leaves.”

Ironically, Jennie says she needed to run away to the big city to realize just how much farming meant to her. She couldn’t resist the pull of the land.

On Location at Love 'N Fresh Flowers - here, my colleague Rob Cardillo as he captures Jennie's portrait in the flower fields.

On Location at Love ‘N Fresh Flowers – here, my colleague Rob Cardillo as he captures Jennie’s portrait in the flower fields.

By the time Jennie could no longer deny her need to nurture nature, she had already put down serious roots in Philadelphia. And so, Love ‘n Fresh Flowers was born as one of the first and few urban flower farms located within a big city’s limits. Urban flower farming has proven to be just about the best thing she could have ever dreamed up. Jennie finds it even more gratifying to be the stewardess of two acres of dwindling urban green space than it would be to own a vast expanse in a more rural locale. It means the world to her to be able to create and sustain a healthy ecosystem within this concrete jungle.

A beautiful Love 'N Fresh team member models her equally beautiful flower crown, fashioned by Jennie Love during our podcast interview.

A beautiful Love ‘N Fresh team member models her equally beautiful flower crown, fashioned by Jennie Love during our podcast interview.

The flowers that Jennie grows inspire every single element of her little flower business. She says: “It’s an amazing gift to be able to walk the fields, cut what is at the peak of perfection, and take it into the design studio to create a piece of living art. Somehow that never gets old for me, even after thousands of bouquets. While flower farming and event design is exhausting, all-consuming work, I never ever tire of the flowers and their charms.”

Jennie is a leader in the American Grown floral community, much sought out for her flower farming knowledge and her exquisitely natural design aesthetic.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Jennie to discuss the upcoming ASCFG national conference, which takes place October 19-22, 2014 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Jennie is a co-chair of the conference, with the theme “Growing Growers.” Slow Flowers is a media sponsor of this conference and I’m very much looking forward to joining Jennie and so many other flower farmers and farmer-florists around the country at that event.

Jennie/Love ‘N Fresh on Instagram

Jennie/Love ‘N Fresh on Facebook

Jennie/Love ‘N Fresh on Pinterest

Lindsey/The Little Flower Farm on Instagram

Lindsey/The Little Flower Farm on Facebook

Finally, I’m thrilled to announce that the Slow Flowers Podcast has reached yet another milestone. This week we hit our 20,000th downloaded episode.

That’s cause for celebration and I thank listeners like you for your support. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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.

And speaking of this podcast, here’s a huge thanks to my engineering and editing team, Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

Garden Tribe Video: Debra’s Eco-Floral Design Tips

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Earlier this year I met the creative team of Garden Tribe, Beth LaDove and Jen Long, two Bay Area creatives who have combined their love of gardening, documentary video and education to bring hands-on horticulture to life on the small screen.

Garden Tribe has been lauded in the San Francisco Chronicle as “an online classroom that connects the world of gardeners with world-class horticultural experts and garden/floral designers.”

Sunset magazine singled out Garden Tribe as a “Best in the West” online find.

GardenTribeLogo

I first learned of Garden Tribe when they debuted a workshop about designing and building “living arrangements,” taught by Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Design (and The 50 Mile Bouquet fame) at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.

After some discussion, Jen and Beth asked me to develop some online floral content for their new site. We filmed on day in early June at the beautiful Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, California.

Today, thanks to Garden Tribe’s generosity, I am thrilled to share a “sneak peek” video clip to whet your appetite for the full workshop.

Please enjoy “Eco-Friendly Floral Design – Quick Tips” (see above) and “Cutting Flowers” (below).

You can find details about the full curriculum of workshops at GardenTribe.com.

Beth LaDove (left) and Jen Long (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

Jen Long (left) and Beth LaDove (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

I was so impressed with their vision that I asked Beth and Jen to take part in a Q&A about their mission.

Debra: Please introduce yourselves and explain your interest/passion for gardening?

Beth & Jen: We are both lifelong gardeners and entrepreneurs. Beth comes from a long lineage of Italian food growers. Jen has never met a flower she didn’t want to grow. Between the two of us, we’ve probably been obsessed with just about every kind of garden and plant out there, at one time or another. Together, we have a shared passion for growing things. And these days, we are thrilled to be growing a business designed to give people a more joyful, meaningful experience of gardening.

Debra: How did you come up with the idea to launch online video educational programming?

Beth & Jen: We get questions all the time about how and when people should do things in their garden. The best way to answer those questions is by literally showing people what to do. We decided to create beautiful video classes that demonstrate real gardening, step-by-step. We also designed our classes to stream online, so that learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

Debra: Why GARDEN TRIBE? It’s such a cute name!

