Debra Prinzing

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Episode 458: A Conversation with Val Schirmer of Three Toads Farm in Winchester, Kentucky – continuing our ASCFG Leadership Series

June 17th, 2020

Val Schirmer, Charlie Hendricks and Elizabeth Hendricks of Three Toads Farm (c) Melanie Mauer

The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers has supported Slow Flowers as a sponsor for the past three years, which I believe is a reflection of our mutual values and goals of expanding  domestic flower farming as a profession. Over the years, I’ve interviewed many ASCFG members who are also Slow Flowers Members, bringing their inspiring and informative stories to you.

For 2020, I have made it a goal to host ASCFG’s leadership on the Slow Flowers Podcast, highlighting the organization’s many regional directors across North America. In March, you heard from Erin McMullen, co-owner of Rain Drop Farm and ASCFG’s West & Northwest Regional Director. In April, Janis Harris of Harris Flower Farm, ASCFG’s Canadian Regional Director, joined us on the Podcast.

And this week, I’m happy to introduce you to Val Schirmer of Three Toads Farm, based in Winchester, Kentucky – she’s the Southeastern Regional Director for ASCFG, representing members in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Val Schirmer (c) Chris Benzakein (left); a premium amaryllis bulb (right)
Val is founder of Three Toads Farm and SE region director
of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers

Here’s a bit more about Three Toads Farm:
The three toads of this established specialty cut flower farm and fine floral design studio include longtime friends and business partners, Val Schirmer and Charlie Hendricks, and Elizabeth Hendricks, Charlie’s daughter. Three Toads Farm is most known for its year-round greenhouse production of show-stopping Oriental lilies.

The farm also produces huge pollen-less sunflowers, varieties of celosia, lisianthus, unique forced spring bulbs, Amaryllis, French tulips, Parrot tulips, ranunculus, English Sweet Peas, and a farmer’s market favorite, bouquets of colorful zinnias nestled in lemon basil.

Growing big gorgeous Oriental and hybrid lilies — using the largest bulbs commercially available — has been foundational to the small farm’s success and applies to
holiday and spring bulbs too. Val says not many growers will pay the cost or go to the trouble of sourcing these bulbs, but “the bigger the bulb, the bigger the show!” That’s how you get the largest, most spectacular flowers, strongest stems and greatest number of blooms.

Each spring and fall, Three Toads Farm hosts a lily bulb sale, encouraging customers in the community to grow their own lilies. You can find Three Toads Farm at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Lexington and select days at the Market’s Tuesday and Thursday location.

Three Toads Farm offers seasonal bud vase deliveries to restaurants; local businesses and private customers can also subscribe to bi-weekly deliveries or shop at the greenhouse by appointment.

This is one of two sold-out Spring Bulb Garden workshops this past February at Three Toads Farm’s new workshop space. Val applies the same principles to forcing spring bulbs as she does for holiday Amaryllis and Paperwhites. Worship guests get “first dibs” from the 6,000 spring bulbs she forces in deep 6-packs specifically for creating tabletop bulb gardens to enjoy indoors, and then plant outside to rebloom for years to come.

For more than six years, flower lovers have enjoyed on-the-farm workshops  which invite them to tour Three Toad’s fields and greenhouses and make an arrangement with just-picked blooms. And, as you’ll hear us discuss, for the holidays Three Toads Farm grows potted Amaryllis from jumbo-sized bulbs, which are available by special order.

Elizabeth Hendricks (left) is the creative force behind every one of Three Toads
Farm’s weddings and events. Val Schirmer (right) often says Elizabeth’s a big reason that
Martha Stewart Weddings named them one of the country’s Top 10
Farmer-Florists (c) Melanie Mauer
Wedding flowers for a bride and groom who worked with Elizabeth more than a year in advance, so Three Toads Farm could grow dahlias, lilies and other florals just for them. (c) Melanie Mauer

In 2015, Three Toads Farm was named one of the top farmer-florist wedding designers in the U.S. by Martha Stewart Weddings.

Forcing huge bulbs is a trademark of Three Toads Farm’s holiday knockout bulb gardens. Val uses both Southern Hemisphere and Dutch bulbs, potting them up into tabletop bulb gardens. Here, her focus is not only on sourcing big bulbs, but also on ‘specialty’ varieties. Last year she says she doubled the number of bulbs she bought (and had more than a few sleepless nights as a result), but Val believes forcing holiday bulbs is a niche that’s ripe for
flower farmers to try, bringing in high-end sales beyond selling holiday wreaths.

Find and follow Val Schirmer and Three Toads Farms at these social places:

Three Toads Farm on Instagram

Three Toads Farm on Facebook

Thanks so much for joining today’s conversation. Last week, I announced the establishment of a Professional Development Fund to grow our membership of Black flower farmers and florists. This is an intentional step to ensure that Slow Flowers is more representational and inclusive. I want to think our first two contributors, Lisa Waud of Lisa Waud Botanical Artist and author Jennifer Jewell, host of the popular public radio program Cultivating Place.

I also want to thank those of you who have nominated black candidates who we can invite to join Slow Flowers. This is exciting and I know it will inspire others to take action to change the floral profession we love so much.

Small and large efforts are tangible and offer more than lip service to the injustices we’ve witnessed for too long, injustices that have taken place for generations.

I’m so encouraged by you and your efforts. SO many Slow Flowers members have announced donations and campaigns of their own to bring change to their communities — and I’m proud to see how you are speaking out and taking steps alongside my own. Let’s keep it rolling forward!

Playback Video from our June 12th Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Up for JUNE

We just held our June Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Up on June 12th. It was a fabulous session devoted to American Flowers Week. Attendees met ALISON HIGGINS of Grace Flowers Hawaii and MONÍCA PUGH of Floras and Bouquets, two of the designers who created Botanical Couture garments for the American Flowers Week 2020 Collection! We learned about their inspiration, the mechanics and techniques they employed and how the experience has been a positive one in their communities and for their brands.

Save the Date for Friday, July 10th (9 a.m. Pacific/Noon Eastern) to join our JULY Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Up! You can find the link to join in the menu that appears in our Instagram profile @myslowflowers.

As I mentioned last week, mark June 24th on your calendar to join me for a Virtual Book Launch party to celebrate the publication of our new book, Slow Flowers Journal – Volume One! Eighty Slow Flowers members are featured in its pages and we will share a big reveal of this beautiful, 128-page book, published by our partners at Wildflower Media/Florists’ Review. The all-virtual Launch Party and Happy Hour will take place at 4 pm Pacific/7 pm on June 24th and we will welcome many special guests who appear in the pages of Slow Flowers Journal.

Click here to RSVP and Join the Party.
Order your copy of Slow Flowers Journal – Volume One (and see a preview of the inside pages)

Please plan on participating in the sixth annual American Flowers Week, June 28th-July 4th. Use your flowers to communicate a message of beauty, sustainability, wellness and inclusion – and help us promote domestic floral agriculture across the U.S. You can find all sorts of free resources at

(c) Grace Hensley

For members only, you can order our red-white-and-blue bouquet labels to use during the weeks leading up to American Flowers Week. Order your labels here.

Hope to see you online with photos and videos and in live displays of your American flowers. Please use the hash-tag: #americanflowersweek to help us find and highlight your talents!

Thank you to our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

And thank you to Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Read our stories at

More thanks goes to 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

The Gardener’s Workshop, which offers a full curriculum of online education for flower farmers and farmer-florists. Online education is more important this year than ever, and you’ll want to check out the course offerings at

The 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

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 614,000 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.

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

Music Credits:

Heartland Flyer; Turning On The Lights; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions

Lovely by Tryad

In The Field

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