Debra Prinzing

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Episode 450: Emily Watson of Milwaukee’s Wood Violet and our Stories of Resilience guest, Janis Harris of ASCFG and Harris Flower Farm

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020
Emily Watson of Wood Violet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Our featured guest this week is florist-farmer Emily Watson, who first appeared on the Slow Flowers Podcast in 2015. I’m delighted that she has agreed to return and share an update on her business, Wood Violet, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You’ll want to go back and listen to that earlier episode — click here.

Wedding design by Wood Violet – personal flowers and ceremony flowers.
Emily Watson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based flower farmer, floral designer, entrepreneur — today’s podcast guest.

Five years ago when Emily joined me for an episode, the timing was auspicious. She was in the throes of pivoting from her small cut flower farm operation called Stems Cut Flowers to a wedding design studio named after Wisconsin’s state flower – the Wood Violet.

After five years focusing entirely on designing for couples and ceremonies, the land is calling Emily back. And she’s agreed to discuss her entrepreneurial thought process as her business is again responding to market opportunities.

Here’s a bit more about Emily, excerpted from her web site:

Emily is a farmer florist and small business owner who calls Milwaukee home. With an education in biological conservation and a background in both floral design and landscaping, she started Stems Cut Flowers in 2008.

With a little land borrowed from her grandparents’ farm in East Troy, Wisconsin, Emily envisioned that Stems Cut Flowers would sell to florists and at farmer’s markets, and maybe for an occasional wedding. Well the idea of occasional weddings turned into a nearly every weekend occurrence and it soon became evident that Emily was running two separate businesses. That’s when in 2015, she officially established two separate businesses and launched her floral design studio. Being that the wood violet is Wisconsin’s state flower it seemed an appropriate name for a business that is focused on using locally grown blooms. Stems Cut Flowers continued to grow and mostly supply flowers to the Wood Violet studio.

Beautiful floral design by Wood Violet, with Wisconsin-grown blooms

Find and follow Emily Watson at these social places:

Wood Violet on Facebook

Wood Violet on Instagram

Our bonus series here on the Slow Flowers Podcast continues with our next installment of Stories of Resilience. I believe that now, more than ever, the message of sustainability and seasonal and locally-available flowers is top of mind — among consumers, flower farmers and florists.

I want the Slow Flowers Podcast to be a companion to those of you in isolation, away from your physical community of peers, neighbors, customers and friends. I don’t have many answers, but I do want to keep the lines of communication open and accessible.

This week’s guest: Janis Harris of Harris Flower Farm in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

Today’s Stories of Resilience guest is Janis Harris of Harris Flower Farm in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. She is also Canada’s regional director for the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers

I have been so intrigued by Janis’s posts on social media promoting local flowers to her community. For the past month, Harris Flower Farm has been marketing no-contact flowers thanks entirely to Janis’s creative efforts. It started on March 21st when she posted this message on Instagram: Fresh Locally Grown Spring Cheer-Up Bouquets; 3 Local Flower Farming Families are Coming Together to Bring You Some Cheer.

Janis, the “flower lady”

Janis directed buyers to visit the online shop on the Harris Flower Farm website to make their purchase of a $10 seasonal bouquet. Well, that project has blown up and taken over Janis’s life. More farms joined in so her marketing efforts are bringing additional revenue to fellow growers. Eager customers continue to order for the weekly bouquet deliveries, paying online and leaving a vase or bucket filled with water on their front porch.

Janis finds herself operating a floral business unlike anything she’s ever done before, delivering more than 100 bouquets in a single day and offering two days of delivery each week. Since the season is early and area farmers’ markets may or may not be able to open during Canada’s stay-at-home mandate, this project has clearly resonated with customers and flower lovers in her community.

A lovely wedding bouquet, grown and designed by Janis Harris

On March 24th, Janis posted this update on the Farm’s IG feed: This past week has been crazy humbling. But also figuring out our new norm of delivering flowers has been a learning curve. So I need to pause the deliveries for a bit so I can wrap my head around how we can proceed with delivering flowers. I also have to STILL BE A FLOWER FARMER. It is critical time for planting and seeding. We are sticking to our original seeding schedules. So there will be lots of flowers this summer. It’s still uncertain where and how we will sell them but I have to keep planting so there is a supply when we are on the other side of this.

To our 2020 couples: please keep us in the loop. We will work with whatever changes arise. Remember it’s your relationship that is important not the date, you still have each other.💕 I will continue to show you what is happening on the farm. Flower farming doesn’t stop. 🌻 stay healthy and positive.

Janis and Mark Harris and their family.

I’m so glad that Janis was able to share a moment of her time to record this Stories of Resilience segment for you. Best wishes to you, Janis and Mark! Listen to my 2017 Podcast interview with Janis and hear the full story of Harris Flower Farm.

Find and follow Harris Flower Farm at these social places:

Harris Flower Farm on Facebook

Harris Flower Farm on Instagram

Thanks so much for joining me today as we heard from both a flower farmer and a florist in our Slow Flowers community!

This past week, I was able to get out to my garden to start a bunch of flower seeds – some directly-sowed and some in flats in the greenhouse. Our nighttime temperatures here in Seattle are in the mid-40s right now, so I’m pretty confident that we’re past our last-frost date, but you never know! We have members who were hit with snow this past week, so nothing’s certain.

Our Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Ups continue to have great attendance and participation and feel incredibly rewarding. After four consecutive weeks, I’m even feeling more confident about the Zoom technology. I owe a HUGE thanks to Karen Thornton of Avenue 22 Events, Niesha Blancas of Fetching Social Media and Lisa Waud of pot & box for their incredible talents to help make the Meet-Ups a smoothly run success. They’re part of the Slow Flowers Team that makes it all so joyful for me and keeps me sane.

Replay of April 17, 2020 — Slow Flowers Members’ Virtual Meet-Up

Last Friday on April 17th, Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Company joined us as a special guest – she shared about how she’s designing and selling flowers during the Coronavirus era. We also had a surprise special guest — you’ll have to watch the Zoom replay video of the Virtual Meeting to see who joined us. Click on the video link above to watch!

Please join the next Slow Flowers Virtual Meet-Up on Friday, April 24th at 9 am Pacific/Noon Eastern. Can’t wait to see you there! Our very special guest will be Julie Tobi, who is a life coach for creatives. I met Julie at Holly Chapple’s Flowerstock last fall and I was so impressed with how Julie views that elusive work-life balance and helps creative professionals lean into the fulfilling careers and lives they actually want to have.

Artist, writer and editor Lorene Edwards Forkner will also join us on April 24th — and she’ll share about her watercolor studies as a mindfulness practice. Follow this link to join the Zoom Meet-Up on Friday.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, plans for the fourth annual Slow Flowers Summit, scheduled for June 28-30 are still in place, but May 15th will be the date when we will make a definitive decision whether to move forward with the original conference dates or reschedule for later in the year. I want to make sure you have 45 days’ notice to adjust your plans if we have to postpone. And just in case, mark October 26-27 as the backup dates for gathering together at our beautiful venue, Filoli Historic House and Garden in Woodside, California. As I said last week: I’m as eager as you are to experience a fabulous conference that’s presented in a safe environment. I hope this plan assures you and assists you in managing your own schedule moving forward into 2020.

Clockwise from top, left: Susan Mcleary, Kellee Matsushita-Tseng, Molly Culver, Lorene Edwards Forkner, Debra Prinzing, Jennifer Jewell, Pilar Zuniga and Emily Saeger

You can contact us anytime with questions and I’ve added links to my email and that of our event manager Karen Thornton in today’s show notes.  You can also follow the Filoli VISIT Page and Slow Flowers Summit Page for additional updates. One more thing — this past week’s Summit newsletter features wonderful updates from all of our speakers, who shared what they’re doing and how they’re managing the COVID-19 shut-down. I’d love for you to read it, too, and you can find the link here.

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.

And thank you to Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Read our stories 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. Find the full catalog of flower seeds and bulbs at

Mayesh Wholesale Florist. Family-owned since 1978, Mayesh is the premier wedding and event supplier in the U.S. and we’re thrilled to partner with Mayesh to promote local and domestic flowers, which they source from farms large and small around the U.S. Learn more at

The Gardener’s Workshop, which offers a full curriculum of online education for flower farmers and farmer-florists. Online education is more important this year than ever, and you’ll want to check out the course offerings at

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 599,000 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.

I am in love with my greenhouse, designed and built sustainably by Oregon-based NW Green Panels (c) Missy Palacol Photography

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:

LaBranche; Heartland Flyer; Gaena; Glass Beads
by Blue Dot Sessions

Lovely by Tryad

In The Field

#FarmerFlorist at a Crossroads – Redefining A Business with Emily Watson of Stems Cut Flowers (Episode 185)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Emily Watson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based flower farmer, floral designer, entrepreneur -- today's podcast guest.

Emily Watson, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based flower farmer, floral designer, entrepreneur — today’s podcast guest.


Emily on the farm, with her beautiful Wisconsin-grown peonies

I first met today’s guest “virtually,” when I reached out to her asking permission to use a portion of a online discussion she had started with other flower farmers.

Emily Watson is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and since 2008 she has owned Stems Cut Flowers, a specialty cut flower business based on her grandparents’ farm about 45 minutes west of Milwaukee. She is a founding member of, having supported our launch by contributing to the initial Indiegogo campaign.

Emily and I finally met in person last October at the ASCFG national meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, and that was when we spoke further about the possible “course-correction” she was considering as she juggled flower farming and a successful floral design aspect to her business. Recently we connected over Skype for a conversation that I believe you’ll find quite honest and forthcoming.

And ironically, it harkens to that bulletin board comment Emily made in 2011, the one I included in The 50 Mile Bouquet. She posed this question:

“I’ve been growing for less than five years, on a small plot, and I’m wondering if this is a good idea. I’m not looking to get rich overnight, or even at all. But I need to pay the bills, maybe support a family and retire some day (before I’m 90). I do not have a
problem working a few 80-hour weeks but I do not want that to be the norm. Am I crazy for thinking this? The bottom line is I need to know if this is possible before I sink any more money into it?”

The responses Emily received were encouraging and honest; no one tried to sugarcoat the truth about the backbreaking reality of running a small farm. They also revealed that people do not grow and market flowers because it’s lucrative, but at least in part for a love of the land and a passion for the independent lifestyle it brings.

Emily with her husband

Emily with her husband Nich Love

Here’s more about Emily:

Emily's tagline for Wood Violet, her new design studio, is "floral design inspired by nature." How fitting!

Emily’s tagline for Wood Violet, her new design studio, is “floral design inspired by nature.” How fitting!

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

A May wedding bouquet grown and designed by Emily Watson.

She grew up in a small agricultural town not terribly far from Milwaukee with three brothers and lots of cousins nearby, playing outside all the time.

After high school, Emily attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison where that love for the natural world led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in Biological Aspects of Conservation.

She worked as a landscaper, which led to work in a flower shop, which somehow led to managing a Chinese restaurant. As she puts it: “I learned a lot about business at that Chinese restaurant and made a lot of friends, but the call of the outdoors was too strong.

By 2008, Emily had started Stems Cut Flowers at her grandparents farm in East Troy, the town in which she grew up. As a small farming business, Stems flourished into a floral design business.

Emily considers herself lucky enough to live in the city and spend a few days every week at the farm, the best of both worlds.

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

Spring flowers in a romantic nature-inspired bouquet.

Her intention has always been to run a thriving flower farm that sells its crops to florists and to the public at farmer’s markets, picking up occasional wedding design work. The reality, however, is that the idea of “occasional” wedding design has turned into a nearly every weekend occurrence. It soon became evident to Emily that she was running two separate businesses. Last year she decided to create a separate identity for the design portion of her business.

The timing is perfect for today’s interview because Emily is in the midst of launching a floral design studio in Milwaukee. She’s named it Wood Violet, an eco-friendly studio that focuses on locally grown flowers as much as possible, offering wedding flowers and daily deliveries.

As we discussed in the interview, Emily hopes to offer gardening classes and floral design workshops at Wood Violet, inspiring people with the beauty of each season. I admire the way she’s playing to her strengths as both a flower farmer and a floral designer, and I admire that her new hybrid business model includes supporting other local flower farmers in her community while still keeping her fingers in the soil.

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

Emily Watson-designed wedding flowers.

You know, I think Emily has answered the question she posed back in 2011 better than anyone else could have done – and I wish her great success.

Here’s how to find Emily on all her platforms:

Wood Violet on Facebook

Wood Violet on Instagram

Wood Violet on Pinterest

Before we close, I want to give you the news of the week.

Bloom has partnered with the Ethical Writers Coalition to present Bloom: A Sustainable Workshop, that will take place on Sunday, March 29th at the Mode Marteau Studio in Brooklyn.

Participants can sign up for one or more intimate classes for a hands-on and creative experience in sustainability, and of course, locally-grown flowers.

Learn to make your own fresh flower crown, create a perfect bouquet, or plant a DIY a reclaimed vase at three different workshops.

Three members of will join together for the 3rd workshop: Local Flowers 101 with Taproot & Molly Oliver Flowers

Rachel Gordon of Taproot Flowers and Molly Culver and Deborah Greig of Molly Oliver Flowers will teach flower arranging tips & tricks, discuss the importance and sourcing of sustainable flowers, and how to best care for your arrangement. All materials included with the $65 workshop fee.


I want to thank the Ethical Writers Coalition for producing this awesome event and for inviting to participate. The Ethical Writers Coalition is a very cool group of journalists, writers, and bloggers who seek to support and further ethical and sustainable living online and in print. Through my publicists, I met co-founder Alden Wicker of the EcoCult Blog when I was in New York last October – and she attended a gathering where this event idea germinated.

After we connected, Alder wrote an insightful post about Slow Flowers, which you can read here. Elizabeth Stilwell, who blogs at, has taken the lead on creating Bloom and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her on this project – sadly, I can’t attend. But I’m so pleased that will be well represented, getting the word out about American flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

I love how the roots of sustainable living intertwine so perfectly with the American Grown Flower movement. It’s exciting to see the idea of local, seasonal and sustainable flowers move from the alternative/fringe world closer to the mainstream.

donate-grist-logoLast week fellow Ana Sofia Knauf published an interview with me and titled it “There’s a Local Flower Movement Blooming,” and I’d love for you to read it. Check out the link to her piece here.

Thanks for joining me this week and please return again, as I continue to share insightful and educational episodes recorded exclusively for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

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.

Thanks to listeners, this podcast has been downloaded more than 39,000 times. 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 Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Nature as inspiration for your floral designs with Nancy Ross Hugo (Episode 164)

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Paperwhite foliage (left) and a fatsia leaf (right) provide a study in contrasts. Design and photo by Nancy Ross Hugo.

Paperwhite foliage (left) and a fatsia leaf (right) provide a study in contrasts. Design and photo by Nancy Ross Hugo.

Before I introduce you to today’s guest, I wanted to reach into the letter bag and share some of the notes that arrived this week.

Emily Watson, a farmer-florist who owns Stems Cut Flowers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a member of, writes:

“I have been listening to your podcasts and after every single one I think I should write you a thank you but neither of us has time for that! So here it is one big thank you for all of them. Some weeks I hear pieces of my own story, some weeks inspiration for where I want to go, some weeks I just feel grateful that there are people like you and Kasey Cronquist and the Field to Vase  project making good things happen. At the ASCFG conference that I went to in DC a a few years ago I remember an ice breaker session where you were supposed to tell the people at your table where you though your business would be next year. And at that time I was not even sure that my business was going to be around the following year. I was tired, emotionally, financially, and physically exhausted. After four long growing seasons I started to feel like maybe I should just cut my losses and return to the “normal” workforce. But then I saw things starting to happen on the bigger scale, people bringing awareness to the issues that mattered to me and my business, people connecting the dots for all the small businesses like mine.”

Since then my business has evolved a bit and I am on the verge of another transformation. One that I feel like I will have support for and a community which I can draw on for ideas and information. And you have been a big part of making this happen so thank you very much.”

And here’s one from Tobey Nelson, a floral, wedding & event designer who owns Vases Wild in Langley, Washington, on beautiful Whidbey Island – a wedding destination:

“I have been listening to your podcasts in an OCD fashion lately – love them!  And I really appreciate all the work you are doing for Slow Flowers and (the) American grown (movement). So great. Do you know that just this year we have had three professional flower growers sprout up on Whidbey Island? It makes me happy!”

Thank YOU, Tobey and Emily ~ your encouragement for this endeavor means a lot. It’s easier to promote American grown flowers when I have such talented farmers and florists as my partners!

ST LYNN'S WINDOWSILL ART CVRAnyone listening today knows that flowers can be a huge source of comfort, encouragement, celebration and serenity – depending on the time and place and occasion.

Today’s guest, Nancy Ross Hugo, brings the macro world of nature, landscape, the garden or the flower farm down to the micro world of the windowsill. And in doing so, she offers us a simple ritual, a moment, a meditation on the botanical beauty around us

The author of a new book called “Windowsill Art: Create One-of-a-kind Natural Arrangements to Celebrate the Season,” Nancy writes about gardening, trees, and floral design from her home in Ashland, Virginia and her family’s small farm in Howardsville, Virginia.

Her love of trees has led her to tree habitats all over the world, but her real passion is celebrating the common wildflowers, weeds, trees, and everyday plants that are often overlooked in ordinary backyards.

Naturalist, designer, artist, educator and author Nancy Hugo Ross. Photo (c) Robert Llewellyn

Naturalist, designer, artist, educator and author Nancy Hugo Ross. Photo (c) Robert Llewellyn

Nancy loves reading old natural history books, writing new ones, and exploring the creative process through flower arranging and nature journaling.

Through nature journaling and blogging about the “windowsill arrangements” she creates every day, she says she keeps her creative muscles exercised, her thoughts straight, and her eyes open to all things wild and wonderful.

Nancy has authored five books and hundreds of articles about nature and the outdoors, She is the former garden columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and education manager at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. She travels the country speaking on the two topics closest to her heart: observing trees carefully and celebrating the seasons through daily, simple flower arranging.

Rustic boxes filled with an immature sunflower head (left) and stacked marigold blossoms (right). Nancy writes: "Marigolds will last longer than you think out of water."

Rustic boxes filled with an immature sunflower head (left) and stacked marigold blossoms (right). Nancy writes: “Marigolds will last longer than you think out of water.”

I met Nancy through St. Lynn’s Press, our shared publisher. It seems that at the same time I was working on Slow Flowers – a book about creating a local and seasonal floral arrangement every week of the year with only what I cut from my own garden or sourced from local flower farmers, Nancy was working on Windowsill Art, engaging in a similar method of marking the seasons in nature with floral arranging.

Violas in stone cube with "gumball."

Violas in stone cube with “gumball.”

The difference is that of simplicity and spontaneity. Nancy’s practice is so “of the moment” and I greatly admire her artistry and approach. You might think a windowsill would constrain the creativity – but that’s anything but the case.

A beet displayed beside a jug of coleus. "I realized I could turn (the beet) upside down and support it on its leaf stems . . . showcasing the part of the beet I like best - its tapering root."

A beet displayed beside a jug of coleus. “I realized I could turn (the beet) upside down and support it on its leaf stems . . . showcasing the part of the beet I like best – its tapering root.”

In May 2011, Nancy began a blog on which she posted a photo of a small flower arrangement (or just a conglomeration of natural materials) every day. Assembled on the windowsill, these simple displays celebrate the seasons and chronicle Nancy’s love affair with local wildflowers, weeds, and garden flowers as well as her discovery of new and exciting ways to display them. They also demonstrate why practicing this easy art form is so valuable as a form of nature journaling and rewarding as a personal creative practice. You can see more than 800 arrangements at

Sweet William, wild mustard, and Chinese temple bell (Moricandia avensis) flowers.

Sweet William, wild mustard, and Chinese temple bell (Moricandia avensis) flowers — in Nancy’s favorite bud vases.

As Nancy points out, almost everyone does it – puts a little something on the windowsill to watch it ripen, root, or just sit there looking pretty. To this gifted woman, the windowsill can serve as a stage for more intentional arranging – a personal, freewheeling kind of art. A catalyst for creativity.

The compound leaves of nandina emerge copper-colored in spring and are arranged here in a row of test tubes.

The compound leaves of nandina emerge copper-colored in spring and are arranged here in a row of test tubes.

She writes, “for me, windowsill arranging is almost a spiritual practice. Where I am looking for materials to display and placing them . . . I feel more like a poet placing words in a haiku than a floral designer placing stems in a vase. I love the limited space, the double connection to the outdoors (through the window and my materials), and the structure that repeating the same activity over and over provides.”

Gifts from the kitchen and herb garden compose a lovely still-life on Nancy's windowsill.

Gifts from the kitchen and herb garden compose a lovely still-life on Nancy’s windowsill.

As we enter the more dormant period of the year in our gardens and on our farms, I challenge you to pick up Nancy’s approach to observing nature’s gifts and seeing each pod, branch, stem or vine (or fruits and vegetables) as an artistic element. It may be a gift to give yourself this season.

Thanks for joining today’s conversation. Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 23,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

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

Note: Many of the supplies Nancy uses can be ordered from The Arranger’s Market: vases, clippers, bottle brushes, and other floral design equipment.

All photos in this post copyrighted to Nancy Ross Hugo, used by permission of St. Lynn’s Press.