Beth & Jen: Gardening knowledge has always passed along in a tribal way–from person-to-person, out in the field. We named our company Garden Tribe because it honors how important it is to learn from each other, and cultivate our community.

Debra: Who is your target audience?

Beth & Jen: We know that all gardeners, from beginning to experienced, are looking for trustworthy information. That search often begins online, and the quality of that information greatly impacts the real world DIY experience.

We’re providing curated, high-quality content for people who want to learn from top experts, so that their projects can get started right, the first time. Because our real goal is to get people where they most want to be: out in the garden and having fun.

Debra: How many classes have you produced and what do you have cooked up in the future?

Beth & Jen: We have seven classes streaming now, with more launching in the near future. We’re also always adding new seasonal content. (The best way to stay in-the-know is to join our mailing list.)

As for future projects, we’re busy creating a new way for everyone on gardentribe.com to connect and share!

Debra: Anything else you want people to know?

Beth & Jen: We’re excited to be part of a growing movement that’s bringing the next generation into gardening. It’s so amazing to work with world-renowned experts (like you, Debra!) and share all that gardening knowledge online, around the globe. We’d love everyone to join our tribe, and share their questions, ideas and inspiration!

Thanks to you both~ and thanks for sharing your passion with my tribe!

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Lavender Farm Wedding with Local Flowers grown by Nancy & Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm (Episode 157)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014
A couple poses between the gently curving rows of lavender at Destiny Hill Farm.

A couple poses between the gently curving rows of lavender at Destiny Hill Farm.

In musical theatre the term “triple-threat” is used to describe super-talented individuals who can act, sing – and dance. I’ve been thinking a lot about how triple threat applies to other professions, such as in the floral world, where Destiny Hill Farm is a true triple threat.

Nancy and Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm.

Nancy and Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm.

Today’s podcast episode introduces you to Nancy and Jim Cameron – and the story of how they created Destiny Hill as an agro-tourism destination for growing cut flowers, designing florals and producing weddings & special events.

In the distance, you will see the stables and barn - home to some amazing wedding gatherings.

In the distance, you are the stables and barn – home to some amazing wedding gatherings.

Based in Western Pennsylvania, this 137-acre farmstead and the people who run it do three things very well:

1-flowers are grown here, including 5,000 lavender plants and hundreds of varieties of annuals, perennials, grasses and woody ornamental shrubs.

2-there’s a full-service floral design studio that incorporates those botanical elements into bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, altar pieces and more; and

3- Destiny Hill is a wedding and event destination that hosts and produces between 20 and 25 functions each year, led by event coordinator Mimi York.

I met Nancy earlier this year when Destiny Hill contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo, and then this past February when she attended a wedding bouquet workshop I co-hosted with Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs. When I made the connection that Destiny Hill was located about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, we started planning my visit when I was scheduled to attend a Garden Writers conference there last month.

Nancy and I pose with our just-picked and arranged bouquets - all local flowers from her cutting fields.

Nancy and I pose with our just-picked and arranged bouquets – all local flowers from her cutting fields.

Jim and Nancy graciously picked me up in downtown Pittsburgh and drove me out to the farm. It was a rainy summer day – familiar weather to a Seattleite like me. By the time we arrived at the majestic landscape that’s home to the Camerons’  personal residence and business enterprise, we all agreed that the rain wouldn’t stop our fun.

Inside the barn - a beautiful setup for a wedding feast.

Inside the barn – a beautiful setup for a wedding feast.

READ MORE…

Floral Therapy, or what to do with six hydrangea shrubs!

Thursday, August 28th, 2014
Start with some gorgeous garden hydrangeas, at the perfect moment in late summer when you can pick them for drying.

Start with some gorgeous garden hydrangeas, at the perfect moment in late summer when you can pick them for drying.

Sixty hydrangea heads later . . . you end up with a romantic floral wreath.

Sixty hydrangea heads later . . . you end up with a romantic floral wreath.

It has been a long few months.

All good, or mostly good. But I’ve been on too many airplanes since July1st and I’m so happy to be home for a while.

Yet even though I’ve been home, way too much of my time has been commanded by the desk chair, computer screen and keyboard (oh, and the telephone). I’m definitely NOT unplugged.

Needless to say, I’ve been itching to do something to fill the creative void in my soul.

Since last week, I’ve been dreaming about making a Hydrangea wreath with the prolific mop-head flowers that line our driveway and front walk. I can’t take any credit for their beauty or the successful way they thrive here in our garden. The previous owners must have loved Hydrangea shrubs. There are no fewer than six of them. And I’ve planted one more to make it seven.

