Debra Prinzing

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Episode 353: Flower School Portland founder LauraLee Symes of Sellwood Flower Co. on Floral Synergies and Spinoffs

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Love this jumbo red-white-and-blue array, and if you look closely, LauraLee is peering out from behind it!

Today’s guest is LauraLee Symes, co-owner with her husband Bill Symes of the Sellwood Flower Co., based in  Portland, Oregon. LauraLee is a past guest of this podcast — you may remember our wonderful conversation two years ago when we discussed her foray into floral retailing after a successful profession as a consulting and expert on what makes people happy.

Love the black-and-white awning stripes, which are part of Sellwood Flower Co.’s visual brand evoking a Parisian flower shop.

The Sellwood Flower Co. is located in the Portland neighborhood of the same name — Sellwood, on the eastern edge of the famous Willamette River.

As fate has it when people with a dream set out on grand adventures, LauraLee’s search for the perfect shop-front led to a charming 1902 Victorian in the middle of town where she has operated The Sellwood Flower Co. for the past three years.

The Sellwood Flower Co. is Portland’s destination for fresh, local flowers and plants, European and garden style floral design, and unique gifts from around the world.

There, outside the century-old Victorian house on Sellwood’s Antique Row, you’ll find LauraLee and her staff tending their local and seasonal blooms in the cutting garden.

A seasonal spring bouquet by Sellwood Flower Co.

In addition to ongoing classes, workshops, events, and the latest fun ideas in floral design, Sellwood Flower Co. offers a wide variety of fresh floral arrangements, French wines, Smith Tea, Moon Struck Chocolate, and custom gift baskets.

Upon opening she says, “we set out to be THE flower design house that provides the most inspired, professional , and freshest, floral designs in the Pacific Northwest,” LauraLee says. “Our European, garden-inspired, aesthetic sources just- harvested, locally-grown flowers, greens, fruits, and vegetables to create chic, loose, and romantic floral arrangements in Portland, Oregon.

“We create beautiful, romantic, natural floral arrangements and deliver them for all occasions — a Sunday brunch, birthday bash, retirement party, engagement, wedding, baby shower, condolences, congratulations, job well done, thank you and I love you,” she says.

Today, we’re talking specifically about LauraLee’s news — the launch of a second venture called FlowerSchool Portland. “We’re offering an innovative way to learn,” she says. “This is about bringing together a community of subject matter experts.”

You’ll hear about the ideas and inspiration that motivated LauraLee to open a floral design education center tailored to specific audiences: floral enthusiasts, professionals and aspiring florists.

Our conversation is a teaser for the June 15th launch of FlowerSchool Portland. That’s when LauraLee will post the full calendar of upcoming workshops and three special celebrity floral design instructors who have agreed to teach at the school.

You can find and follow Sellwood Flower Co. at these social places:

Sellwood Flower Co. on Facebook

Sellwood Flower Co. on Instagram

Sellwood Flower Co. on Twitter

Sellwood Flower Co. on Pinterest

You can find and follow Flower School Portland at these social places:

Flower School Portland on Facebook

Flower School Portland on Instagram

Thank you so much for joining me today. Please join me in getting ready for American Flowers Week, coming up June 28-through-July 4th.

You can find all the free resources and inspiring ideas for participating at, including visual content to use and share in your own promotions and tips from flower farmers and florists who have created successful events and campaigns in past seasons. I can’t wait to see what you plan and product — and I’ll be searching for your stories and posts with the hashtag #americanflowersweek.

As you’ve heard me discuss for months, the Slow Flowers Summit is our LIVE celebration of American Flowers Week, scheduled for Friday, June 29th in Washington, D.C.

That’s less than two weeks away and you can still take advantage of last-minute ticket promotions, including our plus-one discounted ticket — buy yours and bring a friend along at a special rate — share the day with a colleague and your ideas will multiply! I promise you an inspiring lineup of speakers, gorgeous flowers, fun and interactive design activities and of course, a chance to stretch your imagination in a thought-provoking and stimulating environment.

Support comes from the most surprising places, like this readerboard at O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham, Maine!

I am grateful to all our entire community of flower farmers and floral designers who together define the Slow Flowers Movement.

As our cause 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 at in the right column.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 326,000 times by listeners like you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for listening, commenting, liking and sharing! It means so much.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all of our programs:

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2018, Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market. Take advantage of the special offer for a free trial issue here.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of passionate family farms in the heart of Alaska providing bigger, better 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

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

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. Check them out 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

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

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

Photographed at All My Thyme rose farm, by Tammy Myers, First & Bloom.

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:
Chapel Donder; Feathersoft; The Wooden Platform
by Blue Dot Sessions
Music from: