Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Playfulness’ 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: 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?

A (American Grown) Flower-filled April, Part Two. OR: Adventures with Sharon Lovejoy

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

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.

running-out-of-night 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.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen's vintage farm sink.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen’s vintage farm sink.

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!):

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

 

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William and sprigs of herbs tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

 

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom.

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom. Is that parsley as the greenery?

 

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

 

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

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.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

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's office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

Pattea’s office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

 

Love how an old branch becomes a "trellis" under the eaves.

Love how an old branch becomes a “trellis” under the eaves.

 

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

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. 

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead - a perfect V formation.

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead – a perfect V formation.

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.

Five Fabulous Flower-Filled Days at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Sunday, March 30th, 2014
Natasha used more than 2,000 stems to create this dynamic signature piece that greeted showgoers above the grand allee.

Natasha Lisitsa used more than 2,000 stems to create this dynamic signature piece that greeted showgoers above the grand allee.

 

READ MORE…

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Meet Berkeley’s Eco-Floral Maven, Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green (Episode 116)

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
Pilar Zuniga is a Berkeley-based, eco-Green floral designer and outspoken advocate for locally-grown, sustainable flowers and design practices.

Pilar Zuniga is a Berkeley-based, eco-Green floral designer and outspoken advocate for locally-grown, sustainable flowers and design practices.

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.

One of Gorgeous and Green's bridal bouquets in a sultry green and dark purple color scheme.

One of Gorgeous and Green’s bridal bouquets in a sultry green and dark purple color scheme.

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. 

Succulents grace the wedding table for a Gorgeous and Green client.

Succulents grace the wedding table for a Gorgeous and Green client.

483274_10151503701057210_305906289_n Here’s her answer to the “Why Sustainable”? question:

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. 

Take a look at our Services section or visit our On-Line Boutique page to see just what we have come up with so far. We’re always creating new ways to save the earth and stay gorgeous.

Another yummy seasonal floral arrangement, using California-Grown flowers from farmers Pilar knows and supports.

Another yummy seasonal floral arrangement, using California-Grown flowers from farmers Pilar knows and supports.

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. 

The bounty of local farms makes its way into Gorgeous and Green's designs.

The bounty of local farms makes its way into Gorgeous and Green’s designs.

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.

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

All photographs courtesy of Gorgeous and Green. Thanks Pilar!

SLOW FLOWERS: Week 44

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

TARNISHED AND TEXTURED

Tillandsia detail

Super-popular tillandsias, especially this ghostly-white species, makes for an interesting fall centerpiece.

Ingredients:
1 Tillandsia xerographica plant, a gift from Nan Sterman (Tillandsias benefit from a light spritzing of water every week or so) 
3 Japanese nest egg gourds, grown by Jello Mold Farm
5 Tennessee dancing gourds, grown by Jello Mold Farm
9 stems Scabiosa stellata ‘Paper Moon’, grown by J. Foss Garden Flowers
Vase:
5½-inch tall x 16-inch long x 6-inch wide, vintage cast-iron planter, found at the Long Beach Flea Market
 
Tillandsia in a tarnished urn.

There’s a pleasing asymmetrical balance created by using this tillandsia on the right side of the design, as it echoes the urn’s curved handle on the left.

 
Design 101
Balance, a design principle: Balance is deeply ingrained in our psyches. In the garden or in a vase, a visuallybalanced design feels pleasing to the eye; when something feels out of balance, it can be agitating to look at. Balance is divided into three categories: Asymmetrical (seen here), in which both halves of a composition may express similar visual weight but are unevenly positioned.
 
Balance is created by a shift in weight on either side of a central fulcrum. Here, you see that the left side of the arrangement reveals the decorative handle of my urn, while the right side of the arrangement offsets it with the curved leaves of the tillandsia. Symmetrical or bilateral balance means that both sides of a composition are equal, one side essentially mirroring the opposite side. Formal flower arrangements are often symmetrical. Radial balance emanates from a central core, like the rays of a sunflower or spokes of a wheel. This dynamic approach appears in perfectly-domed bridal bouquets or centerpieces designed for 360-degree viewing.

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Cooking with Flowers, an interview with chef Miche Bacher of Mali B. Sweets (Episode 111)

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Flower Cake Cover

Featured on the cover of “Cooking with Flowers” is Miche’s “Flowerfetti” Calendula Orange Cake. Flower petals are the “original cake confetti,” she maintains. Roses, dianthus, bachelor buttons and marigold petals adorn this enticing confection.

Today we’re going to talk about eating flowers.

Yes, flowers as food.

Hollyhock Clafouti

Hollyhock Clafouti, a cross between a custard, a pancake, and a puffy omelet. Uses 1 cup hollyhock petals.

I once had a big-time New York editor say to me: Why should I care about how flowers are grown, anyway? After all, we don’t eat them!

As a response to that challenge, I wish I had been able to pull out “Cooking with Flowers,” the most eye-satisfying book I’ve ever seen. It was created by Miche Bacher, an herbalist, chef, and founder of the custom confectionary studio Mali B Sweets.

To WIN a free copy of “Cooking with Flowers,” courtesy of Quirk Books, listen to to my interview with Miche and make a comment below about the best edible flower tip you learned. I will draw a winner at random on Tuesday, October 22nd at 5 p.m. Pacific.

I learned about this beautiful cookbook from Mari Malcolm, an editor at Amazon who absolutely loves “Cooking with Flowers.” Mari showed me the book’s beautiful cover on her phone screen during a lunch we had together this past spring.

I keep ordering this delectable book and then giving it away as a gift to my flower lover-friends. And now, it is my great pleasure to spend this episode of Slow Flowers in a floral-focused conversation with Miche.

Miche Bacher

Miche Bacher, herbalist, chef, and founder of the custom confectionary studio Mali B Sweets.

In her introduction, Miche writes:

“Flowers add color, complexity, and what I like to call the magical ‘what’s in it’ factor to your food. They are full of nutrients and often offer health benefits, too. You don’t have to be a master gardener or a trained chef to cook with flowers – once you start looking, you’ll realize edible blossoms are all around you, and it really is a breeze to use them.”

She is definitely a chef whose work begins in the garden. Through “Cooking with Flowers,” I’ve gained new inspiration for another important reason to appreciate local flowers.

I know you will learn much from my conversation with Miche, as we discuss her favorite culinary ingredients, including the lowly dandelion.

Fresh and candied lilac flowers are the captivating ingredient in Miche's "Coconut Lilac Tapioca," a recipe in her book, "Cooking with Flowers" [photo: (c) Miana Jun, used with permission]

Fresh and candied lilac flowers are the captivating ingredient in Miche’s “Coconut Lilac Tapioca,” a recipe in her book, “Cooking with Flowers” [photo: (c) Miana Jun, used with permission]  

 

4 tablespoons of dianthus petals, coarsely chopped, infuse this delicious cake that also includes 2/3-cup rose' wine. Dianthus whipped cream and candied dianthus flowers are a perfect embellisment. [photo: (c) Miana Jun, used with permission]

4 tablespoons of dianthus petals, coarsely chopped, infuse this delicious cake that also includes 2/3-cup rose’ wine. Dianthus whipped cream and candied dianthus flowers are a perfect embellisment. [photo: (c) Miana Jun, used with permission] 

 

Popcorn chive cupcakes

Popcorn Chive Blossom Cupcakes, a floral play on sweet and savory.

Here are some links we discussed in the interview:

Mali B’s Edible Flower Chocolate Collection:

candy bars

Edible Flower chocolate collection from Mali B Sweets, $30 for the set.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center LINK to Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products: 

Click here for MORE about COOKING WITH FLOWERS, including exclusive recipes that Miche couldn’t fit into the book. You’ll also find bonus recipes for the medicinal and cosmetic use of flowers, salves, oils, and teas for healing; download recipe cards and read a Q&A with this talented woman. 

 

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Fun with Flowers and J Schwanke (Episode 109)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Fun with Flowers and J Schwanke (Episode 109)

Debra and J Schwanke

I’ve been having fun running into American-grown flower advocate and floral industry personality J Schwanke. He was one of the friendly faces I enjoyed seeing in Miami earlier this year.

The name J Schwanke is synonymous with flowers and floral design and I’m pleased to introduce you to this energetic and super-talented guy. J is the owner and CEO of uBloom.com, a web site devoted to everything flowers – and the platform for J’s weekly web-based flower television show, “Fun with Flowers and J.”

J Schwanke

J Schwanke, photographed on a recent fall day after he created the centerpieces for a Farm-to-Table orchard dinner.

He has been promoting American Grown flowers for so much longer than I have – and I credit J for pioneering the message that I’ve also embraced as my personal cause. It’s wonderful to have someone out there already trumpeting the message – and to join together in promoting the Slow Flowers movement.

Since I come from the gardening and DIY floral world and J is very well known in the professional floral world, I didn’t really know who he was during the years I was reporting and writing The 50 Mile Bouquet book. I first met J on my computer screen when I watched one of his California Grown Experience videos, which he produced in 2010-2011 as a series of online tours of California flower farms and related businesses such a floral wholesalers. That’s when J’s telegenetic personality, passion for flowers, and ability to draw out people and their stories impressed me. “Who is this guy, anyway?” I thought.

Florida with J and Debra

Kelly Blank snapped this photo of J and me on the day we finally met – in late April – at Disney’s EPCOT flower show.

Through our mutual friend and colleague Kasey Cronquist, I eventually met J via phone conference calls in which we both participated.

Then, earlier this year, J and his partner Kelly James Blank surprised me by attending one of my presentations at EPCOT’s International Flower & Garden Festival in Orlando.

That was pretty serendipitious – and it led to an evening of conversation, cocktails and dinner together – talking about our favorite subject: Flowers (former Garden Design magazine editor Sarah Kinbar was also with us – and that was such a treat to be together!)

Fun with Flowers and J is the weekly how-to Web series you can find at uBloom.com

Fun with Flowers and J is the weekly how-to Web series you can find at uBloom.com

The California Grown Experience is featured on uBloom.com, the first Web-Based TV Show about Flowers, which J created in 2006 – and which continues to air today. Every Monday, J releases a new “FUN with Flowers” episode.  You can find a collection of more than 500 how-to videos and flower farm documentaries on the site, including a new series called the “Florida Fresh Flower and Foliage Tour.” Previews of all J’s shows are included free on the site; viewers can purchase downloads for $1-$2 or subscribe to uBloom for $30 a year to receive complete access to the entire archive. 

J with mom 1966

1966: J in a greenhouse with his mother. Pretty darned cute~

J has lived his entire life surrounded by flowers, in fact, his mother gave birth to him a flower convention she and his father were running. A fourth-generation florist and foremost expert in cut flowers and foliage, J received the prestigious Tommy Bright Award, lifetime achievement recognition for flower communication. and the Crystal Rose Award, denoting him a “Living Legend” in the world of flowers.

J is a member of the American Academy of Floriculture (AAF) and the American Institute of Flower Designers (AIFD). He is a Certified Flower Designer (CFD) and a designated Professional Flower Communicator International (PFCI). His deep source of energy has sent J around the globe to give presentations, demonstrations and hands-on workshops in all 50 States, Canada, Mexico, and throughout Europe.

I invite you to listen in on our conversation and meet J, too. Then, mosey on over to uBloom.com to learn about all of its features, sign up for J’s free newsletter and learn more about the extensive content offered there. 

One of J’s newest ventures, which we discuss on the podcast, is the Professional Resource Guide. This is a free directory that lets professionals and DIY floral designers find WHERE TO BUY the many products and supplies featured on uBloom.com. Here is the link to that excellent new resource. 

 

Floral design in Tuscany

Friday, September 27th, 2013
The approach to Montisi, a small Tuscan village that has been our home this week.

The approach to Montisi, a small Tuscan village that has been our home this week.

 

Detail: An autumn bouquet from a Tuscan garden. Olives, roses, hydrangeas, scented pelargonium leaves, Rex begonia leaves - seen here.

Detail: An autumn bouquet from a Tuscan garden. Olives, roses, hydrangeas, scented pelargonium leaves, Rex begonia leaves – seen here.

This morning at the villa, two friends went off for watercolor lessons with resident expat artist Liz Cochrane.

After walking down to Il Barrino for hot tea and a croissant, I came back totally determined to make a bouquet for our group’s last night together.

We have a dinner coming in from Allesandro, the local chef (Marty organized the menu, which includes Ribollita, a Tuscan soup; sliced pork with balsalmic vinegar; zucchini flan; and that popular italian desert, Apple Pie!)

The Flower Arrangers’ Guild of Tuscany commenced its first session.

This garden is in its waning moments of late summer-early autumn. But it does not disappoint. So much to work with and we judiciously snipped, without hurting or denuding a single plant.

I had spotted a copper urn, weathered and slightly dented, sitting on the floor in the Lemonaio (the garden room). It inspired my palette – faded, tarnished and of the moment.

A rustic wooden garden bench, a perfect place to display and photograph my Tuscan bouquet in a timeworn copper vessel.

A rustic wooden garden bench, a perfect place to display and photograph my Tuscan bouquet in a timeworn copper vessel.

Here are the ingredients I began with:

1. Scented pelargonium foliage

2. Papyrus stems from the water pond

3. Hydrangeas – two types

4. Roses – two types

5. Olives branches w/fruit

6. Marguerite daisy foliage

7. Rex begonia foliage

Mary Watson joined me in the garden, eager to make something beautiful. She made two adorable bouquets:

Mary Watson, a new friend who I met through Marty Wingate. She is an art educator and bon vivant! Right when I started arranging this morning, Mary jumped into the fun.

Mary Watson, a new friend who I met through Marty Wingate. She is an art educator and bon vivant! Right when I started arranging this morning, Mary jumped into the fun.

 

READ MORE…