Debra Prinzing

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2015 Slow Flowers Highlights (Episode 226)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
Heather_Saunders_Slow_Flowers

Slow Flowers at The Flower House (c) Heather Saunders

Welcome to the final Slow Flowers Podcast episode of 2015.

(c) Linda Blue Photography

(c) Linda Blue Photography

Every single week this year; in fact, every single week for 2-1/2 years, I’ve had the immense privilege of hosting dynamic and inspiring dialogues with a leading voice in the American floral industry.

You’ve heard from flower farmers and floral designers who are changing the marketplace and how we view and consume the flowers in our lives.

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to dedicate today’s episode to the Slow Flowers Highlights we’ve witnessed this year.

Next week, on January 6th, I will share my Floral Insights and Forecast for 2016 with you.

The past twelve months have built on the successes and shifts that began in previous years. Each time we turn the pages of the calendar to a New Year, we can applaud the strides made in the Slow Flowers movement.

I can date my own awareness to the American grown floral landscape to 2006 — that’s nearly a decade ago — when I met a very young mom named Erin Benzakein while I was scouting gardens in Mount Vernon, Washington.  She was growing sweet peas and had big ambitions.

Something about our conversation resonated with me. I was an established features writer with a huge home and garden portfolio. I’d written countless floral design stories for regional and national publications and yet it had never occurred to me that there was a great imbalance in the way flowers are grown and sourced in this country.

cover_flower_confidential At the same time, my writer-pal Amy Stewart was working on a book about the global floral industry’s dark side, which was published the following year called Flower Confidential. She delved deep into the stories behind the status quo, and opened mine and countless others’ eyes to the extraordinary reasons nearly 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the U.S. were being imported.

Curious to learn more, I subscribed to Growing for Market, Lynn Byczynski’s newsletter for market farmers. I joined the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and attended my first regional meeting in 2010, held at Charles Little & Co. in Eugene, Oregon, and later that year I went to the national meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I began connecting with flower farmers wherever I could, both in California where I was living at the time, and in Oregon and Washington. I met people virtually, as well, thanks to the ASCFG list-serves where I learned much about the issues facing small farms and American growers.

READ MORE…

Week 50 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, December 17th, 2015
Poinsettias as a holiday "cut" -- don't they look dramatic?

Poinsettias as a holiday “cut” — don’t they look dramatic?

The prosaic poinsettia has a new, sexy reputation, especially at a time when floral designers are desperate for beautiful focal flowers to go with all the greenery in our lives.

Begonia + Poinsettia!

Begonia + Poinsettia!

For the past decade the gardening world has watched an explosion of breeding in the poinsettia world. I remember attending a press event in the early 2000s when Molbak’s Nursery in the Seattle area hosted all of us at a breakfast to unveil the new poinsettia colors and varieties (streaked and flecked; and a palette ranging from cream to wine). I wrote that story for The Daily Herald about 15 years ago, so no doubt the news hit the gardening world quite a while ago!

Slowly, floral designers are discovering — and embracing — poinsettias. The flowers are tricky to source as cut options, although I’ve heard from some designers who are able to find poinsettia cuts. We just don’t see them here in Seattle.

A low silver bowl, tarnished, of course, is the ideal vessel for this holiday centerpiece of poinsettias, spray roses, agonis foliage, rex begonia foliage and Korean fir

A low silver bowl, tarnished, of course, is the ideal vessel for this holiday centerpiece of poinsettias, spray roses, agonis foliage, rex begonia foliage and Korean fir

What’s my other option? I went to Lowe’s this week to find locally-grown poinsettias from Smith Gardens in Bellingham, Washington. I was in search of a soft peachy tone and wasn’t disappointed. The flower I found wasn’t labeled (although I did learn that Noche Buena is the Mexican name for poinsettia).

I found three pots with this beautiful type of poinsettia, $6.98 each. Two of the three had broken stems, with unusable blooms, so Lowe’s sold them to me for $2 each. In all, that netted me 7 huge flowers for $11, which seems like a great price.

So nice to see these poinsettias as lush cut focal flowers

So nice to see these poinsettias as lush cut focal flowers

Since coming home from the home center, I looked up peach poinsettias online and have decided it’s possible this one is called ‘Visions of Grandeur’, described as a luxuriously rich, yet soft peach/pink/cream plant. But I could be way off because the colors seem to vary as widely as the petals of ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlias. Either way, it’s lovely, feminine and romantic.

I began my arrangement with a Goodwill purchase from last in August, a silver-plated Gorham fruit bowl. I think I paid $6.99 for it; just found the same bowl on eBay for $35. I’m in bargain heaven with this great-priced bowl and discount poinsettias!

I placed a dome-shaped vintage metal flower frog in the base and added a second “level” of structure with chicken wire, domed at the top of the 9-inch container.

Foliage and branches:

  • Dark purple Agonis flexuosa, California grown, valued for its sultry color and feathery texture
  • A silvery-green fir known in the landscape trade as Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’), from Leo’s Trees, a Southwest Washington vendor who sells at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. Danielle Bennett, assistant manager at the Market, told me that Leo only brought in two bunches. I understand why because Korean fir is very slow growing so he probably didn’t want to trim so many boughs from the tree! I planted one of these ornamental conifers in a prior garden and I loved its wonderful winter sheen when hit with the afternoon light!
  • Rex begonia foliage, clipped from my houseplant. I love how the raspberry-wine foliage plays off of the Agonis foliage and the scale of each leaf holds its own against the poinsettia blooms.

Flowers:

  • Poinsettias. Following instructions mentioned in my recent blog post about International Poinsettia Day (Dec. 12th), the best way to prepare stems for floral design is as follows: Cut, then dip into hot water 140˚ F for 20 seconds; then plunge into cold water for 10 seconds.
  • ‘Snowflake’ white spray roses, grown by Green Valley Floral in Salinas, California
A small bouquet made with "leftovers," including a gorgeous amaryllis!

A small bouquet made with “leftovers,” including a gorgeous amaryllis!

A bonus: I used my leftover pieces to create a couple of small arrangements, which also included the final blooms from two raspberry-hued amaryllis grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers. I enjoyed these in a larger arrangement last week and the final buds just opened this week.

Week 42 // Slow Flowers Challenge & a Day of Flowers at Filoli

Monday, October 26th, 2015
A detail of my arrangement demonstrated after my Slow Flowers lecture at Filoli.

A detail of my arrangement demonstrated after my Slow Flowers lecture at Filoli. Note the lovely flowering passionvine tendrils dripping from the base.

Filoli, the iconic early 20th Century estate in Woodside, California, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is a cultural institution where people come to learn, explore and be inspired by nature just minutes away from the city.

Filoli is also known for its Floral Design Certificate program and that’s what brought me there last Friday to lecture and teach, thanks to the invitation of Cathy Rampley, head of education, and Katherine Glazier, one of the instructors in the floral design program.

When planning ahead to order flowers for a couple large-scale floral designs and a hands-on workshop for 20 students, I always tell the organizers that I want local, American grown flowers. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, like last week, it’s impossible to do otherwise. After all, we shopped at the San Francisco Flower Mart, which is where the best flowers available are California Grown.

The scale of this vessel allowed me to go very wide with the branches and stems.

The scale of this vessel allowed me to go very wide with the branches and stems.

I had so much fun digging through the storage closets at the Filoli estate house to select vessels for my designs. The ceramic piece you see above is measures approximately 14 inches in diameter, a turquoise-glazed dish mounted in a brass stand. Its shallowness challenged me and despite the 7-inch pin frog attached to the inside base, I mounded a large piece of chicken wire to dome over the opening.

Detail of autumn colors and textures, including the Cotinus, the peachy-orange dahlias, antique hydrangeas and the yellow-orange Ilex.

Detail of autumn colors and textures, including the Cotinus, the peachy-orange dahlias, antique hydrangeas and the yellow-orange Ilex.

This arrangement proves my theory that when a vase is shallow, you can build the bouquet 2- to 3-times the width of the opening. Using smoke tree (Cotinus) clipped from Filoli by the gardening staff and inserted so it soars off to one side allowed me to exaggerate the horizontal. Several antique hydrangea blooms, sourced from Half Moon Bay nearby, rest on the rim of the bowl and anchor it visually. I needed quite a bit of greenery to fill the volume and hide the mounded chicken wire (seriously, this piece was larger than a basketball cut in half!). Lots of the foliage was sourced from Filoli, including a type of large-leaf ivy and coffee berry branches.

READ MORE…

Week 38 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Lush, early autumn colors  of corals, peaches, ivories and celadon green.

Lush, early autumn colors of corals, peaches, ivories and celadon green.

Dahlia season continues here in the Pacific Northwest, where local flower farms in Washington and Oregon have produced bumper crops for 2015.

I’ve been traveling so much this summer in order to co-host and promote the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, that the last four weeks have been a blur. I haven’t posted a Slow Flowers Challenge bouquet since August 27th when I shared Week 34. Yikes! Please forgive me!

The finished bouquet, shown at its finest in my vintage cast-iron planter

The finished bouquet, shown at its finest in my vintage cast-iron planter

As if that wasn’t enough, we moved in July. Moving into an apartment after selling our home (and its beautiful garden) has been an exhausting transition. We’re getting settled in a place located quite close to downtown (I can see the Space Needle from our apartment!), but I now realize what an effort it takes to procure flowers when one doesn’t grow them oneself.

This move has provided me with a valuable lesson and an important insight about how hard it is to enjoy seasonal flowers in one’s home. It’s so much easier when you can just step outside and clip to your heart’s content.

Thankfully, where I live, I’m able to enjoy outdoor space and fresh air. We have a small balcony attached to our unit and upstairs, there is a massive rooftop deck. These are daily luxuries. Access to flowers is a little more challenging.

Have you ever seen a celosia this gigantic?

Have you ever seen a celosia this gigantic?

Yesterday, I attended a board meeting at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. In exchange for several hours sitting around the table with my fellow board members, I was rewarded with a chance to shop the Market floor afterwards.

Step One: Start with a few branches of Liquidambar - a sure sign of fall! Place them off-centered to exaggerate the width of the urn.

Step One: Start with a few branches of Liquidambar – a sure sign of fall! Place them off-centered to exaggerate the width of the urn.

You will LOVE the goodies I came home with! This arrangement is constructed using chicken wire inserted into the vintage cast-iron planter.

Dahlia ‘Pam Howden’, a peach-gold waterlily dahlia, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Dahlia ‘Peach Fuzz’, a pale peach novelty dahlia true to its fuzzy moniker, grown by Dan’s Dahlas

Dahlia ‘Narrows Erica’, a peach-orange ball dahlia, grown by Dan’s Dahlias

Sweetgum foliage (Liquidambar styraciflua), foraged by Tosh’s Farm

Pale green Celosia, grown by Peterkort

‘Michael Dodge’ viburnum, with pale yellow fruit, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Step two: Insert one enormous pale-green celosia to give weight to the arrangement.

Step Two: Insert one enormous pale-green celosia to give weight to the arrangement.

Muir Ranch

Dining al fresco at Muir Ranch, an urban school’s food and flower farm in Pasadena.

American flower farmer Mel Resendiz

American flower farmer Mel Resendiz

There are also two wonderful “bonus” elements in this bouquet, both California-grown. On Sunday morning, I flew back to Seattle from Burbank with generous bunches of grevillea foliage and Serruria florida ‘Blushing Bride’ in my carry-on bag (of course).

They were gifts from Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers and flower farmer Mel Resendiz. We met up last Saturday night at a special farm dinner held at Muir Ranch in Pasadena, which hosted more than 100 guests who learned all about urban agriculture (see above).

Many of the guests were fellow members of the Garden Writers Association, who were in Pasadena for an annual symposium. They came for dinner and met some very talented high school students who are producing food and flowers for the CSA at John Muir H.S.

Our host Mud Baron, urban-ag activist and creator of “Flowers on Your Head,” invited Mel Resendiz and Diana and Bob Roy of Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers to join the fun. Mel cranked out some beautiful bouquets for the tables and somehow I ended up with the very special ‘Blushing Bride’ to bring home. It is in the proteaceae family and Diana tells me the flowers dry beautifully.

Step Three: Add three types of dahlias, blending colors for depth and interest.

Step Three: Add three types of dahlias, blending colors for depth and interest.

Enhance with a few more stems of Liquidambar and celosia

Step Four: Enhance with a few more stems of Liquidambar and celosia

Step Five: Tuck in clusters of 'Blushing Bride' and notice how much the ivory-cream petals echo the celadon green celosia.

Step Five: Tuck in clusters of ‘Blushing Bride’ and notice how much the ivory-cream petals echo the celadon green celosia.

Step Six: Incorporate 'Michael Dodge' viburnum berries to add sparkle and texture.

Step Six: Incorporate ‘Michael Dodge’ viburnum berries to add sparkle and texture.

I *think* I can get back on schedule for the Slow Flowers Challenge. It has been rewarding to see what everyone else has produced while I’ve been away from my clippers and vases.

 

Week 34 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
Please meet 'Sierra Glow' - isn't she adorable?

Please meet ‘Sierra Glow’ – isn’t she adorable?

'Sierra Glow' detail - sigh.

‘Sierra Glow’ detail – sigh.

Everybody loves the ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlia for its showy yet ephemeral beauty, right? This week, I met Miss Cafe’s richer-toned cousin, ‘Sierra Glow’.

My new love has petals that have hints of copper, coral, melon and amber, all rolled into one yummy hue. Dan Pearson of Dan’s Dahlias describes it this way on his website: “Large orange-bronze blooms on strong stems. Very impressive in the garden.”

I picked up a plump bunch of ‘Sierra Glow’ dinner-plate dahlias grown by Jello Mold Farm this week and from there, all the pieces fell into place with the moody late-summer/not-quite-fall palette.

With our recent move and purging of “stuff,” I’ve discovered that many of my wonderful vases and containers are boxed up in the storage unit. But this cool brass planter, from Goodwill, serves the purpose perfectly.

Gotta love this deep burgundy smokebush foliage!

Gotta love this deep burgundy smokebush foliage!

Here’s the recipe:

Supplies: 1 brass planter, measuring and 1 vintage cage-style flower frog

Okay, you had me at coxcomb!

Okay, you had me at coxcomb!

Botanicals:

Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple”), grown by Jello Mold Farm

Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), grown by All My Thyme

Velvety coxcomb celosia in pale apricot, grown by Peterkort

I believe this Calendula is in the Zeolights series.

I believe this Calendula cultivar is called ‘Zeolights’.

Calendula in the most perfect milky-gold hue, grown by Ojeda Farms

Golden amaranth with such gorgeous form

Golden amaranth with such gorgeous form

Upright bunches of golden amaranth, grown by Jello Mold Farm

‘Sierra Glow’ dinnerplate dahlias, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Week 32 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Glowing yellow flowers and fruit for a gray Seattle day.

Glowing yellow flowers and fruit for a gray Seattle day.

The yellow flowers spoke to me when I was perusing among hundreds of exquisite botanical choices this week! 

When I visited the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, I started with the amazing crabapple branches, harvested from Jello Mold Farm and sold by the single stem. You certainly don’t need many, but adding two stems laden with immature crabapples to an arrangement is a sure-fire way to up the interest level.

Jello Mold's crabapples were the starting point for this week's Slow Flowers Challenge

Jello Mold’s crabapples were the starting point for this week’s Slow Flowers Challenge.

If left on the tree, these crabs will redden up, but for now, there is enough golden-green tinge to make them a perfect companion for all the other yellow goodness you see here. And the vintage green glass jar that I used as a vase plays nicely with this palette, too.

Love these joy-inducing zinnias!

Love these joy-inducing zinnias!

Close up, please!

Close up, please!

Next, I started shopping around for flowers to pair with the crabapples — and that’s when I spotted Vivian Larson’s yummy zinnias, shown above. Viv is the gifted farmer at Everyday Flowers in Stanwood. I can always count on her to spot an uncommon petal shape, bloom detail or flower color and then try growng that variety for the rest of us to enjoy.

What do you call this color? By the time I paired these huge zinnias with yellow sunflowers and roses, I decided it has more muted pigments – and that’s why I love its role in this arrangement. It’s a one-off, a shade of pure yellow.

