Episode 425: Flowers in Washington’s San Juan Islands with Erin Shackelford of Camas Designs and Jenny Harris of Catkin; plus, our state focus: South Dakota
October 30th, 2019
The San Juan Islands are home to many beautiful gardens and homes, romantic wedding venues and, of course, flowers.
A few weeks ago, the San Juan County Master Gardeners Foundation brought me to the island for their fall workshop. What an privilege to deliver the keynote presentation on the Slow Flowers story — and the fact that two Slow Flowers members who live on San Juan Island were in attendance made the experience even better!
Today, you will meet them both. I arrived early enough on October 18th to connect with floral designer Erin Shackelford of Camas Designs and grower-designer Jenny Harris of Catkin who you will hear in today’s episode.
Jenny had invited us to tour the garden where she grows David Austin garden roses for local floral customers, including Camas Designs. The property is an extension of Jenny’s friends and garden design clients Elaine and Miles Frazel. Elaine and Jenny collaborate on their small-scale garden rose venture. After the tour, Elaine graciously warmed us up with mugs of tea and hosted us around her dining table for this recording. You’ll hear from Erin, Jenny and a few comments from Elaine! Hope you can keep everyone’s voices straight!
Here’s a bit more about our San Juan Island guests:
Camas Designs’ motto is “locally sourced happiness.” Erin’s studio primarily sources from local farms and she believes a direct path to happiness is one with simplicity at its core. As co-owner of Camas Designs, along with her artist/educator husband Robert Shackelford, Erin creates floral arrangements for weddings and special events in the San Juan Islands and greater Seattle area. Partnering with local farmers to capture the beauty of the season, Erin designs with nature, sun, and clients as close collaborators. She creates designs that embody the couple, the environment of their event, and the mood they wish to instill for guests.
Erin’s passion is flowers and their ability to convey feelings, emotions, and meanings beyond the realm of words. She has created bouquets for neighbors, friends, and strangers (often anonymously) since she was eight-years-old. After decades in corporate America, Erin’s revelation was her heart is only fulfilled when immersed within the elegance and simplicity of nature. Happiness for Erin is found creating floral designs for others, and whenever possible, sourcing the flowers locally from farmers she calls friends.
She writes this on the Camas Designs web site: “We’re proud to be part of the “slow flower” movement meaning the majority of our flowers are sourced from farms within our region. This local sourcing ensures your wedding florals are one of a kind and contain the freshest ingredients around. Whether it’s a beautiful café au lait dahlia, a vine with swirling tendrils or seed pods to add just the right amount of texture, we likely know the farmer that grew each stem and we bring that personal touch to your bouquet, arrangements and more.“
I’ve recently written about one of Erin’s design projects, a moody autumn styled photo collaboration, for the October issue of Florists’ Review. You can read the article here:
A Moody Tale
Jenny Harris and I first met more than 15 years ago when she lived on nearby Lopez Island and ran a Bellwether Perennials, a nursery for unusual perennials and shrubs suited to the island environment, as well as a landscape design business. She has since relocated to San Juan Island and describes herself as “a grower of plants, teacher of gardening.”
About two years ago, Jenny reached out with this note: Debra: “I’ve unintentionally created an obsession, in the best possible way, in a client turned friend for pursuing growing cut flowers.” She went on to reveal her interest in growing roses, shrubs/woodies, and perennials for the local San Juan Island market only, writing: “no annuals for me nowadays,” and added, “we’ve just read your 50 Mile Bouquet and might very well be headed in that direction!”
It’s so rewarding to reconnect with Jenny in person earlier this month after so much time has passed and to pick up exactly where we left off, sharing similar interests in environmental stewardship and soul-enriching plants.
Through Catkin, Jenny’s work is holistic, highlighting the native and natural, low-water use, organic, conscious and harmonious approach to living with and caring for plants and other beings.
She writes: “I believe that gardening and gardeners can have significant positive influence on the myriad stresses upon our earth and her family of living creatures. I have been creating gardens, helping others in their own gardens and learning and sharing about plants since 1989 ; most of those years in the San Juan Islands though my formative time was in an old garden in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. While I have formal horticultural training I have found my greatest learning has come from working alongside more learned and elder gardeners and the plants and gardens themselves. I learn something in every garden and from every gardener I meet. I bring to my life’s work an interest in plants that extends far beyond the confines of a particular ecosystem; what matters to me is that a plant can not only survive where it finds itself but thrive within a plant, human and animal community.”
With Elaine Frazel, Jenny’s relatively new rose-growing project currently includes 13 varieties of David Austin roses and a few old ones. They take orders for 12-stem bunches — mixed or sometime single variety — during the growing season to supply floral designers, businesses and individuals interested in weekly, biweekly or monthly pickup. These are truly special flowers grown naturally with love on San Juan Island.
Thank you so much for joining my conversation today on our lovely and inspiring tour of the San Juans, especially San Juan Island where Camas Designs and Catkin are based. Find and follow Erin and Jenny at these social places:
Camas Designs on Facebook and Instagram
Catkin on Instagram
I am in so inspired by the conscious choices my two guests have made to establish lives and businesses in an environmentally precious place on the planet. I hope you have learned at least one lesson from their stories and I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Please reach out and share them in the comment section below.
Our theme for 2019 – Fifty States of Slow Flowers – continues today with Moníca Pugh of Floras and Bouquets, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Moníca and her husband Glenn Pugh tend to an urban flower farm where, as she says, “they concentrate on stuffing as many perennials in our front and back yard as possible.” They also rent a small garden space west of town to grow our annuals and have recently expanded to a neighbor’s borrowed lot.
Moníca continues: “I got started in the flower business because of adventure and always wanting to follow my instinctual heart for growth. Growing various perennials and annuals has always been a labor of love for me, so I thought I would gather my seasonal blooms and bring them to a farmer’s market that I was already attending. When they didn’t sell well, I followed my instinctual heart to a local specialty store, who placed their first order of artisan bouquets that same week. Thus, Floras & Bouquets was born.“
Follow Floras and Bouquets at these social places:
Floras and Bouquets on Instagram
Floras and Bouquets on Facebook
The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 534,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.
As our 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 to the right.
Thank you to our sponsors:
Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for 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.
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. Visit them at seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com.
NW Green Panels. Based in Madras, Oregon, NW Green Panels designs and constructs a wide array of wood-framed greenhouses offering versatility, style and durability. Their greenhouses are 100% Oregon-made using twin-wall polycarbonate manufactured in Wisconsin, making NW Green Panel structures a great value for your backyard. The 8×8 foot Modern Slant greenhouse has become the essential hub of my cutting garden — check out photos of my greenhouse visit nwgreenpanels.com to see more.
Mayesh Wholesale Florist. Family-owned since 1978, Mayesh is the premier wedding and event supplier in the U.S. and we’re thrilled to partner with Mayesh to promote local and domestic flowers, which they source from farms large and small around the U.S. Learn more at mayesh.com.
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.
LaBranche; Betty Dear; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions
Lovely by Tryad
In The Field Music from: