Debra Prinzing

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A new brand of floral entrepreneur, Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery (Episode 149)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery, wearing one of her beautiful floral crowns (c) Jana Williams

Bess Wyrick of Celadon & Celery, wearing one of her beautiful floral crowns (c) Jana Williams

CC_Logo_final.ai-page-001 Today’s guest is Bess Wyrick, founder and creative director of Celadon & Celery, a floral design and events studio based in New York City and Los Angeles. 

I first learned of Bess when researching florists to possibly feature in The 50 Mile Bouquet – I wanted to document the emerging business model of floral designers who actively promoted green practices, such as using seasonal and local flowers, embracing earth-friendly products and promoting anti-mass market style. 

I later learned that this category is called “eco-couture,” and it’s quite possible that Bess coined the phrase herself.

 

May 5, 2013 cover of New York Magazine, featuring Bess Wyrick's floral crown on the head of artist Jeffrey Koons.

May 5, 2013 cover of New York Magazine, featuring Bess Wyrick’s floral crown on the head of artist Jeffrey Koons.

In 2009, Bess’s Celadon & Celery was featured in a New York Times blog post about “organic flower” sourcing. The writer cited Bess’s policy of sourcing flowers within a 200-mile radius of NYC and also noted that when seasonal flowers aren’t available, she purchased Fair Trade, Veriflora and USDA organic flowers from certified vendors. 

The following year, in 2010, BizBash, a web site devoted to event planning, published a piece about Celadon & Celery that stated: “. . . sustainability is important to Wyrick. She composts, grows many of her own plants in her Chelsea studio, sources flowers from local growers or certified organic suppliers, and scavenges for materials to repurpose.” 

Bess shared this photo of a floral teepee, a recent installation.

Bess shared this photo of a floral teepee, a recent installation.

To read about that philosophy today – in 2015 – doesn’t seem all that unusual. But five years ago, it was rare. Believe me, I counted on one hand the number of designers proactively taking the green approach. I saved that article in my folder of inspiring designers. 

So how cool was it that when Celadon & Celery brought its floral design workshop series to Los Angeles, Bess’s publicist pitched me to write the story. 

Local flowers in a beautiful palette, designed by Celadon & Celery

Local flowers in a beautiful palette, designed by Celadon & Celery 

I was definitely intrigued. Intimate hands-on floral design workshops had hit the East Coast, and the New York Times had run a piece in 2010 about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn (and owners Sarah Ryhanen and Nicolette Owen, two recent guests of this podcast). I’d even led a few seasonal floral workshops for Ravenna Gardens in Seattle in 2010, but I hadn’t seen much like this happening elsewhere on the West Coast. 

My editor at the Los Angeles Times agreed, and I did a short Q&A interview with Bess about the workshop series in fall 2011. At the time, Celadon & Celery was charging $300 for its two-hour sustainable-design workshops at Bess’s loft-studio in New York’s Chelsea Flower District. For the Los Angeles expansion, she dropped the tuition to $125 and used social media channels to promote the classes. 

Overwhelmed by the positive response, Bess rented a photography studio in downtown Los Angeles and turned it into a classroom. She hired a few local freelancers to help and ran three classes a day for three weeks. “In that time we taught floral design to more than 800 people,” Bess marvels.

bliss! a Celadon & Celery seasonal creation

bliss! a Celadon & Celery seasonal creation

50MileBouquet_book I was able to witness the excitement in person and cover it for a chapter in The 50 Mile Bouquet. In the book’s pages, you can read about the explosion of DIY interest in floral design.

In that piece, Bess offered this observation: “The word ‘eco’ has a bad reputation implying something weedy,” Bess says. “But we’re creating flowers that are sophisticated, chic and tailored. ” You can read the entire chapter by clicking this link.

I’ve connected with Bess many times since the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet, in both New York and Los Angeles, depending on where our travels intersect. She is a generous supporter of the new Slowflowers.com and you can find Celadon & Celery featured in the online directory under studio florists and weddings/events.

I’ve been wanting to have her on as a guest and I’m delighted to include our conversation here today. Please enjoy our discussion about how floral design – and this designer in particular – has evolved to encompass event production, conceptual storytelling and artistic installations.

a singular bouquet.

a singular bouquet.

You’ll learn that floral design can be as multidisciplinary and multidimensional as you choose it to be. And, according to Bess, florists who advocate for their vendors, the family flower farm in particular, have an edge. She says: “I like to sell the fact that I’m a luxury brand and luxury brands work with really small artisans and that’s really important because you want to make sure that your flower farm vendors keep doing what they’re doing and creating unique and unusual flowers that the higher luxury market will pay for.”

