Debra Prinzing

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Episode 294: A Floral Collective of Greater Good: Celebrating and Selling Local Flowers with the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s Sixth Anniversary

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Six years ago this week, a band of intrepid Pacific Northwest flower farmers opened the doors at a cold, nearly empty warehouse in Seattle’s Georgetown District, and the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market was launched.

In the opening days of Seattle Wholesale Growers Market things were a little bare. Here is a photo I snapped on April 26, 2011

I have been along for the wild ride of this pioneering Market that has stimulated an entirely new way of connecting locally-grown flowers with buyers who value seasonal and sustainable botanicals grown with care and respect for the land.

“Brimming with Blooms” documents the origins of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in The 50 Mile Bouquet.

Of that beginning, I wrote this in The 50 Mile Bouquet:

A seed germinates when it comes in contact with light, warmth and the nourishment of healthy soil. Similarly, good ideas sprout and take root when they are sown in ideal conditions. That was how the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative came into being – a new farm-to-market enterprise that connects cut flower farmers with florists and their customers.

Illustrated by David Perry’s documentary-style photography, the chapter “Brimming with Blooms” tells the story of the origins of SWGMC in June 2010 and the ideas, people and circumstances that led to its actual debut by April 2011.

Today, the SWGMC is anything but an empty warehouse with just a few twigs and flowering branches.

The Market has come into its own as a vibrant, viable economic engine for sustainable agriculture, for offering high quality local products and excellent customer service to the floral community in the greater Seattle area. Beyond this, the Market has continued to instigate, influence and inspire others who have studied its model, adapting lessons for their own regional hubs for selling flowers.

So in honor of the sixth anniversary of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, I’ve invited two past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast to sit down with me and reflect on all that has transpired and all that the Market still aspires to achieve.

Left: Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall; Right: Vivian Larsen (c) Mary Grace Long Photography

Please welcome Diane Szukovathy, co-owner with her husband Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm, based in Mt. Vernon, WA; and Vivian Larsen of Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, WA. Together they have been part of the core group that founded the SWGMC and they serve as co-chairs of the Market board.

Follow and find Seattle Wholesale Growers Market at these social places:

SWGMC on Facebook

SWGMC on Instagram

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 182,000 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 family of sponsors:

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: 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

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

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. Find them at

Longfield Gardens 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. Visit them at

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

Syndicate Sales is 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

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that brings the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — and supplies to farms large and small. Check them out 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:
Heliotrope; Vittoro
by Blue Dot Sessions
Additional music from:

Week 26 // Slow Flowers Challenge for #Americanflowersweek

Saturday, July 4th, 2015
Here's to a cool, pastel-themed July 4th!

Here’s to a cool, pastel-themed July 4th!

I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts of Patriotism this week, especially with the Slow Flowers launch of American Flowers Week, which runs through today – July 4th.

A sampling of the posts on Instagram and Twitter - all for #americanflowersweek

A sampling of the posts on Instagram and Twitter – all for #americanflowersweek

Hundreds of folks have joined me in making red-white-and-blue floral arrangements and posting photos of their fields, flowers, bouquets and arrangements across the social media spectrum, all tagged with #americanflowersweek.

I’ve had a lot of fun making red-white-and-blue bouquets this week, too!

So, for a softer take on #americanflowersweek, may I present floral patriotism with pastels?

Pink, white and blue!

Peach, white and blue!

That nigella ~ so divine! Grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers.

That nigella ~ so divine! Grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers.

I love the distressed quality of this white cast-iron planter, recycled from a Better Homes & Gardens photo shoot from a few years back.

With a plastic liner converting it to a vase, the urn fits right into this week’s restful floral palette. P.S., I used a small flower frog, secured inside – for stabilizing the stems.

From my garden:

  • Dusty Miller foliage ~ intensely white at this time of year

From Seattle Wholesale Growers Market:

  • Pale peach foxgloves from Triple Wren Farms
  • Astilbe from Ojeda Farms (purchased fresh last week, but preserved as a dry element)
  • Globe thistle (Echinops sp.) and raspberry foliage from Jello Mold Farm
  • Nigella ‘Black Cumin’ and double Shasta Daisies from Everyday Flowers


SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: A Day in the Life of Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers (Episode 152)

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers

Vivan Larson, of Everyday Flowers    


Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Vivan often takes times to educate her customers and visitors to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

As we launch this podcast’s second year, I’m honored to continue bringing great conversations to you each week.

Some of the most rewarding side benefits of interviewing flower farmers, floral designers and other influential voices in the field-to-vase floral industry are the “field trips” that bring me close-up and in-person to see the sources of our American flowers – the farms, the studios, and the retail spaces where such amazing beauty connects us with nature and the seasons. 

This happened again last week when I invited myself to Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Washington, for a visit.

Owned by veteran grower Vivian Larson, this established cut flower farm is a sight to behold. Viv is a precision grower, who cares deeply about her flowers – from the first seedlings emerging from trays of and trays of soil to the voluptuous bunches of blooms that are picked with great attention to detail, processed, bunched and delivered to her design customers.  

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv's house.

What a lovely way to wake up and view the flower fields from the guest bedroom at Viv’s house.

Located about an hour north of Seattle, Everyday Flowers is situated on a gorgeous piece of land with a more than 180-degree view to the Puget Sound’s many islands – Camano, Whidbey, the San Juans – all the way up to Canada – and north toward Mount Vernon. Vivian and her husband Jim, a commercial fisherman, raised two children here and are now helping raise three grand-children. It is a bucolic place with a beloved horse who adds agricultural character to the scene, as well as rows and rows of field-grown annuals and perennials located next to several large and very tidy hoop-houses containing even more flowers. 

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed - one of Viv's specialty crops.

Here are the apricot-hued snapdragons we discussed – one of Viv’s specialty crops.

Vivian is a founding member and board vice president of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, and I’ve known her for several years through that relationship. Some would say she is the glue that holds that place together, a true diplomat when it comes to synthesizing points of view and navigating the true meaning of a cooperative – one that benefits all members for the greater good. 

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers.

Poppies and other field-grown varieties thrive in neat rows at Everyday Flowers. That’s “Sassy” grazing in the background.

Vivian is the daughter of farmers who taught her those intangible skills of building good soil and caring for the land. “I always had a patch of earth where I grew flowers as a child,” she recalls. When Vivian’s own children were small, in 1990, she asked her husband to prepare a large area of ground. She began growing flowers and selling her bouquets at a nearby farm stand. “People would wait there to get my flowers or I’d have standing orders,” Vivian recalls. “Good flowers sell themselves – I’ve never had to advertise.” 

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

A current obsession: specialty echinaceae varieties.

Experience has taught Vivian to know which varieties are successful as cut ingredients, which colors are reliable over time and which flowers produce the longest stems. “I’ve always known there were certain types of flowers that lasted better than others, especially if cut at the right time, and treated properly post-harvest,” she explains. “The fact is, I have a choice of what to grow and I choose to grow plants that are going to be happy at my farm and hold well in the vase.” 

This shot is a little silly, but viv humored me when  I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

This shot is a little silly, but Viv humored me when I asked her to reach for the top of the sweet pea trellises!

For example, Vivian grows larger quantities of white, pink and yellow lilies because they are more popular with buyers. Similarly, the Karma dahlias have been bred for 18-20 inch-long stems and longer vase life, so she focuses on those. 

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly's mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian working with and teaching one of her seasonal workers, Kelly Uhlig. Kelly’s mom Pam Uhlig was a horticulture intern at Everyday Flowers this past spring.

Vivian has a good idea of what wedding designers and their clients are looking for and how they use each flower. While she has in the past done some of her own design work, the bottom line is that Vivian is first of all a flower farmer. “Honestly, I just enjoy growing more than anything else!”  

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, going a little bloom-crazy during our early morning harvest.


Alicia's gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

Alicia’s gorgeous bouquet using all local and seasonal ingredients from Everyday Flowers.

We were lucky to have another guest along for my flower adventure – Alicia Schwede, a floral designer and owner of the Flirty Fleurs blog, joined Vivian and me for dinner and then returned early the following morning, clippers and urn in hand – for a floral designers’ whirlwind session. We loved creating arrangements and bouquets with Vivian’s flowers.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including a cluster of unripe grapes.

I made this hand-tied bouquet from yummy elements, including dahlias, budleia, golden dill, calendula, Shasta daisies, leonitis, gooseneck loosestrife, and a cluster of unripe grapes and grape tendrils.


Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Kelly indulged to hold my bouquet for a different perspective.

Everyday Flowers uses sustainable growing practices and the farm is Salmon Safe certified. No herbicides are used on the farm and on the rare instance when insecticides are used, they are OMRI-approved (Organic Materials Review Institute) products, Vivian explains. 

“I have a good beneficial insect population, including bees and ladybugs and I grow cover crops to suppress weeds and add more organic matter back in the soil,” Vivian explains. “I also have ‘Sassy’ my horse who does her share by producing great compost.” 

Thanks to listeners like you, this podcast has been downloaded more than 16,000 times. I truly appreciate the guests, listeners and sponsors who have supported the Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing! Together, we’re changing the broken floral industry for the better!!

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 and Andrew Wheatley. Learn more about their work at

Three observations about the Local Flower Movement

Sunday, August 25th, 2013
Red, White & Blue Flower Flag

Red, white and blue American-grown flowers, featured in a patriotic display at Sun Valley’s Oxnard, CA, farm.

Here is a summary of the remarks I gave last month at during a gathering at Ocean View Flowers in Lompoc, Calif.

I shared three observations about the Local Flower Movement and its importance today (and in the future).

  1. The narrative of American Grown
Fill Your Buckets with Blooms

A visually appealing banner on display during our tour of Sun Valley’s Oxnard farm.

We are at a unique point in time when consumers are yearning for authenticity and the high-touch human narrative. From the explosion of interest in heirloom vegetables and fruit, with the Rock Star chef and farm-to-table menu to an anti-mass-produced desire for artisanal and hand-crafted products to ever-popular farmer’s markets, consumers are drawn to the raw materials of life. Even major companies are moving the human face and compelling stories of people, not products, to the forefront.

American Grown flowers and those who farm them and design with them are ideally positioned to respond to a hunger for story. The back story is compelling and engaging. It is authentic. John Donati, of Ocean View Flowers in Lompoc, California, summed up this sentiment beautifully: “We may be big, but we want to look small.”

I saw many examples of this during the Fun ‘N Sun conference in Santa Barbara, presented by the California Association of Flower Growers & Shippers. In his presentation at Sun Valley’s Oxnard facility, CEO Lane DeVries discussed the company’s investment in breeding better floral varieties. He showed us images of the Ilex that’s currently available on the market and then revealed several new varieties that Sun Valley is hoping to introduce in the future. Those options are clearly superior, with berries arranged all the way to the tip rather than clustered lower on each branch. The collective buzz in the room increased in volume as the questions flew Lane’s way: How long before the new variety will be in production? I can guarantee that those in the audience will be bugging Sun Valley for the next few years for those “new” Ilex cultivars. No one will forget his presentation.

Rose Story Farm display

Luscious and romantic, Rose Story Farm’s American-grown garden roses.

Similarly, when we visited Danielle Hahn at Rose Story Farm in Carpiteria, where a delicious garden-style luncheon was served at umbrella-covered tables laden with country pitchers of roses, the commodity flower crowd gained newfound appreciation for the garden rose. Dani told many stories of the 150 old garden rose varieties that grow here, explaining how she selects for fragrance, petal color and flower form.

The history and provenance of each rose variety is at her fingertips. She is a compelling storyteller and the narrative only served to personalize each beautiful bloom and its value. No matter that garden roses have a “four hour vase life,” Dani joked (they really last for several days, if properly harvested and cared for). Their romance and beauty trump vase life. And when a bride sees (and inhales) Dani’s roses, she has a sensory response that is not based on budget, but story.

2. The power of Quality

Tractor Americana

Old-timey John Deere tractors – how nostalgic is that? On display in the beautiful fields of flowering stock at Ocean View Flowers.

Stories underscore the value-added nature of American Grown flowers. The local farmer should be selling quality, freshness and uncommon variety. Why? Because those attributes get our flowers out of the price race. And American Grown flowers will not win the price battle with imported flowers. Price alone turns flowers into a commodity. And commodities are generic, which means that cheap, cheaper and cheapest sells to unimaginative florists who need YOU to help them retreat from the low-cost battle.

Of course, communicating about American Grown quality product requires a lot of what I just covered above, in Point #1 – storytelling. They go hand-in-hand. Be transparent and forthcoming. It gives you an edge that makes you and your flowers memorable. None of us will forget the story that John Donati shared about Ocean View’s approach to specializing in only field-grown cut flowers. Enjoying our country-style lunch in the middle of that flower field, surrounded by vivid rows of clove-scented stock, we won’t forget the message of quality that was conveyed by everything around us.

3. Know and employ your Customers

Debra, Billy and Nell

A gathering of friends at the July 18th Flower Fields luncheon, hosted by John Donati and the staff of Ocean View Flowers. I’m at left, joined by fellow writers/bloggers Billy Goodnick and Nell Foster.

The designers who use your floral product are ultimately your best marketers. In some industries, this approach is called “crowd-sourcing,” which sounds a little crass. But with the right approach, you can engage the people who create beautiful arrangements, bouquets and events to tell your story better than you can.

How can you do this?

  • Invite designers to share their photos with you. Create special incentives for those who post photos of wedding or event flowers on your Facebook page (such as drawings for gift certificates). This approach is a win-win for everyone! Designers will benefit by showing off their artistry and your farm benefits by the implied endorsement that YOUR FLOWERS were selected for a special event. Future customers will be inspired, as well.
  • Blogs and magazines need content, so create your own photography and offer it as a free resource to bridal, home décor and gardening outlets. A library of beautiful flower images or photos of arrangements, labeled with your company name, web site or watermark, will potentially capture the interest of new customers and their floral designers. The same goes for text, with free “how to grow,” “when to harvest,” “how to design” and “vase life” tips featured on your blog or articles pages. 
  • Invite designers to offer their insights via an advisory committee. They’ll gladly share opinions and help you forecast floral trends. This mutually-supportive relationship will evolve. I know first-hand how beneficial simple conversations can be. Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington, decided to grow more and more Cafe au Lait dahlias after enthusiastic feedback from their floral customers; similarly, Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers in Stanwood, Washington, had the confidence to plant more black-centered white anemones, thanks to her conversations with customers. 

The bottom line is that the more authentic we are, the more likely people will be drawn to each one of us, our flowers, our stories. I was reminded of this recently during an interview with Ed McMahon, senior research fellow from the Urban Land Institute. He was talking about real estate development, but I think his comment is so incredibly appropriate for the American Flower industry, too: 

“If you can’t differentiate yourself in the world we live in today, you will have no competitive advantage.”