Debra Prinzing

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Episode 274: Russian River Flower School and new voices from the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
Flowers from Sonoma County inspired designs at the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop in October.

Flowers from Sonoma County inspired designs at the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop in October.

In October, I had the distinct pleasure of teaching with Dundee Butcher of Russian River Flower School + Events in Healdsburg, California.

Our Slow Flowers Creative Workshop provided a lovely chance to further share the Floral Storytelling and Floral Memoir curriculum I’ve developed. Our group gathered in one of the most inspiring places — Northern California’s wine country.

As creatives, I believe much of our inspiration comes from “place,” and for this workshop, there was no shortage of beautiful scenery, gorgeous botanicals and the most to-die-for studio space you’ve ever seen.

Dundee and her colleague Naomi Mcleod, along with their frequent volunteer Vicki McFadden, hosted our workshop for two days during which we exercised writing skills, stretched our perception of language, and stepped outside the comfort zones as florist-writers. It was such a wonderful experience that allowed me to talk about our Slow Flowers ethos with kindred spirits.

Our group celebrated the conclusion of a successful two days. We gathered for dinner and a garden tour at Dundee Butcher's wine country home (Dundee is first on the left in this shot)

Our group celebrated the conclusion of a successful two days. We gathered for dinner and a garden tour at Dundee Butcher’s wine country home. From left: Dundee, Naomi Mcleod, Julia, Susan, Kate, Debra and Emily.

This Podcast episode will introduce you to Dundee and her story, and to four of the students in our workshop: Susan Chambers from bloominCouture in San Francisco; Emily Carey from ETC Designs in Sebastopol; Julia Beckstoffer of Kiss my Chicks in St. Helena; and Kate Rowe from Aztec Dahlias in Petaluma. Follow this link to my earlier blog post about the workshop – and to see more photos of the designs that emerged that day.

Our writing exercises ranged from simple botanical descriptions (describe a rose without using the word rose, for example), to playing with new ways of naming color, to journaling about our earliest memory of nature, flowers or art. The ultimate goal? To identify our “why,” our “North Star,” our personal value system that underscores our brand.

On Day Two, Dundee led the students in a floral design exercise to think differently about how their botanical creations reflect a personal aesthetic. We had some amazing flowers to play with, both from local flower farms like Aztec Dahlias, Home Farm, and Chalk Hill Clematis, as well as cuttings from Dundee’s personal garden. Enjoy these photos of the exquisite and distinct designs.

Dundee demonstrated her inventive use of natural elements in design.

Dundee demonstrated her inventive use of natural elements in design.

Here’s more about Dundee and Russian River Flower School:

Dundee opened Russian River Flower School in 2013 after training and working with some of the top floral design houses in London for many years. As well as teaching, she was privileged to create arrangements for a variety of events and occasions, including private parties, intimate dinners, corporate functions, weddings and even a palace!

Dundee’s vision has been to teach a form of “unstructured formality” by fusing what she learned working in a more formal style of floristry in Europe with the excitement of the natural beauty and materials found in abundance in Northern California.

Russian River Flower School’s mission is to teach people to wander with their eyes open, see differently and enjoy the creative process. The flower school is located in the heart of the California wine country, in the town of Healdsburg.

Follow Russian River Flower School at these social places:

Russian River Flower School on Facebook

Russian River Flower School on Instagram

Writing about flowers . . . it's kind of like meditation.

Writing about flowers . . . it’s kind of like meditation.

Thank you to our students — you trusted me and you were open and accepting of expressing your creativity in a new way. That’s sweet and I can’t wait to see where it takes you and your creative businesses! It was pretty special to see our group come together as a cohort of peers — and to experience the value of setting aside a few days to invest in each of our personal growth. Thank you to Dundee, Naomi and Vicki for making our experience so unforgettable!

Here are the video interviews with each student, produced by Davis and Ludell Jones of

Kate Rowe:

Aztec Dahlias on Facebook

Aztec Dahlias on Instagram

Kate Rowe, from Aztec Dahlias. Love her simple study.

Kate Rowe, from Aztec Dahlias. Love her simple study.

Emily Carey:

ETC designs on Facebook

ETC designs on Instagram

Love the olive branches with fruit! Florals by Emily Carey of ETC designs

Love the olive branches with fruit! Florals by Emily Carey of ETC designs

Susan Chambers:

bloominCouture on Facebook

bloominCouture on Instagram

Designed by Susan Chambers

Julia Beckstoffer:

Kiss my Chicks on Instagram

Julia Beckstoffer, floral designer and Bantam Poultry farmer.

Julia Beckstoffer, floral designer and Bantam Poultry farmer.

What I found most inspiring was the willingness of our participants to suspend fear or apprehension and dive into unfamiliar exercises as they learned how to express themselves through words. I salute everyone involved for the way they encouraged and supported one another — that makes a huge difference during any creative process, right?!

What drew people to take this workshop and invest in themselves in a new way? Here’s a sampling of the reasons:

“I lost track of my connection to creativity. I could stand behind another designer and sell someone else’s work, but not my own. I want to use flowers to tell a story.”

“I became so separate from who I am, and I started thinking ‘what would I do if I could do anything I dreamed of?’”

00539_DP_CreativeWorkshop-02If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming Slow Flowers Creative Workshop, be sure to let me know. I’m planning one for the Seattle area in early March — details to come!

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 136,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2016: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

More sponsor thanks goes to Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at

A big bouquet of thanks goes to Longfield Gardens… providing home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

A fond thank you Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

And finally, thank you 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

(c) Mary Grace Long photography

(c) Mary Grace Long 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 and Hannah Brenlan. Learn more about their work at