Debra Prinzing

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Episode 330: Slow Flowers’ 2018 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018


The fourth annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights & Industry Forecast for 2018

I’m excited to announce that Florists’ Review has come onboard as Slow Flowers‘ lead sponsor for 2018, signifying a strategic partnership that acknowledges the many ways the Slow Flowers approach is moving into many facets of floristry — at all points along the farm to consumer pipeline. Florists’ Review is the only independent monthly magazine for the retail, wholesale and supplier market, reaching the largest number of floral professionals in the industry. I’m honored to be a Contributing Editor producing the monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, filled with unique content reflecting the cultural shift taking place in flower sourcing and design.

Since 2014, I have drawn from input from members of the Slow Flowers Community, past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast and other progressive leaders in the floral industry — including farmers, florists and design creatives — to “predict” the future. While by no means a statistical survey, the Slow Flowers Floral Insights & Industry Forecast serves as a botanical crystal ball to identify emerging themes affecting the domestic floral industry. I’m excited to share these key insights for the first time in print form, here in the pages of Florists’ Review’s “Slow Flowers Journal” section.

Think of these topics as your inspiration checklist for 2018 — Your Next, New and Now Report. Some of you are already engaged in these up-and-coming developments, so consider yourself on-topic!

The overarching theme for 2018 is “Flowers without Borders,” which to me reflects the disappearance of silo-like barriers that previously separated growers of flowers from sellers of flowers from designers of flowers. Thanks to technology and social media, the ability of conventional “gatekeepers” to control the flow of information and product has greatly diminished. Transparency is power, making it easier than ever before to identify sources of fresh and uncommonly beautiful flowers and foliage. So here’s to a new floral landscape where accessibility is the driving force.

#1 Flower Farmers Diversify into Seeds, Bulbs and Plants

Beyond selling their crops to wholesale, retailer and independent florists, entrepreneurial flower farmers are finding new ways to turn expertise into cash flow. This phenomenon has moved far beyond seed-swapping and informal exchanges of plant cuttings.

One story of diversification comes from Bailey Hale of Ardelia Farm + Co. in Irasburg, Vermont. A trained horticulturist and two-time Philadelphia Flower Show gold medal floral designer (through his former studio MODA Botanica), Bailey now raises specialty cut flowers for farmers’ markets and florists and provides full-service wedding and event design. He turned his own hunger to find sources for uncommon “couture” flowers into a spin-off venture called Farmer Bailey, a custom plug brokerage.

When he’s not tending to his own farm, which is famous for producing sweet peas long into Vermont’s cool summer months, Bailey has become a cut flower hunter. He evaluates new varieties, contracts with a large wholesale nursery to custom grow “plugs” of must-have cultivars and markets his ever-expanding online catalog of irresistible choices to flower farmers and farmer-florists like himself. Bailey saw an un-served opportunity in the marketplace and used his connections and ingenuity to fill the demand. The result is a thriving new venture and the chance to influence the types of blooms — from Asters to Verbenas — entering the floral marketplace.

#2 Flower Farmers Launch Direct-Ship Wholesale Programs
Shipping to designers in markets that don’t otherwise have access to their unusual flowers, Gretel and Steve Adams of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, Ohio, “have opened door to get our product to florists without having to physically deliver it,” Gretel explains. Recently, their farm joined a shipping cooperative to take advantage of discounted overnight rates, an essential part of keeping their pricing competitive.

After a season of testing packaging methods and learning to navigate the FedEx system, Sunny Meadows expects to unveil The Columbus Flower Company’s national wholesale flower shipping program this spring, beginning with its huge ranunculus harvest. “We’d like to be able to send flowers to designers in New York, or Los Angeles, or places that don’t have access to a good flower market,” she says.

Gretel, also a wedding and event designer, feels she can add value for florists who order from the farm. “My favorite clients are florists who give me an inspiration board and a budget and I’ll pull a mix of ingredients that I myself would use.”

In Weyers Cave, Virginia, Jessica Hall and her family run two businesses, Harmony Harvest Farm (specialty cut flowers) and Floral Genius (pin frogs and other flower frogs). Jessica also reports of plans to ship flowers in 2018, borrowing lessons learned from shipping flower frogs across the U.S. to Floral Genius’s  wholesale accounts.

Harmony Harvest spent 2017 trialing packaging, stem hydration and shipping methods to determine best practices for a farm-to-florist wholesale program. “I believe there is a collective army (of smaller flower farms) that can take care of the U.S. need; they might be able to grow those flowers and see that it’s possible to ship. I’m going to figure it out and hopefully that will change the industry,” she says.

#3 Retail Garden Centers Add Floral Design Services

Last year’s Floral Insights report highlighted “Return of Brick and Mortar,” documenting a possible reversal of the decades-long decline in floral retail, as I witnessed studio florists with a distinct local and community focus open a new generation of retail flower shops. The next wave in this shift continues in retail nurseries and garden centers, which are opening or reviving in-house floral shops with a distinctly local emphasis.

Slow Flowers Journal featured The Flower Shop at O’Donal’s Nursery outside Portland, Maine — which recently introduced full-service floral design as a sister business to a 60-acre tree and shrub nursery. Manager Rayne Grace Hoke credits having a distinct aesthetic inspired by O’Donal’s extensive plant collection for much of the shop’s success.

On the opposite coast, Windmill Gardens, an independent garden center in Sumner, Washington, also debuted a new flower department. According to owner Ben DeGoede, Windmill brought floral design in-house for the first time since 2001, taking over space once occupied by a tenant and rebranding as Windmill Floral Studio. The beautiful, full-service shop has a commitment to providing only locally-grown and American-grown flowers. “The Slow Flowers movement and the buy local movement has inspired us to take floral back again,” he explains.

General manager Wendy Pedersen explains that the flower shop “wants customers to support local farmers.” There are obvious synergies for couples who book Windmill Gardens’ outdoor wedding venue and hire Windmill Floral Studio to design their flowers.

#4 Flower Farmers Shift into Retail

While it may seem “counter-trend,” a number of flower farms are opening retail spaces in prime locations where their flowers are marketed alongside related hard goods and artisan products. It’s a move welcomed by consumers who want to buy farm-direct in urban and suburban markets. I’ve identified Chicago, Boston and Albuquerque, among other cities where flower farmers have opened retail shops to sell their blooms.

In Boston, Field & Vase, a new venture of Stow Greenhouses, has opened two retail spaces at The Shops at Prudential Center, a major downtown retail hub. Barbara Rietscha and Dave Buchholz incubated their first retail venture two years ago at Boston Public Market, a year-round, indoor farmers’ market with 40 vendors and a New England-grown mandate. Success in that venue attracted the attention of developers at the tony Prudential Tower, and this past September, Field & Vase opened two locations there — a permanent kiosk in the heart of the mall’s central court and a full-service shop-studio that is large enough to accommodate custom design work, event production, client consultations and ongoing workshops.

Barbara says adding multiple retail channels to sell their farm’s value-added flowers was an intentional decision. By selling the flowers they grow direct to consumers through retail, Field & Vase enjoys larger margins and gets out of the wholesale environment dominated by price competition with imports. Additionally, at the Prudential locations, the business promotes other flower farms that aren’t set up to do retail themselves. “We source within the U.S. because we believe in local,” Barbara says. “We want to be a venue for flower farmers who don’t have retail outlets themselves.”

#5 Aromatherapy and Wellness Remedies

Botanically-inspired fragrances, body care remedies and other herbal and scented goods have a natural affinity for floral consumers, and I’ve noted some brilliant ways that florists are taking advantage of this. From developing their own candle and soap collections to offering aromatherapy-themed events, florists are tapping into ways to cross-promote flowers and aromatics.

