Debra Prinzing

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Playing with Flowers and Digging Deep with Fran Sorin (Episode 175)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Awaiting early tulips and hyacinths . . . we're just weeks away!

Awaiting early tulips and hyacinths . . . we’re just weeks away!


Before we get started, I want to announce our new Slow Flowers Podcast Sponsor for 2015 – the California Cut Flower Commission.

The Commission is committed to making a difference as an advocate for American Grown Flowers.

I’ll be working closely with CCFC on a number of initiatives to promote domestic flowers in 2015, and I promise to keep you posted as details unfold.

SlowFlowersChallengeCover.jpg (2)


Today on the Slow Flowers Podcast we launch the Slow Flowers Challenge, share all about a new urban flower farm in Pittsburgh, and explore the meaning of flowers on a personal level with author and gardening personality Fran Sorin.

To kick off 2015, I invite you to join in the fun and creativity of the Slow Flowers Challenge. This project was inspired by Katherine Tracy, a talented plantswoman, designer and owner of Avant Gardens Nursery in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Katherine blogged about taking the “Slow Flowers Challenge” after hearing my presentation at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens in Rhode Island this past fall…and she started using the hashtag #slowflowerschallenge, which in turn prompted other people to create seasonal bouquets, photograph them and share their designs on Facebook, Instagram and personal blogs.

Katherine’s artistic arrangements reveal her love of the natural world, the seasons, the plants, the gifts of the garden and wilder places. I’ve so enjoyed seeing these bouquets pop up across the web – thoroughly serendipitous and seasonal – representing pure joy for a moment in time. SO I thought, “why don’t we make the Challenge available to everyone who loves local flowers?”

I encourage you to check out these very simple rules and download a free SlowFlowersResourceGuide2015 here. Sign up to receive weekly design updates and follow a link to the Slow Flowers Pinterest Gallery, where you are welcomed and encouraged to post your seasonal arrangements.  Let’s have fun, make beauty, and change the American floral industry with new (and more seasonal) habits.


Briefly, before getting to our main guest, I also invited Jonathan Weber to share what’s going on with greenSinner, a Pittsburgh-based floral design, wedding and event studio and urban micro flower farm that he owns and runs with partner Jimmy Lohr.

Past guests of this podcast, the two have made good on their dream — to buy more land and establish a working flower farm. Jonathan and Jimmy recently purchased 4 acres of long-neglected land inside the Pittsburgh city limits. It’s called Midsummer Hill Farm.

I couldn’t be more excited to see them take this major step, but so much is needed to get seedlings and bulbs into the soil in time for flowers to bloom in 2015. Here’s a recent article featuring greenSinner, Midsummer Hill Farm and Jimmy and Jonathan’s crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo, which runs through January 27th. I encourage you to check it out and perhaps invest in the growth of local flowers in Pittsburgh.

Fran Sorin, author of "Digging Deep."

Fran Sorin, author of “Digging Deep.”

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

Today’s guest Fran Sorin is an author, gardening and creativity expert, and deep ecologist. Her book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, was groundbreaking when published in 2004. It was the first book to address gardening in the context of creativity, and as a tool for well-being and personal transformation. Here is a link to my blog post about “Digging Deep for Flower Lovers,” sharing favorite excerpts from Fran’s book.

Fran recently released an updated 10th Anniversary Edition of Digging Deep. The book is even more vital today, because our culture has become increasingly obsessed with technology and progressively more “nature deprived.”

From the moment Fran decided she wanted to share her passion for gardening with a large audience and approached the local Fox TV station in Philadelphia about the idea, she became a fixture on the TV circuit. She spent years as a gardening authority on Philadelphia’s Fox and NBC stations; she was the regular gardening contributor on NBC’s Weekend Today Show, and made several appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Lifetime, HGTV, DIY, and the Discovery Channel. She is one of the creators of the popular weekly dose of garden news at Gardening Gone Wild Blog.

Fran is celebrating her tenth year as a CBS Radio News correspondent. Her Digging Deep gardening features are heard several times a week on CBS Radio stations throughout the United States. She has also written dozens of articles about gardening and well-being for USA Weekend Magazine, Radius Magazine, and iVillage.

She has spent more than twenty-five years initiating and working on community projects that have served the diverse community of West Philadelphia, most recently initiating a community garden and learning center on the grounds of a church in an underprivileged neighborhood of West Philadelphia.

Even prior to becoming an ordained interfaith minister, Fran was ministering to folks whether she was taking on the role as a garden designer, a media trainer, a TV personality, or a radio host. Fran’s greatest strengths are in connecting to audiences and individuals and galvanizing them to take action. In these tumultuous and technologically obsessed times, when so many of us feel stuck, scared, and disconnected from ourselves and others, her optimistic, grounded values, and empowering message are needed more than ever.

Here is Fran’s video – she’s a woman on the street, sharing her inspiring “Give a Flower. Get a Smile” project:

Follow Fran here:


Give a Flower Facebook Page


If you want to participate in the drawing for a free copy of Digging Deep, post a comment about your earliest memory of gardening or experiencing nature. Your comment enters you into the drawing, which takes place at midnight Pacific Time, this Saturday, Jan. 10th. We’ll announce the winner next week.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.  Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more frequently than ever before.  We’re at nearly 30,000 downloads, which will be an exciting milestone to reach in the coming week. So I thank you!!! If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

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

A Quiet Sunday Morning

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

A Seattle Sunday Morning: 43 degrees F. Foggy and damp. It’s supposed to get up to 53 degrees F this afternoon, so who am I to complain about a little morning fog?

I woke up grateful for many things, including the sense that my life has slowed down for this 30-day holiday period. I’ve purposely limited my social commitments so as to save my energy for the creative projects that are tugging at me. This afternoon, I might get the sewing machine out and see what I can fashion from my collection of pretty scraps and remnants.

One lovely suprise happened last night, just as I was about to turn off the back episode of “Madame Secretary” I was watching and crawl under the flannel sheets.

Fran Sorin, yes that Fran Sorin – of Digging Deep and Gardening Gone Wild fame, sent me a note to say she devoted her latest CBS Radio gardening segment to “Slow Flowers.”

I’m hoping to get the audio posted, but right now, let me just say THANK YOU so much to Fran! What a generous gift of support from one serious flower lover to another. She gave me the transcript, which I’ll share here:


December 5, 2014-4- Slow Flowers

If you’re thinking about sending flowers to someone for the holidays, I’ve got a suggestion for you.

This is Fran Sorin for DIGGING DEEP.
A gardening colleague, Debra Prinzing, has singlehandedly created and committed her life to developing a nationwide online directory of florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers. It’s call Slow Flowers.
In the U.S., we spend close to $28 billion a year on floriculture. Around 80% of the cut flowers bought in the U.S. are imported.
The Slow Flower Movement is following the sustainable values of the Slow Food Movement—which is to buy local, lower the carbon footprint, enrich the local economy, and preserve local farmland.
To learn more and buy magnificent flowers from local American growers, click on

This is Fran Sorin for CBS Radio News.


A lot like Fran’s unepected gift of a 1-minute endorsement heard on radios around the country, this next item also gets filed under the “out of the blue-gift from the universe” category.

In April 2013, I received an email from a stranger. Someone named Todd E. MacLean who just reached out with an invitation to get involved with a new book of essays entitled “Global Chorus.” Here’s what he wrote:

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

Global Chorus, edited by Todd E. MacLean

My name is Todd E. MacLean and I’m the Editor-in-Chief for an international fundraiser anthology that is currently being compiled called Global Chorus: A 365-Person Anthology of Worldwide Concern and Enduring Hope.

With collected words from Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, David Suzuki, Stephen Hawking, Bill McKibben, R.K. Pachauri – Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ashish Ramgobin – great granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Frances Moore Lappé, Paul Hawken, Trudie Styler, Gloria Flora, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry, Kenny Ausubel, Joel Salatin, Alexandra Cousteau, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, The Dalai Lama, and many, many more, Global Chorus is growing into a powerful anthology for a world in crisis; and through this letter, I am now extending to you an invitation to write a brief response for inclusion in the Global Chorus anthology.

Global Chorus is a 365-day compendium, bringing together 365 contemporary voices and sharing in the experience and wisdom of many of humanity’s most concerned citizens. Contributors are asked to express their thoughts on the future of the planet, and the anthology will present a different contributor’s response for each day of the year. Proceeds from the sales of Global Chorus will go toward World Wildlife Fund, The Jane Goodall Institute, The David Suzuki Foundation and The International Committee of the Red Cross.

Contributors to Global Chorus have one page (suggested length of up to 250 words, to a maximum of 350 words) to answer the anthology’s question:

“Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival, as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?”

Something resonated with me about this project and I decided to say “YES.”

I used Todd’s invitation to bring flower farming and flowers into the dialogue about global environmental issues and the individual choices we make to respect the planet.

Todd helped me with a few edits and here is what ended up in the book, one of 365 essays (you can find mine on the page for October 19th). Learn more about Global Chorus and find a bookstore near you to purchase a copy. I’ll be giving these books as gifts this holiday season.

Debra Prinzing

It feels daunting to think one person can change

things in this world. That is when I turn from the

macro to the micro and focus on individual action.

A single gesture takes on meaning far greater than

me, my family, my block, my neighbourhood, my

city. When that gesture is frequently repeated, its

impact is exponential.

I have always turned to flowers, those growing

in my garden and in the fields of my flower farmer


The symbolic gesture of giving flowers has

been practised for generations. Flowers appear in

history, in literature, in every culture and in every

land. Gathering flowers as a show of affection or a

celebratory display is no small thing. It is a timeless,

universal practice.

Flowers connect humans with Nature and

heighten our awareness of the seasons. They root

us to our place on the planet. Our senses see, smell,

touch (and even hear and taste) botanical beauty.

This is a truth understood by all humans.

I do believe that flowers parallel food. We don’t

often eat petals and buds, but they feed us nonetheless.

The spiritual sustenance of flowers has caused

me to think more intentionally about how I consume

them. I have been inspired to start the Slow

Flowers movement, a conscious practice of sourcing

flowers grown close to me rather than ones shipped

to me from afar. When I choose local flowers, I am

preserving farmland, ensuring economic development

in rural areas and keeping farm jobs viable.

As an advocate for those who grow flowers

enjoyed by so many, I believe it’s important to remember

the human toil required to plant, cultivate

and harvest those blooms. I find hope in honouring

the flower farmer, hearing his or her story and

acknowledging the farmer’s role in bringing beauty

into our lives. By making a simple connection between

flower and farmer we humanize an entire

industry, one that has previously been so disconnected

from us. It is perhaps more indirectly rather

than directly world changing, and yet, it is the act

I know makes a difference far beyond the vase on

my dining table.

— Debra Prinzing, author, speaker, designer,

founder of

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington's Ojeda Farms.

Gorgeous field-grown tulips, from Gonzalo Ojeda of Washington’s Ojeda Farms.


Digging Deep for Flower Lovers: A cyber book party, complete with gardening giveaways

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014
Let's Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in "Digging Deep."

Let’s Play With Flowers! Fran Sorin tells us about floral design without rules in “Digging Deep.”

I’m one of those accidental bloggers who breaks most of the rules when it comes to what supposedly makes a garden blog successful.

For one thing, I write posts that are probably far longer than the experts advise.

Another thing: I am completely oblivious to key words, SEO, tags, metadata, etc. – all those tricks to get Google and other search engines to pay attention.

And finally, I write for my own pleasure rather than to merely sell or persuade. If I like something, I’m usually compelled to share it with the universe; and even if no one comments or clicks through, well, that’s no big deal. It makes me happy and that’s what stimulates me to create a post.

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of "Digging Deep." Read on to find out how you  can enter to win!

The just-released, 10th Anniversary Edition of “Digging Deep.” Read on to find out how you can enter to win!

So today, I am thrilled that the stars have aligned to accomplish two things at once — to share something that inspires me (and, I hope, you, too!) and to celebrate the publication of Fran Sorin’s 10th Anniversary Edition Digging Deep, a personally engaging book that gets to the heart, soul and “why” that lures us into a meaningful connection with nature, plants and gardening.

Today’s post is part of a “virtual book party” involving seven veteran garden bloggers, writers far more experienced than I am in the art and science of this craft. I was touched that Fran invited me to be part of the Cyber Book Party, all the more because I am smitten with this book.

I received no compensation or products for participating, although Fran sent me a review copy of Digging Deep (which is now a little used, because I’ve turned down page corners and underlined some of my favorite passages).

In honor of Digging Deep’s Cyber Book Party, Fran has priced the e-book at .99 while the giveaway is live. Yes, you read that correctly: 99-cents!

Here’s a little more about this book:

Observe a peony - this flower is one of Fran's first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

Observe a peony – this flower is one of Fran’s first childhood impressions of nature and the garden.

If you’re yearning to get out of the rut you’re in and cultivate more meaning and connection in life, Digging Deep offers the encouragement and tools to make it happen. Overflowing with tips, exercises, and resources, this instructive and inspirational guide is even more vital in today’s technology obsessed culture than when first published 10 years ago.

From Fran, you’ll learn how to bloom right along with your garden and use gardening as a conduit for beginning to experience creativity as a rich and dynamic lifetime journey.

The 7 Stages of Creative Awakening will take you through the steps of removing self-doubt and replacing it with strategies that will help you trust your instincts, let your imagination run wild, take risks, envision and design the garden of your dreams, reclaim your playfulness, and live the life you’re meant to— one filled with joy, well-being, and creativity.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former  Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

A diminutive bouquet, gathered from my former Southern California garden and arranged in a tiny toothpick cup.

And here’s one of the book’s “exercise” assignments that charmed me (I’ll tell you why later).

p. 35-37

“This is probably the most loved exercise we do in my workshops – I call it Playing With Flowers. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market, supermarket, street vendor, or florist. If you can possibly buy locally grown, sustainable flowers, please make the effort to do so [THANKS FRAN!]. Pick out as many different flowers as your budget allows. Just let your eye go to what it likes and add them to your bunch. Ideally, you want at last three different varieties of flowers in a range of colors as well as some greenery and other fillers like berries or branches.

smclippersIMG_3807When you get home, remove any excess leaves and trim the bottom of the stalks on the diagonal. It’s easiest and most efficient to use a pruner, which you can find moderately priced at any gardening center. Place the flowers in a sink filled with cool water with the bottom of the stems submerged.

Go through your cabinets and take out any kind of vases or containers you have that could hold flowers. Think outside the vase – you can use teakettles, jars, glasses, cachepots, or pitchers. And don’t limit yourself in terms of size – even the smallest tumbler or toothpick holder can look lovely holding the top of one blooming rose.

Now comes the fun part. Put on some music you love, turn off your phone, and just let yourself play with different variations of arrangements. Experiment with a variety of combinations and see what you like and dislike. Notice how colors, shapes, and textures of leaves and flower petals work together. If you start one arrangement and don’t like it, take it apart and start again. There are no rules here – no boundaries, no goals you need to strive toward. I know there are countless books and articles out there about how to create lovely flower arrangements, but that’s not what this is about. You don’t have to be a professional florist here. In fact, striving for any kind of perfection negates the whole point. This is about letting yourself go and playing, trusting your eye, and noticing all the interesting things you come up with.

You may find that the critical voices in your head are quick to sabotage –

“I can’t do this.”

“This is too hard for me. I’m not good at things like this.”

“This is stupid. Why am I bothering?”

This is all the product of the ego, rising up to make sure your spirit stays buried – right where the ego likes it, thank you very much. Notice how much you question and censor yourself. Let your kinder inner voice (it’s in there somewhere!) lead you through and nudge you into letting go and being in the moment. Remember, you don’t have to do this brilliantly. You don’t even need to do it well. You only need to do it for the sake of the childlike soul within.

This exercise has so many benefits. It shows you how to start trusting your instincts, allows you to develop an awareness of color, texture, shape, and form (which you’ll need later on), forces you to slow down and be in the moment, and opens you up to experimenting and exploring – all essential elements in the process of creating and gardening.

When you’re finished with your arrangements, place them in various spots in your home where you’ll see them often. Change the water and trim the bottom of the stems every day to continue your interaction with them and keep them fresh. Living with these flower combinations will give you a taste of their beauty in the micro so you can begin to cultivate your aesthetic appreciation for them in the bigger picture later on.”

Fran’s lovely exercise is one I’ve personally used many, many times. I just didn’t know to call it “Playing With Flowers”! My experience with flowers has been so similar to the one Fran suggests to her readers.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub - and inhaling the fragrance.

Yes, my lifelong love of lilacs dates back to a favorite childhood practice of playing at the base of an overgrown Syringa vulgaris shrub – and inhaling the fragrance.

In the introduction to my book Slow Flowers. I wrote about my year-long, weekly ritual of clipping and gathering stems, arranging them in just-the-right vase, and photographing the finished bouquet:

. . . Slow Flowers reflects life lived in the slower lane. My family, friends and professional colleagues know that it’s almost impossible for me to do anything slowly. I’m the queen of multitasking; I just can’t help myself. There are too many exciting opportunities (or bright, shiny objects) that command my interest. But this “year in flowers” was altogether different. I can only compare it to the practice of praying or meditating. I didn’t realize that those few hours I spent each week, gathering and choosing petals and stems, arranging them in a special vessel, and then figuring out where and how to capture the finished design through my camera lens, would be so personally enriching.

    I used all my senses. Unplugged, away from electronic distractions, I studied the form, line, texture, subtle color and utter uniqueness of each stem. What a gift to slow down and experience the moment. I don’t know much about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers, but I understand that silence and contemplation of nature are part of its practice. I experienced something similar. Slow Flowers forced me to work at a decidedly different pace as I embraced creativity, fearlessly.

    I learned about my own preferences, design style and ability to look at the world of floral ingredients in an unconventional way. I learned that I really am a floral designer. Like me, you don’t have to earn a certificate from the London School of Floral Design to create seasonally-inspired bouquets. You can find local blooms in your or your friend’s garden, or from the fields, meadows and farm stands of local flower growers. Each bouquet tells a story about one moment in time, about Grandmother’s cherished flower vase or the fleeting memory that returns with a whiff of lavender or lilac. That’s one of the intangible gifts of bringing flowers into our lives.

. . . Gardeners are especially qualified in the art of floral design. After all, we have an intimate relationship with our plants, their bloom cycle, their natural form and character – and their seasonality. We also know what colors and textures we like when combined in the landscape. A vase can be a little garden, its contents gathered and arranged to please the eye.

       So give it a try. Design a bouquet. Channel your inner floral designer and begin your own year with slow flowers.

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Author, designer, visionary Fran Sorin

Playing With Flowers can cost little or nothing to try, especially if you step outdoors and gather seasonal gifts from your own backyard.

Here are some more goodies that might make your day.

Thanks to the support of others fans of  Fran Sorin’s “Digging Deep,” we have several giveaways for you to try and win.

In addition to entering here, you actually have seven chances to win by visiting all the participating bloggers:

1. Dee Nash –

2. Helen Yoest-

3. Jenny Peterson-

4. Rebecca Sweet-

5. Brenda Haas-

6. Fran Sorin-

The “Digging Deep” giveaway ends on Monday, December 8th at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be announced on Tuesday, December 9th. Here are the rules:

1. Post a comment here on my blog, sharing an enduring, personal flower memory. For me, that “dig deep” flower memory is the color, soft texture and intense perfume of the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which reminds me so vividly of a Connecticut garden of my childhood. Share yours in the comment section below and you will be entered into the drawing, which takes places next week.

2. By making a comment here on, you will be entered into each of two drawings:

Blog_Seed_Giveaway_000_4239.jpg_-_Baker_Creek_Seeds-_Cyber_Giveaway-_19_hand_picked_selections_of_veggies_and_flowers 10818534_10205168719757714_1314615647_n.jpg-_Authentic_Haven_Brand_Soil_Conditioner

Prize #1Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds — 19 handpicked varieties of veggies and flowers- valued at over $50. PLUS, a 3-pack selection of Authentic Haven Brand Tea, a premium soil conditioner  that’s safe for all garden, indoor plants and soil types. Makes an excellent foliage spray.


Prize #2 – Nature Innovations- — a new product line for indoor and outdoor gardening that provides plants with the most realistic look of nature with out chopping down a tree.

Molded from live trees Nature Innovations planters are made from a high density polyurethane, lightweight, UV resistant, and incredibly durable.  All Nature Innovations planters are individually had painted and are 100% made in the USA. The prize includes four planters/containers  (retail $149).

Thanks for your participation! And no matter what level of a gardener or a floral designer you I challenge you to try “Playing With Flowers” as you Dig Deep into your relationship with the earth.