Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is a Seattle and Los Angeles-based Outdoor Living Expert. As a writer and lecturer, she specializes in interiors, architecture and landscapes. Debra is author of seven books, including Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm (St. Lynn's Press, 2013); The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers (St. Lynn's Press, 2012) and Stylish Sheds And Elegant Hideaways (Random House/Clarkson Potter, 2008). Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune, Country Gardens, Garden Design, Metropolitan Home, Sunset, Better Homes & Gardens and many other fine publications. Here's what others say about her:

“The local flower movement's champion . . ."

--Ken Druse, REAL DIRT Podcast

“. . . an impassioned advocate for a more sustainable flower industry."

--Bellamy Pailthorp, KPLU-FM (NPR affiliate)

“The mother of the ‘Slow Flower’ movement, Prinzing is making a personal crusade to encourage people to think about floral purchases the same way they may approach what they eat: Buy locally grown flowers or grow them yourself.”

--Debbie Arrington, The Sacramento Bee

“Debra Prinzing . . . has done more to celebrate and explain ethical + eco-friendly flowers than I could ever hope to.”

--Grace Bonney, founder of Design*Sponge

Garden Tribe Video: Debra’s Eco-Floral Design Tips

September 7th, 2014

Earlier this year I met the creative team of Garden Tribe, Beth LaDove and Jen Long, two Bay Area creatives who have combined their love of gardening, documentary video and education to bring hands-on horticulture to life on the small screen.

Garden Tribe has been lauded in the San Francisco Chronicle as “an online classroom that connects the world of gardeners with world-class horticultural experts and garden/floral designers.”

Sunset magazine singled out Garden Tribe as a “Best in the West” online find.

GardenTribeLogo

I first learned of Garden Tribe when they debuted a workshop about designing and building “living arrangements,” taught by Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Design (and The 50 Mile Bouquet fame) at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.

After some discussion, Jen and Beth asked me to develop some online floral content for their new site. We filmed on day in early June at the beautiful Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, California.

Today, thanks to Garden Tribe’s generosity, I am thrilled to share a “sneak peek” video clip to whet your appetite for the full workshop.

Please enjoy “Eco-Friendly Floral Design – Quick Tips” (see above) and “Cutting Flowers” (below).

You can find details about the full curriculum of workshops at GardenTribe.com.

Beth LaDove (left) and Jen Long (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

Jen Long (left) and Beth LaDove (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

I was so impressed with their vision that I asked Beth and Jen to take part in a Q&A about their mission.

Debra: Please introduce yourselves and explain your interest/passion for gardening?

Beth & Jen: We are both lifelong gardeners and entrepreneurs. Beth comes from a long lineage of Italian food growers. Jen has never met a flower she didn’t want to grow. Between the two of us, we’ve probably been obsessed with just about every kind of garden and plant out there, at one time or another. Together, we have a shared passion for growing things. And these days, we are thrilled to be growing a business designed to give people a more joyful, meaningful experience of gardening.

Debra: How did you come up with the idea to launch online video educational programming?

Beth & Jen: We get questions all the time about how and when people should do things in their garden. The best way to answer those questions is by literally showing people what to do. We decided to create beautiful video classes that demonstrate real gardening, step-by-step. We also designed our classes to stream online, so that learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

Debra: Why GARDEN TRIBE? It’s such a cute name!

Beth & Jen: Gardening knowledge has always passed along in a tribal way–from person-to-person, out in the field. We named our company Garden Tribe because it honors how important it is to learn from each other, and cultivate our community.

Debra: Who is your target audience?

Beth & Jen: We know that all gardeners, from beginning to experienced, are looking for trustworthy information. That search often begins online, and the quality of that information greatly impacts the real world DIY experience.

We’re providing curated, high-quality content for people who want to learn from top experts, so that their projects can get started right, the first time. Because our real goal is to get people where they most want to be: out in the garden and having fun.

Debra: How many classes have you produced and what do you have cooked up in the future?

Beth & Jen: We have seven classes streaming now, with more launching in the near future. We’re also always adding new seasonal content. (The best way to stay in-the-know is to join our mailing list.)

As for future projects, we’re busy creating a new way for everyone on gardentribe.com to connect and share!

Debra: Anything else you want people to know?

Beth & Jen: We’re excited to be part of a growing movement that’s bringing the next generation into gardening. It’s so amazing to work with world-renowned experts (like you, Debra!) and share all that gardening knowledge online, around the globe. We’d love everyone to join our tribe, and share their questions, ideas and inspiration!

Thanks to you both~ and thanks for sharing your passion with my tribe!

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Lavender Farm Wedding with Local Flowers grown by Nancy & Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm (Episode 157)

September 2nd, 2014

A couple poses between the gently curving rows of lavender at Destiny Hill Farm.

A couple poses between the gently curving rows of lavender at Destiny Hill Farm.

In musical theatre the term “triple-threat” is used to describe super-talented individuals who can act, sing – and dance. I’ve been thinking a lot about how triple threat applies to other professions, such as in the floral world, where Destiny Hill Farm is a true triple threat.

Nancy and Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm.

Nancy and Jim Cameron of Destiny Hill Farm.

Today’s podcast episode introduces you to Nancy and Jim Cameron – and the story of how they created Destiny Hill as an agro-tourism destination for growing cut flowers, designing florals and producing weddings & special events.

In the distance, you will see the stables and barn - home to some amazing wedding gatherings.

In the distance, you are the stables and barn – home to some amazing wedding gatherings.

Based in Western Pennsylvania, this 137-acre farmstead and the people who run it do three things very well:

1-flowers are grown here, including 5,000 lavender plants and hundreds of varieties of annuals, perennials, grasses and woody ornamental shrubs.

2-there’s a full-service floral design studio that incorporates those botanical elements into bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, altar pieces and more; and

3- Destiny Hill is a wedding and event destination that hosts and produces between 20 and 25 functions each year, led by event coordinator Mimi York.

I met Nancy earlier this year when Destiny Hill contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo, and then this past February when she attended a wedding bouquet workshop I co-hosted with Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs. When I made the connection that Destiny Hill was located about 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, we started planning my visit when I was scheduled to attend a Garden Writers conference there last month.

Nancy and I pose with our just-picked and arranged bouquets - all local flowers from her cutting fields.

Nancy and I pose with our just-picked and arranged bouquets – all local flowers from her cutting fields.

Jim and Nancy graciously picked me up in downtown Pittsburgh and drove me out to the farm. It was a rainy summer day – familiar weather to a Seattleite like me. By the time we arrived at the majestic landscape that’s home to the Camerons’  personal residence and business enterprise, we all agreed that the rain wouldn’t stop our fun.

Inside the barn - a beautiful setup for a wedding feast.

Inside the barn – a beautiful setup for a wedding feast.

READ MORE…

Floral Therapy, or what to do with six hydrangea shrubs!

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: Grocery Floral with New Seasons Markets’ Katie McConahay and Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s Molly Sadowsky (Episode 156)

August 27th, 2014

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon - a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

New Seasons Market in Portland Oregon – a rainbow of local flowers in the beautiful floral department.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

A New Seasons floral department creation.

Did you know that more than 50 percent of all floral transactions in the U.S. take place at the supermarket cash register?

While that statistic may not bode well for the corner flower shop, it does represent opportunity for flower farmers who find a way to work with this ever-changing dynamic.

There are so many reasons for the shift from the corner flower shop to the grocery store, but according to my guests in today’s podcast one of its primary causes is time and convenience.

In other words, consumers are so pressed for time in all facets of their lives that the grocery store has become the one-stop place to purchase not just food, but so many other things.

Think about it: The grocery store, when done well, is now our coffee shop, our bank, our drug store, our greeting card store, our liquor/wine store, our bakery, our deli, and oh, yes, our flower shop.

Please enjoy today’s conversation about the fast-paced world of grocery floral – as I seek to understand where the opportunities are from two perspectives: the floral buyer (the supermarket) and the floral seller (the flower farmer).

"Slow Flowers" supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

“Slow Flowers” supermarket pioneer: Katie McConahay of New Seasons Markets.

Katie McConahay is the floral merchandiser for New Seasons Markets, a Portland-based chain of 13 neighborhood grocery stores. With the motto, “the friendliest store in town,” New Seasons nurtures its local suppliers.

On its web site you will find this message: “As a locally owned business, we take pride in supporting local farms, ranches and other small businesses through our Home Grown program.

“The Home Grown symbol points out products from produce and meat to hand lotions and scented candles that come from local companies. So, you can support the local and regional economy with your dollars. And we can further our strong commitment to sustainable agriculture.”

Unfortunately, there is a lot of lip-service paid to LOCAL and I’ve witnessed first-hand the amount of green-washing that can take place at grocery stores that tell their shoppers one thing and then do something completely opposite that . . . such as trying to pass off imported flowers as local or simply not caring enough to properly label the sources.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

More flowers at New Seasons Market.

After getting to know Katie over the past year, I have to say how impressed I am with her philosophy of transparency about the origins of the flowers she and her employer sell. “Not many people think of buying local when it comes to flowers. Making beautiful selections available from local growers is how we’re making a difference, one stem at a time.”

A CA-Grown floral display at one ohe Portland area New Seasons.

A CA-Grown floral display at one Portland area New Seasons.

Katie began her career in floral at the age of 15 when she took a position as a floral clerk at a local grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Early on she decided that she wanted to make unique and beautiful flowers available to everyone, even daily grocery shoppers.  She went on to become the youngest ever floral manager for Wisconsin’s largest grocery chain by the age of 18, taking her department to number one in sales in a region with over 60 stores.

Katie has been involved in all facets of the floral industry, from large scale grocers to small, elegant design studios in Portland.

She found her “happy medium” in the New Seasons Market floral program where she began as a floral manager in 2010, eventually assuming the head merchandising position in 2012.  Since that time she has nurtured the floral program to unprecedented growth levels adding dozens of local and California vendors in 2014.

Katie remains committed to cultivating relationships with local growers and promoting a sustainable, local floral program that supports small growers while continuing to supply the 13 New Seasons Markets with the very best that the floral industry has to offer.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly Sadowsky of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

When I visited Portland last month I scheduled an interview with Katie and I asked her predecessor at New Seasons, Molly Sadowsky, to join us.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral  selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Molly (left) and Katie (right), joined other American-grown advocates to discuss the future of domestic flower farming and floral selling at the CCFC gathering last fall in Portland.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Goodies at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Molly, the program manager at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, was the link who first introduced me to Katie. That’s when we all attended the California Cut Flower Commission’s field-to-vase dinner held in Portland last October where I was invited to speak.

At the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a cooperative of Northwest flower growers in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Molly oversees the selling of flowers to grocery customers and maintaining a year-round floral inventory.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Oregon-grown roses from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Washington-grown dahlias, from farmer to florist.

Molly is such a valuable asset at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. One reason is her background, having previously built and ran the floral program at New Seasons Market in Portland where she initiated a seasonal buying program that relied on product from 80 growers, including more than 50 in Oregon.

Molly embraced the buy-local philosophy as a restaurant owner in the early 2000s, when she forged relationships with local farmers to supply her vegetarian breakfast-and-lunch café. Molly lives in Portland with her husband, Dan, and their six-year-old Belgian Malinois, Leyna.

Thanks to listeners like you, this flower-powered podcast has been downloaded more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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.

This podcast was engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at hhcreates.net

 

Sunset Magazine’s Best of the West names Slowflowers.com as “Best Way to Buy Flowers”

August 20th, 2014

September_14_Sunset_BestofWest

 

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Pittsburgh’s Local & Seasonal Floral Designers – Jimmy Lohr & Jonathan Weber of greenSinner (Episode 155)

August 19th, 2014

Last week, this podcast came to you from Homer, Alaska.

This week, my travels brought me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Let’s just say I’m coping with a little jet lag, but summer is my busy season for lectures and photo shoots, so I’ve learned to enjoy my MVP Gold status on Alaska Airlines.

Green_Sinner_IMG_1067 But the other thing I have thoroughly enjoyed has been the chance to connect with great flower farmers and floral designers – coast to coast – who are part of the Slow Flowers movement. In the coming weeks you’ll hear from several of these awesome folks who I first “met” virtually, through social media and — more importantly — because they have joined Slowflowers.com.

Pittsburgh's Floral "Who's Who" -- from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Pittsburgh’s Floral “Who’s Who” — from left, Margie Dagnal and Kate Dagnal of Goose Creek Gardens, Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner.

Today you will meet two of them: Jimmy Lohr and Jonathan Weber, owners of greenSinner, an urban role model that promotes American-grown flowers in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood (by the way, Lawrenceville is now called “new Brooklyn” for hipster, indie, design-focused vibe).

Peek through the chain link fence - from the urban parking lot into greenSinner's cutting garden.

Peek through the chain link fence – from the urban parking lot into greenSinner’s cutting garden.

Jonathan and Jimmy state their beliefs up-front-and-center on the home page of their web site:

“greenSinner brings you local, sustainable cut flowers and plants. We love fresh flowers (don’t you?), but we don’t love that they come from Ecuador drenched in chemicals (yuck). We’re trying to make the world — our world and yours — a little greener and a little more beautiful. We grow flowers right here in western PA and source as many materials and plants as we can in a 500-mile radius. Not only is it better for the environment, but you also get fresher flowers and more local and unusual varieties. Beyond flowers, we focus on vintage or re-purposed containers and event decor and sustainable practices.”

The guys at greenSinner first caught my attention when they contributed to the Slowflowers.com campaign on Indiegogo earlier this year. Not knowing anything about their business, I looked them up and sent them a note of thanks.

A littleclassical detail in the "front garden" at greenSinner's studio.

A littleclassical detail in the “front garden” at greenSinner’s studio.

Only a few weeks after the campaign ended, I found myself in early March attending Holly Heider Chapple’s NYC Chapel Designers’ conference, where I was included in the speaker lineup. Of course, I was there to encourage her members to consider joining the American Grown flower movement, to refocus their wedding and event work to include seasonal and local flowers and to introduce these designers to the notion of working closely with flower farmers.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner's studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

Tidy and enchanting, the cutting garden is wedged between greenSinner’s studio and the adjacent city parking lot.

And there was Jimmy, a charming teddy bear of a guy, front and center, making me feel welcome. He wasn’t the only one who “got it,” but he was definitely the most enthusiastic. I learned that he and his partner Jonathan believe in designing weddings and events with locally grown flowers and plants and that they owned a postage-stamp-sized cutting garden behind their shop. We made plans for me to visit in August when I knew I’d be in Pittsburgh for the Garden Writers Association’s annual symposium.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what's growing within.

Pedestrians love to peer through the front fence to see what’s growing within.

In the ensuing months, not only did we stay in touch, but when I worked with Kasey Cronquist on the launch announcement of the Certified American Grown brand on July 1st, we invited Jimmy to speak on behalf of floral designers.

Jimmy picked me up at my hotel in downtown Pittsburgh early one morning and we drove a short distance to greenSinner’s studio. After a walking tour to see their backyard growing operation, their greenhouse and the small cutting garden they planted behind a neighboring studio where their stained-glass artist friend works, we sat down for a short podcast interview.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

A peek at the cutting garden behind the greenSinner studio.

Before we get started, let me introduce you to the two men you’ll hear next. This is straight from greenSinner’s web site:

Jimmy Lohr, Chief Eccentric Officer:

Jimmy, in a limerick:
There once was a boy from the sticks
Who grew up and left all the hicks.
He studied the arts
And big event parts
Then moved home to share all his tricks.

Jonathan Weber, Farmer-General
Jonathan, in a haiku:
Jonathan Weber
internet marketing dude
now he’s a farmer

These guys definitely express their values in everything they do as designers and business owners – and it was such a pleasure to spend time on their turf in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for joining this lively conversation. I’m grateful for listeners like you who have downloaded this flower-powered podcast more than 18,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Please join me in putting 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