Stacey Carlton, AIFD, of The Flora Culturist in Chicago has made the fragrance connection for her customers with an “Aromatherapy Bar” service. It’s a smart way to extend into a new revenue stream incorporated into parties and special events. Guests are invited to create a personal, custom fragrance blend — or to follow Stacey’s cleverly personalized scent recipes. From intimate gatherings like bridal showers to large interactive events, the Aromatherapy Bar gives guests a social experience and a new way to engage with fragrance.

Farmer-florist Hedda Brorstrom of Full Bloom Flower Farm in Groton, California, is a certified herbalist who studied at the California School of Herbal Studies. She extends her farm’s season by creating and selling “small batch, field to face” herbal and aromatherapy products.
Full Bloom Flower Farm’s skin care line includes rich hydrating creams made from roses, calendula and lavender grown on her farm. A rosemary hydrosol is an organic spray that can be used either on the face after sun exposure or used in cocktails after a long day of gardening. Hedda’s personal favorite product is the Injury Salve which she uses after a day of farming to soothe sore muscles. She sells her products online, alongside other farm-logo items like tank tops, sweatshirts and hats.

#6 Cause-Related Flowers

Flower farmers and florists alike are investing their talents in helping nonprofits and others in their communities. Floral philanthropy or “flowers with heart” efforts are inspiring, and I love seeing flowers used as a currency to change lives and advance important causes. A number of feel-good projects caught my attention in 2017 and I am certain they will continue in 2018.

The Bloom Project, profiled recently in Florists’ Review, is a 10-year-old volunteer-run program that upcycles donated flowers into bouquets for hospice and palliative care patients in Portland, Oregon.

On a national level, Christina Stembel’s Farmgirl Flowers selects and supports a monthly nonprofit partner by donating a portion of sales for a signature bouquet in its product mix.

“We started our ‘With Heart’ campaign because we wanted a way to give back to multiple organizations that are near and dear to our hearts throughout the year,” Christina explains. “It’s also a way we can support many organizations that our team members are passionate about.” Since it launched in April 2017, Farmgirl’s ‘With Heart’ program has contributed more than $70,000 to nine different charities.

I’m also impressed with charities using flower farming and floral design as a platform for change. It’s inspiring to watch nonprofit farms that help teens and adults train for the workplace or those that provide sustainable jobs for individuals with different abilities. Some notable efforts include Muir Ranch in Pasadena, WOW Farm in Oakland, Blawesome Farms in the Raleigh-Durham area, Blooming on the Inside in Portland, and other socially responsible enterprises.

The bottom line is that flowers can meet people where they are and be used as a positive tool to instigate change, stimulate progress and enhance lives.


Episode 318: Bailey Hale, Ardelia Farm + Co. and Farmer Bailey’s Plugs

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Bailey Hale (left) and Thomas McCurdy (right) of Ardelia Farm & Co.

There’s been an ongoing theme for our podcasts this year — that of reinvention, re-branding and diversification for everyone in the Slow Flowers Community. As creatives, it makes sense. We are multidimensional and we strive to balance entrepreneurship with artistry in equal measure.

Today’s guest, Bailey Hale, is one such individual. Bailey and his husband Thomas McCurdy established Ardelia Farm & Co. in 2011.

Inside the sweet pea greenhouse

Today it is a cut flower farm, floral design studio and bakery in Vermont’s picturesque Northeast Kingdom. Thomas bakes using local, organic, farm-fresh ingredients to produce everything from chocolate chip cookies to wedding cakes. Bailey raises specialty cut flowers, supplying farmers’ markets and florists, as well as providing full service wedding and event design.

Sweet peas galore — the top crop at Ardelia Farm & Co.

I met Bailey in 2014 at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers annual meeting in Wilmington, where we struck up a brief acquaintance. I learned a lot more about his floral life story a few months ago when we both attended the regional ASCFG meeting that took place in Ontario, Canada’s Niagara region.

It’s amazing what a shared drink in the hotel bar with kindred spirits can lead to — before the evening was over, I made a point of inviting Bailey to come on this show as a guest.

This is how the “plugs” look when they arrive at a client’s farm — the individual plant starts are grown in flats, ready to be plucked out and re-potted into larger containers or directly planted into the ground.

We both agreed to schedule the interview and this episode for early October to coincide with the launch of a new season for Ardelia Farm & Co.’s spin off venture, Farmer Bailey Plugs.

As things happen in our community, we often catch glimpses of each others’ activities while scrolling across the screen of a computer or phone. I noticed what Farmer Bailey seemed to be about — and guessed that Bailey was batching or bundling a number of small orders into ones large enough to meet minimums set by plug or seed companies. What began as a “let’s help out friends in the flower farming world” gesture has rapidly taken off — and for 2018 it looks like the business whose tagline is: Custom Plug Brokerage for Professional Cut Flower Farmers will gobble up a good part of Bailey’s time.

In our interview, recorded via Skype recently with me in Seattle and Bailey in Irasburg, Vermont, I learned that the seasonal cycles of sourcing and marketing plugs and seeds is somewhat complementary to cut flower farming and floral design. Bailey saw an opportunity to fill a need — and he refined it into a sustainable business venture. I can’t wait for you to learn more.

Here’s more biographical information about Bailey and Thomas and how their chicken video went viral and made them famous a few years back. This is excerpted from their “about” section of the Ardelia Farm & Co. web site:

I’ve been working with flowers for a long long time. My grandmother taught me how to grow flowers when I was 5 years old, and this turned into a life long passion.  After receiving my B.S. in horticulture from the University of Kentucky, I worked at Longwood Gardens before starting an award-winning floral design studio (MODA botanica) in the heart of Philadelphia. Along with my business partner, we exhibited at the internationally renowned Philadelphia Flower Show where we took best in show a couple of times, and got to travel the world looking at cut flowers and meeting the folks who grow them.

When my husband Thomas and I left Philadelphia to start farming in 2011, I had no idea that flowers would be a major part of our operation. But after dabbling a bit, and joining ASCFG, I felt like I had found my tribe. I already knew flowers, and I knew how to grow things, I just needed a little more information on how to successfully grow and market cut flowers. I credit ASCFG with connecting those missing pieces, and introducing me to some amazing folks, including many of you.

As Ardelia Farm & Co. was taking shape, I searched endlessly for new varieties and tried to navigate the plug grower/broker relationship. I couldn’t understand why we need brokers in the first place, or why growers don’t just produce what is popular and trending right now. I now see that there needs to be someone communicating between the plug producer and the professional cut flower farmer.

In fall/winter 2015 I put together a group order for 6 Lisianthus varieties, and got an overwhelming response. These new and odd varieties were in high demand with florists and growers alike, but didn’t show up on the radar of plug growers or traditional bedding plant brokers. And that’s where the idea for Farmer Bailey started. I see the trends coming to the US from Asia and Europe, I know what we can grow well here in the US, and I’m determined to get those items in the hands of the folks who need them while they are are still relevant. Floral trends do change rapidly (despite the recent 5 year “Blush & Bashful” stagnation) and being able to respond quickly is key for the American flower farmer. 

So I became a broker, and luckily Gro ‘n Sell is supporting me in this. They have so graciously agreed to help us all by producing things that may have otherwise taken a decade to come into commercial production. These new items combined with their standard offerings will help us meet the varied demands of our clients nationwide.

While I have plenty of ideas and keep my eye on the international trends, I am no oracle, and I don’t know everything you want to see produced as a plug. Please tell me what you want. If there is a critical mass of interested folks, I can start the process of sourcing seed and asking the kind folks at Gro ‘n Sell if they will assist us. Feel free to use the Contact Us form, or join the ‘Farmer Bailey Plugs for Flower Farmers‘ group on Facebook and join in the conversation.

Here’s how to follow and find Farmer Bailey & Ardelia Farm:

Ardelia Farm on Facebook

Ardelia Farm on Instagram

Farmer Bailey on Facebook

Farmer Bailey Plugs on Instagram

Thanks so much for joining us today! The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 242,000 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 family of sponsors:

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

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

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 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

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

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at

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:

These Times
by Blue Dot Sessions
Additional music from: