Debra Prinzing

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Make my Roses “Whole American,” Please

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
A beautiful American rose, grown in Oregon by the Peterkort family.

A beautiful American rose, grown in Oregon by the Peterkort family.

In the grand scheme of things, Whole Foods is supposed to be one of the “good guys,” right? From the point of view of the American flower farming community, I know that many of my farmer-friends sell beautiful, seasonal and local blooms from their fields to Whole Foods stores in their specific regions. This “local sourcing” is done on a region-by-region basis with kudos going to passionate store and floral department managers who develop strong ties to their local farmers.

But at the corporate level, and especially during Valentine’s Day, something else is going on altogether. And I’m not alone in being bothered by it.

Labeled “Whole Trade,” which is the proprietary corporate branding that Whole Foods puts on imported roses, these blooms are as far from local as you can find. They’re shockingly similar in appearance to the bunches of roses being marketed by all the wire services, 1-800 marketers and big boxes.

So the local, sustainable and seasonal banner that the Whole Foods brand is waving above its front doors has some serious flaws when it comes to the flowers they are selling. 

Somehow, Whole Foods has decided to market its practice of importing South American roses as a kind of missionary endeavor. Personally, I find it so disingenuous. Last year, the company posted a pro-rose Valentine’s Day story on its blog, featuring a video of children at an afterschool program for the workers at a Colombian rose plantation. The post generated 100 responses, many from frustrated customers and American flower farmers who wondered why Whole Foods had skipped doing business with rose farms here and devoted 100% of their Valentine’s Day marketing budget to feature and promote imports from Colombia and Ecuador?

In response to the customer outcry, Whole Foods’ “Global Floral Buyer” Amanda Rainey made a statement and offered this explanation: Americans bought more than $189 million stems last year! – domestic rose production is very limited and they’re frequently shipped from overseas.” 

So does that makes it right Amanda? 

Is it the $189 million you’re interested in or are you justifying importing your roses because everyone else is doing it?  Is that right, Whole Foods?

I was one of those 100 people who left a comment last year, urging Whole Foods to reconsider their strategy with the flowers they are buying.  I truly expected more from this market leader this year.  I can tell you if a company like Whole Foods made a commitment to nurturing relationships with American rose farms, things would change. Sure, Whole Foods might have to take a little less profit, but if Whole Trade is designed to give 1% back from every purchase, apparently they have some margin to work with.

More importantly, so many good, healthy and sustainable benefits would come from that endeavor.  In my opinion, there is no good reason more than 97% of the roses sold on Valentine’s Day should be flown in from Colombia and Ecuador.  I also don’t believe a company like Whole Foods should be party to it.

So, I ask that if you’re a Whole Foods customer, please join me in letting Whole Foods know that we want a “Whole American” campaign that supports and cultivates relationships with our American flower farmers.  With the millions they’ve spent developing the Whole Trade program, I don’t expect it to go away. But if Whole Foods can give 1% back to Colombia, they can also give 1% here at home.  If they can give more money to Ecuadorian producers, they can certainly give more money to our American flower farmers.  If they can work to ensure better wages and working conditions on Colombian plantations, then they can support flower farming communities’ schools and non-profits here at home. If Whole Food really cares about the environment, then they can limit their need to source flowers that have to be flown into the United States.    

So, Please make a comment here on Whole Foods’ current blog post about their Whole Trade roses.  Let’s encourage them to do the right thing here and support “Whole American” flowers! 

I see quite a profound parallel between the Whole Trade campaign and a brand new Whole American campaign for flowers. I don’t believe that America’s flower farmers expect imports to go away. But they do want a level playing field. They do want a chance to sell more of their irises, sunflowers, lilies and roses to the largest “green” branded supermarket in the U.S.

So to help them get started, here is a list I’ve compiled of the top domestic U.S. rose farms that I’m aware of. It’s simply not fair to say the American flower supply is limited. The supply is only limited by our vision to see the opportunity.  Whole Foods should launch a campaign that guarantees that they will source from American rose farms by next Valentine’s Day. That promise will give the flower farmers the ability to increase their production and invest in expanding their volume of beautiful, homegrown American roses.

“Whole American” is a beautiful concept that should be a reality. Wouldn’t be amazing if consumer demand could help Whole Foods do the right thing? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see Whole American roses offered when Valentine’s Day 2015 rolls around? 


California Pajarosa –

Dramm & Echter –

Eufloria Flowers –

Green Valley Floral –

Koch California – Koch California 

Myriad Flowers –

Neve Brothers –

Rose Story Farm –


Len Busch Roses – 


Peterkort Roses –


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Rose Story Farm’s Danielle Hahn, a World-Class Rosarian and Cut Flower Farmer (Episode 127)

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Hello again and thank you for listening to the newest episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing

Breathtakingly beautiful roses from Rose Story Farm. American Grown and more beautiful than anything imported.

Breathtakingly beautiful roses from Rose Story Farm. American Grown and more fragrant and lovely than anything imported.

It’s February and that means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. So I am devoting the next two weeks to talking about American-grown roses. Most people do not realize that of the 233 million rose stems sold during the Valentine’s season, only 3 to 6 percent are domestic. There is something truly wrong with this picture. American roses are being grown in Oregon and California! Next week I will introduce you to Peterkort Roses, located outside Portland . . . a fabulous source for domestic Valentine’s Day roses.

Great Rosarian of the World, and American cut rose grower, Danielle Hahn.

Great Rosarian of the World, and American cut rose grower, Danielle Hahn.

Today, though, we are celebrating Danielle Hahn, owner of Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, California. Located just south of Santa Barbara, where truly magical growing conditions for all types of flowers seem to exist, Rose Story Farm is a family endeavor specializing in old English, heirloom and garden roses for the specialty cut flower trade.

These roses are field-grown and you’ll notice that many of the varieties listed on the farm’s web site are types of roses found in the home garden. Because of this, they do not bloom all that prolifically in February. That’s okay with Dani and her crew. Their core business serves wedding parties that take place between May and October. 

Situated on a former avocado and lemon farm, this visually enticing venue offers many useful lessons in the viability of old-fashioned farming practices in today’s modern agri-business world (the kind of practices that were natural to our great-grandparents, for example.). Yes, this is an organic flower farm where hundreds of varieties of old garden and English roses thrive. It’s also a beautiful agritourism destination that attracts rose lovers from around the world as it educates and inspires everyone who visits to grow and enjoy roses in their own environment.

The setting in this little valley near the Pacific Ocean is quite benign - and so perfect for roses.

The setting in this little valley near the Pacific Ocean is quite benign – and so perfect for roses.

There are no fussy hybrid teas here, although there are varieties bred with ancient parentage for cherished traits like their long-lasting perfume. You will find row upon beautiful row of floribundas and climbers, chosen for bloom color, petal arrangement, and most of all — FRAGRANCE (scents like anise, clove, spice, honey, baby powder, a juicy peach, citrus…fill one’s nostrils).

The rose shrubs are planted on gently sloping hills, arranged like a technicolor vineyard. Organic mulch from a nearby mushroom farm cushions and nourishes the soil over their roots.

Tens of thousands of luscious roses are lovingly cared for by a small crew of farmers who know exactly when to harvest them. Can you imagine an east coast bride who simply MUST have a romantic, voluptuous rose bouquet of say ‘Fair Bianca’? It’s possible for her floral designer to order armloads of this vintage rose from Rose Story Farm.

Stunning. Nothing more to say. Drink it in and imagine the awesome fragrance!

Stunning. Nothing more to say. Drink it in and imagine the awesome fragrance!  Rosa ‘Singin’ in the Rain’

Say her wedding is on a Saturday. On Thursday, the roses are picked, hydrated and conditioned, de-thorned and carefully gathered into bundles of 10 stems. The cut ends are packed in wet moss to keep the roses hydrated; the flower heads are gently nestled in tissue paper; each bunch is packed in an ice-filled box and shipped overnight (Fed-Ex; next morning delivery) to wedding and event florists coast to coast. Around the country, on Friday mornings, the boxes of these Carpinteria-grown roses show up at floral studios and flower shops, serving as an enduring gift of romance, nostalgia and sensory delight.

This is the famed 'Julia Child' rose, which Dani's family friend Julia Child selected from plant trials at Rose Story Farm.

This is the famed ‘Julia Child’ rose, which Dani’s family friend Julia Child selected from plant trials at Rose Story Farm.

Last weekend, on February 1st, Dani was honored with the coveted “Great Rosarians of the World” award in a ceremony at the Huntington Botanical Garden in San Marino, near Pasadena.

This award recognizes major figures in the world of roses and honors their work in creating and promoting the flower. In the past 11 years, the Great Rosarians program has become a famous event in the world of rose growing, breeding, education and beyond. Dani is in excellent company, with past recipients including David Austin himself, Stephen Scanniello, Wilhelm Kordes III, Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix, and many others. The GROW award will also bring Dani to New York City in June, where she will be hosted by the Manhattan Rose Society for a series of events and lectures. 

Click here to learn more about the American Garden Rose Selections, the organization of trial gardens and experts who evaluate new plant introductions for their superior qualities. 


Here is Dani’s full bio as it appeared in the Great Rosarians of the World’s press material:

The old horse stables at Rose Story Farm are now the headquarters for this thriving specialty cut flower business.

The old horse stables at Rose Story Farm are now the headquarters for this thriving specialty cut flower business.

Danielle Hahn is the owner of Rose Story Farms in Carpinteria, California, a boutique rose farm for cut roses. Because of her skills and dedication to the rose, she has been able to develop a business model that combines growing roses and education. 

Danielle has maintained a hands-on approach to satisfy her market and has given this segment of the rose industry a successful working model, which encompasses the small boutique rose nursery and small organic farmer, for others to follow.  Her farm is a prime model for the future of small family farms to specialize into niche areas and succeed.  She has expanded her business to include the valuable component of educational tours which help inform and inspire her audience with the knowledge to grow healthy roses successfully. 

Growing from a lifelong love of flowers and gardening, Rose Story Farm has become the focal point of a wonderful mixture of business and life.  From the first day the mission was to produce beautiful, fragrant, romantic garden roses in exquisite shapes and colors. Now more than 120 varieties are scattered over the 15-acre farm. 

A gathering of blooms during one of the personalized rose farm tours.

A gathering of blooms during one of the personalized rose farm tours.

Tours are led by Danielle twice weekly, and a variety of seminars focused on garden design, rose cultivation and flower arranging are given throughout the year.  A major theme of the educational effort is to demystify the process of growing and caring for roses.  “Roses are magical and forgiving–they repay any effort on their behalf ten-fold,” says Dani. “We named the farm ‘Rose Story Farm’ because the roses are central to some of our most enchanting and memorable experiences. We encourage clients, visitors, and friends to exchange their rose stories with us, and in this way to share what we find romantic, passionate, joyful and sustaining.”  

Born in Santa Barbara, California, Dani attended local schools until she entered Stanford University.  She graduated three years later with honors with a BA in psychology and a minor in Italian.  Having played on the Stanford Tennis Team for three years, and being a ranked national junior tennis player, her first job out of college was managing an exclusive tennis club in Manhattan.  Returning to Santa Barbara in 1978, she opened a series of retail stores over the next 10 years in Southern California.  At the same time she was the founder and managing partner of an innovative gift business that designed, manufactured, packaged and ultimately delivered gifts for entertainment corporations.  With the birth of Geoffrey, her second son, in 1993, she backed away from the majority of her business responsibilities to focus on her family.       

Here's a glimpse of the larger setting at Rose Story Farm. I took this photo last July when attending an industry luncheon in the garden.

Here’s a glimpse of the larger setting at Rose Story Farm. I took this photo last July when attending an industry luncheon in the garden.

Her extensive experiences proved invaluable in 1998 when Danielle and her husband, Bill decided to expand the family avocado farm into a boutique rose business with the addition of 1,000 bushes, all of them garden roses. 

The farm now has over 25,000 bushes and since that time Danielle has overseen the steady growth and development to the point where thousands of roses are cut each day and shipped throughout the United States. 

Currently she manages all employees and makes the day-to-day decisions for the business, markets the products, selects the roses for production, designs rose gardens for clients worldwide, designs and maintains the farm’s gardens used for weddings and special events, oversees the rose boutique and leads the way on product development–a rose based perfume and body care line are currently in the works. 

The display in front of the rose boutique. . . what can I say? It's so enticing!

The display in front of the rose boutique. . . what can I say? It’s so enticing!

Dani is an active member of the Santa Barbara Rose Society, the American Rose Society, and the Garden Club of America in Santa Barbara. She is the founder and sustaining patron of the Carpinteria Community Service Toy Fund, a non-profit organization that raises money each year for the families of disadvantaged field workers in the Carpinteria Valley. 

The excitement and beauty of this enterprise and of Danielle herself has been featured in Santa Barbara Magazine, Wine Country Living, Sunset, Victoria Magazine, Oprah Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Veranda, and the Wall Street Journal

She has had articles published in the 2012 American Rose Society Annual on both flower arranging and garden design.  Television coverage of Rose Story Farm has been presented on “California Heartland,” a PBS special, and on NBC’s Today show.  Most recently,  Martha Stewart Living media filmed a segment on the farm for their online American Made series (see above).  In addition to her weekly tours at the farm, Danielle is a frequent featured speaker at events that are focused on the beauty of the garden, and the special role of roses in our daily lives. 

The lemon rose cake. It is quite delicious!

The lemon rose cake. It is quite delicious!

Rose lovers are invited to visit to Rose Story Farm on a Wednesday or Saturday and spend $38-$45 for a small group tour, which is followed by a delicious garden luncheon.

A gift shop filled with rose-themed and garden-inspired ware from Europe and beyond (including a few antiques) is worth a visit.

To satisfy my current made-in-the-USA obsession, I picked up a cast-aluminum, rose-bloom-shaped bundt pan so I could bake the Rose Story Farm lemon cake. 


A small vignette of just-picked roses, spotted on my tour of the flower fields.



This rose caught my eye, dazzling against the blue Carpinteria sky.



Another beautiful floral arrangement at our summer luncheon.

It has been my pleasure to share my podcast conversation with Dani Hahn with you. All photos are (c) Debra Prinzing, except for the portrait of Dani Hahn, courtesy of Rose Story Farm.

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 6,000 times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at  


Sunday, July 7th, 2013


American roses

There are three sultry-smoky elements to this simple bouquet: roses, smoke bush foliage and a type of Queen Anne’s lace.


When all three colors, forms and textures are seen together – up close – it’s simply beautiful!


20 stems Rosa ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ roses, grown by Westmont Park Roses
7 stems smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’), grown by Jello Mold Farm
10 stems Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota var. sativus ‘Black Knight’), grown by J. Foss Garden Flowers

7-inch tall x 7½-inch diameter McCoy jardiniere, 1940s era, with a raised design of vertical bands and flowers

From the Farmer
When to cut for the vase: Commercial rose growers like Westmont Park Roses have special procedures for harvesting their flowers and processing them with a hydrating solution before making florist deliveries. The home gardener who grows old English roses and David Austin garden roses isn’t faced with these storage and delivery demands. Get the most out of your garden roses by cutting them when temperatures are coolest on the day you plan to arrange them. I like to pick a mix of roses at different stages to create more interest: in bud; slightly open; two-thirds open and fully open. This technique reminds grower John Martin of a single, beautiful grandiflora cluster, “with five or six roses, each at a different blooming cycle.”