At the same time, Lola Honeybone and Marla Kramer, my publicists on Slowflowers.com, have been planning a holiday wreath PR pitch to promote the site’s flower farmers who make and sell wreaths from the crops they grow. So as I have sought wreaths made from protea, willow, lavender, greenery and other everlasting ingredients, my imagination has been fueled.

Getting started with a repurposed grapevine wreath, bind wire and snips.

Getting started with a repurposed grapevine wreath, bind wire and snips.

I kept looking at those tawny-hued, fluffy blooms on my own hydrangea shrubs. It’s still summer, but this is the time – end of August – when the pale green, vivid blue and hot pink blooms take on a lovely faded patina. And that means you can cut the flowers and they’ll air-dry beautifully.

My plan was to stop by the floral supply outlet to pick up a blank wire wreath form. . . but I hadn’t found time to make the trip.

Then, on Monday, when I was down in our crawl space grabbing props for another photo shoot, I was delighted to spy an old grapevine wreath (see above). Measuring about 20 inches in diameter and wrapped in a dusty ribbon, it was leaning against a wicker chair, forgotten for several seasons. My answer to the wreath project! No more procrastinating!

Start by wiring individual flowers to the grapevine wreath base.

Start by wiring individual flowers to the grapevine wreath base.

Hope this detail gives you a better sense of how to wire on the flowers.

Hope this detail gives you a better sense of how to wire on the flowers.

Brilliant! I spent about 2 hours today, stealing time between phone interviews (for stories with imminent deadlines, of course).

Making the wreath was the perfect distraction for writer’s block. In and out I went, from the office to the driveway. Every time I hit the wall (and let’s just say I don’t typically suffer from writer’s block, but I do sometimes suffer from boredom or fatigue, depending on the topic about which I’m writing), I would race out to the driveway and lash on a few more flowers.

Making progress . . .

Making progress . . .

It was so fun to create all the details and interest by varying the pink, blue and green flower heads. Some were large and some were small, but by alternating the colors and sizes, I basically achieved a balanced look.

More progress . . .

More progress . . .

Finally, I was done. I think I used 60 flower heads. The good news is that you can’t really even tell that I clipped from the shrubs – that’s how abundant they are.

And by hanging the wreath outside, on our covered porch, the flowers will stay cool and will “dry” slowly. This is much better than letting them dehydrate too quickly indoors where the house is still late-August stuffy.

All finished and hung!

All finished and hung!

If you want to try this project, here are some steps:

1. Begin with a wreath base in the size you prefer. Use a wire frame, a moss frame or a grapevine form. Do NOT use one of those pre-made florist foam wreaths.

2. Gather good clippers and a spool of bindwire. That’s the paper-wrapped wire that looks like twine but behaves like a twisty-tie. It’s perfect for lashing short hydrangea stems to the wreath base. I used dark green wire, but the product also comes in natural. Both colors will nicely disappear from view.

3. Clip as you go. I set up my work table in the driveway, just a few feet from the hydrangea shrubs. That proximity allowed me to play around with shape and color as I determined how to repeat large/small flower forms and to vary the colors.

4. Attach stems to wreath base in any-which-way you can manage. The good news about clipping Hydrangeas at this time of the summer is that the stems are still fleshy and pliable. They won’t snap if you have to bend them a bit and then tie them onto the wreath base with the bind wire. I found that I could actually “weave” the flower stems through the braided grapevines, letting the openings in the vine grab the hydrangea stems. Then I tied each stem into place using the “twistie-tie” method. Tight as possible without turning the bind wire into a tourniquet. Clip away excess stems and wire.

5. Continue this process around the wreath until you’re finished. As I said above, I think I used a total of 60 flowers.

6. Hang and admire. You can actually “trim” Hydrangeas like you’d clip a hedge. Some of the larger flower heads bulged awkwardly to make my wreath appear lopsided. All I had to do is snip away the excess florets to even things out. Voila!

Lovely above our outdoor fireplace. The cool evening temperatures will keep these blooms from drying out - and since the porch is covered, they won't fade.

Lovely above our outdoor fireplace. The cool evening temperatures will keep these blooms from drying out – and since the porch is covered, they won’t fade.

I’ll keep you posted on how long it takes for this wreath to dry and how long into the fall and winter months it looks nice. I suspect it will live on the stone facade of our backyard fireplace until next spring!

Lovely detail showing the diversity of bloom size and hue.

Lovely detail showing the diversity of bloom size and hue.

Now, back to those deadlines. Have a great holiday weekend!

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Debra & Christina’s Alaska Peony Adventure (Episode 154)

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

A few lovelies, spotted on the windowsill at Chilly Root Peony Farm.

I know I’ve raved about Alaska-grown peonies for a few years and YES, they are one of my floral obsessions. No apologies here. When it comes to peonies, The 50 Mile Bouquet is now The 1,500 Mile Bouquet.

But the exciting news is that these flowers are proving to be a very important value-added crop for farmers in Alaska; their lovely peonies satisfy demand at a time when no one else on the planet can supply the popular flower – and these blooms have stimulated economic development in a state that greatly needs it.

Since touring Alaska’s three primary growing regions for cut peonies in 2012, I’ve been a passionate booster for this fabulous American-grown crop – sharing the story of uncommonly beautiful summer peonies available in July, August and even September. My magazine articles, blog posts, lectures and even a previous podcast episode have highlighted peonies for the cut flower trade – and I believe consumers are just as smitten by these peonies as I am.

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners' Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

My lovely hosts from the Homer Gardeners’ Weekend, Roni Overway (left) and Brenda Adams (right)

So it is with a huge amount of joy that I bring you today a special episode about peonies in Alaska. Thanks to the Homer Garden Club and co-chairs Brenda Adams and Roni Overway, I returned to speak at the popular “Homer Gardeners’ weekend,” an event-packed two days featuring lectures, tours and a fun reception at Homer’s only winery.

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

Kachemak Bay and Grewinkg Glacier. Sigh. SO beautiful. Awe-inspiring, actually!

I spoke about floral design with seasonal ingredients and led an afternoon hands-on workshop using only Alaska-grown flowers. Against all this activity was the beautiful backdrop of Homer and its water, glaciers and expansive skies. The landscape is unforgettable and I loved being able to look across Kachemak Bay to Grewinkg Glacier – a sight that one never tires of.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

Beth (left) and Christina on bouquet-making day at Scenic Place Peonies.

In this episode you will hear from Beth Van Sandt, owner of Scenic Place Peonies in Homer – And – Christina Stembel, owner of San Francisco-based Farmgirl Flowers.

Beth’s peonies blew us away. It was so wonderful to share my excitement with Christina, who joined me on this fun floral vay-cay. Christina is a foremost advocate for domestic cut flowers. Through her company Farmgirl Flowers, this woman has been a tireless advocate for local and seasonal flowers, as she sources and promotes flowers from California flower farms and sustainable design.

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

Christina Stembel & me on our boating excursion with Beth Van Sandt (who did all the hard work)

When I told Christina back in March that I was heading to Homer in early August, she said: “I’d love to come” – and I took her seriously. While I enjoyed the companionship, I also loved the intellectual and creative stimulation of being with a kindred spirit – a fellow American Grown flower advocate and a designer who walks the talk with what she uses in her daily designs for customers who shop at farmgirlflowers.com.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

A Farmgirl Flowers bouquet, Alaska-style.

Christina and I sat down one morning to record our musings about what we were both personally experiencing on this trip. We owe a huge thanks to Beth and her husband Kurt Weichhand. Their Scenic Place B&B was our home for four nights and we were cozy, comfy and happy. It was a magical trip for me in so many ways and I’m grateful to Christina, Beth and the other Homer peony farmers for giving me such a memorable experience.

On Scenic Place Peonies’ web site, Beth writes: “We are long time Alaskans who work, play and enjoy living on the Kenai Peninsula. Located on the scenic East Hill side of Homer, overlooking beautiful Kachemak Bay, Beth grows 14 different cultivars of peonies for the cut flower market. At elevation 1,150 feet, Scenic Place Peonies is one of the latest producers of fresh cut peony stems grown in America – with flowers harvested from mid July, August and September.”

The farm holds a Certified Naturally Grown designation. “Because we value our family, community and the wild creatures that we share our farm with, we choose to grow naturally without the use of harsh chemicals and with the utmost care and love. When you see, touch and smell our flowers you will only experience the true beauty and fragrance of the peony,” Beth writes.

Scenic Place Peonies thrives on a perfect combination of climate, rich black soil, cool temps and crazy sunshine of up to 20 hours a day. These assets produce magnificent flowers with long, robust stems and exceptional blooms.

Thank you for joining me today to hear some of the exciting voices in American flower farming and floral design.

Please join me next week for another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. 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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Floral and Event designer McKenzie Powell (Episode 150)

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
A McKenzie Powell floral bouquet, photographed by Jasmine Star.

A McKenzie Powell floral bouquet, photographed by Jasmine Star.

I’ve experienced real joy in producing and hosting the Slow Flowers Podcast this past year.

You could say it’s purely selfish to have a personal, 30-minute conversation with an influential and interesting leader in the American floral industry, right?

Yet I am so happy to invite you to share in our dialogue; doing so has allowed flower farmers, floral designers and flower sellers to reach so many others by simply sharing their personal stories. And I sincerely hope that listeners who care about the source, seasonality and growing methods of the flowers they enjoy in their lives are inspired by the guests I’ve been able to feature this past year.  

MPD-logo-new Today’s delightful guest is McKenzie Powell, a young floral artist and event producer based in Seattle. I’ve been wanting to interview McKenzie for a couple of years. And too often, when we run into one another at the flower market, we promise, “let’s get together for coffee, okay?”  

This past week, we finally made that happen. McKenzie’s star is on the ascent. In just four years since she launched her studio, the work of this talented designer has been showcased twice in Martha Stewart Weddings, as well as in local bridal publications in our area like Seattle Bride and Seattle Met Bride & Groom. After recording our interview, she also sent me this link to a 2013 project of hers that landed on Martha Stewart’s Real Weddings’ blog. 

McKenzie Powell with one of her beautiful arrangements (c) Belathee Photography.

McKenzie Powell with one of her beautiful arrangements (c) Belathee Photography.

She’s also been showcased on a gazillion websites, including but not limited to: Junebug, 100 Layer Cake, Coco & Kelly, Elizabeth Ann Designs, Style me Pretty, Once Wed, Apartment Therapy, Wedding Wire, and others.

McKenzie says this about her business: We are a boutique and floral event design studio located in Seattle, Washington, and available for travel. We bring flair, elegance, and creativity to each and every event – from an intimate dinner party to a grand affair. Our goal is to learn your story, your style, your vision – then design an event unique to you and incredibly beautiful. 

A wedding tablescape, all-white and lovely.

A wedding tablescape, all-white and lovely. (c) Bryce Covey

McKenzie was raised among gardens and trained as a graphic designer. She brings a broad appreciation and knowledge of design to the floral and event industry, a niche that combines so much of what she enjoys and finds inspiring. Interiors, flowers, fashion, food, travel – they all seem to play an important part in a well-crafted and thoughtful event. 

A Summer Bouquet from McKenzie's Seattle Garden.

A Summer Bouquet from McKenzie’s Seattle Garden.

After two years working for an angel investment firm, planning large-scale corporate events, she launched McKenzie Powell Floral & Event Design, quickly earning a reputation for her lush, romantic designs. While her floral work may be what she is most notably known for, she encourages her clients to think beyond the centerpiece. Using an approach that considers the entire table, the entire environment, McKenzie creates truly beautiful events. 

Her perfect lazy day is spent lakeside at her family’s cabin, in the company of a good book, a fresh grapefruit cocktail, and her handsome husband. 

You can find and follow McKenzie at these places:

McKenzie on Facebook

McKenzie on Instagram

McKenzie on Twitter

McKenzie on Pinterest

We are coming up on a one year anniversary next week. I have a very special guest who is going to share a big announcement about American Grown Flowers, so be sure to tune in.

Last week, thanks to listeners like you, this podcast hit the 15,000 download mark and I couldn’t be more grateful. I truly appreciate the guests, listeners and sponsors who have supported the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing!!! Together, we’re changing the broken floral industry for the better!!

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 Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

A July 4th Homegrown Bouquet, from an American flower farm

Friday, July 4th, 2014
Just picked, from the cutting garden and fields at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA

Just picked, from the cutting garden and fields at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, CA

Composing this arrangement for the July 4th holiday is my reward for 48 hours of hard work.

I’ve been here in Southern California on assignment for Country Gardens magazine and Deck, Patio & Outdoor Rooms magazine.

I worked with Michael Garland, an LA-based photographer, to capture two wonderful garden stories that you’ll see in the pages of these publications next year (summer 2015). 

Today, after wrapping up at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, which has been the subject of past blogs and a podcast interview with founder Danielle Hahn, I got to play with the extra flowers from our photo shoot.

Everything that grows here is lush, and organic, and seasonal and simply devine! Here’s what my flower playtime yielded. Only in Santa Barbara area do the dahlias, roses, hydrangaes and succulents look at their peak on the same day.

If you have to work on a holiday, let it be July 4th and let it be at a American flower farm, right?