I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.
For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.
Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.
And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.
So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.
Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.
I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).
In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!
Here’s a little more about this book:
If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.
From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.
The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.
And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).
“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.
When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.
Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.
Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.
You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage -
“I can’t do this.”
“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”
“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”
This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.
This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.
When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”
Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.
In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:
. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.
I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.
I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.
. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.
So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.
Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.
Here are some more goodies that might make your day.
Thanks to the support of others fans of Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.
In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:
1. Dee Nash – www.reddirtramblings.com
2. Helen Yoest- www.gardeningwithconfidence.com
3. Jenny Peterson- www.jpetersongardendesign.com
4. Rebecca Sweet- www.harmonyinthegarden.com
5. Brenda Haas- www.bggarden.com
6. Fran Sorin- www.gardeninggonewild.com
The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:
1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.
2. By making a comment here on debraprinzing.com, you will be entered into each of two drawings:
Prize #1 – Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.
Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- www.natureinnovations.com — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.
Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable. All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers (retail $149).
Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.
Before I introduce you to today’s guest, I wanted to reach into the letter bag and share some of the notes that arrived this week.
Emily Watson, a farmer-florist who owns Stems Cut Flowers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a member of Slowflowers.com, writes:
“I have been listening to your podcasts and after every single one I think I should write you a thank you but neither of us has time for that! So here it is one big thank you for all of them. Some weeks I hear pieces of my own story, some weeks inspiration for where I want to go, some weeks I just feel grateful that there are people like you and Kasey Cronquist and the Field to Vase project making good things happen. At the ASCFG conference that I went to in DC a a few years ago I remember an ice breaker session where you were supposed to tell the people at your table where you though your business would be next year. And at that time I was not even sure that my business was going to be around the following year. I was tired, emotionally, financially, and physically exhausted. After four long growing seasons I started to feel like maybe I should just cut my losses and return to the “normal” workforce. But then I saw things starting to happen on the bigger scale, people bringing awareness to the issues that mattered to me and my business, people connecting the dots for all the small businesses like mine.”
Since then my business has evolved a bit and I am on the verge of another transformation. One that I feel like I will have support for and a community which I can draw on for ideas and information. And you have been a big part of making this happen so thank you very much.”
And here’s one from Tobey Nelson, a floral, wedding & event designer who owns Vases Wild in Langley, Washington, on beautiful Whidbey Island – a wedding destination:
“I have been listening to your podcasts in an OCD fashion lately – love them! And I really appreciate all the work you are doing for Slow Flowers and (the) American grown (movement). So great. Do you know that just this year we have had three professional flower growers sprout up on Whidbey Island? It makes me happy!”
Thank YOU, Tobey and Emily ~ your encouragement for this endeavor means a lot. It’s easier to promote American grown flowers when I have such talented farmers and florists as my partners!
Today’s guest, Nancy Ross Hugo, brings the macro world of nature, landscape, the garden or the flower farm down to the micro world of the windowsill. And in doing so, she offers us a simple ritual, a moment, a meditation on the botanical beauty around us
The author of a new book called “Windowsill Art: Create One-of-a-kind Natural Arrangements to Celebrate the Season,” Nancy writes about gardening, trees, and floral design from her home in Ashland, Virginia and her family’s small farm in Howardsville, Virginia.
Her love of trees has led her to tree habitats all over the world, but her real passion is celebrating the common wildflowers, weeds, trees, and everyday plants that are often overlooked in ordinary backyards.
Nancy loves reading old natural history books, writing new ones, and exploring the creative process through flower arranging and nature journaling.
Through nature journaling and blogging about the “windowsill arrangements” she creates every day, she says she keeps her creative muscles exercised, her thoughts straight, and her eyes open to all things wild and wonderful.
Nancy has authored five books and hundreds of articles about nature and the outdoors, She is the former garden columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and education manager at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She travels the country speaking on the two topics closest to her heart: observing trees carefully and celebrating the seasons through daily, simple flower arranging.
I met Nancy through St. Lynn’s Press, our shared publisher. It seems that at the same time I was working on Slow Flowers – a book about creating a local and seasonal floral arrangement every week of the year with only what I cut from my own garden or sourced from local flower farmers, Nancy was working on Windowsill Art, engaging in a similar method of marking the seasons in nature with floral arranging.
The difference is that of simplicity and spontaneity. Nancy’s practice is so “of the moment” and I greatly admire her artistry and approach. You might think a windowsill would constrain the creativity – but that’s anything but the case.
In May 2011, Nancy began a blog on which she posted a photo of a small flower arrangement (or just a conglomeration of natural materials) every day. Assembled on the windowsill, these simple displays celebrate the seasons and chronicle Nancy’s love affair with local wildflowers, weeds, and garden flowers as well as her discovery of new and exciting ways to display them. They also demonstrate why practicing this easy art form is so valuable as a form of nature journaling and rewarding as a personal creative practice. You can see more than 800 arrangements at windowsillarranging.blogspot.com.
As Nancy points out, almost everyone does it – puts a little something on the windowsill to watch it ripen, root, or just sit there looking pretty. To this gifted woman, the windowsill can serve as a stage for more intentional arranging – a personal, freewheeling kind of art. A catalyst for creativity.
She writes, “for me, windowsill arranging is almost a spiritual practice. Where I am looking for materials to display and placing them . . . I feel more like a poet placing words in a haiku than a floral designer placing stems in a vase. I love the limited space, the double connection to the outdoors (through the window and my materials), and the structure that repeating the same activity over and over provides.”
As we enter the more dormant period of the year in our gardens and on our farms, I challenge you to pick up Nancy’s approach to observing nature’s gifts and seeing each pod, branch, stem or vine (or fruits and vegetables) as an artistic element. It may be a gift to give yourself this season.
Thanks for joining today’s conversation. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 23,000 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 Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.
Note: Many of the supplies Nancy uses can be ordered from The Arranger’s Market: vases, clippers, bottle brushes, and other floral design equipment.
All photos in this post copyrighted to Nancy Ross Hugo, used by permission of St. Lynn’s Press.
I think all artists and designers love to experiment with new media because it challenges us to think more creatively and with inventiveness.
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 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.
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”?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Now, back to those deadlines. Have a great holiday weekend!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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?
I’ve been home for a few weeks from my 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.
So here is a second travelogue, which I think many will enjoy.
I stopped at the home and garden of fellow writer and sweet friend Sharon Lovejoy and her partner in all, Jeff Prostivitch. They live in San Luis Obispo, a stunning area of coastal California, in a cozy bungalow surrounded by an oft-photographed and published garden.
There are several highlights from this short visit that I want to share.
First of all, I got to hold in my hands the advanced readers’ copy of Sharon’s debut novel, Running Out of Night, which will be published in November.
On an earlier visit to Sharon and Jeff’s (I think it was in the fall of 2009), I tagged along with Sharon to a regular session with her writer’s group. This is the small gathering of writers in her area who have faithfully met with one another for years as they’ve read given both encouragement and critiques of each other’s writing projects. It was on that visit that I heard Sharon read aloud one of the chapters of her novel-in-progress.
So you can only imagine how thrilling it was to sit for a while on the sofa in their living room and read the first few chapters in the REAL book! If you have a young person in your life (ages 7-12), I urge you to order this book or ask your librarian to order it. It is an adventure that involves two young girls who are equally enslaved, despite the difference in their skin color. I thoroughly love the characters, the plot – and the dialogue! Sharon is a masterful storyteller and I can’t wait to get this book into the hands of my niece (a 4th grade teacher) and her students.
I also experienced a treat that anyone who visits this abode is bound to see. This is the home of gardeners, naturalists and amateur botanists. Every single thing that grows in the Lovejoy-Prostovitch garden is a gift from the earth. And they cherish those gifts with fervor.
The simplest tendril, sprig or pod is elevated with love and affection by Sharon and Jeff. Their home is filled with tiny bouquets and posies. The whole idea of “bringing the garden indoors” takes on new meaning when jam jars, bottles and shot glasses are filled with minature floral arrangements. A delight for the eyes. Here is a peek at some of the ones I noticed (I’m sure there were more!):
That evening, Sharon and Jeff brought me along as their guest to a party given by their friends Aline and Frank.
This lovely couple lives in New England but spends part of the winter months staying in the San Luis Obispo area to be closer to some of their grandchildren.
While they have rented many types of houses for their winter interludes, this year found them settled in at a place outside SLO called Old Edna.
Sharon promised: “Oh, Deb, you’re going to love it!”
And she was right.
Old Edna has an amazing history, and I hope to do it justice with this brief summary (please follow all the links to read more). Today, Old Edna is the creation of a dreamy artist named Pattea Torrence.
Pattea has saved this elderly hamlet that time almost forgot, turning it into a destination that includes guest cottage farm stays, wine tasting, special events and more.
In 2000, Pattea and her husband Jeff Kocan purchased the two-acre, 100-year-old townsite with its running creek in Edna Valley (a world-class, wine-producing region) and two-story tin building (once a general store, dance hall and post office, dating back to the turn of the century, 1900).
They have salvaged and restored many of the structures and created a magical place for guests who stay for short or extended periods. There are two guest cottage on site, a three-bedroom Suite Edna and a one-bedroom honeymoon cottage called DeSolina.
Pattea is affectionately known as “The Mayor” of Old Edna. She was a gracious host, although I have to also thank Aline and Frank for their amazing hospitality!
I hope to return and spend more time, but these photos will give you a glimpse of what I experienced. Up next: A visit to The Sun Valley Group, an unforgettable flower farm in Arcata, California.
Meet Pilar Zuniga, owner of Gorgeous and Green, a Berkeley-based boutique and eco-floral design studio. She’s my guest in this week’s Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.
Pilar started Gorgeous and Green nearly six years ago after she discovered how hard it was to plan her own sustainably-minded wedding. Since then, her venture has expanded from a floral studio designing for weddings and special events to a charming storefront on College Avenue in Berkeley.
There, you can find a full-service floral and gift shop that carries uncommon goods, curated by Pilar, including vintage jewelry, locally-made goods, recycled-paper stationary, organic bath and beauty products — and of course, local and sustainably-grown flowers. Gorgeous and Green recently won the Best of Berkeley 2013 award in the florist category.
For anyone interested in learning how a brick-and-mortar retail flower shop can make it in today’s era of mass merchandising and big boxes, you’ll want to join my conversation with Pilar.
She is blazing a new trail and is the TRUE definition of a LOCAL FLORIST….a hometown, Main Street flower shop that goes the full distance to source from local flower farms in her own backyard.
A Native American proverb suggests that all that we do today must be done with the next 7 generations in mind.
The mainstream floral and gift industries have many byproducts like pesticide pollution, dependence on plastics, underpaid labor, hazardous working conditions and excessive CO2 Emissions. Additionally, events are the producers of more waste and CO2 emissions. The average wedding emits 12-14 tons of CO2, more than a person emits in a full year.
We can minimize these negative effects by amending our practices to become sustainable ones. For Gorgeous and Green, sustainability means using methods that we can afford to duplicate without negatively affecting the environment and people around us. With a lot of creativity and research, we have been able to develop floral practices and offer gift products that allow us to do just that.
Gorgeous and Green wants to be mindful of not just how we leave our world for the next generation, but how we touch those people and places that were involved in the beauty we created today.
In the second half of our interview, Pilar and I scratched the surface on a MAJOR topic that’s going on right now in the floral world. It regards the concern she and I — and so many others — have about that green florists’ foam, the crumbly, brick-shaped chunk that you often find stuck inside a vase delivered from a floral wire-service. It is a conventional product that has been around since the Postwar 1950s, developed, so it seems, to make arrangements look fuller using fewer stems of flowers and foliage.
The simple economics have (sadly) led many florists down the rabbit hole of same-old, same-old, unimaginative designs based around the foam. I believe it’s a crutch that limits creativity and certainly hurts the people and environment who encounter it.
Every single week I hear from florists and designers who tell me they are weaning themselves off the product, which is made by a small group of manufacturers in the US and abroad. Those designers are eager to find alternative ways to stabilize stems, such as some that Pilar and I discussed. I will devote a future episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast to more extensive information on this topic.
Pilar was one of the first to speak out and warn florists about the risks of using chemically-based foam. As I mentioned in our interview, every time I did a web search about this topic, her blog posts popped up, as early as 2009. Here are some links you’ll want to read:
(March 4, 2009) Floral Foam: Not so Green
(September 5, 2009) Biodegradable Floral Foam, Where Are You?
(February 18, 2011) Let’s Change Floral Foam
(August 16, 2011) MSDS Floral Foam
If you’re looking for “green” alternatives to floral foam, check out my blog post about Eco-Friendly Design tips, excerpted from Slow Flowers.
Thank you for joining me in this episode of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast with Debra Prinzing. Because of your support as a listener, we’ve had more than 3,000 downloads since July – and I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.
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.
All photographs courtesy of Gorgeous and Green. Thanks Pilar!
© Debra Prinzing, all written and photographic content. Website design/development by Willo Bellwood/Metric Media