Debra Prinzing

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Episode 587: Walking the Talk: Unpacking the Slow Flowers Manifesto and putting our six values into practice for your floral enterprise

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

Today, I want to share a bonus episode with you — an updated lecture originally created for the FREESIA Summit, held in September 2022. FREESIA is an acronym for Florists Recognizing Environmental & Eco-Sustainable Ideas & Applications and the online conference was produced by Hitomi Gilliam and Colin Gilliam.

The presentation is called “Walking the talk” and it examines our Slow Flowers’ values and concepts and discusses how our members are putting them into practice. In this episode, I’ll introduce you to several Slow Flowers Society members and highlight their stories. You can have all the theory you want, but implementing these values is what will help you build a sustainable brand for your business.

Slow Flowers in flower letters
This SLOW FLOWERS image was designed by Nancy Cameron of Destiny Hill Flower Farm

I first started writing about the concept of Slow Flowers more than 10 years ago, coining the phrase “Slow Flowers” as a way to describe the values of slow, seasonal and domestic flowers. We defined the term Slow Flowers and what it reflects as a cultural shift: “A movement that encourages consumers to purchase locally-grown flowers and connects them with the source, from the flower farmer to the floral designer.”

During one of the open chat sessions during the FREESIA Summit, an audience member commented:  “We have to find a network of like-minded professionals to gather together and support our work,” and I had to pause and say: “That’s what Slow Flowers is!” That’s our laser-focused mission. Specifically, the Slow Flowers Movement has two audiences. We have the floral industry and we have consumers, and really, our message is constantly talking about the benefits of local, seasonal, and domestic flowers. And we want to influence floral buying practices of both groups.

Some people say, “Is it mainstream yet?” According to Keyhole, a social media tracker, in a recent 365-day period, the hashtag #slowflowers, created 67 million social media impressions. the term is now being used worldwide to really communicate and convey sustainability. Our members use the Slow Flowers affiliation to elevate and amplify their branding and marketing. They use it to telegraph to their customers and clients what they’re all about.

An important model for the Slow Flowers Movement is the Slow Food Movement. Many of you know about Slow Food, that phenomenal organization founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini in Italy, as an organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking and really. Slow Food was an anti-fast food response to what was happening in the culinary world. We took similar inspiration to shine a light on what has happened over the past 3 decades in the floral marketplace. Yes, I blatantly borrowed the adjective “slow” and added the word “flowers” to it.

Slow Food has a manifesto and so I thought it be only fitting if Slow Flowers had one, too. I wrote our Slow Flowers Manifesto in 2017, as a call to action and to help our members define the spirit of their work and their own mission.

Slow Flowers lecture title slide Walking the Talk

Let’s talk about the six values that are featured in the Slow Flowers Manifesto, and I’ll break them down by theme and what our members are doing to really reflect those values.

Slow Flowers Manifesto_Value one
The Slow Flowers Challenge (c) Debra Prinzing

Our first value is “To recognize and respect the seasons by celebrating and designing with flowers when they naturally bloom.”

As a guiding principle, we are influenced by what we see in the Slow Food movement, where people are saying, “To really celebrate flavor and the best food available is to eat it in season.” The strawberry’s lack of flavor in January is a frequent example given, but if you get it right off the vine or right off the plant in the middle of summer, there’s nothing more pure as the essence of season.

Similarly, we see this in the flower world. I think the idea of seasonality is universal and relatable to gardeners, and it certainly makes sense to me, since I come out from horticulture as a garden writer. During the pandemic, we saw something like 23 million new people who entered gardening during the shut-down. Having conversations about seasonality is important, because people are understanding they need to connect to nature more than ever.

The phrase “Slow Flowers” first appears in my books. I wrote The 50 Mile Bouquet in 2012 and used the phrase Slow Flowers throughout that book, kind of as a shorthand to explain to people what the topic was about.

The following year in 2013, I wrote a follow-up book called Slow Flowers, in which I set out to create a bouquet each week from my cutting garden in Seattle, using what grew there in season. It was a experiment to say, “You know what? There’s a dormant season in winter; it’s quieter, my design palette includes twigs and conifers. I asked: Can I create an arrangement as aesthetically pleasing as an expression of the current season, with as much excitement as I might during the peak of summer when everything’s exploding?”

The Slow Flowers book stimulated wonderful responses. There was a Slow Flowers Challenge in 2014 that started when one of my readers began using the hashtag #theslowflowerschallenge and sharing it on social media, asking other gardeners to join her. Inspired by her effort, we took it upon ourselves to create an opportunity for everybody to post and share images of their seasonal, garden-inspired arrangements. Flower lovers, gardeners, and florists joined in to create an arrangement every week, posting and sharing — it really exploded.

While I was out presenting lectures and presentations at flower shows, garden clubs, and other venues, I heard from audiences who said to me, “Okay, Debra, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid; I believe in what you’re talking about, but how do I find farmers and florists who are sourcing locally?”

I was asked the same question by my peers in the media who were interested in the renaissance that was taking place in our floral marketplace. In response, I launched in 2014, and began to use the platform to highlight our members as sources for local flowers.

Flower farmers and florists joined very early on to be part of the Movement. For example, farmer-florist Beth Syphers of Salem, Oregon-based Crowley House Flower Farm, joined as a member. She uses her association to promote the unique garden roses and other amazing crops her farm grows for the floral trade.

I was really fortunate, at the very beginning of this journey, to partner with local flower farmers in the Pacific Northwest, including those who formed the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in 2011, including Crowley House Flower Farm. I like to say I was their embedded journalist.

The farmers of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market are focused on bringing premium couture flowers to the florists of their region. They have differentiated local flowers from imported flowers and commercially-grown flowers.

I attribute the secret of their success to specializing in flowers that can’t be shipped or only bloom for a short period of time, like the beautiful lilacs which are grown by Jello Mold Farm in Washington’s Skagit Valley. Jello Mold is pictured on the cover of The 50 Mile Bouquet and you heard owners Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall on this podcast recently. As a storyteller, by partnering with the Growers Market and its farmers, I focused more people’s attention on locality of flowers.

The natural evolution of interviewing flower farmers led to connections with their customers, who are the florists, like Melissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers,  based in Seattle. She highlights seasonal flowers in her shop and educates her customers about her farm sources as part of her branding, such as her Instagram post: “Support Local Growers.” In fact, Melissa was a founding member of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, the only florist to join with the growers in launching the co-op.

These actions inspired other florists. Tammy Myers, of First & Bloom, also in the Seattle area, specializes in locally grown and American grown everyday flowers. She is rebranding for 2023 with the “eco-florist” tagline. After 9 years in business, her mission hasn’t changed.

Melissa and Tammy are among 850 florists and flower farmers, farmer-florists, retailers, wholesalers, and designers who are Slow Flowers Society practitioners.

Slow Flowers Value Number Two
Above: Adam O’Neal of PepperHarrow Farm in Winterset, Iowa (c) PepperHarrow Farm

Clearly, we all can see the benefits of supporting local flowers –our first mandate. These concepts inform value number two, which is really all about the transportation footprint.

In the past decade especially, as our community of flower farmers and floral designers, consumers and floral enthusiasts is gaining momentum, we are seeing people who view their floral purchases in the same way they spend their food dollars, with the goal of sourcing our flowers as close to home as possible. In North America, that’s obviously a challenge, because many areas have winter weather conditions, and so that’s where we really rely on flowers from warmer states like Hawaii, California, Florida, or even Oregon and Washington, but local is clearly the value that segues into this issue of the flower transportation conversation.

We wanted to know consumer attitudes about the correlation between where their flowers are grown and how they are purchased.

There hasn’t been a baseline understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviors for a long time, in terms of understanding their concern about local. In 2021, we partnered with the National Gardening Association and their annual National Garden Survey, which conducts a scientifically accurate survey of 2,500 households across the US, mainly asking them about lawn and garden trends and purchases and behaviors.

For two years, we have asked, “How important is it to you that the flowers you purchase are locally grown?”

In 2022, 65% said it is very or somewhat important; and that is up from 58% in 2021. This is very encouraging. We’re going to keep asking this question and measuring how the trend line is going.

We asked a second question, “How important is it to you to buy US grown cut flowers?” The response was not quite as high as the question around local flowers, but it’s still impressive, with 61% of respondents saying it is very or somewhat important; and that is up from 57% in 2021.

The National Gardening Survey is consumer-focused, which is why we also survey Slow Flowers members every year on issues and concerns that relate to their businesses. As I mentioned earlier our members include flower farmers, florists, studio and wedding and event florists, retail florists, and also people that define themselves as farmer-florists, as well as wholesalers and suppliers.

This past year, we asked, “What type of local support are you currently experiencing?”

89% of our respondents said that more customers are interested in my floral enterprise because it’s local.

45% said more customers are requesting locally grown flowers for their designs, so that’s really affirming.

Let’s talk about some of the things that we are seeing in context of the transportation footprint. The old-fashioned, original dictionary definition of FLORIST is one who is in the business of raising or selling flowers and ornamental plants. It’s a concept that’s having a comeback because of the Slow Flowers movement and an interest in locally grown flowers.

So, we asked our members, “What percentage of the flowers used in your designs do you grow yourself?”

A very large percentage, 55%, said that they grow 76 to 100% of the flowers used in their own designs. Only about 10% of our respondents saying they don’t grow any of their own flowers.

As an extension, we asked, “How important is it to you and your business to purchase US made products for use in your floral designs?” This relates more to the whole issue of hard goods and accessories. A year ago, we hadn’t quite felt the pinch of supply chain.

Now, we’re seeing an increased focus on reusing vases, recycling, repurposing — a lot of innovation is taking place in fighting supply chain challenges. I just wanted to mention one interesting example of this way to address supply shortages. Tammy Myers, of First & Bloom, who I mentioned in the first section recently partnered with an organization here in Seattle called Ridwell. Ridwell is a private recycling company that takes items that municipalities don’t have a recycling method for, including light bulbs and batteries and plastic bags. Tammy created a pilot project with Ridwell to recycle glass vases that homeowners have collected under their sinks or in cupboards. I believe they ran this project in two neighborhoods with an overwhelming response.

Tammy has created vase collections of these recycled vessels, by shape and size, from bud vases to centerpiece sizes, and is re-selling them at an affordable rate to cover her costs to supply local florists who need a regular quantity of vases and have had trouble sourcing them. We’ll be following this story as it unfolds. It’s encouraging to see how one person has diverted used glass vases from landfills.

To understand local, we wanted to explore flower sourcing and that goes back to the farm and the wholesaler. What does local mean? Some of the things that people would consider local include growing your own cutting garden; wild-gathering, buying farm-direct, or ordering from a farm one or two state away, or shopping for Certified American Grown flowers. I like to describe it as the pebble in the pond approach, with the goal of sourcing as close to home as possible.

When I wrote The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was very much inspired by the food mile, so I started my own cutting garden. I like to call it the five-step bouquet, because it is right outside my backyard.

Major wholesalers are responding to florist requests for local and American grown flowers, like a poster that Mayesh Wholesale Florist hung in their Portland branch, which reads: “Mayesh is Proud to Offer Local + American Grown Product,” and they’ve used this graphic on some of their sponsorship branding with Slow Flowers.

We know, good or bad, that grocery accounts for 50% of all floral sales and grocery customers want locally grown flowers. But not all grocery stores put a priority on supplying domestic or local flowers. We are thrilled that Town & Country Markets, a family- owned grocery chain in the Seattle area with six stores, are Slow Flowers members. Every year, Town & Country produces a special floral department promotion during American Flowers Week to highlight the local flower farms, which, of course, we love.

Whole Foods, certainly before their Amazon ownership, and even now, region by region, partners with local farmers. Our members Chet and Kristy Anderson of The Fresh Herb Company in Boulder, Colorado, for example, supply all of the Whole Foods branches in the Rocky Mountain region. Their program is so big, they’re delivering flowers to the Whole Foods distribution center, which supplies something like 12 stores across the Rocky Mountain region.

Individual Whole Foods stores also partner with growers to bring hyper-local flowers to their customers. For example, the Williams family of WilMor Farms in Metter, Georgia, supply the Whole Foods outlet in Savannah, Georgia. They support WilMor Farms with in-store signage, at the point-of-purchase and on bunches and bouquet labels.

I encourage people to define local on their own terms. If you put in the work, you can find local flowers everywhere. Yet LOCAL is a rather elusive term.  We researched whether there was a U.S. Government definition of “Local.” The USDA’s Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act defines local as a maximum 400-mile distance between where a product is produced and where it is consumed, or in the state in which the product is produced.

Slow Flowers Manifesto: Value Three
Local flowers – From the garden and farm (c) Debra Prinzing

Okay, let’s talk about Value Number Three. “To support flower farmers small and large by crediting them, when possible, through proper labeling at the wholesale and consumer level.”

When we see florists including “local messaging” into their branding, we know it captures the imagination of clients who care about how their money is spent. By supporting farmers small and large when we credit them, it helps everyone who is in the business of selling domestic and local flowers. This is very much about transparency in labeling. When people join Slow Flowers Society as a member, we say to them, “You don’t have to be 100% local or domestic in your sourcing, you just have to be willing to be transparent with consumers. If someone’s asking for local flowers in a particular category, for example, and you can’t supply it because you only have imported, you just have to be honest and tell them.” Through education, we’re encouraging flower farmers to develop relationships or partnerships with wholesalers. With strong farmers, with an increase in flower farming as a viable economic enterprise in agriculture, the equation benefits us all.

There has been a huge explosion of regional wholesale models, including collectives, cooperatives and other marketing networks. Inspired by the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, which opened in 2011, regional hubs are popping up across North America, as farmers open their own wholesale operations to sell direct to florists.

Every single week I receive an inquiry from somebody who wants resources on how to start their own collective in their region, perhaps with as few as three flower farmers coming together with a central location to sell their flowers. You can learn more in the webinar that we produced with Johnny’s Seeds in 2021, called Producer Cooperatives for Small Scale Farms, which is available for free to watch on their website.

There are also new online selling platforms emerging to help flower farmers with technology, so Gather Flora is out of the West Coast in California, Rooted Farmers is based out of the East Coast. Each of these models has unique proprietary software, created by people who saw a need for a platform that allows farmers to upload their inventory and make it easy for florists to shop from multiple farms at once, so this is a real connection, a missing link. When I started, I envisioned that Slow Flowers would be a tool to help consumers and florists find flower farmers, but I’m not an eCommerce expert and I never wanted to do transactions through the site, so I really applaud these groups that are coming together to solve that pain point to help flower farmers sell their product professionally to florists.

I mentioned earlier the benefit to florists who base their brands on local sourcing, and here’s just one florist I want to highlight. Pilar Zuniga is based in the Oakland area. Her studio is called Gorgeous and Green and her online store prominently offers local flowers.

Not only do I think this is really important, we often see florists who feature their farm sources on their blogs and websites. For example, Grace Flowers Hawaii on the Big Island, owned by Allison Higgins, recently posted a story about Daisy Dukes Farm, which is one of their local flower sources, which we love to see. These are simple things anybody can do, in terms of just educating your customers about your values.

Hometown Flower Company, our members based on Long Island, is another example. Owner Jaclyn Rutigliano is a third-generation florist, whose family were conventional florists. She has reimagined a new model for floristry, saying, “I want to focus on local.” One of the ways Hometown Flower Company communicates this brand attribute is through a map of Long Island that shows exactly where their flower farms and partners are located along the island. It’s really fun to see this map and realize that one little business is supporting a lot of flower farmers.

Back to our Slow Flowers member surveys, we captured florists’ increasing desire to go to the source, which is completely disrupting how flowers are sold. We asked our members, “What percentage of your cut flower purchases are through farm-direct channels?” Almost 40% report that it’s 76 to 100% of how they buy flowers. I just want to comment that this trending pattern is exactly one of the reasons why wholesalers are ramping up their focus on local-sourced flowers within their branches, using signage and labeling to telegraph that they, too, are working with local florists.

In last year’s member survey we also asked, “If you purchase from conventional wholesale florists, are you finding more American grown and local options than in the past?”

70% of our respondents said yes, so I think that’s just something that we’re going to see more of across the board. And this is an encouraging trendline.

Value number four: “To encourage sustainable and organic farming practices that respect people and the environment.”

You can see a great example of this value on the homepage of Le Mera Gardens, in Ashland, Oregon. Joan Thorndike has operated Le Mera Gardens for more than 30 years. Long before Slow Flowers was even a term, Joan sought organic certification. She says, as a mother who always had her children on the farm with her, she wanted her children to be safe, but she also wanted her florists and their children to be safe and their consumers to be safe.

We discussed florists who feature the farms they source from – as a way to inform their customers. Joan has flipped it around and she lists the florists who carry Le Mera’s local flowers. Joan wants to let people know, “Here are the florists who buy their flowers from our farm; please go patronize them.” I love this reciprocity.

In terms of Sustainability, there are many definitions, but one widely used example is a definition from the United Nations: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So, what does it mean in the floral trade? I love a little sign I found years ago on a counter of a flower shop in Portland that reads: “We compost all floral cuttings.” It’s just a simple sign that goes a long way to communicate sustainability. That particular florist was located next to a farm-to-table restaurant, which made a big deal about composting their food waste, so she felt like she wanted to get in on that act, and it was a small but smart gesture. Kelsey Ruhland of Foxbound Flowers in Eugene, Oregon, recently shared that she weighs her flower waste every single week before putting it into the municipal compost collection, because she’s trying to document, over the course of a year, how much flower waste she’s composting, which is an extra step. Clearly it takes work – and intentionality – to be sustainable. But letting your market know what you’re doing is important.

One of the best ways to teach the values of sustainable flowers takes place when consumers and florists can step onto a flower farm. We did a report for Johnny’s Seeds featuring the ways that farmers are staging on-farm events as an education, a marketing, and a community-building tool.

Staging open houses or farm tours clearly nurture organic, in-person connections between consumers and local flowers. The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, especially before COVID, regularly held open days at their member farms. Usually held on a Sunday, families were invited for a day of festivities, and a lot of florists came for the country experience and to see where the flowers that they buy, week in and week out, were grown.

There are a few other sustainable themes I’d like to discuss. As a home gardener who is 100% organic in my own backyard, I understand sustainable farming practices. While I don’t plant cover crops, there are some practices I emulate, such as rotating planting areas and harvesting rainwater.

Not all flower farms can achieve a USDA organic certification. There are other third-party designations that evaluate sustainable practices, such as the Certified Naturally Grown program, a peer-to-peer farmer evaluation that was formed because of all the rigor and difficulty of becoming certified through the USDA.

In the Pacific Northwest we see farms seeking Salmon-Safe certification. This is a label seen on Oregon and Washington wines as a way to telegraph to consumers that their vineyard farming practices have been designated to be safe for salmon habitat. The flower farmers at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market have gone through this evaluation and they view it as another way to communicate to consumers that they’re serious about their practices.

At Jello Mold, Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall have also hosted floral departments from local grocery stores, so that the staff gain product knowledge and education. At Right Field Farm in Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., David Brunton and his family send a weekly email to their CSA customers. The email tells everybody what’s happening on this small family farm; what they’re growing; something unique about a particular variety that’s available that week; where people can also buy their flowers at the local natural grocery store. The highly personalized communication nurtures authentic connections between people and flowers.

Slow Flowers Manifesto Value Five
Myriah Towner, documentary producer of Black Farmer Stories

We added Value Five in 2020. This was an important action, in response to our desire to proactively pursue equity, inclusion and representation in the floral marketplace with as much support as we give to environmental sustainability.

Personally, I was inspired by one of my mentors, a Black horticulture professional and friend through the gardening industry; She pointed out that the missing component of sustainability so often overlooked is human sustainability.

We believe that supporting environmental sustainability is only part of the equation. We have to show we care as much about representation, inclusion, and equity in the floral industry as we do our environmental choices, so this value five is really important.

Slow Flowers is committed to expanding our inclusion, representation and diversity, including through our partnership with Bloom Imprint, which is our book publishing venture owned with Robin Avni. Earlier in 2022, Bloom Imprint published Black Flora by Teresa J.  Speight, which features top Black farmers and florists across the U.S.

Black Flora amplify the voices of not only floriculture professionals, but agricultural and horticultural professionals. Why is it important to feature Black florists and flower farmers? When young and emerging floral professionals see someone who looks like them practicing professionally, it sends such a important message about the values that we have. Among the many other inspiring floral entrepreneurs, you’ll want to meet Dee Hall of Mermaid City Flower Farm in Norfolk, Virginia. She started Black Flower Farmers last year as a community group for specialty cut flower growers across the U.S., and we really want to support this expanding farming group.

Flower farmer Aishah Lurry owns Patagonia Flower Farm, and she is both a Slow Flowers member as well as active in the Black Flower Farmers group. Aishah has created an incredibly vibrant local business in a market that, honestly, never had local flowers, in Tucson, Arizona, so she’s really changing people’s definition of what’s local. When you see that she’s growing lisianthus and tulips in the high desert, it’s kind of mind-blowing. She’s just a real leader in the industry.

By supporting Black floral professionals and other people of color in the floral industry, we all benefit from connections and shared values. One leader is Valerie Crisostomo, an Atlanta-based wedding and event florist. She started Black Girl Florists in 2020 . It’s an organization much like Slow Flowers, a network of Black florists across the US. They’ve become a real important resource for each other and to share a unified voice. Black Girl Florists had their first conference in 2022, it included wedding and event professionals, as well as florists and flower farmers.

One of the other groups recently emerging on Instagram is Florists of Color, a feed to be celebrated. It’s hosted by Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green; I mentioned her earlier. A Latina florist, Pilar has expanded representation of all Florists of Color, including indigenous and Asian and Pacific Islanders and all Black and brown florists and flower farmers through the Instagram account. I encourage you all to join me in elevating and promoting representation and justice in the floral marketplace. Let’s ensure the growth and sustainability of the people in our profession.

Slow Flowers Manifesto Value Six
Organically-grown flowers from the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden (c) Debra Prinzing

Let’s wrap up with our last value, value number six, “to eliminate waste and the use of chemical products in the floral industry.”

We just have to look at the media coverage around Queen Elizabeth’s recent funeral to see that the topic of floral industry waste is a global issue. I illustrated this point with a story published in September by CBC News in Canada, critiquing the amount of plastic wrapping accumulated from all the bouquets that were left at Buckingham Palace and other places to commemorate Queen Elizabeth.

Perhaps all those flower bouquet purchase were good for flower retailers, but the criticism generated by scenes of plastic trash by the container loads was disheartening, especially since most of that cellophane is not recyclable. One of our members, Becky Feasby of Prairie Girl Flowers, was quoted in the article questioning whether there are other ways that packaging can be changed to reduce plastic.

On a positive note, it was encouraging to also read coverage about the flowers in the wreath placed on Queen Elizabeth’s coffin — and the fact that they came from gardens that were important to both her and to King Charles III. I love this sentence that caught my eyes: “At His Majesty’s request, this wreath is made in a totally sustainable way, in a nest of English moss and oak branches, and without the use of floral foam.” I think we have Shane Connolly to thank for that influence on King Charles III.

Increasingly, people are concerned about the single-use plastics in the floral industry. In last year’s Slow Flowers Member Survey, we asked, “What percentage of your design work uses alternatives to floral foam?” 75% of our respondents said 75 to 100% of their work is foam-free.

We also asked our members to identify the foam-free mechanics they used.  95% of our respondents identified chicken wire, which, of course, we know about. The other top ones were pin frogs, hairpin frogs, Holly Chapple’s Syndicated eggs and cages, chicken wire and moss, taped grids, and other organic mechanics like branches.

Another organization you’ll want to check out is The Sustainable Floristry Network. Founded by Australian florist Rita Feldmann, SFN features several of our Slow Flowers members as ambassadors, including Susan McLeary, Becky Feasby, Pilar Zuniga, and Tobey Nelson. Slow Flowers has joined on as an advisor. One of their statements really moves me. It says: “We can’t wait for the day the Sustainable Floristry Network closes its doors. On that day, floristry will be carbon neutral, non-toxic and waste-free, with safe and fair conditions for all working in the industry. We’ll get there when all sides of floristry come together, creating a system that equally supports our passion, our livelihoods, and the planet

Slow Flowers spelled out in flower petals
Another beautiful Slow Flowers vignette, created by our friends at Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Slow Flowers supports this statement and Slow Flowers is synonymous with local, seasonal, and sustainable, and inclusive floristry and flower farming. Since our origins more than a decade ago, we have been advocating, often quietly and often seen as a fringe element in the marketplace, and now, it’s so gratifying to see what an influence we have brought to the industry, changing the conversation, and bringing our values into the mainstream.

I think everybody who gardens will find the mental health benefits of growing their own flowers. And when that happens, the floral consumer is enlightened and engaged in sustainable issues that relate to our profession.

There is so much more to share, and I hope you’ll get more involved, whether you’re already a member or if you wish to learn more. Click here to join us as a member!

Download PDF of the Walking the Talk slideshow below:

Thank you to our Sponsors

This show is brought to you by, the free, online directory to more than 850 florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

Farmgirl Flowers 2022

Thank you to our lead sponsor, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $10 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually. Discover more at

Thank you to CalFlowers, the leading floral trade association in California, providing valuable transportation and other benefits to flower growers and the entire floral supply chain in California and 48 other states. The Association is a leader in bringing fresh cut flowers to the U.S. market and in promoting the benefits of flowers to new generations of American consumers. Learn more at

Thank you to Store It Cold, creators of the revolutionary CoolBot, a popular solution for flower farmers, studio florists and farmer-florists.  Save $1000s when you build your own walk-in cooler with the CoolBot and an air conditioner.  Don’t have time to build your own?  They also have turnkey units available. Learn more at   

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

Slow Flowers Podcast Logo with flowers, recorder and mic

Thanks so much for joining me today! The Slow Flowers Podcast is a member-supported endeavor, downloaded more than 900,000 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 our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too.

If you’re new to our weekly Show and our long-running Podcast, check out all of our resources at

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Show & Podcast. The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. 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.  Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more Slow Flowers on the table, one stem, one vase at a time.

Music credits:

Enter the Room; Turning on the Lights; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions

by Tryad

In The Field

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 50 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Poinsettias as a holiday "cut" -- don't they look dramatic?

Poinsettias as a holiday “cut” — don’t they look dramatic?

The prosaic poinsettia has a new, sexy reputation, especially at a time when floral designers are desperate for beautiful focal flowers to go with all the greenery in our lives.

Begonia + Poinsettia!

Begonia + Poinsettia!

For the past decade the gardening world has watched an explosion of breeding in the poinsettia world. I remember attending a press event in the early 2000s when Molbak’s Nursery in the Seattle area hosted all of us at a breakfast to unveil the new poinsettia colors and varieties (streaked and flecked; and a palette ranging from cream to wine). I wrote that story for The Daily Herald about 15 years ago, so no doubt the news hit the gardening world quite a while ago!

Slowly, floral designers are discovering — and embracing — poinsettias. The flowers are tricky to source as cut options, although I’ve heard from some designers who are able to find poinsettia cuts. We just don’t see them here in Seattle.

A low silver bowl, tarnished, of course, is the ideal vessel for this holiday centerpiece of poinsettias, spray roses, agonis foliage, rex begonia foliage and Korean fir

A low silver bowl, tarnished, of course, is the ideal vessel for this holiday centerpiece of poinsettias, spray roses, agonis foliage, rex begonia foliage and Korean fir

What’s my other option? I went to Lowe’s this week to find locally-grown poinsettias from Smith Gardens in Bellingham, Washington. I was in search of a soft peachy tone and wasn’t disappointed. The flower I found wasn’t labeled (although I did learn that Noche Buena is the Mexican name for poinsettia).

I found three pots with this beautiful type of poinsettia, $6.98 each. Two of the three had broken stems, with unusable blooms, so Lowe’s sold them to me for $2 each. In all, that netted me 7 huge flowers for $11, which seems like a great price.

So nice to see these poinsettias as lush cut focal flowers

So nice to see these poinsettias as lush cut focal flowers

Since coming home from the home center, I looked up peach poinsettias online and have decided it’s possible this one is called ‘Visions of Grandeur’, described as a luxuriously rich, yet soft peach/pink/cream plant. But I could be way off because the colors seem to vary as widely as the petals of ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlias. Either way, it’s lovely, feminine and romantic.

I began my arrangement with a Goodwill purchase from last in August, a silver-plated Gorham fruit bowl. I think I paid $6.99 for it; just found the same bowl on eBay for $35. I’m in bargain heaven with this great-priced bowl and discount poinsettias!

I placed a dome-shaped vintage metal flower frog in the base and added a second “level” of structure with chicken wire, domed at the top of the 9-inch container.

Foliage and branches:

  • Dark purple Agonis flexuosa, California grown, valued for its sultry color and feathery texture
  • A silvery-green fir known in the landscape trade as Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’), from Leo’s Trees, a Southwest Washington vendor who sells at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. Danielle Bennett, assistant manager at the Market, told me that Leo only brought in two bunches. I understand why because Korean fir is very slow growing so he probably didn’t want to trim so many boughs from the tree! I planted one of these ornamental conifers in a prior garden and I loved its wonderful winter sheen when hit with the afternoon light!
  • Rex begonia foliage, clipped from my houseplant. I love how the raspberry-wine foliage plays off of the Agonis foliage and the scale of each leaf holds its own against the poinsettia blooms.


  • Poinsettias. Following instructions mentioned in my recent blog post about International Poinsettia Day (Dec. 12th), the best way to prepare stems for floral design is as follows: Cut, then dip into hot water 140˚ F for 20 seconds; then plunge into cold water for 10 seconds.
  • ‘Snowflake’ white spray roses, grown by Green Valley Floral in Salinas, California

A small bouquet made with "leftovers," including a gorgeous amaryllis!

A small bouquet made with “leftovers,” including a gorgeous amaryllis!

A bonus: I used my leftover pieces to create a couple of small arrangements, which also included the final blooms from two raspberry-hued amaryllis grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers. I enjoyed these in a larger arrangement last week and the final buds just opened this week.

Week 42 // Slow Flowers Challenge & a Day of Flowers at Filoli

Monday, October 26th, 2015

A detail of my arrangement demonstrated after my Slow Flowers lecture at Filoli.

A detail of my arrangement demonstrated after my Slow Flowers lecture at Filoli. Note the lovely flowering passionvine tendrils dripping from the base.

Filoli, the iconic early 20th Century estate in Woodside, California, is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is a cultural institution where people come to learn, explore and be inspired by nature just minutes away from the city.

Filoli is also known for its Floral Design Certificate program and that’s what brought me there last Friday to lecture and teach, thanks to the invitation of Cathy Rampley, head of education, and Katherine Glazier, one of the instructors in the floral design program.

When planning ahead to order flowers for a couple large-scale floral designs and a hands-on workshop for 20 students, I always tell the organizers that I want local, American grown flowers. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, like last week, it’s impossible to do otherwise. After all, we shopped at the San Francisco Flower Mart, which is where the best flowers available are California Grown.

The scale of this vessel allowed me to go very wide with the branches and stems.

The scale of this vessel allowed me to go very wide with the branches and stems.

I had so much fun digging through the storage closets at the Filoli estate house to select vessels for my designs. The ceramic piece you see above is measures approximately 14 inches in diameter, a turquoise-glazed dish mounted in a brass stand. Its shallowness challenged me and despite the 7-inch pin frog attached to the inside base, I mounded a large piece of chicken wire to dome over the opening.

Detail of autumn colors and textures, including the Cotinus, the peachy-orange dahlias, antique hydrangeas and the yellow-orange Ilex.

Detail of autumn colors and textures, including the Cotinus, the peachy-orange dahlias, antique hydrangeas and the yellow-orange Ilex.

This arrangement proves my theory that when a vase is shallow, you can build the bouquet 2- to 3-times the width of the opening. Using smoke tree (Cotinus) clipped from Filoli by the gardening staff and inserted so it soars off to one side allowed me to exaggerate the horizontal. Several antique hydrangea blooms, sourced from Half Moon Bay nearby, rest on the rim of the bowl and anchor it visually. I needed quite a bit of greenery to fill the volume and hide the mounded chicken wire (seriously, this piece was larger than a basketball cut in half!). Lots of the foliage was sourced from Filoli, including a type of large-leaf ivy and coffee berry branches.


Week 38 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Lush, early autumn colors  of corals, peaches, ivories and celadon green.

Lush, early autumn colors of corals, peaches, ivories and celadon green.

Dahlia season continues here in the Pacific Northwest, where local flower farms in Washington and Oregon have produced bumper crops for 2015.

I’ve been traveling so much this summer in order to co-host and promote the Field to Vase Dinner Tour, that the last four weeks have been a blur. I haven’t posted a Slow Flowers Challenge bouquet since August 27th when I shared Week 34. Yikes! Please forgive me!

The finished bouquet, shown at its finest in my vintage cast-iron planter

The finished bouquet, shown at its finest in my vintage cast-iron planter

As if that wasn’t enough, we moved in July. Moving into an apartment after selling our home (and its beautiful garden) has been an exhausting transition. We’re getting settled in a place located quite close to downtown (I can see the Space Needle from our apartment!), but I now realize what an effort it takes to procure flowers when one doesn’t grow them oneself.

This move has provided me with a valuable lesson and an important insight about how hard it is to enjoy seasonal flowers in one’s home. It’s so much easier when you can just step outside and clip to your heart’s content.

Thankfully, where I live, I’m able to enjoy outdoor space and fresh air. We have a small balcony attached to our unit and upstairs, there is a massive rooftop deck. These are daily luxuries. Access to flowers is a little more challenging.

Have you ever seen a celosia this gigantic?

Have you ever seen a celosia this gigantic?

Yesterday, I attended a board meeting at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. In exchange for several hours sitting around the table with my fellow board members, I was rewarded with a chance to shop the Market floor afterwards.

Step One: Start with a few branches of Liquidambar - a sure sign of fall! Place them off-centered to exaggerate the width of the urn.

Step One: Start with a few branches of Liquidambar – a sure sign of fall! Place them off-centered to exaggerate the width of the urn.

You will LOVE the goodies I came home with! This arrangement is constructed using chicken wire inserted into the vintage cast-iron planter.

Dahlia ‘Pam Howden’, a peach-gold waterlily dahlia, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Dahlia ‘Peach Fuzz’, a pale peach novelty dahlia true to its fuzzy moniker, grown by Dan’s Dahlas

Dahlia ‘Narrows Erica’, a peach-orange ball dahlia, grown by Dan’s Dahlias

Sweetgum foliage (Liquidambar styraciflua), foraged by Tosh’s Farm

Pale green Celosia, grown by Peterkort

‘Michael Dodge’ viburnum, with pale yellow fruit, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Step two: Insert one enormous pale-green celosia to give weight to the arrangement.

Step Two: Insert one enormous pale-green celosia to give weight to the arrangement.

Muir Ranch

Dining al fresco at Muir Ranch, an urban school’s food and flower farm in Pasadena.

American flower farmer Mel Resendiz

American flower farmer Mel Resendiz

There are also two wonderful “bonus” elements in this bouquet, both California-grown. On Sunday morning, I flew back to Seattle from Burbank with generous bunches of grevillea foliage and Serruria florida ‘Blushing Bride’ in my carry-on bag (of course).

They were gifts from Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers and flower farmer Mel Resendiz. We met up last Saturday night at a special farm dinner held at Muir Ranch in Pasadena, which hosted more than 100 guests who learned all about urban agriculture (see above).

Many of the guests were fellow members of the Garden Writers Association, who were in Pasadena for an annual symposium. They came for dinner and met some very talented high school students who are producing food and flowers for the CSA at John Muir H.S.

Our host Mud Baron, urban-ag activist and creator of “Flowers on Your Head,” invited Mel Resendiz and Diana and Bob Roy of Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers to join the fun. Mel cranked out some beautiful bouquets for the tables and somehow I ended up with the very special ‘Blushing Bride’ to bring home. It is in the proteaceae family and Diana tells me the flowers dry beautifully.

Step Three: Add three types of dahlias, blending colors for depth and interest.

Step Three: Add three types of dahlias, blending colors for depth and interest.

Enhance with a few more stems of Liquidambar and celosia

Step Four: Enhance with a few more stems of Liquidambar and celosia

Step Five: Tuck in clusters of 'Blushing Bride' and notice how much the ivory-cream petals echo the celadon green celosia.

Step Five: Tuck in clusters of ‘Blushing Bride’ and notice how much the ivory-cream petals echo the celadon green celosia.

Step Six: Incorporate 'Michael Dodge' viburnum berries to add sparkle and texture.

Step Six: Incorporate ‘Michael Dodge’ viburnum berries to add sparkle and texture.

I *think* I can get back on schedule for the Slow Flowers Challenge. It has been rewarding to see what everyone else has produced while I’ve been away from my clippers and vases.


Week 34 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Please meet 'Sierra Glow' - isn't she adorable?

Please meet ‘Sierra Glow’ – isn’t she adorable?

'Sierra Glow' detail - sigh.

‘Sierra Glow’ detail – sigh.

Everybody loves the ‘Cafe au Lait’ dahlia for its showy yet ephemeral beauty, right? This week, I met Miss Cafe’s richer-toned cousin, ‘Sierra Glow’.

My new love has petals that have hints of copper, coral, melon and amber, all rolled into one yummy hue. Dan Pearson of Dan’s Dahlias describes it this way on his website: “Large orange-bronze blooms on strong stems. Very impressive in the garden.”

I picked up a plump bunch of ‘Sierra Glow’ dinner-plate dahlias grown by Jello Mold Farm this week and from there, all the pieces fell into place with the moody late-summer/not-quite-fall palette.

With our recent move and purging of “stuff,” I’ve discovered that many of my wonderful vases and containers are boxed up in the storage unit. But this cool brass planter, from Goodwill, serves the purpose perfectly.

Gotta love this deep burgundy smokebush foliage!

Gotta love this deep burgundy smokebush foliage!

Here’s the recipe:

Supplies: 1 brass planter, measuring and 1 vintage cage-style flower frog

Okay, you had me at coxcomb!

Okay, you had me at coxcomb!


Smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple”), grown by Jello Mold Farm

Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), grown by All My Thyme

Velvety coxcomb celosia in pale apricot, grown by Peterkort

I believe this Calendula is in the Zeolights series.

I believe this Calendula cultivar is called ‘Zeolights’.

Calendula in the most perfect milky-gold hue, grown by Ojeda Farms

Golden amaranth with such gorgeous form

Golden amaranth with such gorgeous form

Upright bunches of golden amaranth, grown by Jello Mold Farm

‘Sierra Glow’ dinnerplate dahlias, grown by Jello Mold Farm

Week 32 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Glowing yellow flowers and fruit for a gray Seattle day.

Glowing yellow flowers and fruit for a gray Seattle day.

The yellow flowers spoke to me when I was perusing among hundreds of exquisite botanical choices this week! 

When I visited the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, I started with the amazing crabapple branches, harvested from Jello Mold Farm and sold by the single stem. You certainly don’t need many, but adding two stems laden with immature crabapples to an arrangement is a sure-fire way to up the interest level.

Jello Mold's crabapples were the starting point for this week's Slow Flowers Challenge

Jello Mold’s crabapples were the starting point for this week’s Slow Flowers Challenge.

If left on the tree, these crabs will redden up, but for now, there is enough golden-green tinge to make them a perfect companion for all the other yellow goodness you see here. And the vintage green glass jar that I used as a vase plays nicely with this palette, too.

Love these joy-inducing zinnias!

Love these joy-inducing zinnias!

Close up, please!

Close up, please!

Next, I started shopping around for flowers to pair with the crabapples — and that’s when I spotted Vivian Larson’s yummy zinnias, shown above. Viv is the gifted farmer at Everyday Flowers in Stanwood. I can always count on her to spot an uncommon petal shape, bloom detail or flower color and then try growng that variety for the rest of us to enjoy.

What do you call this color? By the time I paired these huge zinnias with yellow sunflowers and roses, I decided it has more muted pigments – and that’s why I love its role in this arrangement. It’s a one-off, a shade of pure yellow.

Lemony-yellow sunflowers

Lemony-yellow sunflowers

These petite sunflower heads are ideal for floral design because their scale doesn’t overpower other blooms in the vase. These are the perkiest, freshest, most charismatic sunflowers I’ve seen all summer — and of course, Vivian Larson grew them at Everyday Flowers. I know I just said they don’t “overpower” the arrangement, which is true. But their many plump petals create the necessary volume to fill out this large-scale bouquet.

Solidago with a hint of the yellow flowers to come.

Solidago with a hint of the yellow flowers to come.

There’s not a lot of foliage in this arrangement, so thank goodness for the textural “fluff” that comes from this robust goldenrod ( Solidago sp.), grown by Gonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms.

Like the crabapples, it is a palette-blender, moving easily into both the yellow spectrum and the green spectrum. Plus, I just love its from-the-meadow vibe.  I almost love it better at this stage than when the tiny flowers are fully opened!

Organic garden roses -- a few go a long way!

Organic garden roses — a few go a long way!

IMG_0190The bunch of four stems of beautiful yellow garden roses is my finishing touch. Dawn Severin of All My Thyme grows the healthiest, most alluring English garden rose varieties ~ and these do not disappoint.

The rose color is simply delicious and there are so many petals are packed into one flowerhead that you can’t stop admiring their beauty. It was a privilege to add them to this bouquet for that extra sparkle of summer!

We are at the height of the season and I want to sign off with a note of thanks to you for following along on the Slow Flowers Challenge. I keep hearing from people who are participating, making and sharing photos of their own arrangements, and experiencing four seasons of flowers this year.

I hope you’re experiencing what I’m experiencing — the sense that there’s something wonderful to appreciate in every plant, every stem, every bud, every leaf. In all seasons. In all twelve months.When we think like this, it changes how our eyes see. And that’s a valuable gift.

Until next week, keep designing!

Debra Prinzing

Week 31 // Slow Flowers Challenge (what happened to Week 30?)

Monday, August 10th, 2015

My Edwardian-inspired summer bouquet, clipped from local farms and gardens.

My Edwardian-inspired summer bouquet, clipped from local farms and gardens.

True confessions: I’m overwhelmed these days. The epic move last month from a huge house to a small condo (what to do with all that stuff?), combined with an intense travel schedule and a few overly voracious consulting projects . . . and I am scrambling to catch up. I can’t quite see the end of this tunnel until 2016.

The good news, however, is that flowers keep blooming and defining each season whether I clip and arrange them – or not!

This was my "practice" bouquet, using many of the same ingredients (only the sambucus foliage is missing).

This was my “practice” bouquet, using many of the same ingredients (only the sambucus foliage is missing).

Please accept this entry in the Slow Flowers Challenge, Week 31. We’ll just have to write off Week 30 as a lost cause (maybe I’ll double-up sometime soon to redeem myself)!

Melissa Feveyear (left) and Grace Hensley (right), at Dunnton Abbey.

Melissa Feveyear (left) and Grace Hensley (right), at Dunnton Abbey.

This past weekend I participated along with four other talented plantswomen and designers in an event called Dunnton Abbey Garden Party.

The play on words with the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey” was intentional, as the folks at one of Seattle’s most lovely private estate gardens, The E. B. Dunn Historic Garden Trust, held a lawn party inspired by the gentile fetes we’ve watched on Downton Abbey over the years.

It was all quite fitting, as Dunn Gardens date back to 1915, a contemporary period from Downtown Abbey’s first episodes.

Croquet, musicians, a vintage car show, people in period garb, a cake walk and many more activities were on hand. It was lovely and I especially enjoyed seeing everyone unplugged from modernity (although many did have their cell phones out to snap photographs, I’ll give you that).

Lacey Leinbaugh in her charming floral-bedecked hat!

Lacey Leinbaugh in her charming floral-bedecked hat!

Grace Hensley of eTilth, a Slow Flowers friend here in Seattle, coordinated the floral design demonstrations. She invited Lacey Leinbaugh of Blue Lace DesignMelissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers; Jennifer Carlson of Haven Illustrated and me to present “Edwardian Floral Design.”

We each were given a generous budget to shop for locally-grown flowers at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. A few weeks prior, we did a walk-through of the grounds at Dunn Gardens with co-curator Charles Price, pointing out stems, leaves and flowers that caught out eyes.

Charles judiciously cut those elements for us, too, so when I arrived with my own “bucket” of items from the Growers Market, there were dozens of other buckets overflowing with the truly local, of-the-moment, garden harvest. That added hydrangeas, phlox, ninebark, sambucus, rodgersia, ferns, hostas, fuchsias, monarda, meadow rue (Thalictrum sp.), crocosmia and more to the mix!

Guest of the garden party were invited to bid on our floral arrangements to take home with them.

Guests of the garden party were invited to bid on our floral arrangements to take home with them.

What is Edwardian floral design, anyway?

I honestly didn’t have time to do research in advance, but by the time I started my bouquet, I had a few thoughts to share.

I told the audience that the Edwardians were the original “Slow Flowers” florists because they only used local and in-season flowers, probably clipped from their own gardens.

Whether you were a member of the “upstairs” class relying on gardeners and hothouse blooms or a member of the “downstairs” class cutting from the edge of a meadow or woodland, the flowers reflected what nature had to offer.

The other idea I shared had to do with palette, and this was inspired by my textiles background. At the time, chemical textile dyes were not yet as popular or widespread as natural, plant-based dyes. And to me, that notion reflects a softer, muted, less vivid color scheme in textiles for apparel and interiors.

That yummy palette! Note the almost-pink lisianthus, as beautiful as a rose.

That yummy palette! Note the almost-pink lisianthus, as beautiful as a rose.

The tea-stained, sepia-toned palette of my imagined Edwardian bouquet was reflected in the flowers and foliage. I began with a blush-and-faded mix of ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas taking on a slightly pink tinge; not-quite-pink lisianthus blooms; pale terracotta draping amaranthus, and strawberry-colored gomphrena.

The darker accents lent a moodiness to the arrangement: Deep maroon dahlias; dark purple sedum heads; purple sambucus foliage; and berry-black Rex Begonia foliage, variety ‘Shadow King Rothko’.

Rex begonias carry the day, accenting the pale and dark blooms.

Rex begonias carry the day, accenting the pale and dark blooms.

Whether it’s truly Edwardian or not, the bouquet felt like a period piece in the black-and-silver Goodwill vase!

Here is a list of the ingredients, with my thanks to each farmer who grew them:

From Diane & Dennis at Jello Mold Farm, Mt. Vernon, Washington:

  • ‘Limelight’ hydrangea blooms
  • Amaranthus
  • Dark purple sedum

From Vivian at Everyday Flowers, Stanwood, Washington:

  • Gomphrena
  • Lisianthus
  • Maroon dahlias

From the Dunn Garden Borders: Sambucus foliage

From Seattle Wholesale Growers Market: Rex Begonia, variety ‘Shadow King Rothko’

Enjoy these photos from my fellow designers, each of whom did a magnificent job!

Grace thoroughly embraced the Edwardian spirit and she made these adorable paper-cone poseys to sell from her basket as she strolled the lawn in her period attire.

Grace thoroughly embraced the Edwardian spirit and she made these adorable paper-cone poseys to sell from her basket as she strolled the lawn in her period attire.

Melissa Feveyear's bouquet wowed everyone! She chose a pearly pink and coral palette with a few characteristic surprises.

Melissa Feveyear’s bouquet wowed everyone! She chose a pearly pink and coral palette with a few characteristic surprises.

Lacey Leinbaugh's beautiful summer bouquet used periwinkle accents to play off the vase color. Love this!

Lacey Leinbaugh’s beautiful summer bouquet used periwinkle accents to play off the vase color. Love this!

Jennifer Carlson went all in for the dramatic raspberry amaranth to wow the audiences.

Jennifer Carlson went all in for the dramatic raspberry amaranth to wow the audiences.

Week 29 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

Dahlias, zinnias, scabiosa, stock, baby's breath and oakleaf hydrangea foliage

Dahlias, zinnias, scabiosa, stock, baby’s breath and oakleaf hydrangea foliage

Sweetest color; finest texture -- pink baby's breath

Sweetest color; finest texture — pink baby’s breath

It’s so hard to believe we have arrived at Week 29, but the flowers tell us it is so.

Much is blooming early here in the Pacific Northwest. The flower farmers report that their crops are exploding weeks ahead of past seasons. It’s good news for the floral designers who yearn for local dahlias to take center stage in their creations — now through the first frost.

I love the tawny palette that started with this pinky-coral dahlia grown by my friends Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon., the source of some of the most prolific offerings at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

That pink baby’s breath, which they also grow, literally took away my breath! I had to play with it and I love its blush-pink color echo of the dahlias.

The view from my new urban balcony - a ceramic stool is the ideal pedestal for my summer bouquet

The view from my new urban balcony – a ceramic stool is the ideal pedestal for my summer bouquet

Love how all these berry colors and pastels play together beautifully!

Love how all these berry colors and pastels play together beautifully!

Jello Mold also grows this terrific pale yellow zinnia, part of the Zinderella series of zinnias that produces a dense mound of double petals on top, available in many cool colors.

The rest of this arrangement is equally alluring, given the high-quality, seasonal blooms.

I love having the confidence that each stem was grown by a Salmon Safe-certified flower farmer using sustainable practices!

The remaining ingredients include:

Apricot cactus zinnias (Zinnia elegans ‘Pinca’), grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers

Pincushion flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black  Knight’), grown byGonzalo Ojeda of Ojeda Farms

Stock in an ombre range of peach hues, grown by Sarah and Steve Pabody of Triple Wren Farms

Oakleaf hydrangea foliage, clipped from a neighbor’s shrub.

Together these soft colors are feminine and romantic.

Together these soft colors are feminine and romantic.

If you love this pin-striped vase as much as I do, please check out the work of Seattle ceramic artist Kristin Nelson of Kri Kri Studios.

This vase is part of her Vit Ceramics collection and I love that it’s as local and hand-crafted as the flowers it contains! This “Eve” vase is the perfect height and proportions for floral arranging. Click here to read Kristin’s description of how she created this lovely vessel.

Kate's dahlias -- from her garden to my vase

Kate’s dahlias — from her garden to my vase

As I mentioned, Dahlias are peaking here in Seattle. I had to share this delicious bouquet of just-picked dahlias, given to me by my friend (and bookkeeper) Kate Sackett.

After our recent meeting, she invited me to see her dahlias. What a treat to bring some of them home. Aren’t the colors and forms divine?!!!

Week 28 // Slow Flowers Challenge

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Just-picked Colorado-grown flowers at the peak of summer.

Just-picked Colorado-grown flowers at the peak of summer.

Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co., sharing his beautiful and locally-grown bouquets and bunches at Boulder Co. Farmers' Market.

Chet Anderson of The Fresh Herb Co., sharing his beautiful and locally-grown bouquets and bunches at Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

Bouquets from The Fresh Herb Co. that caught my eye at the Longmont Farmers' Market, their second venue.

Bouquets from The Fresh Herb Co. that caught my eye at the Longmont Farmers’ Market, their second venue.

Love this beautiful periwinkle blue bachelor button (Centaurea cyanus)

Love this beautiful periwinkle blue bachelor button (Centaurea cyanus)

This week’s Slow Flowers Challenge comes to you from the flower farms of Colorado!

I spent several days last week as a guest of Chet and Kristy Anderson, owners of The Fresh Herb Co., based in Longmont, Colorado. We featured the Andersons and their beautiful farm, flowers and philosophy in The 50 Mile Bouquet – in a chapter called “Rocky Mountain Flowers.”

You can learn more about this couple in our Slow Flowers Podcast episode that aired earlier this year.

Returning to Colorado was a delightful excuse to play with flowers picked from fields just steps away from the back door. I was there to co-host the fourth Field to Vase Dinner of 2015 – farm-to-table dining experiences held on flower farms across the country.

Chet and Kristy graciously welcomed this very special gathering at The Fresh Herb Co. Eighty lucky guests enjoyed a delicious meal, local wine and an unparalleled setting next to the gurgling Left Hand Creek. Flowers were on the table and the conversation was all about American grown flowers, the Slow Flowers movement, and the important reasons to focus on domestic, local, seasonal and sustainable flowers. Check out this beautiful and engaging blog post about the dinner from Boulder photographer Kirsten Boyer, “Slow Flowers and Slow Friendships.”

SFC_28_July 2015_Boulder 049

Love the delicate solidago as a textural element that plays off the bolder flower forms, including gladiolas and sunflowers.

When Chet was asked to speak, he uttered a very simple sentence that resonated with me: “Without people buying our flowers, we wouldn’t exist!”

I deeply believe in his statement. And this is what motivates me, to honor and value the lives and work of flower farmers like Chet and Kristy.

I share this lovely bouquet and I really can’t take credit for the design. This is a market bouquet similar to those that they harvest, gather and sell each week at the Boulder and Longmont Farmers’ Markets. 

I combined flowers from two Colorado farms to fill this vase. The Corona clippers are a bonus!

I combined flowers from two Colorado farms to fill this vase. The Corona clippers are a bonus!

Love this t-shirt worn by gladiola flower farmer Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC

Love this t-shirt worn by gladiola flower farmer Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC

While in Boulder, I had a fun chance to speak about the Slow Flowers Movement and local, American-grown flowers at an evening sponsored by the Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

The Market also promoted the Field to Vase Dinner by giving away two free tickets. The winner was Matt Carson of 934 Farms LLC, based in Milliken, Colorado. A relatively new flower farmer, Matt and his wife Jonie grow gladiolas and also sell them at the Boulder Co. Farmers’ Market.

I couldn’t make it to their farm, about 45 minutes outside Boulder. But I did get to shop at Matt’s stall and purchase some gorgeous glads from him on Saturday morning. It was a treat to add those tall, elegant stems to the bouquet given to me by Nick Anderson, Chet and Kristy’s son.

I’ll try and list all of the flowers included below.

Orangyy zinnias + orangy glads - a perfect combo!

Orangy zinnias + orangy glads – a perfect combo!

Colorado-grown LOCAL and SEASONAL bouquet:

From The Fresh Herb Co.: Oriental lilies, zinnias, goldenrod (Solidago sp.), bachelor’s buttons and MINT!!! Boy, does it smell glorious!

From 934 Farm LLC: Eight variously-hued gladiolas