Debra Prinzing

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Episode 479: Branding the Sustainable Floral Business with Pilar Zuniga of Berkeley’s Gorgeous and Green

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020
Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green – all photography (c) Lauren Edith Anderson

In 2013, during the first year of the Slow Flowers Podcast, I interviewed a young floral designer from the San Francisco East Bay who at the time was one of the only voices talking about sustainable design practices. I called her “Berkeley’s Eco-Floral Maven” and said this: “Pilar Zuniga is blazing a new trail and is the TRUE definition of a LOCAL FLORIST. She has a hometown, Main Street flower shop that goes the full distance to source from local flower farms in her own backyard.”

Remember, this was in the early days of Instagram. When it came to visually exciting storytelling, at least online, individual bloggers still reigned. As early as 2008 when she launched Gorgeous and Green as an event floral business, and later as a local Berkeley retail floral and gift store (2010-2016), Zuniga used her blog to write about sustainability concerns, including chemical-free design techniques and mechanics. “I don’t use sprays, glues or floral foam at all,” she explains.

Seasonal and sustainable floral design by Gorgeous and Green

Today, Instagram is home to Pilar’s online presence, where followers are drawn to her vibrant aesthetic, often portrayed against a distinctive turquoise-teal wall, a color rarely found in flowers.

The flowers and foliage she selects are locally grown, and when available, are organic or non-sprayed as well.  Gorgeous and Green supports local growers and farms who are doing their best to continue to keep local crops available in the Bay Area.

A floral palette as colorful as its designer

I’m so pleased to welcome Pilar Zuniga as a return guest to the Slow Flowers Podcast. I really can’t believe that seven years have transpired since early listeners of this show met her. You’re in for a treat, but as a bonus, here is the link to her first appearance in Episode 116, from November 2013) and a link to the feature about Gorgeous and Green that I wrote for the November 2019 issue of Florists’ Review.

An early “green” service: Flowers delivered by bicycle a la Pedal Express

Before we get started, here’s a bit more about Pilar Zuniga, excerpted from her web site:

A California Native, Pilar came to the Bay area to attend UC Berkeley.  Her interests then and now include biology, art and culture. She is fond of painting, drawing, ceramics, sewing and embroidery, remaking old things, finding vintage goods, gardening and ballet. She is a feminist, a Latina and a colorful individual who loves dogs and smiles often.  Her floral design is born out of a desire to be creative and to support a local movement of flower growers.

Find and follow Gorgeous and Green at these social places:

Gorgeous and Green on Facebook

Gorgeous and Green on Instagram

Gorgeous and Green on Pinterest

Thank you so much for joining this lovely and uplifting conversation with a kindred spirit – one who is a role model for how to honor your mission and values through the way you build your business.

You are in for a real treat next June, because Pilar is one of the featured presenters at the 2021 Slow Flowers Summit, taking place June 28-30, 2021 at Filoli, in Woodside, California. We will soon resume promotion and registration for the postponed 4th annual Slow Flowers Summit and I’m thrilled that our host venu, Filoli, has done everything right to accommodate a safe, socially-distanced experience.


She will discuss building an enduring brand around sustainable design and using her studio and  platform to advocate for beautiful sustainability, including chemical-free design techniques and mechanics. You’ll learn more about how Pilar’s personal values have shaped Gorgeous and Green’s brand and mission in the marketplace. And, you’ll be wowed as she demonstrates her signature floral style using all-local botanical elements.

In our show notes, you’ll find a link to more details about the Summit, and to sign up for notices as we roll out an expanded speaker lineup, COVID-safe policies and more.

And a Podcast post-script. I’m recording the intro for today’s episode on Sunday, November 8th. In the U.S., we have endured a long, drawn out and agonizing political season, and I’m so pleased with the result of the presidential ticket that prevailed. Joe Biden is our president-elect and Kamala Harris, our vice president-elect, the first woman, the first Black woman and the first person of Asian descent to be elected to this office. I am exhaling, and I’ve heard from so many of you who are doing the same. If you didn’t support the Biden-Harris ticket, my wish for you is to have an open-mind, and to join me in a pledge to listen, speak my own truth, and show compassion for all humans.

Slow Flowers is committed to sustainability in all its forms, including sustaining dignity, equity and inclusion for people like us and not like us.

Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm, Maine’s new State Senator & Flower Farmer!

And, as long as we’re talking about elections, we want to congratulate Slow Flowers member and recent guest of this podcast, Stacy Brenner of Broadturn Farm in Scarborough, Maine. On November 3, Stacy posted this message on social media: I’m so grateful to announce that the voters in Buxton, Gorham, and Scarborough have voted for me to be the next State Senator for our district. I congratulate my opponent on a well-run campaign, and I promise to do my very best for our community in Augusta. Congratulations to Maine’s newest state senator and flower farmer, Stacy Brenner!

It’s time to announce two giveaways:

The winner of complimentary registration to Ellen Frost’s new online workshop — Growing Your Business with Local Flower Sourcing is: Zoe Dellinger of Dell Acres Farm and Greenhouse in Edinburg, Virginia! Congratulations, Zoe. You’ll hear from Ellen Frost with all the details very soon!

And congratulations to Amy Stoker of Lucky Bee Cut Flowers of Longmont, Colorado! As one of more than 200 respondents of our annual Slow Flowers member survey, your name was randomly selected for the BIG PRIZE — full registration to the 2021 Slow Flowers Summit, valued at $599. You’ll get to meet us at Filoli in late June, and meet Pilar Zuniga, today’s podcast guest in person! We’ll be sharing the insights from the member survey in the coming months — it was a huge success with more than 25% member participation.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 657,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

As our movement gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.

Thank you to our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

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

Longfield Gardens, which 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. Check out the full catalog at Longfield Gardens 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. Visit them 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:

Lanky; Molly Molly; Turning on the Lights; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions

Lovely by Tryad

In The Field

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.