(c) Jana WIlliams

(c) Jana WIlliams

I love how generous and frank she is and a few more of her interview comments really resonated:

For one thing, volunteering on flower farms has educated Bess to understand that “it’s not okay for clients to negotiate the cost of flowers because it is back-breaking work and there aren’t enough people who know how to grow flowers.”

And second: This quote is powerful and I hope it more than a few people in the floral industry to rethink their practices: “I don’t think that any florist in California should be importing flowers at all. That’s just being lazy.”

(c) Jana Williams

(c) Jana Williams

Ahem. Thank you, Bess, for stating the obvious. You’ve lent a lot of credibility to the Slow Flowers Movement with that proclamation!

Here are links to all of Bess’s social outlets:

Life with Bess Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Flickr

Instagram

And Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded nearly 15,000 times.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

The Slow Flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

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?

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

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

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

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

  Web

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

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

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

TODAY’S GUEST: MARGOT SHAW, flower magazine

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Here's who reads the magazine.

Here’s who reads the magazine.

 

Here's more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

Here’s more about the circulation and geographic distribution.

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

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

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded 13,700 times.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

The slow flowers podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Little Flower School of Brooklyn comes to Oregon (Episode 143)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

flowerschoolheader_2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Oh Jamaica'

‘Oh Jamaica’

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

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

Here’s how the workshop was described:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner's Iris Farm.

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner’s Iris Farm.

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

 

Nicolette at work.

Nicolette at work.

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

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

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

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

Here’s more about Nicolette: 

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

 

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

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

And more about Sarah: 

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

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

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

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and  Andrew Wheatley. You can learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

A Personal Cutting Garden That You Can Eat, Too!

Monday, May 26th, 2014
Root veggies, purple kale and spider mums.

Radishes, rainbow chard, purple kale and spider mums.

GroundbreakingFoodGardens This just in: A New Kind  of Hors d’Oeuvre

When entertaining, Debra recommends impressing your guests by gathering edible flowers and food from her garden plan to craft a simple, but unique amuse-bouche. The guests can snack on the centerpiece before the main meal is served – but only if your garden is organic!

I owe an (edible) bouquet of thanks to fellow garden writer Niki Jabbour for including my “Edible Cutting Garden” plan in her new book Groundbreaking Food Gardens (Storey Publishing, 2014). Along with planting plans and designs contributed by 72 others, this is an inspiring reference book that will change the way home gardeners thank about growing food. 

Here’s a sneak peek of the pages featuring my project, and some ideas for how to incorporate edibles into your floral designs.

Prinzing_FINAL (1)-page-001

Debra Prinzing’s Edible Cutting Garden — a half-circle design based on an ornamental garden I created in Seattle, circa 1998-2006. 

 

Prinzing_FINAL (1)-page-002

Each section features different edible categories — from herbs to fruits/berries to veggies and more.

This garden shown above was based on a design I made and installed behind the Seattle home where we lived from 1998 to 2006. I love the feeling of a half-circle patio. This one is paved in tumbled bluestone and measures about 12 feet wide by 6 feet deep. Two paths branch out on either side, like arms reaching toward the rest of the garden. The paths divide the 6-foot-deep crescent border into three sections.

READ MORE…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Hello, tulip!

Hello, tulip! 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Some other popular crops include irises and lilies:

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises!

Gotta love these lemony-hued irises! 

 

And the classic purple ones, too!

And the classic purple ones, too! 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Flower Confidential with Amy Stewart (Episode 140)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
The floral ceiling chandelier -- using all American grown floral ingredients -- from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

The floral ceiling chandelier — using all American grown floral ingredients — from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

I have exciting news to share this week: The New York Times published a piece by former food columnist Marian Burros entitled: “My, What Lovely Flowers. Who Lobbied for Them? — after a push by growers, U.S. products adorned a White House Dinner.” 

More than two months ago, I wrote about this exciting event — a stop on the Slow flowers journey in which the White House acknowledged for the first time ever its use of American Grown flowers for a public function. That was the State Dinner for the French President on February 11th. You can read my February 21st blog post, and my analysis of that event here. 

I’m gratified to see that NYT’s follow this story and give it the gravitas it deserves. Shining a positive light on American flowers is important, but there is much more that needs to be done in order to change the broken floral industry. One thing YOU can do is to join me in simple floral activism.

You can do this by visiting a compelling new web site: VOTE FOR FLOWERS. There, you’ll be able to identify your member of Congress and send him or her a letter urging support and engagement in the new Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

Like others in the pro-domestic flower movement, I do NOT want the White House’s use of American flowers to be a one-time gesture. Like the presidential commitment to serve local, American-sourced food AND wine at White House functions, it is only right that domestic flowers grace the tables of all White House events. Stay tuned for ongoing updates on this story. 

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Now let’s turn our attention to today’s fabulous guest: Amy Stewart. 

Amy's first book, "From the Ground Up," was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

Amy’s first book, “From the Ground Up,” was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

I first learned about Amy in 2001 when a local bookseller here in Seattle told me about From the Ground Up, a memoir by a young Texas native who wrote about her first grown up garden. The bookseller called it “heartwarming and said I had to read it. 

Amy was that author. She wrote From the Ground Up as a journal documenting her post-college Santa Cruz garden. When I reviewed in 2002, I wrote:

“There’s something very endearing and charming about Stewart’s self-effacing writing voice. She truly wants us to experience the same emotional highs and lows, the essential passion of gardening, that she lives through. It’s a wonderful late-night read . . . Pick it up as an alternative to moonlight gardening.” 

A few years later, I met Amy at the SF Flower & Garden Show. We were back-to-back speakers and met during that “changing of the guard” thing that happens when one speaker wraps up her book-signing and another takes that seat warmed by her predecessor. It was just a casual introduction, but there was a familiar recognition of a kindred spirit in the garden-writing world.

Since then, our friendship has been based on mutual admiration, similar professional interests and occasional collaboration. In fact, in 2011, Amy and I teamed up with three others to launch GREAT GARDEN SPEAKERS.COM, an online speakers bureau for our profession. 

cover_flower_confidential GGSlogo-badge And so it goes. My world changed when Amy Stewart wrote Flower Confidential in 2007. At the time, I had already begun interviewing American flower farmers and florists, unaware that she was writing an expose about the Global Floriculture Industry. Things happen like that in our worlds – after all, how could you explain the proliferation of vegetable gardening books that flooded the marketplace over the past five years?

But back to Flower Confidential. It truly was a book ahead of its time. When Amy wrote about the huge machine that relies on cheap floral imports, she started a conversation that resonated with me and with so many others – it was a dialogue I wanted to join. I was inspired to continue seeking out and telling the stories of American flowers and the people who grow and design with them. 

When The 50 Mile Bouquet was published in 2012, I was honored that Amy agreed to write the forward, her generous show of support for the next chapter in the American Grown story. In that forward, Amy wrote: 

“A great deal has changed since Flower Confidential. The notion of supporting local farmers was just gaining traction. The idea of celebrating our seasonal abundance – even if that means giving up tomatoes in January – was not quite mainstream. Just as “slow food” was catching on, the flower world was beginning the shift that The 50 Mile Bouquet celebrates.”

Indeed, a great deal more has changed – for the good – since Amy wrote our forward in the fall of 2011. 

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

With Amy’s blessing, I’ve gone down the flower garden path to document the exciting cultural shift in the domestic floral industry. All you have to do is read about the White House’s choice of American grown flowers to understand that. 

During the same time, Amy’s career has skyrocketed. She is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers, The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential.   

Amy lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard. 

Amy has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and Fresh Air, she’s been profiled in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she’s been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, the PBS documentary “The Botany of Desire,” and–believe it or not– TLC’s Cake Boss. 

Four of Amy’s previous books have been New York Times bestsellers.  They have been translated into eight languages, and two of them–Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs–have been adapted into national traveling exhibits that appear at botanical gardens and museums nationwide.

She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. In 2012, she was invited to be the first Tin House Writer-in-Residence, a partnership with Portland State University, where she taught in the MFA program.  

I recently stopped at Amy and Scott’s house in Humboldt County, northern California, while on a road trip from LA to Seattle. They don’t live too far off of Hwy 101 and it was an easy detour, my 2nd visit to their charming Victorian house surrounded by a slightly unruly garden and an opinionated clutch of hens.    

As is typical, our conversations involved book writing, book publishing, book promotion and more — all those things that authors obsess about. And before I left the following morning, Amy and I sat down in her cozy work space – her combination writing and art studio in the attic of this vintage residence, and talked about Flower Confidential. 

Amy Stewart’s next gift to the book-reading world is a historical crime novel about a real woman who was an early 20th century sheriff and detective. Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015.  

Visit amystewart.com to follow Amy and all of her projects – including her busy lecture schedule and her other outlet -painting and drawing.

Here's a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring - and then wrote about.

Here’s a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring – and then wrote about. 

 

Amy's charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

Amy’s charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

And enjoy this Q&A with Amy about why she loves to paint.

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 11,000  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and  Andrew Wheatley. You can learn more about their work at hhcreates.net.

