Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Plants’ Category

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?

Make a Bouquet: Step-by-Step

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
June Bouquet with ornamentals and edibles.

June Bouquet with ornamentals and edibles.

Last weekend I was involved with the Hardy Plant Study Weekend as a speaker and a participant. This is an annual event, held every June. I rotates between Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, and this year was hosted and produced by the Northwest Perennial Alliance.

I was asked to present a floral design demonstration at Saturday night’s gala, held at Wells Medina Nursery. What could be better than attending a fun dress-up party with the theme “50 Shades of Green” (get it?). Surrounded by horticulture friends old and new, many of them who wore awesome green outfits, I demonstrated “The Marriage of Ornamentals and Edibles in the Vase.”

Here is a recreation of that arrangement, using most of the same flowers that I included in the first arrangement. I used a sizeable cast-iron urn (7 inches wide x 9 inches high) and filled it with a 5-inch vintage flower frog (cage style). NO FOAM, people! It’s not necessary and it actually shortens the vase life of flowers like these.

Step One: Choose an awesome container. This image gives you a good idea of the vessel's shape and scale.

Step One: Choose an awesome container. This image gives you a good idea of the vessel’s shape and scale.

 

Gather together your foliage. Start with something large and dramatic.  Artichoke/Cardoon foliage is a great summer element- straight from the veggie garden.

Gather together your foliage. Start with something large and dramatic. Artichoke/Cardoon foliage is a great summer element- straight from the veggie garden.

 

Step Two: Add the largest foliage first. I placed three leaves asymmetrically.

Step Two: Add the largest foliage first. I placed three leaves asymmetrically.

 

Step Three: Add the larger textural elements, like hydrangeas - straight from my garden.

Step Three: Add the larger textural elements, like hydrangeas – straight from my garden.

 

Step Four: Add more texture for contrast. Here, I added ladies mantle - lime green and super fluffy. Also straight from my garden.

Step Four: Add more texture for contrast. Here, I added ladies mantle – lime green and super fluffy. Also straight from my garden.

 

Step Five: Add smaller, darker, glossier foliage. Like sprigs of mint. They smell fantastic!

Step Five: Add smaller, darker, glossier foliage. Like sprigs of mint. They smell fantastic!

 

Step Six: Now, the diva flowers. Like these locally-grown garden roses.

Step Six: Now, the diva flowers. Like these locally-grown garden roses.

 

Step Seven: The final "viney" elements! Love the nasturtium. It lasts surprisingly long in the vase. PS, one vivid yellow poppy!

Step Seven: The final “viney” elements! Love the nasturtium. It lasts surprisingly long in the vase. PS, one vivid yellow poppy!

How do you keep this looking fresh for an entire week? Place this urn down inside the sink and run water inside (using the nozzle on the sink faucet). Give this vase a drink for 2-3 minutes and let the excess water spill over the edge. You’ll basically replace old, clouded water with fresh, clean water!

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Media entrepreneur Margot Shaw, creator of flower magazine (Episode 147)

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Before we get started with today’s awesome guest, I’ve got a little self-promotion to share. The Slow Flowers “brand” is a lovely bouquet with several unique blooms in the vase.

PodcastLogo There is this podcast, of course, and we’re coming up on our one-year anniversary on July 23rd (we’ll have an exciting announcement from a special guest to celebrate our 52nd episode!).

  Web

And there is the Slowflowers.com online directory, which is growing every day – up to 325 vendors on the site as of this week.

600_600_SLOWFLOWERSFrtCvrrev But it all started with the book: Slow Flowers, four seasons of locally-grown bouquets, from the garden, meadow and farm. St. Lynn’s Press published this little gem in early 2013 and it has been the creative inspiration to launch the Slow Flowers Movement.

14-silver-logo We just got word that Garden Writers Association has awarded Slow Flowers with one of two Silver Medals of Achievement for Overall Book product this year. I couldn’t be happier and I’m so pleased to receive the recognition because it reflects what together our American grown floral community has achieved in changing the dialogue and changing the relationship consumers have with their flowers. Congratulations to the entire St. Lynn’s Press creative team for making my words and images into such a beautiful little book: Paul Kelly (Publisher), Catherine Dees (Editor) and Holly Rosborough (Art Director). They are the dream team! 

TODAY’S GUEST: MARGOT SHAW, flower magazine

Margot Shaw, "flower magazine" founder and editor-in-chief

Margot Shaw, “flower magazine” founder and editor-in-chief  


"To Flower" ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

“To Flower” ~ the definition embodies the spirit of this magazine.

Now, it is entirely fitting that I introduce you to Margot Shaw of flower magazine, my interview subject today. Margot has coined the phrase “a floral lifestyle,” a term I thoroughly embrace – and I know you will, too.

 

Margot calls herself a “late bloomer” when it comes to the art of floral design. A self-proclaimed “call-and-order-flowers girl,” Margot’s “a ha moment,” her view of flowers, changed when planning her daughter’s at-home wedding.

Working alongside the floral and event designer, she recognized the artistry and inspiration involved in “flowering” and soon began apprenticing with that same designer.

After a few years, enamored with all things floral but unable to locate a publication that spoke to her passion, she set about creating one. 

With a clear vision, a deep appreciation for beauty, a facility with words, a hometown uniquely geared towards publishing, and the advice and counsel of generous industry professionals, Margot launched flower in March of 2007. 

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That's Margot, second from the left.

I snapped this photo of the flower magazine staff back in January 2011 when I visited Birmingham, Alabama, for a get-to-know meeting. That’s Margot, second from the left.

Originally filled with floral, garden, and event design, the niche publication has gradually broadened to include content that trumpets a floral lifestyle—interiors, art, travel, fashion, jewelry, and entertaining.

“It has something for everyone who likes flowers—and who doesn’t like flowers?!” Shaw proclaims.

Since its debut, flower has continued to grow at a steady pace, recently moving from quarterly to bimonthly, and available in all 50 U.S. states and 17 countries.

Here’s some more information on the publication and its influence on our floral community:

Here's what you'll find on the pages of flower magazine ~

Here’s what you’ll find on the pages of flower magazine ~

 

Here's who reads the magazine.

Here’s who reads the magazine.

 

Here's more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Here’s more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Want to check out the current issue of flower magazine? Margot has generously shared the “secret” log-in password with listeners of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast. Click here to read the digital edition and use TUBEROSE as the password. 

Next week’s guests are Heidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt, partners in Field & Florist of Chicago. You won’t want to miss it!

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded 13,700 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: The Little Flower School of Brooklyn comes to Oregon (Episode 143)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

flowerschoolheader_2012

'Who needs a prince' - seriously great iris name!

‘Who needs a prince’ – seriously great iris name!

Last week was quite amazing in so many ways. First of all, I was on assignment for Country Gardens magazine, working with the uber-talented photographer Laurie Black, my collaborator in so many great articles that we’ve created over the years for editor James Baggett and art director Nick Crow.

With her partner-husband Mark King (ever the calm one and a genius when it comes to all the technical aspects of location photography), Laurie and I were tasked with capturing the story of Schreiner’s Iris Farm, the lovely and alluring bearded iris, and the two women who are nearly single-handedly reviving interest in these old-fashioned spring flowers. 

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Those women are my guests today – Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua and Nicolette Owen of Nicolette Camille. While they independently own their own Brooklyn-based floral studios, together the friends collaborate as teachers through The Little Flower School of Brooklyn. 

'Oh Jamaica'

‘Oh Jamaica’

Smitten by the bearded iris, especially watercolor-washed varieties in apricot-peach-pink; smoky browns; mustardy-yellow; mahogany and silvery-lavender spectrums, Nicolette and Sarah have been fans of Schreiner’s Irises for years.

They worked with the Salem, Oregon-based, third-generation family farm to create a one-day Iris-intensive and invited students to join the fun.

Here’s how the workshop was described:

In this class, students will bask in the glory of the fields at peak bloom, and in a tour of the display gardens witness first hand the incredible diversity of color and form this unique perennial offers. We’ll discuss and demonstrate the tenets of composing an arrangement in our elegantly layered Little Flower School style. Special emphasis will be placed on flower selection, color blending and the mechanics of building a low lush sprawling arrangement without the use of floral foam. Working with the very best of the Schreiner’s specimens, along with a menagerie of other locally grown Oregon flowers, students will receive in-depth. one-on-one instruction as they build their own rambling garden style arrangement.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises and perennials.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises, annuals, foliage and perennials.

The day was packed with beauty and creativity. It was an inspired, sublime experience — from the first moment when we met, toured the gallery of irises and the gorgeous display beds showcasing irises and their favorite companion perennials — to an afternoon of floral design instruction. Meeting many members of the Schreiner family was a bonus! Thanks to Steve Schreiner, Ray Schreiner and sister Liz Schmidt (plus we met sister Paula, who stopped by while leading an iris tour for Portland’s Japanese Garden).

About 18 students gathered for the workshop, from established floral designers to apprentices and those considering a career switch, and me – a floral dilettante! Together, we fixated on Sarah and Nicolette’s language of flowers. 

These two communicate with such beautiful interlocking poetry and prose. And you’ll just have to wait for the summer 2015 issue of Country Gardens to learn more, read my story and see Laurie’s awesome photography!

 

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner's Iris Farm.

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner’s Iris Farm.

After our workshop, however, the three of us sat down in the double-Adirondack benches so generously provided by the Schreiner family. We talked a lot about the farmer-florist concept, the Slow Flowers movement, and the importance of staying close to the source of your flowers.

 

Nicolette at work.

Nicolette at work.

Here’s a little more about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn:

The Little Flower School is the teaching project of Nicolette Owen (Nicolette Camille) and Sarah Ryhanen (Saipua); each known for their loose, natural, garden-focused floral designs. Fueled by their reverence for flowers and penchant for travel, the two traverse the globe teaching, learning, and hunting down the most beautiful floral specimens.

Sarah and Nicolette first met over dinner in July of 2008 – a time when each of their separate floral businesses were first establishing. As distinct competitors, their friendship championed a spirit of collaboration and – they hope – has helped to foster an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration amidst a new wave of New York floral designers.

Students of The Little Flower School are men and women; novices, floral enthusiasts, designers in other medium, those looking to start their own floral business, and those with established floral businesses looking to broaden their design knowledge. Classes are seasonally oriented and often exalt a particular flower or design concept. 

Here’s more about Nicolette: 

Nicolette Owen runs her custom floral design studio, Nicolette Camille Floral, in Brooklyn NY. Her work is known for its romantic effusions, nuanced color and texture. Each arrangement is evocative of both the wild and formal garden. Nicolette’s first book collaboration, Bringing Nature Home, was released by Rizzoli in April 2012.

 

Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves - biannual and perennial forms.

Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves – biannual and perennial forms.

And more about Sarah: 

Sarah Ryhanen is a self taught flower designer, grower and  co-founder of Saipua. Her compositions have a haunting, sensual quality. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Vogue and Martha Stewart. She splits her time between the Saipua studio in Red Hook Brooklyn and Worlds End, her new flower farm in upstate NY.  And listen to my earlier podcast interview with Sarah here, in which we speak of her decision to begin growing her own flowers with her partner Eric Famisan.

Please enjoy this conversation and join in by sharing your comments below. 

Thank you for joining me this week. Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 12,200  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts. 

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. You can learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

A (American Grown) Flower-filled Road Trip, Part Three

Saturday, May 24th, 2014
The hot, new "ice cream" tulip - spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane Devries's desk!

The hot, new “ice cream” tulip – spotted in a vase on Sun Valley CEO Lane DeVries’s desk!

I’ve been home for an entire month from an 11-day road trip that took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car. 

I have many fond memories (as well as the photographs that I collected), while stopping along U.S. Hwy. 101 on my way north to Seattle. My first post featured Rose Story Farm and the Carpinteria flower scene; my 2nd post was about visiting author-friend Sharon Lovejoy and her husband Jeff Prostovitch in San Luis Obispo. [I'm going to save the photos and stories of my stop in Healdsburg-wine country for another day.]

So here is my third travelogue installation – all about The Sun Valley Group of Arcata, California.

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Visiting Sun Valley and touring its vast flower-growing universe has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I’ve enjoyed collaborating with CEO Lane DeVries and his staff over the past few years to promote American-grown flowers and flower farms. In fact, Lane was a podcast guest last year – you can listen to that interview here. But I had never been able to see Sun Valley up close and personal!

Still on the road last month, I routed myself through Eureka, Calif., where I first visited another writer-friend, Amy Stewart of Flower Confidential and The Drunken Botanist fame (listen to our Podcast interview here).

The following morning I continued north to the next town on the map, Arcata – home to Sun Valley’s headquarters and one of the company’s farm locations. 

Sun Valley is a leading grower of cut bulb and field flowers in the United States. According to its web site, Sun Valley chose this area as an ideal environment for growing bulb flowers, due to its mild winters, cool summers, generous humidity and coastally moderated sunlight. The fields surrounding the greenhouses also provide excellent growing conditions for spring, summer and fall iris, and summer flowers including crocosmia, hypericum, monkshood and montbretia.

Bill Prescott, the farm’s social media/communications guru, met and escorted me on a whirlwind tour. It’s a good thing that I brought my rubber-soled Merrills, cuz the ground gets muddy and wet at a flower farm – in the shade houses and in the greenhouses. These farms practice water conservation, of course, but the puddles and wet spots still exist.

We started by walking through the tulip operations. By the way, click here to see the farm’s mind-boggling array of tulip varieties – you’ll not believe it!

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

Bill Prescott, my host and tour guide at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif.

 

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

This is how the tulip-growing cycle begins. Bulbs planted in growing medium, shoulder to shoulder. Their tips emerge from the soil and then the crates are transferred to the greenhouse rows.

 

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

Just one of countless state-of-the-art greenhouses that produce beautiful tulips throughout the year.

 

I couldn't take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It's not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this!

I couldn’t take my eyes off of the beautiful variegated foliage on this tulip variety. It’s not always about the bloom, especially when you have leaves like this! 

 

Hello, tulip!

Hello, tulip! 

 

The tulip harvest - this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting!

The tulip harvest – this was the week before Easter, so imagine: nonstop harvesting! 

 

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground - bulbs and all - to ensure the longest stems.

. . . and this is how the flowers come out of the ground – bulbs and all – to ensure the longest stems.

Some other popular crops include irises and lilies:

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises!

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises! 

 

And the classic purple ones, too!

And the classic purple ones, too! 

 

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers.

Lilies, just picked and ready for shipment to flower shops, supermarkets and designers. 

 

Having fun with the lilies - Bill is a bit of a ham!

Having fun with the lilies – Bill is a bit of a ham!

Bill sent me home with a huge bucket filled with irises and tulips – gorgeous, fresh, just-picked and more than I could ever use in a single Easter arrangement. They survived the 10-hour drive to Seattle that day and still looked awesome when I gave an arrangement of those blooms to my mother on Easter. We both enjoyed those American-grown flowers for nearly two weeks – especially the lilies, with so many plump buds that kept opening up, a few new blooms every day.

And speaking of lilies . . . did you know that “Lily,” the voice of Sun Valley’s blog, is none other than Mr. Bill Prescott? On the blog, he channels his inner florist supremely well! Check out “Flower Talk: Grow with Lily” here - and subscribe to receive notices of the frequent installments. 

What’s in bloom now: Spring seasonal floral design

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Yesterday, I hosted a hugely inspiring gathering of floral designers

We celebrated spring with a hands-on workshop to explore color, texture, form and scale

Below is the result of our creative expression 

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Floral Designs Above, from top: SUSAN WADE and TRACY STRAND (Mother & Daughter)

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Floral Designs Above, clockwise from top left: DEBRA PRINZING, SUSAN CARTER, SUSAN KESE and SHAWN CHAMBERLAIN

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Floral Designs Above, clockwise from top left: KEITA HORN, KRISTIANN SCHOENING, MAIJA WADE and KRISTIN MATTSEN

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Floral Design Above: ZAPOTE GREGORY

Floral Sources:

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Curly willow, Oregon Coastal Flowers

‘Peony’ Tulips, Ojeda Farms

Bleeding Heart, Ojeda Farms

Sweet Peas, Jello Mold Farm

Bupleurum, Foxglove, Gerrondo Gerberas, Yarrow and Veronica — California Grown

Florabundance (thanks for the donation of California-grown products!)

Garden Roses from Rose Story Farm

Dusty Miller

Lilacs

Parrot tulips

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Urban Flower Farmer, Tara Kolla of Silver Lake Farms (Episode 137)

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Urban flower farmer Tara  Kolla, owner of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles.

Urban flower farmer Tara Kolla, owner of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles.

This week we’re celebrating a huge milestone for this young floral-focused podcast. The first episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast debuted last July. As of this week, more than 10,000 episodes have been downloaded! This is such encouraging news – and I thank YOU for listening and allowing me to share my interviews with influential leaders in flower farming, floral design and other related topics each week.

For the past 10 days, I’ve been teaching, reporting and traveling in California, working my way from south (Los Angeles) to north (Eureka-Arcata) and points between (Carpinteria-Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and SF). Eventually, I’ll get home to Seattle. The excursion has offered me a wonderful chance to sit down for some face-to-face interviews with new guests whose voices you’ll hear on the Slow Flowers Podcast in the coming weeks.

