Debra Prinzing

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Episode 357: Engaging Customers Through Experience and Inspiration with Scott Paris of High Hand Nursery & announcing our 2019 Slow Flowers Summit Venue

Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

We brought the Slow Flowers Summit 2018 to Washington, D.C.

As I mentioned during last week’s show, we’ve just experienced the fourth annual American Flowers Week — the original domestic floral-promotion holiday that’s an inclusive campaign filled with local, seasonal and beautiful flowers and foliage in all 50 states!

This virtual campaign gave me a peek into all corners of the U.S. as I witnessed flowers, farms, creativity and events taking place in region all around the country, as well as connections across social media platforms.

And, during the heart of American Flowers Week, we held the 2nd annual Slow Flowers Summit. As an interactive, LIVE element of the campaign, the Summit drew more than 100 attendees — speakers, designers, flower farmers, innovators, influencers and leaders in the Slow Flowers Movement.

Even though we were inside a hotel conference room, the space was filled with flowers, including the Moon Arch that everyone had a hand in designing (c) Niesha Blancas

In the coming weeks, I hope to release all sorts of content from the D.C. Slow Flowers Summit.

See a gallery of Slow Flowers Summit 2018 photos here.

But for now, I want to share a few words from my opening remarks on June 29th. Please bear with me — it’s personal and as my husband would say, probably contains too much “back-story,” but that’s how I am.

Here’s what I said:

I thought I’d take a moment to acknowledge how significant it is that we’re all here at the Slow Flowers Summit for Year Two. How did this come to be?

There had been talk over the years of a conference focused on domestic flowers, including some initial conversations I had with folks at the California Cut Flower Commission and the SF Flower Mart several years ago.

The desire was real, but the idea never went anywhere, and it later became clear that the Slow Flowers Community wanted something different — more intimate and inclusive — than a big industry event.

So what brought us from idea to reality? Before I left Seattle to travel here, I pulled out an email from April 2015, sent to me by one of our speakers, Mary Kate Kinnane of The Local Bouquet.

The email’s subject line read: NEW IDEAS.

I hope all is well with you and the family and I’m hoping that the Slow Flowers movement has new and exciting things coming its way. I have been wanting to contact you since I returned from my amazing experience at the Chapel Designers conference in NY and especially after meeting people like Jimmy Lohr of greenSinner and others. My wheels have been spinning and so I wanted to share some of my ideas with you. 

Jimmy and I discussed how our Slow Flowers family needs an event like what Holly Chapple has created for florists across the United States. An event that would gather designers from across the United States who have pledged to use local and American grown flowers to network and train with each other from experts in our field. 

I think it is time we bring the Slow Flowers website to life with an event at which all of the flower farmers and florists who have pledged to use their local and seasonal blooms get together and network. I think it would be great to actually gather everyone together to talk (farmer and florist). Let’s start with the East Coast. [well, Mary Kate, we started last year in Seattle, but yes, today, we’re here on the East Coast!]

She closed by saying: I am really proud that we are still able to stick to our mission of staying 100% American and locally grown in everything we buy. Now that I have bombarded you with ideas and thoughts, let me know if any interest you (because obviously we can’t do it all)!

We had a few lighthearted email exchanges, and while nothing happened immediately, the idea stuck with me because that was the year we launched American Flowers Week in 2015.

The following year, in 2016, I had a memorable conversation with Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential, the groundbreaking book that stimulated awareness of sustainable practices and flower sourcing in our industry. We both remarked that the 10-year-anniversary of Amy’s book would take place in 2017. Amy turned to me and said, “we should do something together to commemorate it.” I think she meant YOU should do something, Debra.

The seed that Mary Kate had planted grew a few more roots that day.

Weeks later, during the 2016 SF Flower & Garden Show, I attended a dinner where a very similar conversation took place, with Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers, Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., who spoke last year, Beth Van Sandt of Scenic Place Peonies, and Bay Area florists Susan Kelly and Kathleen Williford — all Slow Flowers Members. We spoke further about a Slow Flowers “live” gathering, and agreed to continue brainstorming at a workshop Teresa and I were to teach together later that year at her studio in Santa Cruz.

By then, it was September 2016, and I couldn’t let go of the notion that hosting a live conference during American Flowers Week would be a great way to celebrate what was a virtual, social media-centric event. I attended the TEDxSeattle conference a few months later and found myself enjoying the presentations, but spending more time analyzing the structure and flow of the conference — projecting my ideas onto that very successful framework at which a number of speakers and topics are presented in a single day.

Over the holidays, I called Amy and asked, “If I host a Slow Flowers Summit, will you give the keynote?” She said YES, and I jumped right in, finding a venue in Seattle and inviting a fabulous lineup of speakers. The Summit took place on July 2, 2017 in Seattle. We had 91 attendees and it was incredible as a first-effort.

Amy Stewart and Teresa Sabankaya were two of those first speakers, and a few of you were also there. Thank you for returning — we have Christina Stembel, Kit Wertz and Mud Baron, all who attended last year and — surprise — they’re presenting this year. And we have returning attendees Nan Mattson of Queen City Flower Farm in Cincinnati, a self-described “urban micro flower farm,” and Sarah Reyes of Unfurled, based in Oakland area, a floral designer and self-described “floral liaison” — I’m so happy to see you both here!

Well, that was my recap of the birth of the Slow Flowers Summit. And now, I have a big announcement for you . . .

The 3rd Slow Flowers Summit will take place on July 1st and 2nd, 2019, in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota! Save the dates!

I’m so pleased that we have a co-host in Christine Hoffman, founder of Twin Cities Flower Exchange, a floral wholesale hub that represents local flower farmers and chemical-free practices, now in its 2nd season.

Christine is a past guest of this podcast and I’m so pleased that she agreed to welcome the Slow Flowers community to the Twin Cities – where a lot of exciting things are taking place in the floral world. To share more, I’ve asked Christine to join me for a short preview of what’s in store for you next year!

Sign up to receive Slow Flowers Summit 2019 Updates and Announcements here.

