Debra Prinzing

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Debra Prinzing, Slow Flowers Pioneer, Wins AHS’s Great American Gardener Award

Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

I’m so touched that my friends at Florists’ Review magazine included an article in the upcoming June 2018 issue about the American Horticultural Society recognizing me with its Frances Jones Poetker Award in honor of achievement in the field of floral design.

The award highlights my work advocating for and promoting domestic flowers and recognizes significant contributions to floral design in publications, on the platform, and to the public.

You can read the entire article, “Slow Flowers Pioneer,” written by Jane M. Markley, here.

Slow Flowers, Montana Style

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Our lovely gathering of Slow Flowers aficionados, pictured at Hart’s Garden & Nursery in Missoula.

Earlier this month, I flew to Missoula, a Western Montana, college town where there is quite a bit happening on the local flower farming scene. t was on my way to speak at the Rocky Mountain Gardening Live conference held on September 11-12 at Chico Hot Springs in Pray, Montana, just 30 minutes outside the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Kathy Sherba, Carly Jenkins and Kristen Tack — all cohorts in Missoula’s Westside Flower Market

Jamie Rogers and Carly Jenkins of Killing Frost Farm, with me (right)

A giant sunflower puts a smile on my face, snapped during my tour of Mighty Fine Farm.

The reason for this Seattle-to-Missoula leg of my trip was to meet up with Carly Jenkins and Jamie Rogers of Killing Frost Farm, Kathy and Adam Sherba of Mighty Fine Farm and George and Marcia Hart of Hart’s Garden & Nursery — all in the Missoula flower farming and Slow Flowers community.

Carly and I met in person earlier this year when she attended Tobey Nelson’s Whidbey Island Flower Workshop, which featured Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events and Kaleb Willis of Kaleb Norman James Design. Carly, or CJ, as she’s often called, gave me the big news about the second-season launch of Westside Flower Market, a wholesale farmer-to-florist venture that she and Kathy incubated beginning last summer in Missoula garage owned by Carly and Jamie. You can hear our Slow Flowers Podcast interview from that visit here.

Great recent coverage on local & slow flowers in The Missoula Independent.

This year, six additional flower farmers have joined the momentum and they are doing some really awesome things. Read more about the Slow Flowers Missoula story in this excellent piece that just ran in The Missoula Independent.

George and Marcia graciously hosted a barbecue, farm tour and meet-up at their property.

And while I didn’t count totals, I bet we had about 30 folks in attendance,  including some who drove up to 4 hours from places like Kalispell to join us!

From left: Special guest Rep. Willis Curdy, George Hart & Marcia Hart, flower farmers and hosts.

I was delighted to introduce the Slow Flowers Movement to all those who attended, including Montana Rep. Willis Curdy, member of the agriculture committee for the state legislature, who just wanted to learn more about flower farming in his district — very cool!

A quartet of fabulous flower farmers: Jeriann Sabin and Ralph Thurston of Bindweed Farm, Carly Jenkins of Killing Frost Farm and Kathy Sherba of Mighty Fine Farm. Photographed at Mighty Fine Farm in Missoula.

We also had some very special guests in attendance — Jeriann Sabin and Ralph Thurston of Bindweed Farm in Blackfoot, Idaho! Jeriann and Ralph are past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast, which we recorded last year upon the publication of their fabulous book, Deadhead: The Bindweed Way to Grow Flowers.

A last-minute flower farmers’ vaycay (thanks to an invitation from Carly), their 350-mile road trip . . .  and we were blessed with Jeriann and Ralph’s generous souls, playful personalities and amazing wisdom. People soaked up every word they had to say. Southeastern Idaho’s growing conditions are similar enough to those of Western Montana’s that our crowed wanted to hear every word — and wanted to buy signed copies of Deadhead!

Ralph and Jeriann shared their story and their flower farming wisdom at our Meet Up. Photographed at the beautiful grounds of Hart’s Garden & Nursery, Missoula

High tunnels filled with late summer dahlias at Hart’s Garden & Nursery.

An unnamed dahlia at Hart’s Garden & Nursery. The brilliance offset the smoky skies caused by Western Montana’s forest fires.

That night, Carly, Kathy, Ralph, Jeriann  and I stayed up late, talking and visiting under the Montana moon. It has been a rough few months there, with the rampant wildfires, so we all were delighted that the breezes cleared the skies for one beautiful evening. A very special thank you to Adam Sherba’s parents for lending us use of their fabulous Missoula home. Jeriann, Ralph and I stayed there in great Montana luxury. In the morning, I watched deer and wild turkeys roaming through the hillside below the home.

Chico Hot Springs, a favorite of everyone in Montana.

I drove from Missoula to Pray (about 250 miles east) on Sunday, September 10th, arriving before dinnertime to check into Chico Hot Springs. CHS is a very special place — historic for its dude ranch vibe, its restorative 104-degree soaking pools fed by the springs and its adjacency to Yellowstone. The original lodge, where I stayed, dates to 1900, but the first recorded reference to the Hot Springs goes back to 1865. This is a place for kicking back and relaxing, which I did lots of. But now that there is a Conference Center to host corporate events, people come for multiple reasons.

All local flowers from Bozeman floral designer Remy Greco-Brault, owner of Labellum. Remy taught a pin-on floral workshop after my lecture.

Rocky Mountain Gardening LIVE, with dahlias grown by #kangaroohousegardens in Hamilton, Montana

I was there as guest of Dan and Andra Spurr, editor and publisher of Rocky Mountain Gardening magazine.

This wonderful quarterly magazine is for gardeners throughout the Rocky Mountains, encompassing stories and subscribers from the Canadian-US border down to Colorado and includes Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah.

I was delighted to speak about Slow Flowers and share the story of what’s happening in Montana and beyond to an audience of more than 80 attendees.

Several flower farmers and florists were there, which made me feel welcome and allowed me to brag about their achievements — including Cindy Hanson of The Herb And Garden in Helena, a Slow Flowers member who I recently featured in Florists’ Review/Slow Flowers Journal.

After my time at Chico Hot Springs, I left knowing that even more folks are supportive of our movement, our cause, and our purpose. I met florists who promised to join and list their businesses on and I made lifelong friends with Dan and Andra, who couldn’t have been more generous in their hospitality.

A final bonus — spending two days with my siblings, Scott Prinzing and his wife Kristen Rickels Prinzing. They live in Billings and have both contributed to Rocky Mountain Gardening in the past, with articles (Kris) and photography (Scott). As a very special treat, they agreed to record the upcoming holiday special music episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast — listen for that Episode 328 on December 20th. I have no musical talent, but it’s nice to have siblings who do!

Awed by Allium: The Starring Ingredient of a Stunning Bouquet

Monday, April 18th, 2016
This summertime bouquet features gorgeous alliums and their companions.

This summertime bouquet features gorgeous ‘Globemaster’ alliums and their companions.

The smaller, darker drumstick allium echoes form and hue of its larger cousin.

The smaller, darker drumstick allium echoes form and hue of its larger cousin.

Jan shares his vast knowledge with regular farmers market customers each weekend.

Jan shares his vast knowledge with regular farmers market customers each weekend.

Jan Roozen of Choice Bulb Farms is a good friend and brilliant (not to mention charming) flower farmer.

I’ve known Jan through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market where he is a member who grows a beautiful variety of flowers.

The selection from Jan and Ritva Roozen’s farm in Skagit Valley north of Seattle features specialty spring and summer bulbs.

Their alliums are some of the best I’ve seen — when I can, I come home with an armload of dramatic blooms and arrange with them.

Jan literally grows 15 varieties of Alliums — can you believe that? Here is the list — click on each cultivar name to see its unique form, color and stature.

Home floral designers can find Jan at the Choice Bulb stall every Saturday at the University District Farmers’ Market and every Sunday at the Ballard Farmers’ Market, both in Seattle.

Fresh-from-the-field, these flowers inspired me to make a summer bouquet a few years ago. I hope you enjoy this textural design in shades of apricot, cream, lemon, lavender and bluish purple and get ready to grow your own alliums (and companions like eremurus and dahlias) in the cutting garden.


2015 Slow Flowers Highlights (Episode 226)

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Slow Flowers at The Flower House (c) Heather Saunders

Welcome to the final Slow Flowers Podcast episode of 2015.

(c) Linda Blue Photography

(c) Linda Blue Photography

Every single week this year; in fact, every single week for 2-1/2 years, I’ve had the immense privilege of hosting dynamic and inspiring dialogues with a leading voice in the American floral industry.

You’ve heard from flower farmers and floral designers who are changing the marketplace and how we view and consume the flowers in our lives.

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to dedicate today’s episode to the Slow Flowers Highlights we’ve witnessed this year.

Next week, on January 6th, I will share my Floral Insights and Forecast for 2016 with you.

The past twelve months have built on the successes and shifts that began in previous years. Each time we turn the pages of the calendar to a New Year, we can applaud the strides made in the Slow Flowers movement.

I can date my own awareness to the American grown floral landscape to 2006 — that’s nearly a decade ago — when I met a very young mom named Erin Benzakein while I was scouting gardens in Mount Vernon, Washington.  She was growing sweet peas and had big ambitions.

Something about our conversation resonated with me. I was an established features writer with a huge home and garden portfolio. I’d written countless floral design stories for regional and national publications and yet it had never occurred to me that there was a great imbalance in the way flowers are grown and sourced in this country.

cover_flower_confidentialAt the same time, my writer-pal Amy Stewart was working on a book about the global floral industry’s dark side, which was published the following year called Flower Confidential. She delved deep into the stories behind the status quo, and opened mine and countless others’ eyes to the extraordinary reasons nearly 80 percent of cut flowers sold in the U.S. were being imported.

Curious to learn more, I subscribed to Growing for Market, Lynn Byczynski’s newsletter for market farmers. I joined the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers and attended my first regional meeting in 2010, held at Charles Little & Co. in Eugene, Oregon, and later that year I went to the national meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I began connecting with flower farmers wherever I could, both in California where I was living at the time, and in Oregon and Washington. I met people virtually, as well, thanks to the ASCFG list-serves where I learned much about the issues facing small farms and American growers.


Week 8 // My Slow Flowers Birthday Bouquet

Sunday, March 1st, 2015
Springtime (almost) in a vase with flowers from my Seattle garden and pussy willow branches from a local farm.

Springtime (almost) in a vase with flowers from my Seattle garden and pussy willow branches from a local farm.

Welcome to Week 8 of the Slow Flowers Challenge!

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent a few quiet hours playing around with these elements from my garden, observing and clipping; processing and arranging — all in a favorite vintage McCoy vase.

What a lovely way to celebrate a personal new year. I apologize to friends and family members who were calling and texting. I really tried to unplug and contemplate the many gifts in my life.

Ingredients, clockwise from left:  Pussy willow, sweet pea tendrils, various daffodils, spurge (Euphorbia characias) and Pieris japonica.

Ingredients, clockwise from left: Pussy willow, sweet pea tendrils, various daffodils, spurge (Euphorbia characias) and Pieris japonica.

This design incorporates green, white and yellow ingredients. The long-lasting pussy willow branches were “leftovers” from more than a week ago. I had purchased them from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in anticipation of a demonstration at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Of course, I planned for more than I could use, so today was the ideal opportunity to pair the pussy willow with cuttings from my own garden.

Here, you can appreciate the creamy white pieris flowers and the downy pussy willow against the milky glazed pottery.

Here, you can appreciate the creamy white pieris flowers and the downy pussy willow against the milky glazed pottery.

The white vase offsets the fresh green tips of the spurge.

Many people worry about using this perennial as a cut flower – Euphorbia characiasis, after all, a relative of poinsettia, exuding milky white sap when snipped. See the info box for tips on caring for your spurge/euphorbia cuttings.

It’s not a super long-lasting cut, but anyone who has this plant in their garden probably has more than necessary.

I could easily replace any wilted stems with an abundant supply of more spurge.

The white blooms of Pieris japonica add texture and contrast, echoing the pussy willow “tails.”


Daffodils beneath the flowering cherry trees - on the parking strip in front of our home.

Daffodils beneath the flowering cherry trees – on the parking strip in front of our home.

I didn’t have many flowers on hand, but this mix of specialty daffodils caught my eye.

Plucked from the parking strip in front of our home, they were originally planted by a benevolent prior owner.

I looked around for something to “trail” over the rim of my vase and found some sweet pea tendrils, volunteers from a prior year’s sowing. They add just the right playfulness and carefree spirit to the arrangement.

A detail of the fresh textures and hues of the season.

A detail of the fresh textures and hues of the season.


More from Slow Flowers
From the Farmer: Working with Euphorbia

A detail from a spring arrangement featured in Slow Flowers, with donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

A detail from a spring arrangement featured in Slow Flowers, with donkey tail spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)

Most plants in the spurge family produce a milky-white substance when cut. It can be irritating to the skin, so be sure to wear gloves when handling the plant.

While harvesting, I place the stems in a bucket of water, separating them from any other cut ingredients. Then I bring them into my kitchen where I dunk the tip of each euphorbia stem into a bowl filled with boiling water from the teakettle. This seals the stems.
Some experts recommend searing the tips in a stove top flame, but that has proven too messy for my liking.

Related posts

Week 5 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Saturday, February 7th, 2015
Washington branches with California blooms.

Washington branches with California blooms.

It’s been a busy week as we watched January transition into February.

A few days of unseasonably warm 50-degree temperatures combined with plenty of rainfall has jolted awake many of the bulbs in my garden and in my Seattle neighborhood.

I have been eyeing a beautiful shrub in my neighbor Kim’s garden that I pass by each day, realizing the rare moment each year when its inherent beauty peaks.

In the photo above, you can’t miss the lovely “dangles” of what is commonly called the silktassel tree (Garrya elliptica), a coastal NW native shrub with silvery flower chains that appear in winter. I wasn’t sure how it would perform as a cut flower, but here we are, three days after I snipped some of Kim’s branches, and boy does it hold up. Gorgeous and so evocative, right?

Fowering plum blossom (Prunus sp.)

Flowering plum blossom (Prunus sp.)

For Week 5 of 2015, I combined branches of the purloined-with-permission silktassel tree with the just-about-to-flower plum branches. Then I added some of the California-grown flowers brought in by my favorite go-to flower outlet, the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

If you spent any time reading the Slow Flowers book, you’ll already know that I regularly turned to the flower farmers involved in this innovative cooperative to procure ingredients for my bouquets and arrangements, month after month.

In the Pacific Northwest, as in so many of the areas where members of the Slow Flowers Tribe live, winter is our quiet season.

Our gardens are relatively (or seriously!) dormant. I have to ration what is in bloom in order to have weekly diversity for my own Challenge designs.

Gorgeous anemones with dark centers. Lush ranunculus in romantic shades.

Gorgeous anemones with dark centers. Lush ranunculus in romantic shades.

So this week, please enjoy the beautiful fuchsia-petaled anemones from California, along with pale pink and creamy white ranunculus, also from California. 

Molly Sadowsky of the SWGMC orders in California florals in a very thoughtful and conscious way. She endeavors to work with farms that use sustainable or Veriflora practices.

Oh, and are you wondering about this beautiful aqua-glazed vase that holds my bouquet? It is – of course – American made!

The Madagascar vase, made in California by Bauer Pottery.

The Madagascar vase, made in California by Bauer Pottery.

Called the Madagascar vase, it comes from Bauer Pottery California, and you can read more about how Janek Boniecki saved the vintage molds for this early and iconic California ceramics factory here.

I love this vase shape so much, I used it in a photo shoot a few years ago for  Better Homes & Gardens. 

It was our holiday centerpiece story featuring nature-inspired cuttings from various regions around the country. I used all those yummy proteas, banksias, eucalyptus, leucodendron and leucospermum. Thought you’d enjoy seeing how appropriate these Australian natives look with the Cali vase. Here’s what I wrote:

California Cool 

The turquoise glaze of a made-in-California Bauer Pottery vase enhances a blue-green and yellow bouquet. The floral ingredients, all native to Australia and South African but grown in California, are thoroughly adapted to Southwest gardens and bloom from October through May. Seeded eucalyptus and velvety sprays of silver tree (Leucadendron argenteum) serve as foliage, while the arrangement’s drama comes from Banksia and pincushion flowers (Leucospermum sp.).

Here are a few designs that others have created recently – they are so inspiring!

Winter Slow Flowers Challenge from Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens: a Succulent Cutting Arrangement.

Winter Slow Flowers Challenge from Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens: a Succulent Cutting Arrangement.

From Grace Hensley of eTilth, local tulips, euonymous and acanthus foliage  (plus some bupleurum).

From Grace Hensley of eTilth, local tulips, euonymous and acanthus foliage
(plus some bupleurum).

TIP: Design 101

               Jewel Tones for springtime.

Color wheel lesson: The flowers and vase combination illustrate an analogous color palette. Analogous colors are adjacent to one another on the color wheel. Fuchsia, purple and indigo are pleasing when viewed together because they each share varying quantities of the primary color blue.
White floral accents offset the black centers of the anemones, adding a graphic punch to this composition.
This arrangement, from later in the spring (April), features:

  • 12 stems fuchsia anemones (Anemone coronaria‘Galilee Pink’), grown by Everyday Flowers
  • 8 stems pearlbrush (Exochorda racemosa), grown by J. Foss Garden Flowers
  • 6 stems bachelor’s buttons (Centaurea cyanus), harvested from my garden
  • 7 stems white tulips, grown by Alm Hill Gardens

8-inch tall x 6-inch diameter round vase with 5-inch opening 

(c) Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Flowers, by Debra Prinzing

Related posts

Take the Slow Flowers Challenge in 2015

Monday, January 5th, 2015

ChallengeInvite_2015What better New Year’s Resolution than to resolve to live locally with your flowers and floral designs for the coming year?!

This week launches the Slow Flowers Challenge, and I invite you to join in the fun and creativity.

A possible collection of stems and fruit inspired by Slow Flowers, photographed by Katherine Tracy of Avant Gardens Nursery.

A possible collection of stems and fruit inspired by Slow Flowers, photographed by Katherine Tracy of Avant Gardens Nursery.

This inclusive project was inspired by Katherine Tracy, a talented plantswoman, designer and owner of Avant Gardens Nursery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Katherine's Nov. 7th arrangement, created the week after we met at Blithewold in Rhode Island.

Katherine’s Nov. 7th arrangement, created the week after we met at Blithewold in Rhode Island.

Katherine wrote on her Garden Foreplay Blog about taking the “Slow Flowers Challenge” after hearing my presentation at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens in Rhode Island this past fall.

She started using the hashtag #slowflowerschallenge, which in turn prompted other people to create seasonal bouquets, photograph them and share their designs on Facebook, Instagram and personal blogs.

Katherine’s artistic arrangements reveal her love of the natural world, the seasons, the plants, the gifts of the garden and wilder places where she lives and gardens in New England.

I’ve so enjoyed seeing these bouquets pop up across the web – thoroughly serendipitous and seasonal – representing pure joy for a moment in time. These personal expressions resonated with me – they brought me back to the year I spent making one bouquet per week from the flowers that grow around me.

“Why don’t we make the Challenge available to everyone who loves local flowers?”

It’s official and you’re invited to join The Slow Flowers Challenge 2015.

SlowFlowersChallengeCover.jpg (2)

The Rules: Live in the season. Source locally. Use earth-friendly materials and supplies. The more frequently you arrange flowers, the more familiar you’ll become with each of these aspects.

What: The Slow Flowers Challenge is an ongoing practice of creating seasonal arrangements and sharing your designs with the Slow Flowers Tribe.

Why:  The practice is timeless. The gesture is universal. Inspired by the exquisite beauty of a garden or by the sentiment of a special occasion, we gather flowers and foliage and place them in a vessel to display in our homes or give to another. Floral design is a three-dimensional art form that blends horticulture and nature with sculptural composition. At its best, bouquet making is a personal expression unique to the designer’s tastes and point of view.

When: This is the 2015 Challenge. It will run from January 2015 through December 31, 2015. You can join at any time during the year.

How Often: The Challenge format allows you to participate at whatever frequency works for your schedule. We like to suggest these options: 365 Days, 52 Weeks, 12 Months or 4 Seasons.

When I created the Slow Flowers book, I designed one bouquet per week for 52 weeks. But you might decide to create a monthly bouquet, or a seasonal arrangement – or, if you’re really dedicated – a daily design! The main thing is that you decide what works for you and get started.

Share! Post a photo of your arrangement to our Slow Flowers Challenge Pinterest Page. And if you share it elsewhere, please use #slowflowerschallenge or tag @myslowflowers link on Twitter so others can see what you’ve created.

Resources to Help & Inspire You:

  • Sign up here to Join and Receive a weekly email with season-perfect Slow Flowers Tips for your cutting garden and personal floral design studio. Each will include what to plant now, what to harvest now, how to find key resources like seeds, plants or cut ingredients, and essential tools/supplies for the Slow Flowers Challenge
  • Submit photographs of your arrangements to our Monthly Slow Flowers Challenge Pinterest Page.
  • Share your designs on Social Media. Please use #slowflowerschallenge or tag @myslowflowers link on Twitter so others can see what you’ve created.
  • Win prizes and the admiration of your fellow Slow Flowers Tribe members
  • Achieve Certified Slow Flowers Designer status.

Let’s have fun, make beauty, and change the American floral industry with new (and more seasonal) habits.

‘Tis the Season for SLOW FLOWERS

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Seattle, Washington!

I was gifted a flat of paperwhites in bloom this week – one lonely bulb per pot – crying out for some equally lovely companions in a holiday arrangement. So yesterday, I clipped from here and there in the garden and created this trio of vases to adorn our Christmas dining table tonight.

Three vases filled with festive and LOCAL vines, leaves, branches, blooms, buds and JOY!

Three vases filled with festive and LOCAL vines, leaves, branches, blooms, buds and JOY!

The paper whites started it all - and I sought pretty plants with winter interest to accompany them.

The paper whites started it all – and I sought pretty plants with winter interest to accompany them.

In addition to the paperwhites, here’s what the vases contain:

  • Pieris japonica (Lily-of-the-valley shrub)
  • Camellia in bud
  • Bay tree stems
  • Daphne odora in bud
  • Dusty Miller
  • Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’
  • Variegated Ivy
  • Evergreen fern fronds
  • Narcissus (Paperwhites)


As I prowled through my mostly dormant landscape, each one of these plants reminded me how much I have to value in the winter garden. If you plant for four seasons, with intentionality, those woody ornamental shrubs really deliver! I found myself thinking: “Make more room for Pieris!” as I only have three and they’re relatively young shrubs. But those chains of blooms, deep pink and delicate, are simply sublime dangling out of the vases.

Close up, the tangle of stems reflects a perfect moment in time - in my garden and in the season.

Close up, the tangle of stems reflects a perfect moment in time – in my garden and in the season.

The Daphne – only planted two years ago next to the backyard patio where I will smell its fragrance in winter – well, I gingerly snipped three stems, each with a bud – and each from a lower/back part of the shrub. I still want to enjoy Daphne outdoors, as well as indoors!

I gaze at the Viburnum ‘Dawn’ every day – it’s just outside my office window and such a welcome a note of color – intense pink! – in December and January. Even the Dusty Miller, marginally winter hardy here in Seattle, had hung on long enough to give me a silvery cluster of soft leaves for each vase.

I’m launching a new project next week, appropriately called “The Slow Flowers Challenge” – and so making this holiday trio of arrangements has been my warm-up exercise.

If you’re ready to join me, start collecting your vases, eyeing botanicals in your landscape or neighborhood, and dreaming about a year of flowers in your life.

Happy Day, dear friends.


Digging Deep for Flower Lovers: A cyber book party, complete with gardening giveaways

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Let's Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in "Digging Deep."

Let’s Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in “Digging Deep.”

I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.

For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.

Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.

And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.

Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.

I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).

In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!

Here’s a little more about this book:

Observe a peony - this flower is one of Fran's first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

Observe a peony – this flower is one of Fran’s first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.

From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.

The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former  Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).

p. 35-37

“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.

smclippersIMG_3807When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage –

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”

“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.

This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.

When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”

Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub - and inhaling the fragrance.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub – and inhaling the fragrance.

In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:

. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.

    I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.

    I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.

. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.

       So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.

Here are some more goodies that might make your day.

Thanks to the support of others fans of  Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.

In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:

1. Dee Nash –

2. Helen Yoest-

3. Jenny Peterson-

4. Rebecca Sweet-

5. Brenda Haas-

6. Fran Sorin-

The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:

1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.

2. By making a comment here on, you will be entered into each of two drawings:

Blog_Seed_Giveaway_000_4239.jpg_-_Baker_Creek_Seeds-_Cyber_Giveaway-_19_hand_picked_selections_of_veggies_and_flowers 10818534_10205168719757714_1314615647_n.jpg-_Authentic_Haven_Brand_Soil_Conditioner

Prize #1Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner  that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.


Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.

Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable.  All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers  (retail $149).

Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.

Fall Dahlia Season

Sunday, September 28th, 2014
The vivid "hot" bouquet that I brought home with me today - $10 by JoAnn Mahaffey, who works for Dan's Dahlias booth.

The vivid “hot” bouquet that I brought home with me today – $10 by JoAnn Mahaffey, who works for Dan’s Dahlias booth.

Dan Pearson of Dan's Dahlias, with his 8-yr-old daughter Alyssa.

Dan Pearson of Dan’s Dahlias, with his 8-yr-old daughter Alyssa.

This morning, bright and early, we drove to the Olympia Farmers’ Market to shop for dahlias.

Yes, there are dahlias available closer to me in Seattle, but I wanted to see what dahlia farmer Dan Pearson was up to at this market. You see, he is nearly 41 years old and he has been growing and selling dahlias at this market for 31 years.

YES, you read that correctly. Dan’s Dahlias is a long-established cut flower farms that so many others emulate. The Olympian newspaper recently called him the “Dahli Lama of cut flower growers” in this story.

In the winter and spring, Dan runs his very successful online Dahlia Tuber store (and PS, I find his web to be user-friendly with easy searches by petal color, flower size, and may other variables).

In the summer and fall, he sells cut dahlias to loyal customers at the Olympia Farmers’ Market and to the floral community through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

I’ve known Dan personally for the past three years, but anyone who shops at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show or the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show has been drawn into the colorful and highly organized Dan’s Dahlia booth – where you see gorgeous photos of hundreds of dahlia varieties, each one aligned with pre-bagged tubers to take home and grow yourself.

Add in a few zinnias and you have an incredibly eye-pleasing floral palette.

Add in a few zinnias and you have an incredibly eye-pleasing floral palette.

Just wanted to share these luscious photos as they represent just a small portion of the incredible variety of forms and colors available from Dan. And here’s a story I wrote about Dan for Pacific Horticulture magazine – from 2012:

Dan Pearson, dahlia expert, flower farmer, tuber marketer. Plus, he designs a pretty sweet bouquet!

Dan Pearson, dahlia expert, flower farmer, tuber marketer. Plus, he designs a pretty sweet bouquet!

Growing dahlias began as a childhood hobby and evolved into one man’s livelihood 

You might say Dan Pearson is a poster child for the young farmers’ movement. Except that he started earlier than most of his contemporaries, growing and selling one-dollar bunches of dazzling red, pink, orange, and purple dahlias to customers who drove past the family dairy farm in Oakville, Washington, when he was just ten.

Sales of the alluring flower eventually put Dan through college and set the course of his career. 

Why are we wooed by dahlias? Perhaps it’s their amazing diversity in color, form, petal shape and size, Dan speculates, a grin spreading across his face. “They vary in size from less than two inches to ten inches. People are drawn to those dinner-plate-sized flowers for the wow factor, but soon they realize that the smaller to medium-sized flowers are useful for bouquets.”

As a boy, Dan demonstrated his affection for the flowers that his father, Clarence Pearson, planted along the edge of the vegetable garden by memorizing the names of more than 30 varieties. In 1984, when he was 11, Dan’s folks helped him open a flower stall at the Olympia Farmers Market. “My mother, Colleen, hand-painted a sign that simply read Dan’s Dahlias,” he recalls.

JoAnn Mahaffey designs flowers in Dan's Dahlias stall at the Olympia Farmers' Market.

JoAnn Mahaffey designs flowers in Dan’s Dahlias stall at the Olympia Farmers’ Market.

Today, if he’s not harvesting flowers from more than 600 varieties of luscious dahlias, you can still find Dan at the Olympia Farmers Market, Thursday through Sunday. His bunches of dahlias mixed with summer annuals go for the bargain price of $9, satisfying an endless stream of regulars and market visitors. Dan likes this market’s philosophy, which mandates that all farm products must be locally grown within a five-county area. Operating year-round, it is the state’s second-largest after Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market.

Dan Pearson' Washington-grown dahlias on display at the Seattle Wholesale Growers' Market -- from farmer to florist.

Dan Pearson’ Washington-grown dahlias on display at the Seattle Wholesale Growers’ Market — from farmer to florist.

A lot has been written about young farmers and the growth of America’s small family farm. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently began documenting this demographic, in recognition of the increasing ranks of young women and men who are leaving cities for a rural life on the land. Earlier this year, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency announced a nationwide drive to recruit up to 100,000 new farmers with resources including a “Start2Farm” web site, as well as farm loans and grant programs.

Dan is atypical, however, in that he’s not an urban escapee, but a fourth-generation farmer. He was raised by educators who also ran an 80-acre dairy farm in Washington’s Grays Harbor County, southwest of Olympia.


This lovely mix of gold, orange and red dahlias was a gift from Dan when I was working on “Slow Flowers,” the book. I added fountain grass, crocosmia and millet to the bouquet.

Todays Dahlias

The season for dahlias is almost over, but these vivid selections are a reminder of how much we LOVE this amazing flower.

“My great-grandfather and grandfather were both loggers and dairy farmers,” Dan says. “My father was a dairy farmer and a teacher. My children are the first in our family not raised on a dairy farm. I have fond memories of the experience of growing up on a dairy farm but eventually the transition to a different livelihood had to be made. I have no regrets about transitioning my family to raising dahlia flowers and bulbs. This area is where I chose to raise my family, and I hope if there are the economic means, my children can do the same.”

Encouraged to attend college, Dan earned a landscape architecture degree from Washington State University. Then he spent seven years on the staff of a large architecture-engineering firm in Olympia.

“But I like to grow things,” Dan explains, shoving his hands in his jean pockets and gazing out across four acres of land where in late July (thanks to a wet, cold spring), the first dahlia buds were only starting to open—a few weeks behind schedule. “Even when I was working as a landscape architect, I was growing dahlias on my evenings and weekends–getting my hands in the dirt.”

In 2002, Dan’s dahlia business was so demanding he quit his landscape architecture practice. The timing coincided with marrying his wife Mieke (“a woman from the city who’s moderated my workaholism,” he contends). It also took place as the Internet began to explode, allowing, Dan’s nascent web site, to reach a world of customers: gardeners, flower farmers, hobby growers, and members of the American Dahlia Society. Tubers represent 85 percent of his annual sales, while seasonal cut flower sales make up the balance.

With their two young children, Dan and Mieke live one mile from their growing fields. His farming practices are partly old-fashioned and partly modern. For example, Dan does nearly everything by hand with the help of a small, seasonal farm crew. He solves problems the way farmers have done for centuries, using a cash-free barter system when possible. Dan has expanded his dahlia plantings on two acres of his neighbor’s land in exchange for allowing the neighbor to harvest hay from his acreage that’s not suitable for dahlia crops.

When his flower production began to outpace farmers’ market capacity, Dan made a timely choice to join a collective of like-minded specialty cut flower growers in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska in 2011. More than a dozen growers formed the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a year-round, farmer-to-florist wholesale market in Seattle’s hip Georgetown neighborhood. There, in a turn-of-the-century brick warehouse near artist studios, bistros, and vintage furniture stores, the region’s healthiest, just-picked blooms bypass middlemen and are eagerly snatched up by florists, event and wedding planners, restaurants, supermarket floral buyers, and other design-savvy customers who value fresh, local, and sustainably grown flowers.

“The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market came along at the perfect time because it allows me an additional sales outlet,” Dan says. “I just acquired five more acres I’ll plant for Growers Market buyers.”

I can't get enough of this gorgeous flower!

I can’t get enough of this gorgeous flower!

Plant details: Dahlia (Dahlia species and cultivars)
History: The dahlia originated in highland areas of Mexico and Central America. According to experts, centuries after cuttings were brought by plant explorers to Spain, the parentage of tens of thousands of today’s hybrids can be traced to those original plants. The dahlia is a member of the daisy family (Asteraceae). Dahlia tubers, potato-like clumps with an “eye” at one end, are actually modified stems that store nutrients and water underground while producing show-stopping blooms on tall, leafy stems.
Best features: Picture-perfect, symmetrical flowers feature subtle to intense colors in a wide array of forms. Flowers are formed by many petal-like “ray florets” arranged around a center of “disk florets.”
Hardiness: Zones 9-11 “Dahlias can be grown in all fifty states,” Dan says. Dan’s Dahlias ships tubers throughout the United States, as well as to customers in several overseas markets.
Conditions: Full sun, humus-rich, well-drained soil
Bloom time: Late summer to early fall; Dahlias are cut-and-come-again flowers that respond well to frequent harvesting.