Lemony-yellow sunflowers

Lemony-yellow sunflowers

These petite sunflower heads are ideal for floral design because their scale doesn’t overpower other blooms in the vase. These are the perkiest, freshest, most charismatic sunflowers I’ve seen all summer — and of course, Vivian Larson grew them at Everyday Flowers. I know I just said they don’t “overpower” the arrangement, which is true. But their many plump petals create the necessary volume to fill out this large-scale bouquet.

Solidago with a hint of the yellow flowers to come.

Solidago with a hint of the yellow flowers to come.

There’s not a lot of foliage in this arrangement, so thank goodness for the textural “fluff” that comes from this robust goldenrod ( Solidago sp.), grown by Gonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms.

Like the crabapples, it is a palette-blender, moving easily into both the yellow spectrum and the green spectrum. Plus, I just love its from-the-meadow vibe.  I almost love it better at this stage than when the tiny flowers are fully opened!

Organic garden roses -- a few go a long way!

Organic garden roses — a few go a long way!

IMG_0190 The bunch of four stems of beautiful yellow garden roses is my finishing touch. Dawn Severin of All My Thyme grows the healthiest, most alluring English garden rose varieties ~ and these do not disappoint.

The rose color is simply delicious and there are so many petals are packed into one flowerhead that you can’t stop admiring their beauty. It was a privilege to add them to this bouquet for that extra sparkle of summer!

We are at the height of the season and I want to sign off with a note of thanks to you for following along on the Slow Flowers Challenge. I keep hearing from people who are participating, making and sharing photos of their own arrangements, and experiencing four seasons of flowers this year.

I hope you’re experiencing what I’m experiencing — the sense that there’s something wonderful to appreciate in every plant, every stem, every bud, every leaf. In all seasons. In all twelve months.When we think like this, it changes how our eyes see. And that’s a valuable gift.

Until next week, keep designing!

Debra Prinzing
www.debraprinzing.com

Week 31 // Slow Flowers Challenge (what happened to Week 30?)

Monday, August 10th, 2015
My Edwardian-inspired summer bouquet, clipped from local farms and gardens.

My Edwardian-inspired summer bouquet, clipped from local farms and gardens.

True confessions: I’m overwhelmed these days. The epic move last month from a huge house to a small condo (what to do with all that stuff?), combined with an intense travel schedule and a few overly voracious consulting projects . . . and I am scrambling to catch up. I can’t quite see the end of this tunnel until 2016.

The good news, however, is that flowers keep blooming and defining each season whether I clip and arrange them – or not!

This was my "practice" bouquet, using many of the same ingredients (only the sambucus foliage is missing).

This was my “practice” bouquet, using many of the same ingredients (only the sambucus foliage is missing).

Please accept this entry in the Slow Flowers Challenge, Week 31. We’ll just have to write off Week 30 as a lost cause (maybe I’ll double-up sometime soon to redeem myself)!

Melissa Feveyear (left) and Grace Hensley (right), at Dunnton Abbey.

Melissa Feveyear (left) and Grace Hensley (right), at Dunnton Abbey.

This past weekend I participated along with four other talented plantswomen and designers in an event called Dunnton Abbey Garden Party.

The play on words with the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey” was intentional, as the folks at one of Seattle’s most lovely private estate gardens, The E. B. Dunn Historic Garden Trust, held a lawn party inspired by the gentile fetes we’ve watched on Downton Abbey over the years.

It was all quite fitting, as Dunn Gardens date back to 1915, a contemporary period from Downtown Abbey’s first episodes.

Croquet, musicians, a vintage car show, people in period garb, a cake walk and many more activities were on hand. It was lovely and I especially enjoyed seeing everyone unplugged from modernity (although many did have their cell phones out to snap photographs, I’ll give you that).

Lacey Leinbaugh in her charming floral-bedecked hat!

Lacey Leinbaugh in her charming floral-bedecked hat!

Grace Hensley of eTilth, a Slow Flowers friend here in Seattle, coordinated the floral design demonstrations. She invited Lacey Leinbaugh of Blue Lace DesignMelissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers; Jennifer Carlson of Haven Illustrated and me to present “Edwardian Floral Design.”

We each were given a generous budget to shop for locally-grown flowers at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. A few weeks prior, we did a walk-through of the grounds at Dunn Gardens with co-curator Charles Price, pointing out stems, leaves and flowers that caught out eyes.

Charles judiciously cut those elements for us, too, so when I arrived with my own “bucket” of items from the Growers Market, there were dozens of other buckets overflowing with the truly local, of-the-moment, garden harvest. That added hydrangeas, phlox, ninebark, sambucus, rodgersia, ferns, hostas, fuchsias, monarda, meadow rue (Thalictrum sp.), crocosmia and more to the mix!

Guest of the garden party were invited to bid on our floral arrangements to take home with them.

Guests of the garden party were invited to bid on our floral arrangements to take home with them.

What is Edwardian floral design, anyway?

I honestly didn’t have time to do research in advance, but by the time I started my bouquet, I had a few thoughts to share.

I told the audience that the Edwardians were the original “Slow Flowers” florists because they only used local and in-season flowers, probably clipped from their own gardens.

Whether you were a member of the “upstairs” class relying on gardeners and hothouse blooms or a member of the “downstairs” class cutting from the edge of a meadow or woodland, the flowers reflected what nature had to offer.

The other idea I shared had to do with palette, and this was inspired by my textiles background. At the time, chemical textile dyes were not yet as popular or widespread as natural, plant-based dyes. And to me, that notion reflects a softer, muted, less vivid color scheme in textiles for apparel and interiors.

That yummy palette! Note the almost-pink lisianthus, as beautiful as a rose.

That yummy palette! Note the almost-pink lisianthus, as beautiful as a rose.

The tea-stained, sepia-toned palette of my imagined Edwardian bouquet was reflected in the flowers and foliage. I began with a blush-and-faded mix of ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas taking on a slightly pink tinge; not-quite-pink lisianthus blooms; pale terracotta draping amaranthus, and strawberry-colored gomphrena.

The darker accents lent a moodiness to the arrangement: Deep maroon dahlias; dark purple sedum heads; purple sambucus foliage; and berry-black Rex Begonia foliage, variety ‘Shadow King Rothko’.

Rex begonias carry the day, accenting the pale and dark blooms.

Rex begonias carry the day, accenting the pale and dark blooms.

Whether it’s truly Edwardian or not, the bouquet felt like a period piece in the black-and-silver Goodwill vase!

Here is a list of the ingredients, with my thanks to each farmer who grew them:

From Diane & Dennis at Jello Mold Farm, Mt. Vernon, Washington:

  • ‘Limelight’ hydrangea blooms
  • Amaranthus
  • Dark purple sedum

From Vivian at Everyday Flowers, Stanwood, Washington:

  • Gomphrena
  • Lisianthus
  • Maroon dahlias

From the Dunn Garden Borders: Sambucus foliage

From Seattle Wholesale Growers Market: Rex Begonia, variety ‘Shadow King Rothko’

Enjoy these photos from my fellow designers, each of whom did a magnificent job!

Grace thoroughly embraced the Edwardian spirit and she made these adorable paper-cone poseys to sell from her basket as she strolled the lawn in her period attire.

Grace thoroughly embraced the Edwardian spirit and she made these adorable paper-cone poseys to sell from her basket as she strolled the lawn in her period attire.

Melissa Feveyear's bouquet wowed everyone! She chose a pearly pink and coral palette with a few characteristic surprises.

Melissa Feveyear’s bouquet wowed everyone! She chose a pearly pink and coral palette with a few characteristic surprises.

Lacey Leinbaugh's beautiful summer bouquet used periwinkle accents to play off the vase color. Love this!

Lacey Leinbaugh’s beautiful summer bouquet used periwinkle accents to play off the vase color. Love this!

Jennifer Carlson went all in for the dramatic raspberry amaranth to wow the audiences.

Jennifer Carlson went all in for the dramatic raspberry amaranth to wow the audiences.

Week 29 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Saturday, July 25th, 2015
Dahlias, zinnias, scabiosa, stock, baby's breath and oakleaf hydrangea foliage

Dahlias, zinnias, scabiosa, stock, baby’s breath and oakleaf hydrangea foliage

Sweetest color; finest texture -- pink baby's breath

Sweetest color; finest texture — pink baby’s breath

It’s so hard to believe we have arrived at Week 29, but the flowers tell us it is so.

Much is blooming early here in the Pacific Northwest. The flower farmers report that their crops are exploding weeks ahead of past seasons. It’s good news for the floral designers who yearn for local dahlias to take center stage in their creations — now through the first frost.

I love the tawny palette that started with this pinky-coral dahlia grown by my friends Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon., the source of some of the most prolific offerings at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

That pink baby’s breath, which they also grow, literally took away my breath! I had to play with it and I love its blush-pink color echo of the dahlias.

The view from my new urban balcony - a ceramic stool is the ideal pedestal for my summer bouquet

The view from my new urban balcony – a ceramic stool is the ideal pedestal for my summer bouquet

Love how all these berry colors and pastels play together beautifully!

Love how all these berry colors and pastels play together beautifully!

Jello Mold also grows this terrific pale yellow zinnia, part of the Zinderella series of zinnias that produces a dense mound of double petals on top, available in many cool colors.

The rest of this arrangement is equally alluring, given the high-quality, seasonal blooms.

I love having the confidence that each stem was grown by a Salmon Safe-certified flower farmer using sustainable practices!

The remaining ingredients include:

Apricot cactus zinnias (Zinnia elegans ‘Pinca’), grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers

Pincushion flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black  Knight’), grown byGonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms

Stock in an ombre range of peach hues, grown by Sarah and Steve Pabody of Triple Wren Farms

Oakleaf hydrangea foliage, clipped from a neighbor’s shrub.

Together these soft colors are feminine and romantic.

Together these soft colors are feminine and romantic.

If you love this pin-striped vase as much as I do, please check out the work of Seattle ceramic artist Kristin Nelson of Kri Kri Studios.

This vase is part of her Vit Ceramics collection and I love that it’s as local and hand-crafted as the flowers it contains! This “Eve” vase is the perfect height and proportions for floral arranging. Click here to read Kristin’s description of how she created this lovely vessel.

Kate's dahlias -- from her garden to my vase

Kate’s dahlias — from her garden to my vase

As I mentioned, Dahlias are peaking here in Seattle. I had to share this delicious bouquet of just-picked dahlias, given to me by my friend (and bookkeeper) Kate Sackett.

After our recent meeting, she invited me to see her dahlias. What a treat to bring some of them home. Aren’t the colors and forms divine?!!!

Week 28 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Monday, July 20th, 2015
Just-picked Colorado-grown flowers at the peak of summer.

Just-picked Colorado-grown flowers at the peak of summer.

Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co., sharing his beautiful and locally-grown bouquets and bunches at Boulder Co. Farmers' Market.

Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co., sharing his beautiful and locally-grown bouquets and bunches at Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

Bouquets from The Fresh Herb Co. that caught my eye at the Longmont Farmers' Market, their second venue.

Bouquets from The Fresh Herb Co. that caught my eye at the Longmont Farmers’ Market, their second venue.

Love this beautiful periwinkle blue bachelor button (Centaurea cyanus)

Love this beautiful periwinkle blue bachelor button (Centaurea cyanus)

This week’s Slow Flowers Challenge comes to you from the flower farms of Colorado!

I spent several days last week as a guest of Chet and Kristy Anderson, owners of The Fresh Herb Co., based in Longmont, Colorado. We featured the Andersons and their beautiful farm, flowers and philosophy in The 50 Mile Bouquet – in a chapter called “Rocky Mountain Flowers.”

You can learn more about this couple in our Slow Flowers Podcast episode that aired earlier this year.

Returning to Colorado was a delightful excuse to play with flowers picked from fields just steps away from the back door. I was there to co-host the fourth Field to Vase Dinner of 2015 – farm-to-table dining experiences held on flower farms across the country.

Chet and Kristy graciously welcomed this very special gathering at The Fresh Herb Co. Eighty lucky guests enjoyed a delicious meal, local wine and an unparalleled setting next to the gurgling Left Hand Creek. Flowers were on the table and the conversation was all about American grown flowers, the Slow Flowers movement, and the important reasons to focus on domestic, local, seasonal and sustainable flowers. Check out this beautiful and engaging blog post about the dinner from Boulder photographer Kirsten Boyer, “Slow Flowers and Slow Friendships.”

SFC_28_July 2015_Boulder 049

Love the delicate solidago as a textural element that plays off the bolder flower forms, including gladiolas and sunflowers.

When Chet was asked to speak, he uttered a very simple sentence that resonated with me: “Without people buying our flowers, we wouldn’t exist!”

I deeply believe in his statement. And this is what motivates me, to honor and value the lives and work of flower farmers like Chet and Kristy.

I share this lovely bouquet and I really can’t take credit for the design. This is a market bouquet similar to those that they harvest, gather and sell each week at the Boulder and Longmont Farmers’ Markets. 

I combined flowers from two Colorado farms to fill this vase. The Corona clippers are a bonus!

I combined flowers from two Colorado farms to fill this vase. The Corona clippers are a bonus!

Love this t-shirt worn by gladiola flower farmer Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC

Love this t-shirt worn by gladiola flower farmer Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC

While in Boulder, I had a fun chance to speak about the Slow Flowers Movement and local, American-grown flowers at an evening sponsored by the Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

The Market also promoted the Field to Vase Dinner by giving away two free tickets. The winner was Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC, based in Milliken, Colorado. A relatively new flower farmer, Matt and his wife Jonie grow gladiolas and also sell them at the Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

I couldn’t make it to their farm, about 45 minutes outside Boulder. But I did get to shop at Matt’s stall and purchase some gorgeous glads from him on Saturday morning. It was a treat to add those tall, elegant stems to the bouquet given to me by Nick Anderson, Chet and Kristy’s son.

I’ll try and list all of the flowers included below.

Orangyy zinnias + orangy glads - a perfect combo!

Orangy zinnias + orangy glads – a perfect combo!

Colorado-grown LOCAL and SEASONAL bouquet:

From The Fresh Herb Co.: Oriental lilies, zinnias, goldenrod (Solidago sp.), bachelor’s buttons and MINT!!! Boy, does it smell glorious!

From 934 Farm LLC: Eight variously-hued gladiolas

Week 27 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Sunday, July 12th, 2015
July. Hydrangeas. Boom.

July. Hydrangeas. Boom.

What a week. Our last to enjoy the home and garden we’ve occupied for the past four years. Downsizing is wonderfully aspirational, but boy is it a lot of work. In fact, I’m rushing to post this because the Garden Lovers’ Garage Sale resumes in 1-1/2 hours!

But with only 72 hours left before closing on the sale of our nearly 3,500-square-foot home and moving into a not quite 1,200-square-foot apartment (still in Seattle), I had to take a Slow Flowers Challenge “moment” yesterday.

The cause for my joy? These amazing hydrangeas! I inherited numerous hydrangeas from this home and garden’s previous owners, more than a half-dozen. In one shaded corner beneath the fir and cedar trees, there is a trio clustered between the fence and the driveway. Occasional irrigation; otherwise much neglect.

Still, they are glorious come summertime. Look at these iridescent hues ranging from powder blue to French blue to rosy purple. These flowers do not disappoint – even when there are piles of garage sale junk strewn at their feet.

Ready to be carried to my new home in this amazing steel floral caddy, complete with six jars of hydrangeas.

Ready to be carried to my new home in this amazing steel floral caddy, complete with six jars of hydrangeas.

PS, don’t you LOVE this metal carrier? It was designed and custom fabricated by Silver Lake Farms, the urban flower farm based in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood, owned by flower maven Tara Kolla. You can read about Tara in a chapter of my book The 50 Mile Bouquet – and at her beautiful web site here.

Tara designed these carriers so she and her crew can harvest flowers, pop them into the jars of water, and bring them to their various sales outlets. One of the most popular is Hollywood Farmers’ Market, where you can find Silver Lake Farms every Sunday, February through July. You can also join Silver Lake’s FLOWER CSA for custom-picked beauties – straight from Tara’s urban growing fields. And, you might get lucky and be able to purchase a carrier. It’s a perfect tool for gardeners and flower farmers alike!