Debra Prinzing

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Episode 299: Celebrating our 200th Show with Floral Artist Max Gill of Max Gill Design

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017

Today, we’re commemorating the 200th episode of the  Slow Flowers Podcast. It’s an amazing milestone worth celebrating!

For 200 consecutive weeks, ever since our first episode on July 23, 2013, we’ve brought you original programming about local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and the people who grow and design with them.

That means you’ve received nearly four years of meaningful and informative content — delivered through your ear-buds — my engaging conversations with flower farmers, floral designers, cut floral and plant experts, authors, entrepreneurs and innovators in the Slow Flowers Community.

And I thank YOU for joining me!

Max Gill, captured by Alicia Schwede’s camera, while teaching at the design Master Class held recently at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

I’ve scheduled a very special guest to share with you for this 200th episode: Berkeley, California-based designer Max Gill.

I first met Max during the summer of 2011 while working on The 50 Mile Bouquet. Photographer David Perry and I were in SF shooting a chapter of the book with Susie Nadler and Flora Grubb at Flora Grubb Gardens . . . and Flora asked if I knew Max. I told her no, and she immediately made a connection, introducing us by phone. It was one of those serendipitous threads I am so often given and frequently follow . . . not sure where it will lead but eager to discover that answer.

This is a dark photo, but I love it! I snapped it in July 2011 while on location with Max Gill at Chez Panisse, enjoying a pot of just-brewed tea while observing his design process.

Max invited David and me to meet him a few days later and what resulted was nothing short of beautiful. We were able to tour and ultimately photograph Max in his Berkeley studio and personal cutting garden . . . and then he invited us to follow him to Alice Waters’ famed bistro Chez Panisse Cafe & Restaurant, just blocks from Max’s home, to capture him on camera while he created the first of that week’s major floral displays for the restaurant’s interior.

After we wrapped up, David Perry (far right) and I posed for a photo with Max and his friend Wynonah (center)

It was an unforgettable experience for all of us. Later, Alice shared this quote for the story:

Max is an amazing forager – he brings a sense of aliveness and seasonality, reinforcing the principles of the restaurant.”

And his friend, design mentor and occasional collaborator Ariella Chezar told me this:

Max, with his heart of gold, is a genius at creating small, magical worlds that you cannot help but be drawn into. With tenderness and skill, he assembles his elements, resulting in the most perfect balance of haphazard wildness and clear purpose. His arrangements always look just right.”

Max spent a few days in Seattle, touring local flower farms and meeting the folks behind SWGM, including Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm (right) (c) Alicia Schwede

Lush and Seasonal: One of Max’s compote arrangements from his workshop at SWGMC. (c) Alicia Schwede. Check out the palette and diversity of just-picked botanicals!

Max recently visited Seattle to teach a very popular Master Class, followed by an unforgettable design lecture at Seattle Wholesale Growers Market – and while he was in town, I recorded this short conversation with him.

Here’s a bit more about Max, from his web site’s “about” page:

After receiving his degree in Environmental Science from UC Berkeley, Max was compelled by more creative pursuits, eventually finding floral design the perfect medium as it seemed to him to draw from all of his greatest passions: gardening, sculpture, painting and art and theater history. 

Originally from upstate New York, Max has called the Bay Area home for almost 35 years.  Perhaps best known for his work at Chez Panisse where he has done the flowers for over a decade, Max started Max Gill Design in 2005 and now offers full floral services for weddings, special events and private clients including Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Lauren McIntosh.  

Informed by natural process, Max’s work is distinguished by his reliance on specialty blooms and botanical rarities gleaned from local growers, his own formidable cut flower garden in North Berkeley, and a long list of Bay Area nurseries.  

He writes this:

My work is always botanically inspired. What I find most compelling in nature is when plants are struggling to find their place in the environment. As they fight to overcome the challenges of space and light, often surprising us with their juxtaposition, they create beauty through adaptation.

Download our PDF of the chapter, “Flowers for Chez Panisse,’ from The 50 Mile Bouquet.

Two of Max’s floral creations, from the pages of In Full Flower (c) Gemma and Andrew Ingalls

Here’s a peek at two of Max’s alluring botanical designs that appear in the just-released new book, “In Full Flower,” by photographers Gemma and Andrew Ingalls for Rizzoli Books. It’s stunning work that will leave you wanting more.

And you can find more by following along with Max on his Instagram feed.

Thanks so much for joining us today.

Back when the 100th episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast aired in June 2015, I noted that listeners had downloaded episodes 53,000 times since the start of the show.

Having reached the second-hundred-episode mark, even more fans are engaging with the show, with a total of 193,000 downloads to date — meaning today we have nearly triple the number of Slow Flowers Podcast listeners than for the first 100 episodes.

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.

It’s time to sign up for the Slow Flowers Summit and you can find the registration link here.

The information you will gain in a single day at the Summit is an incredible value for just $175 — and members of Slow Flowers receive a great thank-you rate of $135.

Your registration includes all lectures and coffee/light breakfast, lunch and a cocktail reception with speakers — plus a flower lovers’ swag bag and chance to network with the doers and thinkers in our botanical universe.

I can’t wait for you to join us in Seattle on July 2 in the heart of American Flowers Week!

Thank you to family of sponsors:

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

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

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