Debra Prinzing

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Episode 313: Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems pursues a different floral path

September 6th, 2017

Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems, photographed at her Homer farm with her two daughters, Sadie and Linnea.

Welcome to the first week of September! Summer isn’t quite over but we’re all well aware of Fall’s pending arrival. As someone who manages to turn every trip into a working vacation, I’m excited to bring you my last interview recorded when I spent several days at the magnificent Scenic Place Peonies in Homer, Alaska, in late July.

Rachel, left, during a wedding design install, and a peek at her Homer Farmers’ Market stall (right)

Today’s guest, Rachel Lord of Alaska Stems, is one of the many volunteers who came alongside peony farmer (and my lovely host) Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies and floral designer Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore.

I first met Rachel in 2014 when I spent several beautiful days in Homer, principally as the keynote speaker for Homer Gardeners’ Weekend. Rachel donated flowers to be used in the design workshop I taught for the Homer Garden Club and she also invited me over for a tour of her flower farm.

Alaska Stems’ land overlooks the beautiful Kachemak Bay and all the Glaciers that create Homer’s exquisite views.

It turns out that Rachel is unlike most other flower growers in Homer. She has decided that while she loves growing peonies for her design work, there is an opportunity in the market to grow a diverse mix of everything else that a full-service floral designer needs — annuals, perennials, woody shrubs for foliages, herbs, bulbs and much, much, more.

Rachel shared her talents with Beth and Kelly and others involved in decorating Scenic Place Peonies for the Field to Vase Dinner held on July 29th. If you need any encouragement that you can grown beautiful, organic cut flowers and serve a marketplace that perhaps isn’t as large as you’d like it to be, then listen up. You’ll gain insights and inspiration from Rachel’s story.

Alaska Stems specalizes in early-spring tulips, which feed the floral hunger of the Homer marketplace – and beyond!

Left: Ben and Rachel, from my 2014 visit; Right: Zinnia production in the high tunnel from that summer.

Here’s a little more about Alaska Stems, excerpted from the web site.

Alaska Stems is a locally-owned flower farm and design studio located in Homer, Alaska. Rachel and her husband Ben Gibson grow over 40 varieties of cut flowers for sale at local markets and for use in Rachel’s natural and elegant designs for weddings and events. Their flowers can be seen at businesses around town, at the Homer Farmers’ Market, at weddings and special events, and always on our table – and we hope on yours as well!

An Alaska Stems bouquet, with peonies and lots of other gorgeous, truly local, elements. (c) Joshua Veldstra Photography

Rachel and Ben started selling flowers, vegetables, and herbs in 2011, after adding a large high tunnel to their garden. Their love of flowers was solidified that year when delivering the farm’s first bouquets. As they write: “There is no denying that fresh, local flowers light up not only a room, but the people in that room. This is soul food, and it is brilliant to witness and foster in our community! Since then, we have focused exclusively on growing flowers and floral design work.”

Alaska Stems is truly a small farm with less than a half-acre in production, three high tunnels and approximately 6,000 square feet of outside raised beds. The gardens support the Lord-Gibson family, as well as their flowers, and it’s not unusual to find veggies in Rachel’s floral arrangements! The couple believes strongly in local food and flowers, sustainable growing practices that nurture plants and soil for the long term, and connecting with the community to promote and encourage these things.

When Rachel isn’t working at Stems, she can be found filling in at Cook Inletkeeper – a regional non-profit organization that works to protect the Cook Inlet and the life it sustains, valuing clean water and healthy salmon for everyone. Rachel also sits on the Board of Directors for the Homer Farmers Market.

Ben and his family own and operate Small Potatoes – a local sawmill that produces rough cut lumber and beautiful tongue and groove boards. He sawmills, carpenters, advises, and generally is a (fairly reluctant) man-about-town.

Eldest daughter Sadie arrived in August 2013, and her sister Linnea came on the scene in November 2015. Farming with two little ones is an exercise in patience, joy, love and commitment.

One more look at the farm, the high tunnels — and that VIEW!!!

From the archives: My 2014 visit to Alaska Stems where Rachel Lord and Ben Gibson grow flowers, veggies, children and community.

Please enjoy this conversation and here’s how to find Alaska Stems at the farm’s social places:

Find Alaska Stems on Facebook

Follow Alaska Stems on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 230,000 times by listeners like you. The month of August was our second highest ever in the history of the Slow Flowers Podcast for listener downloads with 11,470, just 48 downloads shy of March 2017, our highest month to date. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Wingspan; 
Inessential
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 312: Growing a Start-Up Floral Business with Melanie Harrington of Ontario’s Dahlia May Flower Farm

August 30th, 2017

Today’s guest: Melanie Harrington of Dahlia May Flower Farm, based in Trenton, Ontario, Canada. This portrait of Melanie and all photography featured (c) Ashley Slessor Photography

At the very beginning of this month, after spending several days in Buffalo at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium, I picked up a rental car and drove to Ontario, crossing the vast Niagara River on the beautiful Peace Bridge.

My destination was the Niagara region where the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ regional meeting was taking place on a number of flower farms in the area.

It was well worth the extra travel and time, because the wonderful community of flower farmers and farmer-florists there put together a fantastic series of farm tours, presentations and floral demos, giving us an in-depth understanding of the vibrant local floral scene there.

Of course, I had my digital recorder along with me on the trip. A few weeks ago, you heard my bonus interview with Gillian Hodgson of Flowers from the Farm, our UK kindred spirit, who shared her update on the British Grown flowers scene.

There were others to interview, including today’s fabulous guest. I briefly met Melanie Harrington of Dahlia May Flower Farm in person last November at the ASCFG annual meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but had never really spent the time with her that I wanted. She agreed to break away from the schedule so we could sit down in a field, under a tree, in order to share her story.

Here’s a little more about Melanie and her farm. Founded in 2014, Dahlia May Flower Farm is a small family operation specializing in growing romantic and fragrant, often heirloom, varieties of flowers. Nestled in the beautiful rolling Murray Hills of southeastern Ontario, Dahlia May supplies fresh seasonal cut flowers and distinctive bouquets to farmers’ markets in the greater Quinte area, and also offers both rustic and elegant floral design services, inspired by nature and changing with the seasons.

A native of the Quinte area and a lover of nature, Melanie brings to her work a background in art and horticulture as well as a passion for growing beautiful flowers. Melanie completed studies in horticulture and floral design at Loyalist College, and has taken a course in flower farming and design with Erin Benzakein of Floret.

Melanie wrote a personal essay on her web site, as well. You’ll want to read the entire piece here. But to give you a small glimpse of this amazing young woman, I’ll share this small excerpt, in her words:

Years ago my parents farmed the very land I now cultivate. Their first wish was to grow their own food; before long they were supplying our local farmers’ market with fresh produce. Between rows of tomatoes and beans were the inevitable patches of cut flowers, my fathers favourites and my personal joy. Already as a young child, I helped my father plant the seeds. There were bold sunflowers which would tower over me. Vibrant zinnias to surround me with colour. Cheerful asters…. Together we nurtured them and watched them grow. Later we worked side by side to pick them. I remember standing on a milk crate arranging this colourful harvest in tins cans lined up on the tailgate of our truck. I was hooked. . . 

When my father passed away in 2012, my husband and I returned to the family farm. With my perennial awareness of how short life can be, I left my job as a floral designer to rediscover what flowers truly meant to me. I didn’t know where this path would lead me; I was, however, certain that the best way to honour my father’s memory was to find my true passion and live it.

 This journey, full of bumps and hurdles and unexpected turns, culminated in the founding of Dahlia May Flower Farm. I am back where it all began, farming lush and romantic cut flowers on our beautiful homestead, working out of our 1885 farmhouse. Many of these blooms are sold at the same Quinte West farmers’ market where my parents sold their garden bounty all those years ago. Others may be found at farm markets and speciality stores throughout the area. 

We strive to grow high quality, long-lasting, and distinctive blooms. Our flowers connect people, create memories, and bring joy. As one of my customers shared with me: “Flowers make my heart happy, it’s as simple as that.” At Dahlia May Flower Farm we are committed to cultivating happy hearts, and making the world more beautiful.

Melanie and her new Farm Stand where customers can shop for locally grown flowers several days each week during the high season

Please enjoy this highly personal conversation with Melanie and be sure to check out the photos she’s shared – of her flowers and farm and her charming farm stand. And, if you haven’t yet discovered Dahlia May Flower Farm on social media, here’s how to follow along:

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Instagram

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Facebook

Dahlia May Flower Farm on Pinterest

Thanks again for joining me today. My take-way from this conversation with Melanie is to have a clear vision of what you do best, while also being open and experimental when new doors open. Hard work and long hours are a given, yet Melanie still takes time to revel in the awe-inspiring presence of nature that surrounds her natural world day in and day out. And she is willing to be vulnerable as a way to keep it all real and honest, despite the allure of social media and its promise of fame and fortune for those who chase those things.

I learned volumes from Melanie during her presentation at the ASCFG meeting earlier this month. In her presentation: “Make Your Social Media Accounts Bloom!” she offered a simple tip about the “grid” of the 9 most recent images that appear in your feed. ALWAYS post a self-portrait or an image of you on your farm, or in your studio, or engaging with flowers in that 9-square-grid. It’s a reminder to followers that there is a human flower lover behind the stats and metrics. Love this tip!

On her instagram bio for Dahlia May Flower Farm, she includes this: Flower farmer. Florist. Forager. Lover of dirty hands. Finder of magic in nature. Practicing graditude.

Those are terms that many of us embrace. So I know you share my appreciation for Melanie’s story. Thanks for listening.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 227,500 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.

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

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

Simple Melody; Turning on the Lights
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Got Rocks? Here’s a savvy design solution for all those nuggets you’re digging up

August 29th, 2017

Love this tall console-style table made from hog fencing, rocks and a stone top — Design by Greg Graves and Gary Waller of Old Goat Farm.

If your garden is like ours, well, rocks are in abundance.

Our six-month-old garden occupies the 20-foot-by-60-foot backyard of a suburban home completed just months ago, right before we moved in on February 11th.

By the time we started working on the garden, no surprise! We realized what everyone who moves into a new-construction house learns. Landscaping crews simply move a lot of dirt and rocks around (usually destroying topsoil in the process). Then, they push any excess mixture of native soil, debris, the random screw or nail, and rocks up against the perimeter of one’s “new” yard and toss some bark dust on top. Not exactly “prepared soil,” right?

Rocks of all shapes and sizes have been piling up. We’ve had to muscle them out of newly dug planting holes for shrubs, perennials and trees. Said rocks range in size from a pingpong or tennis ball to something the size of a large dinosaur egg.

Case in point:

Yes, this is from the ground in our backyard. It was definitely a “two-person” rock, as they say.

Clearly, the rocks are winning. And it’s not like you can toss them into the compost bin and let the city deal with the mess.

Right now, along the side of our house next to the foundation, a long row of rocks is on display. There are mostly 6- to 12-inch diameter nuggets; some are surprisingly smooth; others more shard-like. I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I returned to Old Goat Farm this past weekend. And I was reminded that it’s possible to turn unwanted rocks into very-much-wanted garden furniture and art.

Old Goat Farm is owned my my friends Greg Graves and Gary Waller. Old Goat Farm is out in the country, as one might expect, in the town of Graham, about 45 minutes south of where we live in Des Moines. It is a combination display garden, specialty nursery and animal sanctuary, all of which surround a charming Victorian farmhouse where Gary serves his famous holiday teas (there’s usually a waiting list, so check it out ASAP if you’re interested). I have written about Old Goat Farm’s holiday teas a few times, and you can read those posts here from 2010 and 2012.

Both men say they themselves are “old goats,” but the only reason you would believe that is their combined gardening and horticulture wisdom. Together, Greg and Gary know more than many of us will ever learn in one lifetime, not to mention two. Old Goat Farm is always open to the public the second weekend of the month, April through October. You can learn more about other special sales and events by checking out the Facebook page here.

Bruce and I spent a lovely evening last weekend at Old Goat Farm, where the guys hosted their first ever farm-to-table dinner in the garden. The food was out of this world – all vegetarian, of course – and presented in such a visually appealing manner by local chef Meghan Brannon of Conceptual Catering.

Between courses, we were encouraged to stroll the display gardens, and they are magnificent. I hadn’t been to Old Goat during the summer months for several years, and so I’d missed how much these borders, paths, islands and vignettes have matured over the dozen-plus years that Gary and Greg have tended to this land.

With rocks (and what to do with them) on my mind, what jumped out at me during this visit was how masterfully the guys handle their rock containment. Let’s review a few of these special pieces:

Twin gabion towers that serve as pedestals for beautiful urns to mark the entry into Linda’s Garden, a special destination honoring our late friend Linda Plato.

A small garden bench (right) and a square side table (left). Both utilize stone slabs for the “top.”

Another view of the fantastic gabion fern table. This is a stunner!

A detail of the planted surface of the table.

Another beautiful view.

You’ll want to read Greg’s blog post  from a few years’ back, in which he discusses his wire-cage designs and his personal relationship with the rocks in his garden. I found it inspiring!

Simply defying gravity, Greg and Gary make stone-filled metal orbs, too.

What a lovely way to punctuate a turn in the pathway.

 

Episode 311: The Bloom Project’s Heidi Berkman and the healing influence of flowers

August 23rd, 2017

Through flower donations from farms and wholesalers, and through tens of thousands of volunteer hours, The Bloom Project brings flowers into the lives of people in hospice and end-of-life care.

The phrase “flowers feed the soul” is one you often hear, on greeting cards, on hand-painted signs, in all sorts of sentiments.

And in the opinion of today’s guest, flowers not only feed the soul and spirit, they play an important nurturing role in health care. My guest today, Heidi Berkman, is the founder and president of The Bloom Project. Based in Portland, Oregon, The Bloom Project has been giving the gift of fresh floral bouquets to hospice and palliative care patients since 2007. 

I’m posing with Heidi Berkman (left), who runs The Bloom Project, driven by the mission to harness the healing power of flowers. We gathered earlier this week for a  “Seattle Whirlwind” auction package to which Slow Flowers donated a workshop at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Heidi reached out to me to introduce herself several years ago, and then, through our mutual friend Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers, I really got to spend time with Heidi, both talking about the floral business, but also doing fun things like when all three of us traveled to Detroit last October at Lisa Waud’s invitation to speak at Detroit Flower Week.

Volunteers make hundreds of bouquets each week for delivery to hospice caregivers. (c) Byron Roe Photography

The first time Heidi and I actually met in person was April of 2016, when I was in Portland to speak at the Portland Garden Club’s annual flower show. Heidi put together a tour and reception for me to learn more about The Bloom Project, and to meet key board members and volunteers, as well as to see the beautiful workshop and studio headquartered at Teufel Holly Farm, just west of Portland. Donated by Larry Teufel, flower farmer and nurseryman, the space is akin to what you’d see at any large production facility, with tall work tables, great light, and plenty of cooler space for the flowers. Pretty impressive to see where The Bloom Project’s volunteers receive and processes donated stems of flowers and foliage, as well as where the gift bouquets are created, packaged and prepared for delivery to the ultimate recipient.

Heidi and I have been talking about when would be an ideal time to feature The Bloom Project on the Slow Flowers Podcast and with our mutual travel schedules, we waited until now. This week, I’ll be hosting a fun event as a Slow Flowers donation to The Bloom Project. At the annual Bouquets of the Heart auction that benefits the organization, I joined Larry Teufel in donating a “Seattle Whirlwind” day-of-flowers package for five guests.

Larry Teufel (left, with me) flew the auction package winners and their guests to Seattle (from Portland), on his beautifully-restored classic aircraft.

This week, Larry, who pilots his own plane, flew the winning bidder and a few of her friends to Seattle . . . I hosted them on a tour of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, which gave me a chance to talk about the mission of Slow Flowers and the importance of supporting local, seasonal and sustainable flowers, and the people who grow and design with them.

Debbi, Susan, Debra (me), Leianne and Susan — showing off our bouquets in Seattle as part of the auction package benefitting The Bloom Project.

We had a short design session and everyone left holding a bouquet with a story. I think that story — the story of showing compassion through flowers — is what The Bloom Project is all about — and Heidi is a powerful communicator for her cause and mission.

Before we get started, let me tell you a little more about The Bloom Project.

The project started in Heidi’s Central Oregon garage, beginning with a few flowers and a few volunteers who wanted to create something special — bringing beauty and joy to those in end-of-life care. Many, including Heidi, had experienced the loss of a loved one in hospice care, and recognized that they could make use of resources (flowers) that would otherwise be tossed out.

Photos (c) Byron Roe Photography

Over the last decade, The Bloom Project has continued to grow and support hospice and palliative care agencies across the state of Oregon, with the Portland Metro area as its base. Volunteer teams have flourished, supporting the organization’s goal of serving additional patients and families.

Donated workspaces, supplies and equipment, provide a wonderful place for volunteers to come together to create hundreds of beautiful bouquets each week. The Bloom Project relies on a committed group of floral and community partners who support its efforts and mission.

Heidi has twenty-five years of meeting and event planning experience with a strong background in retail marketing and extensive nonprofit experience. Her deep appreciation for the work of hospice comes from the personal experience of watching a loved one being cared for.

She has always enjoyed working with flowers and says she is grateful to be able to create bouquets with donated flowers that can provide encouragement to others instead of being discarded. Heidi’s passion for The Bloom Project has motivated her to share the story and spread the word about the power of flowers.

The Bloom Project’s Bouqets of the Heart event takes place on October 27, 2018, in Portland.

Her vision for the organization is to continue to network people and resources in communities where hospice and palliative care organizations are serving patients and their families during end-of-life care. This simple act of kindness can be given by gathering a team of committed volunteers, sourcing flowers and supplies, establishing a workspace and obtaining the support of the surrounding community to provide in-kind products and services along with financial contributions to support the growth and impact of the organization.

Details on The Bloom Project’s Bouquets of the Heart event, October 27th, in Portland. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Thanks again for joining me today. My take-way from this conversation with Heidi is that we shouldn’t ever discount the impact that flowers have in the lives of our community, team members, customers, and clients. These are more than luxury goods, more than perishable indulgences. A flower contains the expression of life and beauty — and can touch the heart and the senses where words may not be adequate.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 225,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors:

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits:

LaBranche
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
 
Wholesome 5
by Dave Depper
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Dave_Depper/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/
ecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 310: Gill Hodgson and Flowers From the Farm — an update on the British-Grown Floral Community

August 16th, 2017

I’m smiling along with today’s guest, Gill Hodgson (L) of Fieldhouse Flowers and Flowers from the Farm, a UK-based association of flower farmers and florists who promote British-grown botanicals.

Flowers from the Farm, the UK’s nationwide network of cut flower growers

In 2014, when this podcast was in its first year of existence, I met Gillian Hodgson “virtually,” as is the case for so many of us who value the positive attributes of social media.

On February 18, 2014, appearing on what was only the 30th episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast, I introduced you to Gillian and called her the Mother of the British Flowers movement.

A Yorkshore-based flower farmer and owner of  Fieldhouse Flowers, Gill founded Flowers from the Farm in in 2011.

The not-for-profit network run and administered solely by volunteers has grown to more than 500 members.

Most members are sole traders running small or micro businesses: farmers, smallholders and gardeners, who are using their knowledge of horticulture and floristry to grow and present a different range of flowers from those available in the supermarkets and the wholesale markets.

From Cornwall up to Scotland, and every region in between, these artisan flower farmers are growing old favourites: Sweet Peas, Bells of Ireland, Dahlias and Aquilegia, as well as trying out lots of new varieties.

Flowers from The Farm’s members grow for wholesale, sell to retail and event florists, as well as to the public at farmers’ markets and craft fairs. Some have farm gate sales or have teamed up with local shops to sell their bunches and bouquets.  There are also have online retail florists, and utterly brilliant wedding and event florists among the membership. Sound familiar? It’s a lot like Slowflowers.com, of course.

Love the beautiful new website for Flowers from the Farm (and PS, this image shown was one that Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement and several other Yorkshire members created for the 2015 British Flowers Week campaign)

Flowers from the Farm’s map of flower farmers and florists in the UK!

On the beautiful, new, 2.0 version of Flowers From the Farm’s website, relaunched recently, we learn this: Although the majority of British flowers are sold during the summer months, flowers can be grown in Britain all year round.  Scented Narcissi start to come out of Cornwall and the Scillies in October; tulips from Lincolnshire are in the shops for Christmas. Many members are skilled at forming gorgeous winter foliage, scented shrubs and the winter flowers into amazing displays during the shortest days.

Flowers from the Farm brings together all these growers and florists and provides local meetings and events, encouraging members to come together to build displays at all the big flower shows, holding workshops to improve members’ skills and – equally importantly – provide the place where you’ll make friends with like-minded people who will become your new work colleagues. Again, sounds a lot like our Slow Flowers community, right?

It was lovely to meet Gill Hodgson face-to-face after our long-distance friendship! She is as committed to putting British flowers on the map as I am about doing the same with American grown flowers.

Just over a year after Gill and I recorded our long-distance Podcast interview via Skype, I met her in person! Along with many other Flowers from the Farm colleagues, farmers and florists in the Yorkshire region, we gathered at a very special high tea hedl at RHS Harlow Carr, a beautiful botanical garden.

On that same trip, I met and interviewed Helen Evans of London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market who encouraged me to emulate British Flowers Week and launch American Flowers Week. I also met Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement, who hosted me in Hebden Bridge, a village in Yorkshire, and showed me (and my mother, Anita) the most magnificent, unforgettable time.

Here are links to those conversations, captured for past episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast:

Learn About British Flowers Week with Helen Evans of London’s New Covent Garden Flower Market (Episode 197)

A Perfect Recipe: Floral Design Workshops and Delicious Local Food, with Sarah Statham of UK’s Simply by Arrangement (Episode 198)

Why am I going on and on about these wonderful British friends and their homegrown flowers?

Well, today, I have a lovely update for you — a new conversation with Gill Hodgson. To my complete surprise, and delight, I reunited with Gill in person last week at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ regional meeting in Ontario, Canada.

I attended the fabulous and well-attended 2-day conference, hosted by many ASCFG Canadian members, after spending a few days at the Garden Writers Association symposium in Buffalo, NY. Once I realized that I could add a few days to my travels and spend time with ASCFG members, many of whom are involved in the Slow Flowers Community, I jumped at the chance.

And there, walking alongside me during a tour at Green Park Nurseries was my friend, Gill! On a whim, she decided to fly over to Canada to attend the conference and have a fun vacation with her husband.

Of course, with my digital recorder in my backpack, Gill had little choice but to sit down with me for a 30-minute interview. I asked her to update the Slow Flowers Community on news about the British-grown flower community and you’ll love hearing about what’s happening in a very dynamic hub for local, British-grown flowers ~seasonal, local and sustainable, much like the Slow Flowers narrative.

Here’s how you can follow Flowers from the Farm:

Flowers from the Farm on Facebook

Flowers from the Farm on Instagram

Flowers from the Farm on Twitter

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 222,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.
Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Our music today:

Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
by Shake That Little Foot
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Shake_That_Little_Foot/Shake_That_Little_Foot/
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Additional music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 309: Meet Michelle LaFriniere of Chilly Root Peonies of Homer, Alaska

August 9th, 2017

Chilly Root Peonies in Homer, Alaska

There are hundreds of small farms growing hundreds of thousands of stems of beautiful, romantic peonies across the state of Alaska and I suspect that each farmer is as unique and passionate as the next. As you may remember from last week’s episode featuring Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore, I spent last weekend in Homer, Alaska, one of three major hubs for peonies in the state.

While there, I was delighted to reunite with today’s guest, Michelle LaFriniere of Chilly Root Peony Farm. She and her husband Michael Poole are early adopters who have been growing peonies as cut flowers since planting their first roots in 2009. Their focus wildly beautiful blooms are produced naturally and sustainably, with no chemicals.

Michelle LaFriniere and Michael Poole recently hosted peony fans on the Alaska Peony Marketing Group’s farm tour.

I met Michelle and Michael on my first trip to Alaska in 2012. Then, I was lured to the 49th state because of its emerging peony agriculture and I had to see what was happening with my own eyes.

At the time, just five years ago, people didn’t really use the words Peonies and Alaska in the same sentence, but I think that’s changing, if the floral industry has anything to say about it.

There are acres and acres of peony fields, flourishing in June and July as far north as Fairbanks (Latitude 64). Further south, peonies bloom in Homer until August and even early September. The cool thing about this chilly state is that an intrepid group of farmers has made a cut flower industry possible. With an entrepreneurial spirit, access to land and a serious can-do approach to farming in Alaska, they seized the opportunity and created a market for their lovely crops at the exact same time when a huge percentage of weddings takes place in the Lower 48.

It’s a sweet spot flower farmers dream of finding. After learning about Alaska’s emerging peony scene in 2011, I set my sights on a first-person trip. In late July 2012, I spent one week there, logging more than 1,500 miles on Alaska’s highways and byways (and a few dirt roads to nowhere!), visiting 15 peony farms and meeting with dozens of wonderful people behind the blooms. I came home totally enthralled with the hardworking character of flower farmers everywhere, especially in Alaska where no one expects you to grow anything except those oversize cabbages that win blue ribbons at the state fair.

Michelle and I enjoyed time together in late July when I attended the Field to Vase Dinner as a guest of Scenic Place Peonies, where this photograph was taken.

Here’s why it’s so exciting:

Peonies are one of the top bridal flowers in the country, according to many industry sources. Yet in the lower 48 states peonies peak in late May and early June. If you are a bride yearning to hold a bodacious bouquet of peonies on your special day in July, August or September. . . you are simply out of luck. The next chance for peonies comes in the fall, around October, when they bloom on Australia and New Zealand flower farms – and those have to be shipped to you at outrageous expense and a serious carbon foot print.

Luscious peonies from Chilly Root Peony Farm

So, when the folks in Alaska, inspired by the research of professor Pat Holloway, now retired from the department of high altitude agriculture at U of A/Fairbanks and the Georgeson Botanic Garden, discovered they how easy it was to grow peonies and harvest them in July and August, well, a brand-new seasonal flower crop emerged on the scene. The marketplace has responded with a voracious appetite for the pale pink, coral, cream, wine and hot pink blooms. Brides and their floral designers are jumping for joy – and Alaska has its first agricultural export crop. Not fish. Not oil. But PEONIES!

This micro-flower story has taken place in less than a decade, gradually at first, as a few folks planted a few hundred peonies on an acre or two. Then, armed with Pat’s research and information gleaned from her workshops on growing and harvesting, more joined the peony revolution. Like many perennials, peonies take at least three years to become productive, so it has only been in the last five years that significant quantities of blooms have been cut and shipped out of state.

If you are wondering “what’s so special?” about these flowers, I can only tell you that there’s some kind of magical fairy dust in the soil, air, sunlight and altitude of Alaska that adds up to fields of robust, healthy and vivid flowers. Some have stems like you’ve never seen before – 30-inches and longer. The foliage is healthy and true green; the petal colors are intense and vivid when you want them to be and subtly quiet when that’s preferred (in other words, better than the catalog photos!). These plants are extraordinarily responsive to the 20-plus-hours-of-sunshine in the land of the midnight sun – and the sunlight seems to be that secret ingredient for the flowers’ success.

Michelle and Michael are two of the state’s veteran growers. Their farm, Chilly Root, is a family-owned enterprise located on the Kenai Peninsula overlooking stunning Kachemak Bay. Established in 2009 on their rural home site, Chilly Root is a compliment to the couple’s 30-plus-year ongoing commercial fishing business.

The farm is among the latest to produce peony blooms in the state – and that’s a good thing. Chilly Root’s flowers thrive at an elevation of 1,495 feet, which delays their harvest date and extends the peony shipping season for florists and their clients wanting the flowers for late summer or early fall weddings.

Michelle and Michael grow more than 30 different varieties of herbaceous peonies. As they say on their web site: “From root to bouquet, we tend our flowers with pure passion. We bring organic, sustainable and natural beauty to the market and hope to leave the Earth better than we found it.”

A dreamy sea of peonies at Chilly Root Peony Farm

You can follow Chilly Root Peony Farm at all these social media places:

Chilly Root Peonies on Facebook

Chilly Root Peonies on Instagram

Chilly Root Peonies on Pinterest

Thanks again for joining me today and getting in on the peony craze!

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 219,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to family of sponsors

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at johnnysseeds.com.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org.

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at KineticTreeFitness.com.

Music Credits: