Debra Prinzing

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SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: News from Texas’s Flower Farmers (Episode 130)

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Welcome back to the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.

To start off this week’s episode, I have a personal announcement to make. Last week, on February 19th, I concluded a 45-day funding campaign to generate financial contributions for my new project.

With just 32 hours left of the campaign, we'd already reached $18,000!

With just 32 hours left of the campaign, we’d already reached $18,000!

For listeners unfamiliar with it, will be a free online directory to florists, studios, designers and farmers who supply American-grown flowers to the consumer. Thanks to the fantastic crowd-sourcing site Indiegogo, which was the perfect environment to share my passion, more than 220 “believers” contributed $18,450 to fund the launch. I owe a special thanks to the California Cut Flower Commission (Premiere Sponsor), the San Franciso Flower Mart (Presenting Sponsor) and Mellano & Co. (Presenting Sponsor), for their major support! 

In the next several weeks, we’ll be finishing up the necessary database and web development, populating the site with details about member florists, designers and farms, and planning the pre-Mother’s Day marketing & promotions launch. Stay tuned for more details!

An interviewer recently asked me: “What do you hope to accomplish with this site?”

My answer? “That every time someone wants to give or send or purchase flowers, they stop and ask: Can I buy American Grown? And the site will help them navigate that search.” 

The Arnoskys have always labeled their flowers to promote their Texas origins.

The Arnoskys have always labeled their flowers to promote their Texas origins.

Now, let’s talk about Texas. I have three guests today and you’ll love their larger-than-life personalities.

First, please meet Frank and Pamela Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Frank is the new board president of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, but these two are longtime leaders in the organization. Both Pamela and Frank have served in ASCFG board positions in the past.

I first learned about them in Lynn Byczynski’s wonderul reference book The Flower Farmer, originally published in 1997 and reissued with new bonus content in 2008.  Lynn profiled the Arnosky family’s beginnings as growers of bedding plants and poinsettias in Blanco, Texas, before they added cut flowers in the early 1990s.

The flowers were intended for a farmers’ market that never materialized, so Pam and Frank filled their truck with blooms; drove it to Austin and started knocking on the doors of flower retailers. “People were falling all over when they saw the stuff,” Frank said in the interview with Lynn. “That took us by surprise; we really hadn’t known what to expect.”

Pamela and Frank Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Pamela and Frank Arnosky of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers.

Here we are, nearly 25 years later, and the Arnoskys are still viewed by many in the specialty cut flower world as the model family farm. You will enjoy hearing from them both in our conversation today, which touches on how to manage so many acres with little or no additional labor – and how to plan for the future by diversifying. 

Here is a link to their book, Local Color: Growing Specialty Cut Flowers. It’s a compilation of 10 years of their columns for Growing for Market, a periodical published by Lynn Byczynski. 

Pam and Frank will be featured speakers at the upcoming Cut Flower Growers’ School, hosted by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers in Ft. Worth, Texas, on March 3-4, 2014.

Rita Anders of Cuts of Color, in Weimar, Texas.

Rita Anders of Cuts of Color, in Weimar, Texas.

Rita Anders of Cuts of Color in Weimar, Texas, is another fabulous Texas flower farmer who will be presenting at the upcoming Growers’ School.

In January 2013, I visited Rita and spent a wonderful day at her farm – which is located halfway between Austin and Houston. Later, I wrote a story about that visit, which you can read here on Cuts of Color’s web site.

When I was in Austin, Rita joined me in the studio of Central Texas Gardener, a wonderful, long-running show on KLRU, the Austin PBS station.

Producer Linda Lehmusvirta and host Tom Spencer couldn’t have been more welcoming – and our TV segment on locally grown flowers appeared last summer, after the filming crew visited and shot footage at Cuts of Color’s fields and greenhouses.

Rita is the regional VP for ASCFG and is planning next week’s Growers’ School along with cohorts Cynthia Alexander of The Quarry Flower Farm (Frisco, Texas) and Paula Rice of BeeHaven Farm (Bonners Ferry, Idaho).

After I chatted with Frank and Pam Arnosky, I tracked down Rita for more details about the Growers’ School, just in case I could entice any listeners to attend at the last minute. From our conversation, it sounds like walk-ins and last minute registrants are welcome. So consider participating!

In addition to the Arnoskys and Rita Anders, you can hear past Slow Flowers Podcast interviews with several other speakers, including Cynthia Alexander and Gretel and Steve Adams. Anyone who has yet to appear on this show is slated for a future episode — I promise!

texasimageThe Growers’ School promises to be a fantastic educational experience where flower farmers both new and established will hear from some very gifted folks. Here is the schedule and topics:

Monday, March 3

Marketing Session One

1:00 p.m. 
Selling to Florists
Cynthia Alexander, Quarry Flower Farm, Celina, Texas
Cynthia will explain her process of preparing flowers for her florist route, and how to best develop relationships with, and sell to florists.
Floral demonstration: flowers bunched for florist delivery.

1:30 p.m. 
Selling at Farmers’ Markets
Rita Anders, Cuts of Color, Weimar, Texas
Stand out at your farmers’ market! Increase sales with tips from a longtime grower.
Floral demonstration: farmers’ market wrapped bouquet.

2:00 p.m. 
Selling to Supermarkets
Pamela Arnosky, Texas Specialty Cut Flowers, Blanco, Texas
Learn how to streamline your bouquet-making process while increasing productivity.
Floral demonstration: sleeved bouquets for supermarket sales.

2:30 p.m.
Workshop One
Create your own wrapped or sleeved bouquet for farmers’ market or grocery outlet.   
Experienced grower/designers will provide personal assistance.

Marketing Session Two

3:00 p.m.
Increase Your Bottom Line with Top Wedding Sales
Rita Anders, Cuts of Color, Weimar, Texas
Rita will share her methods of contacting and engaging brides.
Floral demonstration: hand-tied wedding bouquet.

3:30 p.m. 
Tapping into Wedding Sales
Gretel Adams, Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, Columbus, Ohio
Sunny Meadows’ wedding business has grown exponentially in the last few years. 
How does this fit into the rest of their farm business?
Floral demonstration: hand-tied wedding bouquet.

4:00 p.m. 
Workshop Two
Reassemble your original bouquet into a hand-tied bridal bouquet. 
Experienced grower/designers will provide personal assistance.

4:30 p.m. 
6:30 p.m. 
Join the speakers and other attendees for dinner at Joe T. Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant, a Fort Worth tradition since 1935. 
Not included in registration.

Tuesday, March 4 

8:00 a.m. 

Office to Field Business Planning and Record Keeping    
Paula Rice, Beehaven Flower Farm, Bonners Ferry, Idaho
Plan for an organized and smooth growing year with useful record-keeping strategies. Learn to set up an efficient flower grower’s office using QuickBooks to create charts of accounts. Use Paula’s groundworks to plan seeding and field planting schedules, while keeping track of basic cost accounting.

9:00 a.m. 
What to Grow and Why       
Steve and Gretel Adams, Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, Columbus, Ohio
How do you choose which perennials to grow? Which annual varieties are the best producers? Steve and Gretel grow a wide variety of both, as well as woodies and bulbs, and will explain their selection process.

10:15 a.m. 

10:30 a.m.
Seeds or Plugs? Both?       
Frank Arnosky, Texas Specialty Cut Flowers, Blanco
Frank will cover all factors of growing cut flowers, including variety selection, seed types, germination  for plugs, and environmental controls. He’ll discuss tricks of the trade, as well as what to grow yourself and what to buy in as plugs.

11:30 a.m. 
Lunch (included with registration)

12:30 a.m. 
Making the Most of Every Square Foot on a Small Farm  
Lisa Ziegler, Gardener’s Workshop Farm, Newport News, Virginia
Make the most of the high-demand season by providing your buyers a steady stream of flowers. Even better, learn how to get it all done by 5:00 by using the best practices and equipment.

1:30 p.m. 
Harvest and Postharvest     
Pamela Arnosky
Pamela will cover all the steps of handling cut flowers, beginning in the field and going through to the final customer. Topics will include harvest practices, preservatives and hydrators, coolers and storage, packing, shipping and extending vase life for the customer. She’ll show you the tools, sleeves, and equipment she uses, and provide sources for materials.

2:30 p.m. 
Creating and Finding Markets for Your Flowers
Steve and Gretel Adams, Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, Columbus, Ohio 
Are you crazy to offer wedding flowers? What’s the best way to approach local florists? Are flower subscriptions profitable? Learn from these dynamic growers what to do – and what not to do.

3:00 p.m. 
Breaking into Business: Getting Florists and Supermarkets on Board  
Lisa Ziegler, Gardener’s Workshop Farm, Newport News, Virginia
You may not be too small! Lisa gave up her farmers’ markets to turn her attention to florists and supermarkets. Learn how to build your business to get those dreamy orders and keep happy customers.

3:30 p.m. 
3:45 p.m. 
Season Extension       
Mimo Davis, Urban Buds, St. Louis, Missouri   
Don’t limit your production to a “typical” growing season! Hoophouses, tunnels, and succession planting can stretch your cut flower offerings on both ends of the season.

4:30 p.m. 

It has been my pleasure to share with you today’s podcast conversations. 

Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 7,000 times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

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

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

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


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Cynthia Alexander left behind her Texas law practice to become a flower farmer (Episode 113)

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Cynthia and Debra

My visit to Ft. Worth this month gave me a wonderful chance to reconnect with flower farmer Cynthia Alexander.


Cynthia Alexander

Cynthia Alexander, flower farmer and owner of Quarry Flower Farm.

You could call Cynthia Alexander, a “chapter two” flower farmer. A passionate gardener, Cynthia has spent the past several years reinventing herself from a real estate attorney into someone whose relationship with land is exemplified in a completely different way! 

Over the past few years, Cynthia and her husband Bob have been transitioning from the city to the land. Quarry Flower Farm, their 120-acre farm, is located in Celina, Texas, about 40 minutes outside of the Dallas-Ft. Worth urban center. 

Earlier this month, I traveled to the Ft. Worth Garden Club to lecture about the “Slow Flowers” movement and to lead a workshop for members of the Garden Club’s floral design group. This was my second visit to the Dallas Ft-Worth area to talk about LOCAL flowers and in both cases, my “credibility” was enhanced thanks to Cynthia.

She is a native Texan whose goal is spreading beauty through organic agriculture and the practice of good land stewardship.  Her repertoire of ingredients is impressive!

At Quarry Flower Farm, Cynthia grows native Texas shrubs and trees, as well as perennials, annuals, grasses, bulbs, vines and herbs. Her fascination with botanical elements means she has an incredibly diverse list of ingredients for floral fans, everyone from hot floral designers to farm-to-table caterers.

Cynthia's Flowers

The botanical bounty that came from Cynthia’s harvest was mind-boggling!

Here is the extensive list of flowers, foliage, herbs, branches and ornamental grasses she provided for the Ft. Worth workshop: 

Amaranthus ‘Red Hopi’
Black Bamboo
Bois D’Arc apples
Chinaberry foliage, yellow berry
Cotton Bolls
Crepe Myrtle
Elm Winged branches
Garden Roses
Geranium scented
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’
Hibiscus ‘Jamaican Red’
Juniper silver berry
Lambs ears
Love In A Puff vine, pod
Myrtle branches
Perilla green
Persimmon branches
Purple Hyacinth Bean pods
Pyracantha orange berry
Salvia Leucantha
Sunflower Maximillian
Yellow wildflower
Cynthia Alexander

Cynthia’s design talents were evident when we met in 2012 at a field-to-vase workshop I taught at the Dallas Arboretum.

Cynthia first came to my rescue in February 2012 when I taught an eco-floral design course at the Dallas Arboretum. I had contacted her through the ASCFG directory, asking for help. Cynthia showed up with a bevy of flowering bulb varieties and spring branches – much to the delight of the Dallas floral design students. After all, it was FEBRUARY, for goodness sake’s. She saved the day!

The same thing happened when I encouraged the Ft. Worth Garden Club to source LOCAL Texas leaves, branches and flowers from a real flower farmer. Cynthia is a gem. And you’ll find her personal story fascinating.

I mean really….how many people leave a successful, 30-year career as an attorney in order to dig in the dirt and grow cut flowers? For that reason alone, I adore this gifted woman. Enjoy our conversation and listen for all of Cynthia’s advice about her second career – as a cut flower farmer. 

In addition to the flower fields at Quarry Flower Farm, Cynthia and Bob cherish their unique location and beautiful pond (a former gravel quarry). They nurture a native habitat that attracts many birds, butterflies and critters.  They have used green-building practices, sourcing materials from an English-style oak timber-frame barn (circa 1835), from the Mohawk Valley in New York, which they have re-erected beside the quarry pond. 
Quarry Flower Farm

The farmhouse at Quarry Flower Farm.

Cynthia hosts garden club tours, bridal parties and U-pick guests by appointment during the spring growing season. Check her web site for details.

Other Resources mentioned in our interview:

The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008), by Lynn Byczynski 

Cynthia mentioned that her inspiration began by spending time with Pamela and Frank Arnosky, owners of Texas Specialty Cut Flowers. The Arnoskys have also written an important resource, as well, Local Color: Growing Specialty Cut Flowers.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is a membership association of flower farmers in every state. The ASCFG has many wonderful resources for beginning and established flower farmers. 


Thanks for joining me in this episode of SLOW FLOWERS. Because of your support as a listener, we’ve reached nearly 2,000 downloads since July – and I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.

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

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

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


DIY Bouquets in Dallas

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


I spent a wonderful day with floral design students at the Dallas Arboretum.

First-time floral designers and experienced arrangers converged at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens last Saturday for a few hours of inspiring floral creativity.

In planning the hands-on workshop with education director Joy Ijams, I worried that late February in Dallas could present some challenges. That is, when it came to procuring local and seasonal design ingredients. Fortunately for the 20 folks who participated in our sold-out class, my fears were allayed.

For the success of our event, I have several awesome people to acknowledge. First of all, thanks goes to Joy – the ever-upbeat program planner who invited me to speak about The 50 Mile Bouquet in a morning lecture and then to teach what she called a “make and take” workshop after our lunch break.

Education director Joy Ijams and I did a little “pruning” the morning of my class…to harvest branches and foliage for our student-designers to use.

It was Joy who creatively conjured up the format and got the word out to the Arboretum audience. It also was Joy who picked me up at the airport on Friday night and took me to Central Market so we could shop the flower department to augment our menu of botanical ingredients with domestic tulips and fragrant stock (she also suggested we undertake some ‘moonlight pruning’ at the Arboretum, but we were both exhausted and decided to wait until the following morning).

Joy, along with her education department colleagues and volunteers, made everything run smoothly. Our students were happy and engaged – and all the AV systems worked to perfection.

The following morning, prior to the arrival of those attending the 10 AM lecture, Joy and I headed out to the Arboretum’s display gardens with Felcos in hand. We were motivated by a concern that we wouldn’t have enough greenery otherwise. Sorry, Jimmy, but we harvested from the fringes of your borders, including clipping from the back sides of Indian hawthorn, just-blooming forsythia, phlomis, and rosemary. Oh, and a few minor branches from a saucer magnolia. 

Texas cut flower grower Cynthia Alexander is not only a great farmer, she’s a talented floral designer!

We were in pretty good shape with our supermarket flowers and the just-cut foliage. That’s because we knew Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Flower Farm was soon to arrive with goodies from her fields and orchards. In anticipation of this class, I had reached out to several of the Dallas area members of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) and connected with Cynthia, whose farm is located in Celina, Texas. She did not disappoint!

Cynthia agreed to harvest everything she had on hand and bring it to our class. Yes, it’s still early spring on Cynthia’s rather young flower farm, but you’d never know it by the fabulous, overflowing galvanized French flower buckets she delivered.

They contained an awesome mix of spring bulbs (several daffodil varieties); uncommon foliage (cardoons, hoar hound, and other green boughs); and lots of flowering fruit-tree branches. I’m so pleased that Cynthia joined us.

Floral design – en masse – in a classroom filled with passionate and creative women.

It allowed me to introduce her farm to students in both the morning and afternoon class. Plus, she participated in the floral design workshop – and inspired all of us with her avant-garde creation! As soon as Cynthia walked into the classroom, I recognized her; we realized that we must have met or at least spoken with one another at the 2010 Tulsa ASCFG conference. This time, we’ve become more than passing strangers and I can’t wait to return to Dallas to see Cynthia’s farm first-hand.

My “dream team:, from left: Joy Ijams of The Dallas Arboretum; Debra Prinzing (me); Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Flower Farm; and Whitney White, new-generation floral designer.

A few other secret ingredients enhanced the Saturday afternoon workshop — more fresh-from-the-garden floral elements and a talented florist (read on to discover to whom I’m referring). First, Joy and I had asked those who wished to do so to bring cuttings from their own gardens – and wow, what a great selection of foliage arrived! Second, I was sent an “angel” in the form of Whitney White, a twenty-something floral designer whose father Jay White is a fellow member of Garden Writers Association and an email pal of mine. Whitney arrived like a dream….Jay encouraged her to attend the morning workshop and as soon as we met I recruited Whitney to help with the afternoon class. It was nice to have her talent and that of a few other pro’s in the class to share tips about composition, line, form and color. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her. Currently, Whitney is working for a hot Dallas design firm called Bows and Arrows. They are very lucky to have her!

Once all our ingredients were assembled, I started out the class by discussing my favorite “green” floral design techniques:

  • Use a recycled or repurposed vase
  • Stabilize stems with organic or re-usable material, such as an armature of branches or twigs, wood aspen (Excelsior), old-fashioned flower frogs, chicken wire and a foliage nest.
  • Strip all foliage from the portion of the stem that will be under water; fresh-cut ever stem and plan on refreshing the water every day or two.

The students exceeded their own expectations with a beautiful lineup of designs. You can see some of their examples here.

Bottom line: Gardeners are ideal floral designers. We know the form, habit, bloom time and character of the ingredients in our gardens. And so we know how and when to harvest those ingredients — and arrange them in companionable displays in a vase. Perhaps this is an unscientific, alternative approach to floral design. But it makes sense to me! When you use seasonal ingredients, then they will naturally look like they belong together in a vase.

Here’s a lovely gallery of the local-seasonal-sustainable designs that filled our vases: