Debra Prinzing

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Episode 339: Designer & Educator Hitomi Gilliam and her generous floral universe

March 7th, 2018

Hitomi in her element, while sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm about floral artistry. (c) Colin Gilliam

A signature Hitomi piece (c) Colin Gilliam

I first met Hitomi Gilliam in 2012 when I visited a downtown Vancouver, B.C. floral exhibition called NEOFlora.

As I wrote at the time: I stumbled across the NEOflora badge on Facebook when I noticed that the very talented Arthur Williams, a Denver floral designer and owner of Babylon Floral who is profiled in The 50 Mile Bouquet, posted a comment that he was going to attend and contribute one-of-a-kind designs at the event.

A little digging led me along a trail of links, where I discovered the news that NEOflora was taking place over a seven-day period at the end of October 2012. And as it turned out, I was heading north to Vancouver for a few days with a girlfriend and we made sure to check it out. Here’s a link to the blog post about my visit.

The idea of a group of floral artists coming together to create a pop up flower shop on one of the city’s busiest shopping streets sparked my imagination. What a refreshing way to promote flowers as MORE than a commodity you find at the mass-market retailer or supermarket.

According to Hitomi, “NEOflora was a collaborative association of forward-thinking florists who wanted to appeal to the new consumer who may not be accustomed to buying flowers.”

That’s where I met Hitomi and she agreed to let me shoot a video interview, which you can watch below:

Most of the flowers used for NEOflora, including those featured on the runway, were donated by several members of the United Flower Growers Cooperative, the major wholesale flower auction house based in Vancouver.

When I asked Hitomi about the event’s emphasis on locally-grown flowers, she pointed out that about 90-percent of the flowers used in NEOflora’s pop-up up project were BC-grown. She underscored this point:

“that’s what the consumer is looking for – local & organic”

Recently, a few of my flower friends began pursuing the European Masters Certification, a program launched six years ago by Hitomi and Thomas De Bruyne — and I began to hear more about that exciting professional distinction and the lovely creative connections being made.

Tobey Nelson (left) posted this fun photo of our visit to meet Hitomi at United Floral in Vancouver, B.C. From left: Tobey Nelson, Debra Prinzing, Hitomi Gilliam, and two of Hitomi’s frequent assistants, designers Susanne Law and Brenna Quan

EMC student Tobey Nelson of Tobey Nelson Events and Design, last week’s podcast guest, invited me to travel from Seattle to Vancouver at the end of February to spend a day with Hitomi. Tobey had a notion that Hitomi and I could together bridge our two worlds — and in retrospect, I think she was quite prescient, because by the end of our time together in Vancouver our collective heads were spinning with ideas.

Since I first met Hitomi in 2012, I’ve followed her activities through Facebook and watched all that she’s doing to elevate and professionalize the art of floristry. But other than saying hello last summer when she co-presented with Arthur Williams at the AIFD Symposium in Seattle, I hadn’t be able to spend any time with her.

Hitomi teaching the Creative Design Master Class at United Floral’s new education center. (c) Colin Gilliam

A thoroughly seasonal bouquet by Hitomi (c) Colin Gilliam Note the uncommon ingredients!

Our road trip offered a rare chance to take a 48-hour work-cation totally devoted to flowers and our mutual passion for flower growing and designing. And it was also rare that Hitomi was home in British Columbia, where she lives on beautiful Bowen Island, and where her many educational projects are based as part of Design 358, an event and education business she co-owns with Colin Gilliam, her talented son.

We met up with Hitomi at the new education center that’s inside the United Floral building in an industrial area of Vancouver. The giant complex is also home to the famed Dutch-style flower auction, a cooperative of BC floriculture growers who operate as United Flower Growers.

East-meets-West, expressed in Hitomi’s unique, architectural floral art (c) Colin Gilliam

Hitomi was setting up for a three-day Creative Design Master Class that attracted students from all around North America eager to study mechanics, techniques and floristry in a small-group setting. With Tobey’s help, Hitomi was getting things ready, and I managed to grab about 30 minutes of an audio conversation to introduce you to Hitomi. While she is a luminary in the world of floral design, Hitomi is deeply rooted in horticulture and she works closely with growers and flower farmers, which I believe greatly influences her art and her platform.

More amazing work by Hitomi (c) Colin Gilliam

Listen closely to details about the upcoming series of Hitomi’s educational events taking place in a few weeks as part of her partnership with United Floral. I’ll have all the details and links at today’s show notes at debraprinzing.com — and who knows? You might have time to take a trip to Vancouver to participate or observe the PNW Design Competition on March 17th, a qualifier event for the 2018 Gateway to the America’s Cup, with one U.S. and one Canadian winner selected. And stick around for “In The Making,” an inspirational series of wedding design workshops and a Project Runway-style bridal trends show, March 18-20, also hosted by Hitomi and United Floral.

Teacher, mentor, floral industry leader Hitomi Gilliam (c) Colin Gilliam

Before we get started, here’s a little more about Hitomi, according to her bio:

Hitomi says her biggest pleasure in life is ‘SHARING EVERYTHING I KNOW’!

Hitomi Gilliam AIFD is a Japanese Canadian floral artist, keynote lecturer, demonstrator, educator and a consultant in all aspects of the Art and Business of Floral Design. She is the Creative Director for DESIGN358 (2008). She has guest-designed extensively throughout North America, England, Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, Bermuda, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Belgium, Korea and India.

Grasses and calla lilies, reinterpreted by Hitomi (c) Colin Gilliam

She owned and operated Satsuki’s Florist in Mission, British Columbia for 28 years. She currently works with her son, Colin Gilliam in an Event & Education business, DESIGN358 which was established 8 years ago.

Hitomi has lectured at Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Chicago Botanical Gardens, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens (Nashville), Museum of Fine Art Boston, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bouquets to Art (San Francisco), Houston Museum of Fine Art, New Orleans Museum of Fine Art, Cleveland Botanical Gardens, Honolulu Academy of Art, Everson Museum of Art (Syracuse), The Walters Art Museum (Baltimore), Longwood Gardens, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (Richmond,VA), Detroit Institute of Arts, Vero Beach Museum of Fine Arts, The Strong Museum (Rochester, NY), North Carolina Museum of Art (Raleigh, NC) and Columbus Museum of Fine Art. She has also presented at the Philadelphia Flower Show, Newport Flower Show and Singapore Garden Festival. Hitomi is the founding organizer of the Annual ‘Survival of the Creative Minds’ Conference in Taos, New Mexicol

Two more beautiful botanical pieces by Hitomi Gilliam (c) Colin Gilliam

Follow Hitomi at these social places:

Find Hitomi on Facebook

Watch Hitomi’s YouTube Channel

Follow Hitomi on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 290,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much.

If you haven’t received the March issue of our Slow Flowers Newsletter, you can find a link here. In this edition, you’ll find interviews with all the presenters at the upcoming Slow Flowers Summit on Friday, June 29th in Washington, D.C.

And you’ll learn about Slow Flowers in the News, the Slow Flowers Podcast archive for last month, the upcoming Slow Flowers events that you can attend, and more. Be sure to follow the Subscribe link if the newsletter isn’t currently landing in your in-box.

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the right column of our home page.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the Slowflowers.com online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

They are:

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2018, Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

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 passionate family farms in the heart of Alaska providing bigger, better 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 longfield-gardens.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 soundbodymovement.com.

Episode 338: The Making of the Whidbey Flower Workshop with Tobey Nelson

February 28th, 2018

Tobey Nelson poses in a botanical floral throne of her design (c) Suzanne Rothmeyer Photography

Last spring, today’s guest invited me to be the opening speaker for her first floral design workshop — and while I’ve attended many and even taught a few floral classes, there was truly something special about the Whidbey Flower Workshop dreamed up and produced by floral and event designer Tobey Nelson.

Sometimes there is uncanny magic that takes place when everything and everyone comes together in a spirit of creativity and desire for personal growth; when all the participants are emotionally open to learning from one another and sharing as much as they receive.

That was the vibe last spring when Tobey’s first Whidbey Floral Workshop hosted instructors Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events, designer and floral/event stylist Kaleb Willis of Kaleb Norman James and me.

Whidbey Flower Workshop 2017 Instructors: Debra Prinzing, Tobey Nelson, Susan McLeary, Kaleb Norman James

Last year’s Slow Flowers Creative Writing exercises involved pens and pencils, flowers and vases — and wonderful prose written by participants as they discovered their personal voices and floral language

My role was a small one – I started out the 3-day retreat-style workshop with a short course on writing, memoir and storytelling. During those two short hours, I was blown away by the personal narratives that this floral tribe wrote and read to one another. I returned to Whidbey Island a few days later to join the workshop’s final dinner, cementing newfound relationships that continue today.

We all made amazing, inspiring and deeply personal connections while also learning from great instructors, designing with local and seasonal flowers and celebrating each participant’s unique gifts and talents. There was something pretty incredible that happened, a harmonic convergence, I guess.

Whidbey Island Workshop 2017 (c) Sullivan & Sullivan

Opening spread from August 2017 “Slow Flowers Journal” in Florists’ Review, featuring the Whidbey Flower Workshop.

And since last March, I’ve visited a few of the students and interviewed many of them for articles and this podcast. Later, with beautiful photography captured by Sullivan & Sullivan, I was able to write about the Whidbey Flower Workshop for the inaugural print issue of the Slow Flowers Journal, which debuted in August 2017 in Florists’ Review. You can read that story here: SFJ_WHIDBEY FLOWER WORKSHOP

Tobey Nelson, floral designer and event producer — the creative force behind the Whidbey Flower Workshop (c) Sullivan and Sullivan

After something epic like Tobey’s 2017 workshop, it’s easy to think: Can this be replicated? And is it even worth trying — because any of us who have staged multi-day events for large groups knows what a workout that can be.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Whidbey Flower Workshop 2.0 is indeed taking place.

Set for April 22-24, yes, on Whidbey Island north of Seattle, the gathering features some of the same elements as last year’s, including instruction by Susan McLeary, Tobey Nelson and me, but there’s a new venue, and floral artist Joseph Massie is joining the workshop to bring his inventive talents all the way from the UK.

Tobey has invited Susan to lead the creation of large scale floral wearables – think headpieces, floral tattoos, and more.

And she’s asked Joseph to guide participants through all the layers of designing and engineering large-scale, foam-free floral installations.

Instruction by Susan McLeary will help you reach new highs and elevate your designs (c) Sullivan & Sullivan

Site-specific floral installation by Joseph Massie for Lisa Waud’s 2016 Detroit Flower Week (c) Heather Saunders

The workshop will also feature the photography talents of Heather Saunders, who many of you remember as the visual artist who captured Flower House in 2015. I can’t wait to reunite with her! Listen to my podcast interview with Heather on the publication of Flower House, the book.

Last weekend, Tobey and I took a little road trip of our own to Vancouver, B.C. — more on that later — and so, full disclosure, I sprung this interview on her. I figured, hey, we’re in the car together for 2-plus hours and what better place and time to talk about the anatomy of a successful workshop? Tobey’s insights might just inspire you to join us on Whidbey Island and experience a creative work-cation where you will be refreshed and reenergized by the beautiful, rugged Pacific Northwest, as well as stretch your professional muscles in ways that might surprise you.

Here’s more about Tobey Nelson:

A recent botanical headpiece by floral artist Tobey Nelson (c) Suzanne Rothmeyer

Follow Tobey on Instagram

Check out Tobey’s Pinterest Page

Listen to Slow Flowers Podcast Episode 223: Field trip to Whidbey Island

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 287,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much.

Please take a moment and visit our new web site for the upcoming Slow Flowers Summit, which takes place Friday, June 29th in Washington, D.C. We’re already selling tickets, lining up sponsors and special guests — and you won’t want to miss out on what one of our past speakers called a “floral mind meld.”

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column at right.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the Slowflowers.com online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

Florists’ Review magazine: I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

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 passionate family farms in the heart of Alaska providing bigger, better 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 longfield-gardens.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 soundbodymovement.com.

Music Credits:
The Wooden Platform; Yarrow and Root
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
In The Field
Music from:

audionautix.com

Episode 337: Fortunate Orchard’s Hannah Morgan, printmaker to floral artist

February 21st, 2018

Love this adorable pic of Hannah Morgan, snapped at one of her workshops for The Field Trip Society

It’s wonderful to turn the page, post-Valentine’s Day, and focus on the soon-to-arrive spring season. When I visited today’s guest just last week, her front garden border displayed gorgeous hellebores in full bloom, and lots of the trees were already budding and ready to unfurl.

Despite a still chilly and wet climate, we still see sections of gorgeous blue sky behind the parting clouds and the always welcome rare ray of sunshine.

The place I visited is called Fortunate Orchard, and it is home to a floral studio and garden situated in a quiet corner of south Seattle.

Owner and lead designer Hannah Morgan holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in one hand and a pair of pruning shears in the other. Her designs are deeply rooted in the seasons of the Pacific Northwest and she sources primarily from the West Coast — often from the Fortunate Orchard garden, steps away from her work table.

Hanna’s “Fortunate Orchard” garden at the peak of the season!

Using blooms and branches grown nearby ensures that her designs are unique, of this place and a bit wild. She has built a team of makers and doers who contribute their own expertise to each project, bringing creative and ambitious designs to fruition for events large and small. Fortunate Orchard collaborates with clients who exalt in the natural world and who embrace unorthodox, unexpected beauty.

Hanna with her recent plant installation at the new Floret restaurant at the Seattle Tacoma International Airport

A beautiful arrangement at Lark Restaurant in Seattle.

Hannah has a keen understanding of the types of floral installations required by restaurants and eateries, which is how she actually caught my attention a few years ago when Bruce and I enjoyed an anniversary meal at Lark, one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier, artisan-focused restaurants.

As you hear us discuss, Hannah was the restaurant’s accidental florist who was tapped for filling large vases on the hostess table and elsewhere, perhaps because everyone there knew of her amazing and eclectic city garden.

Three years later, Hannah is creating a distinct niche for herself and I am so pleased we were able to sit down at her kitchen table, share a cup of tea and talk flowers, floral design, developing one’s aesthetic and style.

Learn more about Hannah and her artistic philosophy in this video interview (above) that I conducted with her last year at the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop held with Anne Bradfield of Floressence and documentary videographer Jason Miller.

A seasonal peony arrangement a la Fortunate Orchard’s semi-wild aesthetic.

Find Hannah at these social places so you can follow along as the season unfolds for Fortunate Orchard.

Fortunate Orchard on Instagram

Take a class from Hannah at The Field Trip Society.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 285,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much.

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the right column of our home page.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the Slowflowers.com online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

They are:

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, which you can find in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

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 longfield-gardens.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 soundbodymovement.com.

Music Credits:
Feathersoft (long form); Molly Molly
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
In The Field
Music from:

audionautix.com

Valentine’s Day Messages from Slow Flowers Members

February 15th, 2018

We’ve been collecting video clips to share this Valentine’s Day Season!

First up, a video featuring Maura Whalen of Casablanca Floral in Seattle, who invited me into her beautiful studio to record this pre-Valentine’s Day clip.

We filmed the segment last October (with digital genius Andrew Brenlan, whose name is familiar to Slow Flowers Podcast listeners). Our idea: To promote local and American-grown flowers that viewers around the country can order and send for V-Day.

A publicist with whom I often work shopped around the video — our target was The Today Show — but alas, producer there turned us down for an in-studio segment. Others picked it up, including Garden Design magazine, so I’m delighted and grateful that Maura donated her time and studio to help with the project.

Special thanks to our floral partners for providing beautiful product, including:

Stargazer Barn

CalCallas

Fabulous Florals

Urban Succulents

Farmgirl Flowers

and a custom arrangement by Maura Whalen of Casablanca Floral!

MORE Slow V-Day Goodness!

On Monday, February 12th, I was contacted by a producer for ABC World News Tonight who wanted to do a Feb. 14th segment on local flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Surprisingly, he asked me to round up “selfie videos” from several Slow Flowers members around the country in which they would speak directly to anchor David Muir and tell him what types of local flowers customers could find at their shops, stores and studios this Valentine’s Day.

Within 24 hours, six Slow Flowers members agreed to record clips and send them into ABC News.

The segment was slated for tonight, along with an in-person visit to Emily Thompson Flowers, a Slow Flowers member in Manhattan (and I learned that interview with Emily was actually filmed at her shop yesterday).

So we were all ready to go and then the horrifying news about the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, happened this afternoon. The producer contacted all of us and said the story had to be “held.”

Of course, this is what happens when “feel-good” news stories are bumped by sad and tragic news stories. My heart and prayers go out to the victims, students, teachers, parents and families whose lives will be forever changed by this insane act. As a response to the shooting, Slow Flowers is making a donation to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, an organization that is challenging the National Rifle Association’s huge financial influence over our political landscape. I encourage you to join me or find a similar organization in your community to support.

We received permission from ABC World News Tonight to share the “unaired” video clips. I am doing this because I’m so impressed and grateful for the contributions of members who are committed to the Slow Flowers Mission and want to share their stories with the larger community.

See the great message from Jimmy Lohr of greenSinner in Pittsburgh above.

Here are more wonderful clips to enjoy. It would have been awesome to view these along with millions on tonight’s National News. That didn’t happen, but I’m confident we’ll have another opportunity in the future.

Thanks, Lisa Waud of pot and box — you shared a great message about your local community of makers, artists and growers!

Love the voluptuous floral scene in front of Michelle O’Brien’s Goose Hollow Flowers in Portland — and she sends an important message to viewers about her commitment to Oregon-grown and American-grown flowers.

Nichole Skalski, partner in California Sister Floral Design in Sebastopol, CA, values local flower farmers and also sources from farms across the state. She has a Valentine’s Day message for you!

Los Angeles-based Whit McClure of Whit Hazen shared her vision for sustainable and local floral design on Valentine’s Day and all year long. Love her message!

Our good friends at Field & FloristHeidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt — are flower farmers and floral designers. Here’s how they’re keeping it local at Valentine’s Day in Chicago!

Okay, that’s it for now! Thanks to all for being spontaneous. There’s a lot of value in being a Slow Flowers member — and one of those benefits is that I might just call YOU for a press opportunity next time!

Episode 336: Table and Vase, a rebranding story with Albuquerque-based farmer-florist Steven Hong Elder

February 14th, 2018

Kee-ju (left) and Steven (right) are the two partners behind the recently rebranded Table and Vase. (c) Jamie Jauriqui Photography 

Steven and Kee-ju Hong Elder are an Albuquerque-based husband-husband duo that love gardening, growing and arranging flowers, eco-dying and more! We love all things beautiful and natural, and hope to help you cultivate a more beautiful life. They describe their business as “Not quite a farm, but not quite a garden.”

Steven and Kee-ju are experienced growers, cultivating boutique, heirloom and unusual floral material for Table and Vase. Originally calling their studio the Hong Elder Floral Workroom, the men recently rebranded. They grow flowers for their own design work as well as to provided select florists with boutique floral material.

You’ll hear Steven discuss how growing gloriosa lilies is one of his passions in his Albuquerque “garden-farm”

They’ve been members of Slowflowers.com for more than a year and I have loved watching their Instagram feed filled with flower growing and floral design images. Visiting New Mexico again is on my list of destinations for 2018, mostly because my writing mentor Paula Panich now lives there, but also because of the burgeoning slow flower scene. You’ve heard from Emily Calhoun of Floriography Flowers, who’s shared her story in past episodes of this podcast – first about flower farming and most recently about opening a new retail venue in Santa Fe.

Emily Calhoun of Floriography Flowers on Episode 176

Emily Calhoun of Floriography Flowers on Episode 317

But now she has company, including a number of micro flower farms and farmer-florists who are helping boost interest and awareness in local and seasonal flowers. Together with Steven and Kee-ju, this community has also launched The New Mexico Flower Collective, a group of flower growers, farmer florists and other creatives who are passionate about locally grown, sustainably grown New Mexico flowers and supporting local businesses.

Floral design by Table and Vase with textiles by Desert Garden Silk. Photo credits: Maura Jane Photography (left image); Jamie Jauriqui Photography (right image)

Steven and Kee-ju also own Desert Garden Silk Ribbon, which they sell through an Etsy store featuring natural, plant-based, hand-dyed silk ribbons and textiles.

Here’s a little more about Steven and Kee-ju:

Steven Hong Elder, the “florist” side of Table and Vase

STEVEN, THE DESIGNER, has worked for years designing flowers for weddings and high end events. Inspired by color and seasonality from the garden, Steven combines his backgrounds as a horticulturist and floral designer to grow and create arrangements that are lush, full and grand.

He recently wrote that his first garden was an absolute mess, filled with zucchini, cucumbers, three types of pumpkins, scarlet runner beans, morning glory vines and a few sad tomato plants shoved into a raised bed in his parents’ front yard.

It was from that garden that Steven’s love of growing and plants first started. He went to school for horticulture, learning about xylem and phloem and tissue culture and greenhouse propagation. He learned how to identify trees, how to propagate tulips, and about breeding new species, loving every single moment of it.

After school, Steven accepted a position with the Lauritzen Botanical Gardens in Omaha, Nebraska. He was soon in charge of the Victorian garden, the peony collection, and an English perennial border. He also maintained the historical Crookhouse gardens and worked part time for floral designer, Kyle Robino, a friend and mentor.

Steven’s journey into floral design started as a creative outlet from gardening and horticulture, but soon grew into a way of life. He studied floral design in school, then worked for several years both with talented designers, and eventually striking out on his own as a freelance designer.

Kee-ju takes on the “farmer” role at Table and Vase; left image: (c) Jamie Jauriqui Photography

KEE-JU, THE FARMER, a hobbyist gardener, has a passion for growing plants that’s expanded into becoming a flower grower. Obsessed with nature since he was a little boy, his interest in nature and biology has evolved into his passion for gardening and growing. Kee-ju ensures that the flowers are grown with love and care.

He recently wrote about meeting Steven in Omaha when he was working at Lauritzen, saying “although a dentist by trade, in my off time I had been teaching myself how to grow flowers from what I had learned on the Internet – a lot of time spent on Dave’s Garden and poring over gardening blogs. When Steven and I met, our love of plants and gardening didn’t take long to surface. Although I tend more towards xeric and full sun and Steven tends more towards high moisture and shade, we got along well! We were married and moved to New Mexico within the year.

After our first year gardening in New Mexico, we had a discussion regarding flower farming. Both of us were avid followers of Erin Benzakein since her early days, and were enthralled with her fields of blooms as well as her very insightful tips for growing flowers. What would it be like to be growing not a dozen zinnias, but hundreds? Would we be able to handle thousands of seedlings as opposed to fifty? We decided definitively that yes, we wanted to do this and yes, we were more than capable of doing so.

Suddenly, our garden beds were not large enough for all the plants we wanted, so we prepared more. We found ourselves buying seeds and dahlia tubers and drip irrigation and digging and planting. It was terrifying and hard work, yet I had never felt more alive in my life.

I had found something that lit a fire within me staying up late reading information on how to grow and harvest sunflowers, scouring the Internet for tips on succession planting and harvesting, and dreaming of rows of flowers and big bouquets.

While I really enjoyed flower farming, I also realized that I did miss gardening without the intent to cut and harvest. Sometimes you just grow it because you want to grow it, not because it will be a good seller or hold up well in the vase. Steven and I made the conscious this year to return to gardening for ourselves.”

Left image (c): Jamie Jauriqui Photography

I know you’ll enjoy hearing from Steven — we’ll have to get Kee-ju’s voice in a future interview. Enjoy these photos and follow Table and Vase at these social places.

Table and Vase on Instagram

Thanks for joining me today! What a fun conversation — and I can’t wait to return to New Mexico to meet Steven and Kee-ju in person and soak in the beauty of flower farming in Albuquerque and beyond.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 282,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much. In fact, I want to report that the month of January ended with 11,222 downloads, our all-time high month of listenership. Isn’t that awesome!

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button at debraprinzing.com in the right column.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the Slowflowers.com online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, which you can find in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

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 longfield-gardens.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 soundbodymovement.com.

Music Credits:

In The Field; Back to the Wood
by Jason Shaw:

audionautix.com

Episode 335: On growing Farmgirl Flowers, with floral entrepreneur Christina Stembel

February 7th, 2018

Christina Stembel, founder and CEO of Farmgirl Flowers

I’ve known Christina Stembel since her early days of Farmgirl Flowers.

I used to say hers was the one business I regretted not being able to include in my 2012 book The 50 Mile Bouquet, because by the time we first met, virtually, through an email introduction, I had already finished writing and my publisher St. Lynn’s Press had already wrapped up the book’s production and sent it off to the printer.

When preparing this intro, I wanted to actually go back and figure out how Christina and I met, and as it turns out San Francisco-based food writer Sophia Markoulakis virtually introduced us by email on January 29, 2012 — about six weeks before the publication of The 50 Mile Bouquet. I knew that timing was close, but had completely forgotten about Sophia’s introduction. Sophia quoted both Christina and me in a  February 7, 2012 article for the San Francisco Chronicle, titled: “Locaflores? Eco-friendly florists think locally”. It’s just amazing to look back six years ago to the date of Sophia’s article, and consider all the strides we’ve taken to promote local, seasonal and sustainable flowers.

Christina appeared on this podcast as an early guest on Episode 108 in September 2013, and subsequently we recorded Episode 154 in July 2014 from Homer, Alaska, so longtime listeners of the Slow Flowers Podcast are familiar with her story.

As I wrote in the May 2017 profile about Farmgirl Flowers published in Florists’ Review:

Farmgirl Flowers’ founder Christina Stembel is not a typical Silicon Valley start-up darling. She isn’t backed by venture capital firms who have ponied up millions of dollars to fund her launch; she doesn’t have slick office space where the staff get to play ping-pong or video games after grazing on catered vegan lunches. She drives a hand me down car and lives in a rental house with her husband Neil Hiltz.
If all goes to plan, fortune may follow the fame she has received (as in great media attention and hundreds of thousands of loyal customers), but for now, there’s more grit than glamour in the life of this 39-year-old CEO.”

In the Q&A that followed, Christina spoke openly about the challenges of growth, including one of the most difficult ones that she faced a little more than a year ago — that of finding enough flowers to keep her customers happy.

Download a PDF of the entire “The Business of Flowers” article here: Farm Girl Flowers

FR: Earlier this year you announced to your customers and followers that you were going to begin sourcing flowers from outside the U.S. You posted a letter on your web site called “Our Heart” that explained your decision and what it meant to you and your team. You explained that you were faced with a challenge of sourcing enough flowers from domestic farms and that Farmgirl will now “source directly from farms abroad whose values align with our own.” And you said, We will continue to buy the majority of our flowers from US growers (at least 80% right now), and will be subsidizing with flowers we can’t get enough of here.” What has the response been to this announcement?

CS: I was really nervous. I knew I needed to write that letter to lay it all out there. I had to say, “This is the situation and this isn’t what I want to do. I’m sad about this but I’m just going to be honest and tell people why.” Then, we started getting emails and they were so positive. Everybody was so nice, so supportive, so thankful that I was honest with them. Customers who I had never met before wrote things like: “I’ve always bought from you because I love your aesthetic and I’m going to keep buying from you because I love your heart.”
We announced this on January 25th and we actually had a good transition. At Valentine’s Day, we only received between 20 and 25 percent of our confirmed domestic flowers, a lot due to the heavy winter rains in California. Had I not been able to use imported flowers, we would not have been able to fulfill our orders, which is what I feared and it proved (to me) that I made the correct decision.”

I asked Christina to join me again today to reflect on the past year of transition for her. One of the other reasons for this interview is to discuss the pain of growth and how all successful companies evolve due to unexpected market forces.

I was particularly moved to ask Christina to appear on the Podcast again after yet another round of comments that flooded Facebook groups, mostly populated by U.S. flower farmers, after a recent Forbes article about Farmgirl, which was published last December.

Here is a link to Christina’s “Our Heart” letter, which appears on the Farmgirl Flowers web site.

Farmgirl Flowers’ branding is some of the best in the industry.

I have to be honest — I was confounded by the number of assumptions and accusations being made about Christina in social media forums, and the conclusions to which people in the industry jumped, standing in judgment of a woman who has done incredibly amazing things to elevate the awareness of local flowers in our popular culture. At one point, Christina weighed in and offered to return to the podcast — and others on one of the threads were in support of it.

What you are about to hear is an honest conversation between two friends. I simply can’t be impartial and I make no apologies for it. It saddens me that people are critical of Christina’s choices. She speaks honestly about how tough those choices are and reveals, in fact, that she is still spending millions of dollars annually to buy American grown and local flowers for Farmgirl. I hope you listen closely with an open mind and heart. While you may not agree with Christina’s choices, I think you’ll definitely learn from her tenacity and big heart.

More from Farmgirl Flowers

Thanks for joining me today! I am grateful to Christina to opening herself to this kind of scrutiny and explanation. I respect her for even trying to set the record straight and sharing some insights into her decisions. Check out the beautiful USA-Grown Bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers, starting at $75 plus shipping.

If you have more to say, please say it to her directly rather than in a public forum like Facebook. She has offered up her email at farmgirl@farmgirlflowers.com and I know she will answer any respectfully posed questions with sincerity.

Despite my personal mission of changing the floral landscape through Slow Flowers’ outreach, promotion and content, I have also acknowledged that imports are here to stay. Yet, if we can even move the needle by a few percentage points away from the 80 percent import-20 percent domestic ratio, I will consider this movement a success.

I’m well aware of the compromises many feel they have to make sometimes to stay in business. The flower shops that have a secret stash of floral foam in the back room; the designers who don’t want to say “no” to a customer’s request for white hydrangeas from South America in January; the flower farmers who run a side gig with a farm in Baja. Don’t kid yourself. Not everyone is doing it but it happens. I was recently called out for leasing a Honda and slapping my “SlowFlo” license plate on it, or I’ve faced a crummy decision when the hard goods wholesaler where I shop runs out of USA-made glass vases and I’m forced to substitute with imported glass from China because I didn’t plan ahead. Degrees of sustainability face us all.

Let’s focus on what we’re doing that’s positive and continue to uphold, support and encourage one another to be transparent and honest in our actions. Cooperation over competition is the phrase I often hear. I’m hopeful you will receive this podcast today in that spirit.

If you’re able to attend the 2nd annual Slow Flowers Summit, coming up, June 29th in Washington, D.C., you’ll hear from Christina who will serve as our keynote speaker! Her presentation, “Scaling Your Floral Business to the Next Level,” will share great insights for floral professionals at any stage in their journey. Please visit the show notes for this podcast to find all the links and details to the Slow Flowers Summit. I’ll be featuring our speakers and more event details in the coming weeks.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 280,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing — it means so much.

As the Slow Flowers Movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button at debraprinzing.com in the right column.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs including this podcast, American Flowers Week, the Slowflowers.com online directory to American grown flowers, as well as our new channels, Slow Flowers Journal and the 2018 Slow Flowers Summit.

Florists’ Review magazine: I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for the new monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, which you can find in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market.

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 longfield-gardens.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 soundbodymovement.com.

Music Credits:

Fudge; That Old Harpoon
by Gillicuddy
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/gillicuddy/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

The Jazz Piano

by Bensound
https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music/track/the-jazz-piano
In The Field
by Jason Shaw:

audionautix.com