 

I snapped this cute photo of Tara and her flowers on April 10th. She was preparing luscious bouquets for her CSA deliveries.

I snapped this cute photo of Tara and her flowers on April 10th. She was preparing luscious bouquets for her CSA deliveries.

The first person I’d like to introduce you to is Tara Kolla, owner of Silver Lake Farms in Los Angeles. We met at her urban farm (ahem. her backyard!) for a little lunch and then turned on the recorder in order for me to catch up on her 10-year career as a flower farmer specializing in organic blooms in all 12 months.

In 2012, when we published The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was delighted to tell Tara’s story of flower farming, despite many odds, in the heart of Los Angeles.

The narrative began in 2004, when Tara left her career in public relations and marketing to follow her dream to be an organic urban farmer. She planted sweet peas in her half-acre backyard and sold the fragrant flowers by the bunch at her local farmers’ market.

 

A twin-carrier, filled with two yummy bunches for the upcoming market delivery.

A twin-carrier, filled with two yummy bunches for the upcoming market delivery.

In doing so, she never expected to become the poster child of the city’s urban farming movement.  I called the chapter “Flower Patch Politics,” and shared her tale of tenacity and passion as she endured an enforced shut-down from LA’s Department of Building and Safety.

 

A detail of a Silver Lake Farms bouquet. Check out that anemone!

A detail of a Silver Lake Farms bouquet. Check out that anemone!

That experience lasted nearly two years and involved Tara’s work to reverse an obscure 1946 “truck gardening” law that limited residential farms to only the cultivation of vegetables for off-site sale – not flowers. 

Facing fines, jail time or a costly legal battle to obtain a land-use variance, Tara dug in her heels and decided to lobby for a change to the ordinance.

“I didn’t want to lose, give in or submit,” she says. Tara’s fierce belief in justice helped sustain her during a yearlong fight for what became known as the Food & Flowers Freedom Act, although she acknowledges that it took a toll on her physically, emotionally and financially.

Yet Tara feels grateful for the wave of support from her community, including longtime Silver Lake Farmers’ Market customers and fellow urban farming activists.

The media thrust Tara into the role as spokesperson for everything from sustainable agriculture to the plight of the small family farm.

Flowers for market, year 'round, organic and fresh!

Flowers for market, year ’round, organic and fresh!

Ultimately victorious, she’s been back in the business of growing flowers for several channels of distribution for nearly four years. Tara’s story is a huge inspiration and you’ll find its happy ending heavily seasoned with reality. We’ll discuss that in today’s podcast as we cover everything from diversification, branding, marketing and the future plans for Silver Lake Farms and its bountiful, healthy, organic and fresh flowers.

Here’s an overview (from Tara’s web site) of her flower farm and its many offerings. Take note of the links to various locations and social media platforms where you can find Silver Lake Farms’ flowers:

Silver Lake Farms was started in 2004 by Tara Kolla in the back yard of her home.

We now grow more than 100 different kinds of organic flowers and greens on less than an acre in Silver Lake and Glassell Park – so close to Downtown LA!

Typically our season begins with layers and layers of soft pastel petals in deep violets, blues and pinks. From late Jan to Mother’s Day: delicate dreamy ranunculus, anemones, and oh so fragrant sweet peas. Spring covers the field with antique wildflowers, adding an air of romance to our palette, and a delicate, natural touch: larkspur, Queen Anne’s lace, soft grasses, airy branches…

From Summer to Fall, it’s all about passion, texture, drama! Velvety, papery, tassely forms saturated in color: cockscomb, amaranths, strawflowers. But the Summer season’s main protagonist has to be, of course, the dahlia.  Who can resist our Cafe Au Laits?….

We grow everything naturally, employing biological, organic and sustainable farming practices, without chemicals or pesticides. This way, our flowers are stronger, more vivid in color, longer lasting and richer in depth of tone and fragrance.

You can purchase our flowers in a number of ways.  We’re at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market every Sunday from 8am-1pm. We’re there from February 1 thru October 31st.

Our flowers are also available through our Flower CSA, through FarmboxLA,GoodEggsLA, and on the first Saturday of every month we pop up outside Valerie Echo Park.

Love our blooms? We do floral design for weddings and private parties.  For more information, contact flowers@silverlakefarms.com

Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebook.

“For a truly sustainable event, think about what’s on the table, not just what’s on the plate.” 

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 10,000  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

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. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net