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Meet the Foxglove Brooklyn design team – and hear of their search for seasonal and local blooms (Episode 136)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

 

new_foxglove_header

An email arrived in my in-box last month from Justine Lacy and Jessica Stewart, two supporters of my recent Slowflowers.com campaign. I had sent them a thank-you message after they contributed on Indiegogo, and it prompted this reply:

Justine Lacey (left) and Jessica Stewart (right) are a young, dynamic floral duo committed to seasonal and locally-grown flowers in their designs. Photo credit (c) Judie

Justine Lacey (left) and Jessica Stewart (right) are a young, dynamic floral duo committed to seasonal and locally-grown flowers in their designs. Photo credits (c) Judie Zevack and courtesy of Foxglove Floral Design Studio.

 

This is what spring looks like in the hands of Foxglove's designers.

This is what spring looks like in the hands of Foxglove’s designers.

“Hello Debra, this is Justine, Jessica’s business partner here at Foxglove Floral Design Studio in Brooklyn. We are ardent fans of your work – both your floral designs and your leadership and activism in the slow flower movement (and your great podcast!).

“We’ve been following your Indiegogo campaign as we’ve found it an exciting challenge, and a challenge nonetheless, to help our clients connect with local farmers in the New York/New Jersey area. We do love the wholesale market in Chelsea and love to work with fantastic European blooms, and we like getting to know the growers in our area who are providing the more local options, like flowering branches in spring. However, we are very (very) ready for your directory of like-minded, slow flower-inclined designers, growers, wholesalers, etc.  I’m currently reading Amy Stewart’s “Flower Confidential” and finding that the more we know, the more we want to source local!

“On that note, the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is so inspiring – one day, Jessica and I would love to help New York (or even Brooklyn) create a wholesale market dedicated to local flowers! With the amazing flowers grown (and wild) that thrive in our seasons here, it would certainly be a dream come true for many. 
 
“We’d love to chat with you a bit more regarding ways that we, and other New York florists we’re connected with, can provide more local flower options for their clients. If you would be available for a phone chat, or even via email, to answer some questions about how Foxglove can further strengthen our relationships with farmers and connect more of our clients to local options.”
 
A gorgeous example of Justine and Jessica's design work.

A gorgeous example of Justine and Jessica’s design work.

Well that introduction led to a promised phone date that we scheduled in late March. And I am pleased to share what we discussed with you today. You see, Jessica and Justine agreed to let me record our hour-long conversation for this podcast. We’ve condensed it a little, but you can follow along from the beginning to the end ~ and I promise you’ll gain important insights into today’s challenges facing progressive floral designers who truly desire for their work to be local, seasonal and sustainable.

Let me tell you a little bit about these two innovators:

Foxglove Floral Design Studio specializes in thoughtful, naturally-styled arrangements for weddings and other special events. The studio is committed to celebrating regional and native flora and is proud to partner with local farms to bring seasonal flowers to their clients during the growing season. Foxglove also works with other American and European growers to source ethically and sustainably grown blooms throughout the year.

Based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Foxglove serves all of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and will happily work on location elsewhere. We love to create one-of-a-kind floral and event designs for our clients and celebrate every kind of love.

Justine grew up in Charleston, SC. She misses the wisteria in the spring and the winter camelias. And lots of fresh shrimp. Jessica is a Western PA native, and has been gardening since childhood. She loves beets and books and long car rides. 

More seasonally-inspired work from Foxglove.

More seasonally-inspired work from Foxglove. 

 

Beautiful palette of locally-grown flowers!

Beautiful palette of locally-grown flowers! 

 

A styled photo shoot at Straw Hill Farm, one of Justine and Jessica's floral sources.

A styled photo shoot at Straw Hill Farm, one of Justine and Jessica’s floral sources.

 

 

Sweet and personal - a little gem of a design.

Sweet and personal – a little gem of a design.

Whether you are a flower farmer who is eager to understand the needs of eco-conscious floral designers OR a floral designer who’s experiencing some of the same challenges that Jessica and Justine are facing, I know that today’s conversation will be inspiring and relevant. Thanks for joining us. 

The floral marketplace realities that Justine and Jessica are experiencing is both a challenge and an opportunity – and I’ve heard these same concerns from others around the country, designers who are frustrated with the challenge of finding an American-grown-minded wholesaler to work with or anyone else who will help their studio source farm-grown flowers from domestic fields and greenhouses. 

In the coming weeks, you will hear additional chapters of this ongoing conversation, with farmers, florists and the “middle-man” wholesaler . . . and I expect that together we’ll begin to see a shift in the sentiments. Let’s turn frustration into possibilities and opportunities. Together, let’s redefine the floral industry and heal the broken model we’ve had to endure for so long. I welcome your suggestions for people and businesses to include in the dialogue.

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 9,500  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net