Listen to our past Podcast interviews with Christine:

Episode 193 (May 13, 2015)

Episode 290 (March 29, 2017)

Follow Twin Cities Flower Exchange on Instagram

And if you happen to find yourself in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on Sunday, August 12th, please join me at a reception Christine is hosting for the local floral community. It will take place at Good Acre, the food hub that houses Twin Cities Flower Exchange. See Details & RSVP for the August 11th Slow Flowers Happy Hour


Episode 284: Wedding Coordinator Aimée Newlander and the new Slow Weddings Network

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
Slow Flowers designed by Bonny Doon Garden Co. for Aimée's Slow Weddings clients

Slow Flowers designed by Bonny Doon Garden Co. for Aimée Newlander’s Slow Weddings clients

Valentine’s Day is over — are you ready to relax and celebrate your success?!

I hope so! If you’re looking  for a great way to invest in yourself and feed your creativity in a new way, please join Anne Bradfield and Jason Miller and me at the upcoming Slow Flowers Creative Workshop. It will take place in Seattle on March 6th and 7th and you can find a link to more details here. This intimate 2-day event is designed for creatives to boost their powers of language, narrative and storytelling — on the page and on video. We’re excite to share our expertise and help you develop your business and your brand – so check it out.


Before we get started with today’s interview featuring a fantastic guest, I want to share a big announcement with you.

Please put Sunday, July 2nd on your calendar and save the date to join me in Seattle at the first SLOW FLOWERS SUMMIT, a one-day conference that I’m calling a “TED talk for flower lovers.”

For years, I’ve been talking with a few of you about producing a “slow flowers summit,” essentially devoting time and space to gather thought leaders and change agents to discuss the momentum of the Slow Flowers Movement.

Now, the timing is right to hold such a forum. The 2017 Slow Flowers Summit achieves and recognizes many things.

00581_DP_AFW_Badge_2017First, it coincides with American Flowers Week, our third annual campaign to promote domestic flowers, farms and florists, scheduled again to take place June 28 through July 4th. Holding the Summit during American Flowers Week allows us to celebrate and recognize the mission of Slow Flowers.

Second, it allows people attending AIFD, the American Institute of Floral Designers annual conference in Seattle that week, to access high-quality, substantial American-grown educational programming that they will not obtain at their conference.

And third, this year’s timing allows us to bring in keynote speaker Amy Stewart to commemorate the 10th anniversary of her influential book, Flower Confidential. So many of you were inspired to change your own relationship with flowers after Amy published Flower Confidential in 2007 and we’re thrilled to bring her to the Summit.

Our other speakers are pretty amazing, too. We have Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., a past guest of this podcast and the florist originally profiled by Amy in her book. We’re honored to welcome award-winning garden blogger and author Chantal Aida Gordon of The Horticult blog, who will moderate a panel on Diversity in the Floral and Horticulture industries. She’ll be joined by some great friends of, Leslie Bennett, principal of Pine House Edible Gardens in Oakland, Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture in Seattle, also a past guest of this podcast, and floral artist Nicole Cordier Wahlquist of Grace Flowers Hawaii.

Emily Ellen Anderson of Seattle’s Lola Creative will speak about “reinvention,” sharing her transition from landscape architect to floral and event designer, and our favorite flower rebel Lisa Waud of pot & box will bring the insights from her experience with The Flower House and Detroit Flower Week to lead a conversation on nurturing creativity. Emily and Lisa are both past guests of this podast.

All of these important voices will be shepherded through the day by our very charming and charismatic master of ceremonies, James Baggett. He’s a top editor at Country Gardens and Better Homes & Gardens and is one of the most devoted to publishing my stories about flower farming across the U.S. We’re delighted he’ll be joining us as emcee and media sponsor.

In the coming weeks we’ll host many of these speakers as guests, so expect to hear more as we build momentum for American Flowers Week and the Summit. Tickets are $175 for the day and we have a special rate for Slow Flowers members, so check it out.


Aimée Newlander, wedding coordinator and creator of the Slow Weddings Network

Aimée Newlander, wedding coordinator and creator of the Slow Weddings Network

SlowWeddingsLogo2Okay, let’s turn to the inspiring Aimée Newlander.

I first met Aimée in March 2015 while visiting Santa Cruz to spend time with Teresa Sabankaya. Teresa put together a little brunch and invited some of the area’s kindred spirits, people involved in the Slow Coast sustainable business community located along the fifty mile stretch of mountains & ocean in the midst of California’s famed coastline.

One of those attending was Aimée, a wedding coordinator with whom Teresa collaborates, when couples who work with Weddings by Aimée order locally-grown flowers for their ceremonies.

Aimée told me she was using “the mindful planner” as a hash-tag and that she planned to soon launch a Slow Weddings forum.

The two of us stayed in touch and continued to exchange ideas as her project took off and last August. When we held a Slow Flowers meet-up in Santa Cruz, Aimee joined us to share more details about the coming launch of the Slow Weddings Network.

Fast forward to last fall and what began as a Facebook Group with 100 members has evolved into the nonprofit Slow Weddings Network.

a SLOW WEDDING, Santa Cruz-style

a SLOW WEDDING, Santa Cruz-style

Here is the description — I think the mission will resonate with many of you in the Slow Flowers community.

We seek to shake up the status quo of the wedding industry, to reclaim the sacred space for couples who are seeking authentic and “present” weddings. But, more than that we are the nexus for a movement that is long overdue. It’s about educating from the inside out.  Own what you are passionate about.  We are about having high standards, education and building and bringing awareness to the masses.  You don’t have to have a fast wedding…. you can be well, enjoy the process and end with a wedding celebration you are present for, participate in, enjoy and will remember for the rest of your life.

“Slow Weddings Network” is a not-for-profit membership organization made up of wedding vendors around the world. Its directory of vendors includes wedding professionals, artisans, musicians and Mom & Pop shops and other small businesses.  Wellness, adventure and other ‘experience’ vendors that will enhance destination weddings are also included.

Artisan sweets, from Slow Weddings Network bakeries and pastry makers.

Artisan sweets, from Slow Weddings Network bakeries and pastry makers.

As founder and executive director of the Slow Weddings Network, Aimée Newlander wears many hats. Here is a bit more about Aimée:

She left a very successful career in and around the health and wellness corporate world to pursue a long-standing passion for organizing and managing events. That led to the founding of Weddings by Aimée in 2009 and her ‘mindful planning’ approach.  She knows that educating couples on how to feel prepared and organized for their ceremony and how to prioritize choices is so important.  Her business quickly grew, thanks to creativity and possessing a true artistic flair that has helped organize all types of individualized weddings — from intimate and organic affairs to glamorous and opulent occasions.

Aimée’s professionalism, warm personality and superb eye for detail means that couples and their families are able to truly relax and enjoy the planning process without having to worry about a thing on wedding day. Aimée considers herself a “Destination wedding planner”, specializing in areas such as Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Carmel, California coastline as well as International locations (Italy, France, Mexico).

“Team” is a big part of who Aimée is, from her time playing international Soccer, to her passion for collaborating with other vendors at her events. She has managed budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, cultivated stakeholder relationships for large scale events, and offers expertise in venue sourcing and procurement.

One of Aimée’s passions is developing venues from a raw space, molding a larger vision from scratch. She’s applied her passion, vision, and skills to founding the Slow Weddings Network, and hopes to see the global movement grow into a well known organization.

Dreamy venues and beautiful attire for Slow Weddings ceremonies.

Dreamy venues and beautiful attire for Slow Weddings ceremonies.

Follow and find Weddings by Aimée and the Slow Weddings Network at these social places:

Slow Weddings on Facebook

Slow Weddings on Instagram

Weddings by Aimee on Facebook

Weddings by Aimee on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 158,500 times by listeners like you.
THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.


Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

We’re also grateful for support from Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

And welcome to our newest sponsor, the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at

Longfield Gardens has returned as a 2017 sponsor, and we couldn’t be happier to share their resources with you. Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

More sponsor thanks goes to Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at

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

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast. Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at

Music credits:
Harpoon by Gillicuddy
Licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.
Not Drunk by The Joy Drops
Additional music from:

Santa Cruz’s Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. draws inspiration from her own garden and nearby flower farms (Episode 187)

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Inspiring floral designer Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co.

Inspiring floral designer Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., captured while gathering flowers in her garden

In 2007, Amy Stewart’s Flower Confidential introduced readers to a Santa Cruz-area floral designer named Teresa Sabankya. She wrote:

Teresa Sabankaya has the kind of flower shop that you would dream about opening, if you are the kind of person who dreams of opening a flower shop. It’s in a little green metal kiosk outside Bookshop Santa Cruz in coastal California. The flowers – all interesting, unusual, old-fashioned, ephemeral, perfumy, not-your-typical-florist kind of flowers – dance and wave from buckets crowded around the stall. Her inventory is highly seasonal: in summer you’ll find larkspur and poppies, and in winter it’s all heathers and holly and berries. If you’ve been so busy that you haven’t noticed that spring has arrived, you’ll stop short at the sight of the pink cherry blossom branches bursting out of her shop in early March, and it’ll make you resolve to slow down and enjoy the season. Even if you don’t buy a flower – and Teresa would be happy to sell you a single flower – just the sight of her little stall will lift some of the weight off your shoulders. Anyone who doubts whether flowers can change a person’s emotional state has never watched the people walking by Teresa’s shop.” 

Amy continued: ” . . . The Bonny Doon Garden Company fit with my idea of how floral commerce must work – you’d grow some flowers in your garden, you’d buy some from a farmer down the road, and you’d put them in buckets and sell them to your neighbors.”

Bonny Doon's retail space inside New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz, CA.

Bonny Doon’s retail space inside New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz, CA.

Well, anyone who read all of Flower Confidential knows that it’s about the international, multibillion dollar floriculture industry – a far cry from the charm of selling flowers from one’s garden in Santa Cruz.

I was always in awe of Teresa – she was a rock star profiled by Amy Stewart, for goodness sake’s. Until last week, Teresa and I had never met in person, but we felt connected through our friendship with Amy and because we both want to advance a new normal in the floral industry: where mindful practices of local, seasonal and sustainable flowers trump designing with imported ones.

Last year, when I launched the web site, Teresa created a listing for Tessa’s Garden, her studio business, and we started an occasional email correspondence.

Oh my gosh: the dream garden! Here's where many of the flowers, branches, herbs and vines that Teresa uses originate . . . in her private garden.

Oh my gosh: the dream garden! Here’s where many of the flowers, branches, herbs and vines that Teresa uses originate . . . in her private garden.

Another view, including the veggie and herb garden in the foreground.

Another view, including the veggie and herb garden in the foreground.

An intricate detail in the Posie that Teresa created for me.

Intricate details emerge as part of the hand-tied Posie that Teresa created for me.

Teresa had taken a break from the fast pace of running a retail flower shop and sold The Bonny Doon Garden Co. in 2012.

She then pivoted toward wedding and event design work, including hosting private ceremonies under the giant redwoods at her bountiful landscape in the hamlet of Bonny Doon, a few miles up the Coastal Highway from Santa Cruz.

Earlier this year, Teresa extended an invitation for me to stay a few days in the bridal cottage on her family’s property.

We planned ahead to schedule that visit – and this podcast interview – after my gig speaking at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show on March 22nd.


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Flower Confidential with Amy Stewart (Episode 140)

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
The floral ceiling chandelier -- using all American grown floral ingredients -- from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

The floral ceiling chandelier — using all American grown floral ingredients — from the White House State Dinner (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

I have exciting news to share this week: The New York Times published a piece by former food columnist Marian Burros entitled: “My, What Lovely Flowers. Who Lobbied for Them? — after a push by growers, U.S. products adorned a White House Dinner.” 

More than two months ago, I wrote about this exciting event — a stop on the Slow flowers journey in which the White House acknowledged for the first time ever its use of American Grown flowers for a public function. That was the State Dinner for the French President on February 11th. You can read my February 21st blog post, and my analysis of that event here. 

I’m gratified to see that NYT’s follow this story and give it the gravitas it deserves. Shining a positive light on American flowers is important, but there is much more that needs to be done in order to change the broken floral industry. One thing YOU can do is to join me in simple floral activism.

You can do this by visiting a compelling new web site: VOTE FOR FLOWERS. There, you’ll be able to identify your member of Congress and send him or her a letter urging support and engagement in the new Congressional Cut Flower Caucus.

Like others in the pro-domestic flower movement, I do NOT want the White House’s use of American flowers to be a one-time gesture. Like the presidential commitment to serve local, American-sourced food AND wine at White House functions, it is only right that domestic flowers grace the tables of all White House events. Stay tuned for ongoing updates on this story. 

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Writer and all-around curious observer of the natural world, Amy Stewart (c) Delightful Eye Photography

Now let’s turn our attention to today’s fabulous guest: Amy Stewart. 

Amy's first book, "From the Ground Up," was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

Amy’s first book, “From the Ground Up,” was published in 2001 by Algonquin Books.

I first learned about Amy in 2001 when a local bookseller here in Seattle told me about From the Ground Up, a memoir by a young Texas native who wrote about her first grown up garden. The bookseller called it “heartwarming and said I had to read it. 

Amy was that author. She wrote From the Ground Up as a journal documenting her post-college Santa Cruz garden. When I reviewed in 2002, I wrote:

“There’s something very endearing and charming about Stewart’s self-effacing writing voice. She truly wants us to experience the same emotional highs and lows, the essential passion of gardening, that she lives through. It’s a wonderful late-night read . . . Pick it up as an alternative to moonlight gardening.” 

A few years later, I met Amy at the SF Flower & Garden Show. We were back-to-back speakers and met during that “changing of the guard” thing that happens when one speaker wraps up her book-signing and another takes that seat warmed by her predecessor. It was just a casual introduction, but there was a familiar recognition of a kindred spirit in the garden-writing world.

Since then, our friendship has been based on mutual admiration, similar professional interests and occasional collaboration. In fact, in 2011, Amy and I teamed up with three others to launch GREAT GARDEN SPEAKERS.COM, an online speakers bureau for our profession. 

cover_flower_confidentialGGSlogo-badgeAnd so it goes. My world changed when Amy Stewart wrote Flower Confidential in 2007. At the time, I had already begun interviewing American flower farmers and florists, unaware that she was writing an expose about the Global Floriculture Industry. Things happen like that in our worlds – after all, how could you explain the proliferation of vegetable gardening books that flooded the marketplace over the past five years?

But back to Flower Confidential. It truly was a book ahead of its time. When Amy wrote about the huge machine that relies on cheap floral imports, she started a conversation that resonated with me and with so many others – it was a dialogue I wanted to join. I was inspired to continue seeking out and telling the stories of American flowers and the people who grow and design with them. 

When The 50 Mile Bouquet was published in 2012, I was honored that Amy agreed to write the forward, her generous show of support for the next chapter in the American Grown story. In that forward, Amy wrote: 

“A great deal has changed since Flower Confidential. The notion of supporting local farmers was just gaining traction. The idea of celebrating our seasonal abundance – even if that means giving up tomatoes in January – was not quite mainstream. Just as “slow food” was catching on, the flower world was beginning the shift that The 50 Mile Bouquet celebrates.”

Indeed, a great deal more has changed – for the good – since Amy wrote our forward in the fall of 2011. 

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

Amy Stewart and Debra Prinzing.

With Amy’s blessing, I’ve gone down the flower garden path to document the exciting cultural shift in the domestic floral industry. All you have to do is read about the White House’s choice of American grown flowers to understand that. 

During the same time, Amy’s career has skyrocketed. She is the award-winning author of six books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including four New York Times bestsellers, The Drunken Botanist, Wicked Bugs, Wicked Plants, and Flower Confidential.   

Amy lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard. 

Amy has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and Fresh Air, she’s been profiled in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and she’s been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, the PBS documentary “The Botany of Desire,” and–believe it or not– TLC’s Cake Boss. 

Four of Amy’s previous books have been New York Times bestsellers.  They have been translated into eight languages, and two of them–Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs–have been adapted into national traveling exhibits that appear at botanical gardens and museums nationwide.

She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the American Horticulture Society’s Book Award, and an International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. In 2012, she was invited to be the first Tin House Writer-in-Residence, a partnership with Portland State University, where she taught in the MFA program.  

I recently stopped at Amy and Scott’s house in Humboldt County, northern California, while on a road trip from LA to Seattle. They don’t live too far off of Hwy 101 and it was an easy detour, my 2nd visit to their charming Victorian house surrounded by a slightly unruly garden and an opinionated clutch of hens.    

As is typical, our conversations involved book writing, book publishing, book promotion and more — all those things that authors obsess about. And before I left the following morning, Amy and I sat down in her cozy work space – her combination writing and art studio in the attic of this vintage residence, and talked about Flower Confidential. 

Amy Stewart’s next gift to the book-reading world is a historical crime novel about a real woman who was an early 20th century sheriff and detective. Girl Waits With Gun, is a novel based on a true story. It will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2015.  

Visit to follow Amy and all of her projects – including her busy lecture schedule and her other outlet -painting and drawing.

Here's a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring - and then wrote about.

Here’s a photograph of a floral arrangement I made last spring – and then wrote about. 


Amy's charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

Amy’s charming oil painting of that same arrangement ~ a surprise and cherished gift.

And enjoy this Q&A with Amy about why she loves to paint.

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 11,000  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 and  Andrew Wheatley. You can learn more about their work at

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: American Flower Farming Update with Lane DeVries (Episode 112)

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Lane DeVries

Meet Lane DeVries, CEO of The Sun Valley Group, America’s largest cut flower farm, and Chairman of the California Cut Flower Commission.

American Flower Farming Update with Lane DeVries, Chairman of the California Cut Flower Commission (Episode 112)

Today’s interview is with Lane DeVries, a fourth generation flower farmer who grew up in his family’s business in Holland until he came to the US in 1983, at the age of 23.

I’ve gotten to know Lane in the past few years while partnering with him on projects for the California Cut Flower Commission, the advocacy agency that promotes that state’s 225 flower farms. His farm, The Sun Valley Group, based in Arcata and Oxnard, is the state’s largest (in fact, it’s the country’s largest).

Lane and I recently met in Portland, at the Field-to-Vase Dinner, a very special gathering of flower farmers, florists, flower retailers and wholesalers and the media, held on October 8th.

I co-hosted the event with the CCFC and our goal was to convene floral industry leaders to discuss new initiatives in the American Grown Flower Movement.

The underlying message: partnering with your would-be competitors is a good idea when it comes to changing how consumers connect with domestic flowers.

New Seasons Market

Lane takes time to meet flower consumers as often as possible. He recently made an appearance at New Seasons Market in Portland, Oregon.

My podcast interview with Lane took place via Skype, a few days after that dinner. Please enjoy our conversation and meet a man who lives and breathes cut flowers. I love that Lane, in spite of all of his professional success, continues to eagerly seek out the next new thing. He sees old flowers in a new way and improves on customer favorites with new hybridizing methods.

He is a visionary and I credit Lane with his amazing leadership moving his own flower farming community into an important dialogue about American grown flowers.

The next time you see a blue-and-yellow license plate-style CA-Grown label on a bouquet of flowers at the supermarket, you’ll have people like Lane DeVries to thank.

cover_flower_confidentialHighlights of Lane’s long career in the U.S. cut flower industry are chronicled in Amy Stewart’s 2007 book, Flower Confidential: The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful – and you can read an excerpt of that story here, courtesy of Amy and Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (c) 2007 and 2008. All Rights Reserved. 

(Photos (c) Linda Blue, courtesy of the California Cut Flower Commission)

“Leafing Through” – autumn book reviews

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

flowermagazine008A big thanks to Amy Stewart for referring me to flower magazine, a publication I was unfamiliar with until now, for a book-review gig.

A quarterly publication, flower magazine is edited by founder Margot Shaw and managing editor Melissa Brown, who produce a gorgeous, informative, 4-color glossy for flower enthusiasts, floral designs and gardeners. They are based in Birmingham, Alabama.

The fall 2009 issue is just out and because I thoroughly enjoyed the four books I reviewed, I thought I’d share them here. I like the opening text, which helps describe my credentials:

“As a much-published chronicler of home and garden design and a Master Gardener to boot, Debra Prinzing dove into these informative selections on a variety of “green” themes:

theflowerfarmer009The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers (Revised & Expanded) by Lynn Byczynski (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008), $35.

Lynn Byczynski is the godmother of the organic flower movement. Little more than a decade after she wrote The Flower Farmer, the rest of the flower world is finally catching up with her visionary ideas and practices. This updated version brims with photographs, planting plans and profiles of innovative cut flower growers, making it the definitive resource for anyone who raises and markets flowers as a commercial venture.

If you’re like me and you want to grow simply for your own enjoyment, this book is equally important. Professional floral designers will find Byczynski’s ideas illuminating, as they advocate establishing relationships with organic farmers and growers to expand a florist’s repertoire.

Writing from Wild Onion Farm, her Lawrence, Kansas-based homestead, Byczynski says she discovered flower farming serendipitously (she planted zinnias among her tomatoes and soon discovered how well they sold at the local farmer’s market). This eco-entrepreneur outlines a gentle manifesto for sustainable practices, asking “Why Organic Flowers?” The answers are revealed in every useful chapter of her 266-page guide. Even if you aren’t persuaded that organic growing practices improve soil fertility and ensure the health of farm workers and their customers alike, the argument for organic is won by the sheer bounty and beauty of the flowers themselves.

Byczynski outlines the most reliable varieties and specific cultivation and handling advice for more than 100 kinds of specialty cut flowers (from Achillea to Zinnia). These blooms are called “specialty,” she explains, “Because they transcend the standard floral fare of roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums. They are considered good cut flowers because they have long stems and a vase life of at least five days.”  Once you’ve grown a collection of fresh, seasonal and local varieties, try Byczynski’s easy-to-follow design ideas. 

“If you really do love flowers, and you find joy in growing and selling them, you will succeed,” she promises. Change the word “sharing” to “selling” and her words are equally appropriate for anyone who plants a row of zinnias.

AmericanCuttingGarden001An American Cutting Garden: A Primer for Growing Cut Flowers, by Suzanne McIntire (University of Virginia Press, 2002), $16.95.

The extended subtitle of Suzanne McIntire’s highly personal volume of flower-growing advice is “. . . where summers are hot and winters are cold.”

Though I live in Los Angeles, McIntire’s guide is still informative and useful, since many of the 200 flowers she profiles will grow in my garden, as well as in her northern Virginia one.

 After addressing important infrastructure decisions, the author gets down to the toughest choice you’ll face – choosing which flowers to grow. “. . . it’s not long before you realize there are many more plants out there than you can grow in a lifetime,” she acknowledges.

McIntire’s writing hints at years getting soil under her nails and dirt on her knees. I like the useful advice, such as: “The gardener who has no yellow is missing something important” or “Red is the surprise that a bouquet often needs.”

Her planting, harvesting, and arranging advice is geared toward the gardener-floral designer. It’s okay to space plants in a cutting garden closer together than you would in a display garden to increase their yields, she says.

She is anything but a perfectionist, a breath of fresh air to those tired of floral designs that seem unrelated to nature. “I prefer to spend only a few minutes to help flowers look their best, and often it comes down to selecting the right vase, choosing good vase companions for a given flower, and adjusting stem lengths by shortening where necessary,” McIntire confides.

If you need inspiration for how to start a cutting garden, the book offers four design concepts, including ones for beginners, small spaces, shady sites and autumn interest. Each of McIntire’s detailed flower narratives is worth losing yourself in. I only wish there were more than the rather limited 28 color images as illustrations. You’ll need a photo-rich plant encyclopedia on hand for her lesser-known suggestions, such as Anchusa azurea (Italian bugloss, a forget-me-not relative) or Kalimeris pinnatifida (Japanese aster). But that’s just a small complaint. Without McIntire’s book, I wouldn’t have found them in the first place.

greenflowers010Green Flowers: Unexpected Beauty for the Garden, Container or Vase, by Alison Hoblyn with photographs by Marie O’Hara (Timber Press, 2009), $24.95.

The full spectrum of green is the backbone of any garden scheme. Green is also the essential ingredient in any floral arrangement. But often these verdant elements are taken for granted, or, worse, not thoughtfully incorporated. Think about the prosaic green shrub practically ignored in a landscape. Or, consider the generic “filler” foliage that might be shiny or fluffy in a bouquet, but quickly forgotten in contrast to a Stargazer lily or the classic red rose emerging from all that green.

Green Flowers offers a lovely alternative and a reminder that green is, indeed, a color! Both writer Alison Hoblyn and photographer Marie O’Hara live in England, but many of the flowers they profile are available in North America (although none are commonplace).

I like that Hoblyn – who has worked as a designer, illustrator and painter – offers an artistic explanation for green’s usefulness. Not only does green have neutral and restful qualities, but it also unifies any palette. “On the colour wheel, it occupies that middle land between the hot hues of red and the colder climes of blue,” she explains.

Gardeners and florists usually cast green as supporting player in their designs, as foliage. But there are plenty of extraordinary plants with green flowers or flower-like bracts and modified leaves. Each plant profiled in the book is paired with an attractive, full-page photograph (although sometimes the images are so tightly focused on the bloom it is impossible to envision the size or form of a mature plant). I appreciate the inclusion of other recommended cultivars, as well as sidebars including little-known traits about each plant.

For example, the seeds of Amaranthus caudatus ‘Viridis’ (love-lies-bleeding), an exotic, tassel-like flower that looks beautiful in a container garden or as a cut flower, are a good source of iron, magnesium and fiber. Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland), has been cultivated since the 16th century, is in the mint family, and has its origins in Turkey, not Ireland.

After falling in love with Green Flowers, you’ll want to grow and design with Mother Nature’s favorite color as revealed in her blooms, blades, and leaves. Whether the star of your bouquet (or border) or a harmonizing design element, green will never again seem ordinary. 

theamericanmeadowgardenThe American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn, by John Greenlee with photography by Saxon Holt (Timber Press, 2009), $39.95.

“Meadows are far more satisfying than either a lawn or traditional border, combining the best attributes of both: like a lawn, a calming place for the eye to rest, yet with the richness and complexity of a border.” John Greenlee’s opening lines are so compelling to read, because they open up the imagination to the practical and eye-pleasing alternatives to a monochromatic (and water-hogging) sea of turf.

“Unlike lawns, meadows are better for the environment, a safe habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, a place where native ecology can thrive,” he continues. Yet meadows aren’t like a roll of sod that can be unfurled across a patch of soil. They need to be properly designed, installed and maintained, which is reason enough to read and emulate the ideas in Greenlee’s book, available in November.

Owner of Greenlee Nursery, the oldest grass nursery in California, the author has created grass ecologies in gardens since 1984. Greenlee (the “Grass Guru”) pioneered the use of native grasses in ornamental landscapes and advocates for a redefinition of American yards. The American Meadow Garden offers homeowners a new model – a mini ecosystem friendly to children, pets and wildlife. That it requires minimal resources and zero mowing is yet another argument in favor of this anti-lawn.

Saxon Holt’s evocative photography is equally persuasive, for when you see the way sunlight plays off the seed heads and wildflowers that compose Greenlee’s meadows, “dream-like” is the only word that comes to mind.

“A meadow can be quiet and green, or filled with riotous displays of flowers and color,” Greenlee expounds. Non-green grass varieties are listed, such as those with silver, blue, yellow, gold and white hues. Flowers, too, play a large role in the meadow tapestry. The diversity of flowering bulbs, daisies, penstemons, salvias, poppies and ferns that Greenlee likes to sprinkle through his meadows will amaze you.

I love the detailed lists of grasses for fragrance, groundcovers, great flower heads, seasonal effects, background and “fillers.” Then there’s “grasses for billowy or cloudlike flowers,” which plays right into my dreamlike notion of growing a meadow of my very own.





Organic flowers: A fresh bouquet

Friday, July 17th, 2009
A glorious English rose, photographed in Skagit Valley on a summer day

A glorious English rose, photographed in Skagit Valley on a summer day

Flowers lovers understand me when I talk about the disconnect that’s going on between the demand for organically-grown food and the miniscule desire for organically-grown flowers. I guess the argument goes: As long as I’m not EATING those flowers, why should I be bothered that a few chemicals were used on them in the field or after they were harvested?

Gardeners and flower fanatics alike have Amy Stewart and Flower Confidential to thank for heightening our awareness of this contradiction. The idea that we can enjoy the beauty of a bouquet’s stems and blooms while knowing that the growing process may have harmed the earth and those who grew the flowers is crazy! How can we honestly enjoy flowers in our homes or as symbols of our most sentimental occasions when they were drenched in chemicals or shipped thousands of miles on a jet flying across the ocean?

Thankfully, there is a burgeoning “slow flower” movement afoot, and I urge you to join me as we use our pocketbooks and consumer influence to encourage reversal of flower-growing practices that use herbicides, pesticides and non-organic fertilizers. I hope the momentum continues and becomes an ever-present conversation between flower purveyors and flower consumers. I can’t tell you how many times I witness friends ask a waiter if the fish on the menu was “wild catch” or “farm raised.” Similarly, when I buy flowers, I want to know: Were they were grown organically?

”]From our piece in Sunset: Erin with her son Jasper [David Perry photograph]In addition to the essays in Flower Confidential, I have Erin Benzakein to thank for my education about seasonal, sustainable and local flower-growing. Erin owns floret flowers, a Mount Vernon, Wash.-based micro-farm where she uses organic practices to raise beautiful, unusual blooms for bouquets, floral designers and wedding clients. Erin is featured in a recent issue of Sunset magazine, along with my short Q-and-A and a gorgeous photograph by David Perry.

For David and me, the desire to meet, interview, photograph and document organic flower growers has been under our skin for a few years now. Other creative projects, family demands, and sheer marketplace apathy have slowed us slightly. But we both keep returning to the subject of organic flowers. I can’t let go of the notion that this is an important topic – one that needs to be shared in order to educate, inform, inspire and – change – the relationship people have with the flowers.

While in the Northwest two weeks ago, I had a wonderful chance to visit yet another organic flower farm: Jello Mold Farm. The project of Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall  is an example of priorities put into practice for a commercial venture. As they write on their beautiful web site (you’ll see many of David’s photographs there), “Our flowers are safe to sniff.”

My cohort, David, an amazing photographer with whom I’ve been on this occasional journey, drove me north to Skagit Valley. We had a few stops along the way, including a sandwich at a cool roadside deli and a quick visit to Christianson’s Nursery to feast our eyes upon the cottage borders (Christianson’s is one of my favorite charming places – where plants happily coexist with weathered farm buildings).

David Perry, Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall at Jello Mold Farm

David Perry, Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall at Jello Mold Farm

We arrived at Diane and Dennis’s place as they came home from a day of making deliveries to customers in the Seattle area. They deliver a heady array of fresh, field-cut flowers every Monday and Thursday to Seattle area designers, event planners and retail florists.

Time to sit down for a cold one and a good gab around the kitchen table, as we all got to know one another and talk about the flower biz.

Here are some snippets from our four-way conversation. It will give you a flavor for the longer feature story we want to publish about them:

+First things first. The name Jello Mold Farm is a curious one that always invokes a question. It is an offshoot of Diane and Dennis’s gardening business, Jello Mold Landscape, which got its name from a crazy building in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood that Diane once covered with 400 copper-hued jello molds of all shapes and patterns. Read that history here.

Jello Mold Farm, fields, and barn

Jello Mold Farm, fields, and barn

+Diane and Dennis have converted an 8-acre farm and its former horse pastures into a bountiful flower farm. They grow 150 varieties of blooms . . . with many, many more on the way.

+After years of estate gardening, Diane yearned to put her energy into a venture that combined her obsession for plants and her values. “I needed to do something else with my energy for my living. (Estate gardening) doesn’t fully feed my soul.”

+They started selling flowers last year and 2009 is their first season to have scheduled deliveries to wholesale customers. Diane emails an “availability list” to a growing group of flower buyers twice a week.

+In Seattle, you can find their flowers at Best Buds (Madison Park), Ballard Market, and several floral studios, including Terra Bella, an organic florist in the Greenwood District.

+They like to use the term “sustainably grown,” rather than organic. “Quality is our best calling card,” Diane says. “Fresh and local sells.”

Rows upon rows of flowers ready to cut

Rows upon rows of flowers ready to cut

+This is hard work, requiring 14 to 16 hour days. “There’s a whole romantic idea that we are so lucky to work on a flower farm,” Dennis admits. “People have no idea how hard we work.” Yet the couple believes they can make a decent living growing flowers rather than food, a lesson they learned after volunteering with a local CSA farmer. “There’s no way we could make a mortgage growing food,” Dennis points out.

+Making bouquets is extremely time-consuming, so Jello Mold often sells straight bunches of a single type of flower, such as dahlias. But when they do make bouquets, “I always try and put in something unique, to create a following,” Diane says. As an example, she showed me a simple bouquet with five dark pink peonies gathered within a pillow of lime-colored Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s-Mantle). They also use a lot of food in their bouquets, like berries, vines and fruiting branches.

A stray allium puts a smile on my face

A stray allium puts a smile on my face

+Organic growers are not able to command a higher price for their cut flowers. They have to meet the same market prices charged by growers using standard, non-sustainable practices.

+Slowly, over time, this may change. But only when consumers value the health benefits (to themselves and to the planet) of bringing home an organic, sustainably-grown bouquet. “It’s in the food movement already,” Diane says. It’s only a matter of time for the floral trade (and their customers) to catch up.

+This is an emotion-based business. One of passion and conviction. Diane and Dennis take delight in seeing people make an emotional connection to their flowers. They want to take care to grow sustainably in a world where such practices don’t make financial sense to larger growers.  “Ours is a better way to grow a business,” Diane says.

It was so hard to leave with our conversation just getting started. But I’m inspired and encouraged to know these new friends. And to know they are living their passion and convictions every day.

A tale of a Wicked Plant (aka “The Case of the Poisonous Monkshood”)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

In preparing for a phone interview with prolific, bestselling author Amy Stewart to discuss her new book, Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, I came across a dog-eared manila folder in my office file drawer. Its label read “Emery’s Garden Monkshood.”

”]Autumn Monkshood - beautiful and poisonous [photo from Valleybrook Gardens Ltd.]And immediately, I recalled my own brush with a “Wicked Plant.” Before sharing my Q&A with Amy, I will indulge in the tale of Autumn Monkshood, aka Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Arendsii’.

In the late 1990s, I worked for a wonderful specialty nursery in Lynnwood, Washington, called Emery’s Garden. I had recently left business writing and a nonprofit communications gig to embark on my “garden writer” journey. Lucky for me, the people at Emery’s took me in and our relationship there flourished. I wrote and edited “The Weedy Reader,” our quarterly newsletter. I planned and produced our educational program and special events. I basically learned the horticulture business, thanks to Emery Rhodes, Marlis Korber and Amy Tullis.

After I left Emery’s in 2000 (that’s when I joined the team of The Herald’s “Home & Garden” section in nearby Everett), I stayed in close touch with my Emery’s pals. One day, in April 2001, I received a panicked phone call from Marlis, the nursery’s general manager.

Turns out, a customer purchasing perennials pointed out some odd tags on the 6-inch containers of Monkshood (Aconitum). The tag read: “All parts of this plant are tasty in soup.” The shopper had filled one of Emery’s carts with her two toddlers and three pots of the mislabeled (and wicked) perennial. “I thought this stuff was poisonous,” she said to our sales associate. “But this label says it’s edible.”

aconitum-story2aconitum010Needless to say, a check in Sunset Western Garden Book revealed the exact opposite to be true. Under “Aconitum,” Sunset warns: “All parts are poisonous if ingested.”

What resulted was a mini-international scandal and media frenzy. The common Monkshood, which is a beautiful, tall violet-blue ingredient in the cottage border, is NOT a tasty ingredient for soup or stews. Instead, it’s lethal.

The ensuing drama played out as you might expect. I got to play the role of Crisis-PR consultant while Emery’s pulled all the mislabeled plants, contacted the grower (a Canadian nursery), and soon discovered that the label mishap had been a stupid prank pulled by one of the grower’s employees! Within 48 hours, we were visited by the FDA; the Canadian authorities got involved; the plant recall went out over the wires; television, radio and print outlets picked up on the story and came to report on the scare.

In the end, it was a bit of a wake up call for Emery’s (and possibly other local nurseries) about the importance of using proper signage and labeling of toxic ornamental and landscaping plants. But I wonder, did anything really change? It certainly elevated consciousness at one nursery, at least for one season.

wicked012Now, however, with the advent of Wicked Plants, the evils of ingesting the flowers, stems or leaves of Aconitum are coming back to haunt me. The perennial is, in fact, the very first entry of Amy Stewart’s charming and horrifying new effort, published earlier this month. Amy writes:

In 1856 a dinner party in the Scottish village of Dingwall came to a horrible end. A servant had been sent outside to dig up horseradish, but instead he uprooted aconinte, also called monkshood. The cook, failing to recognize that she had been handed the wrong ingredient, grated it into a sauce for the roast and promptly killed two priests who were guests at the dinner. Other guests were sickened but survived.

Her scary narrative explains where the perennial grows and what to look out for (gardeners should wear gloves anytime they go near aconitum, Amy advises). The page is labeled “Deadly.”

Wicked Plants, is a compendium of horrifying stories and historical facts of the botanical world. If you have any question as to the deadly, illegal, intoxicating, dangerous, destructive, painful and offensive traits of the trees, shrubs, perennials and herbs growing on our planet, you’ll want to peruse this powerful little volume.

Between the pages of Amy’s 5-3/4 x 7-1/4 inch, 235-page book, which is bound in the same sickly green worn on the face of the witch Elphaba in the musical “Wicked,” are tales of death, destruction, war and more. I recently had a chance to chat by phone with Amy, and here is part of our conversation:


A week filled with Stylish Sheds

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

About a month ago, while reading Alex Johnson’s wonderful blog, Shedworking, I saw his post about an artist named Sarah Lynch. She has spent 2008 posting an original painting EVERY DAY on her blog.

Alex had discovered one of Sarah’s posts from July, featuring a charming garden shed entitled “Shed with Hollyhocks.” It was enchanting and I immediately went to her blog and subscribed to receive her daily artwork. Sarah is an English-Canadian woman living in Southern Ontario. You can find her work for sale via her blog (where there are links to some online galleries also selling her art).

I don’t know her at all, but Sarah has brought me a small dose of happiness every morning. Opening the link to see her next piece is one of the very first things I do after making my cup of tea and sitting down to read email at the start of the day.

I think Sarah may love sheds as much as I do, because today she offers a charming piece entitled: The Lonely Shed (7″X5″ WC pencil on paper):

The year is almost over and I’m worried that Sarah may stop posting her artwork. I like reading her brief, personal artist statements that accompany each drawing, illustration or painting. She has alluded to her readiness for a slower pace, perhaps creating three paintings a week instead of seven. Get in on the last few weeks of the year and subscribe to this little piece of joy that will arrive in your in-box each morning. I, for one, am hoping for MORE SHEDS!


On Sunday (12/7) we received a mention in Irene Virag’s column in Newsday. She included Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways in her “Gift List,” featured at the end of her longer piece on Ken Druse. 

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways (Clarkson Potter, $30): Author Debra Prinzing and photographer William Wright showcase 28 sheds from Southampton to Seattle. From clematis-covered potting sheds to writers’ retreats, these structures enhance lifestyles and landscapes.


“Cottage Ornee” for Solitude and Sociability

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

On July 3rd, my friends at Garden Rant invited me to be their guest-blogger. This kind and generous opportunity gave me a platform to share a little essay about my shed odyssey, the fascination I hold for tiny backyard architecture, and the experiences Bill Wright and I had creating “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.” I was tickled to see that Amy Stewart titled the piece “In Praise of Sheds.”

I asked Garden Rant readers to share their thoughts, ideas and inspiration in response to the question: What is your dream shed and how will you use it?  More than 30 clever readers sent in their answers, vying to win a copy of our book, and a set of note cards with our wellies-under-glass photograph (seen at left), taken by Bill while we were on location at Brenda Lyle’s outside Atlanta.

I was touched by reading so many awesome posts – you can go to Garden Rant to read them for yourself. It was a tough call, but I chose as the winner of this small contest a wonderful gardener and writer in rural Massachusetts.

Pat Leuchtman has a blog called Commonweeder. She and her husband created their “Cottage Ornee” (pronounced Cott-aaagh Or-Nay, preferably in a heavy French accent, Pat says), a stylish shed imagined first in their minds and then built by their hands. This little gem of a building resides at their “End of the Road Farm,” in Heath, Massachusetts. I was struck by Pat’s written description of its design and charmed by the narrative of how she and her husband use it. Here is Pat’s post about winning our little contest: “Cottage Ornee is a Winner”

Cottage Ornee  [Pat Leuchtman photos, here and below]

Here are some photographs, provided by Pat. I was so curious about the cottage’s creation and sent Pat several questions. Her comments appear below. I hope you find this little hut as alluring and enticing as I do. I am already scheming about how to get myself up to visit Pat one of these days. In the meantime, I am enjoying reading her delicious words, so make sure to visit Commonweeder.