Debra Prinzing

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Meet Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley, the creatives behind Fleurs de Villes – a Bespoke Floral Phenomenon

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020
Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley of Fleurs de Villes
Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley of Fleurs de Villes

In Seattle, we have a rite of springtime called the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, which always takes place in February when everyone craves the fragrance of flowers (not to mention the scent of potting soil), and the unfurling of foliage, fronds and petals as seen in the excellent garden displays that cover the floor of the Washington State Convention Center.

I’ve been involved in one way or another with this amazing experience for more than two decades. In fact, in 1989 when it was launched by founder Duane Kelly, I covered the story for the local business newspaper where I was a staff reporter. I recall then thinking that I so wanted to join Duane’s world. For years, I covered the Flower and Garden show as a journalist and editor; then, when I made the leap to home and garden writing, I actually spoke at the show in 2002, beginning a recurring gig every year since.

In the past few years, though, instead of speaking, I’ve produced and hosted the Flower Stage at the NWFGF. This role has allowed me to invite Slow Flowers members to participate and engage flower show audiences in the conversation about floral design, local and seasonal botanicals, and more.

Blooms & Bubbles instructors will appear at the Northwest Flowr & Garden Festival’s DIY Floral Stage

This year, we’re again producing Blooms & Bubbles, a daily DIY workshop series with American-grown and locally-grown “blooms” and a glass of champagne aka “bubbles.” Five Slow Flowers members are teaching and I want to give them a shout-out right now so you can follow along on social as we post workshop images of their classes and students.

They include Thomasi Boselawa, CFD, Tiare Floral Design Studio; Erin Shackelford, Camas Designs; Maura Whalen, Casablanca Floral; Carolyn Kulb, Folk Art Flowers; and Teresa Engbretson and Katie Elliott of My Garden Overfloweth. Tickets are going fast but you might be able to snag a seat to join us! And PS, even if you aren’t able to sign up for the DIY workshop each day at 2 p.m., there is public seating and you’re invited to watch along! The dates: February 26-March 1.

Because I’ve been able to work closely with the management at Marketplace Events, the current owners of the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, I learned last fall that FLOWERS were taking center stage at the 2020 show. Operations manager Courtney Goetz and I met for lunch and she pulled out a few images to share the secret with me. It’s no secret anymore — and today’s guests will tell you all about the phenomenom called Fleurs de Villes. That’s Fleurs with an “S” and Villes with an “S” – as in “Flowers of the Cities.”

As soon as Courtney showed me photos of flower-clad female mannequins, I knew I had seen the images on my Instagram feed. I soon learned from Courtney that this woman-owned company was based just a few hours to the north of us – in Vancouver, B.C., and that the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival had invited Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley to bring Fleurs de Villes here to Seattle.

I’m so exited to bring you today’s conversation with two event and marketing experts. Karen and Tina are elevating flowers in a way that feels fresh, fashion-forward, and inventive.

Much like the response people have when they see the photo shoots of real models wearing botanical couture for our American Flowers Week campaigns that Slow Flowers began commissioning in 2016, the botanical couture on Fleurs de Villes’ three-dimensional mannequins takes floral fashion to a new level. That level is different in one key way from what I’ve been doing with American Flowers Week. And it is a feat to pull off, I can tell you. That’s because Tina and Karen are gathering more than a dozen mannequins, each designed and created by an area florist, and each on display for the full run of the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. I am in awe of the theatrical levels achieved by Fleurs de Villes.

I want to jump right into this conversation, but first, a bit more about Fleurs de Villes and its founders:

FLEURS DE VILLES combines the love of flowers, local design talent, and bespoke, utterly unique displays, for experiential events like none other. The name speaks to that – Fleurs de Villes – flowers of the cities. Connecting with each city we launch in, we work with top local florists, designers, growers and nurseries, to showcase that city’s world-class talent and create stunning displays of art. Fleurs de Villes not only showcases artful flower displays, we create engagement – with audiences viewing our events, and with the partners who support us, from leading sponsor brands to local and national media, as well as community-based groups. We believe in the power of partnerships and the amplification of messaging that comes when audiences have an experience of the senses. Our team of highly professional individuals is dedicated to ensuring every touch-point is on brand to deliver an event experience people will be talking about – and sharing – for a long time to come.

Floral mannequins from past Fleurs de Villes events

TINA BARKLEY is one of Vancouver’s best known lifestyle experts regularly working with Chatelaine Magazine, Today’s Parent and appearing on TV cooking, styling, decorating. Tina has also been a serial entrepreneur for over 25 years, researching, structuring and building businesses. Creating a brand and building a solid product, strategic partnerships, operational structure, marketing and sales are all areas Tina thrives in. As an effective event builder and planner, Tina has a ‘knack’ for making it happen, and empowering everyone around her.

KAREN MARSHALL has a long term international career in publishing and the digital space. She is a strategic thinker with a laser focus on partnership cultivation. With a belief that no brand is an island she has put together countless programs bringing key organizations and media together to create outstanding promotions. Working for some of the largest media brands in the world and in Canada and within the luxury space with numerous consumer brands across a broad spectrum, her focus is on quality engagement and experiential offerings for all partners.

Thanks so much for joining me today.  Find and follow Fleurs de Villes at these links below:

Fleurs de Villes on Facebook

Fleurs de Villes on Instagram

You can find details about the Seattle Fleurs de Villes display — February 26-March 1st at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival

Future schedule to see Fleurs de Villes around North America and beyond.

As promised, here are the local florists and designers participating as Fleurs de Villes artists. Each will create a floral garment to adorn the lifesize mannequin. It’s no surprise, but a number of them are Slow Flowers members!

First of all, I am thrilled that Melissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers & Mercantile is designing the Slow Flowers-sponsored mannequin featuring all local and domestic botanicals. We are so grateful for Melissa’s longtime membership and support and I can’t wait to see what she creates!

Of course, as anyone who is committed to sourcing domestic and local flowers in the Pacific Northwest in February, which faces a dormant growing season that many of you also experience, I want to just acknowledge what a feat it will be to bring a Slow Flowers sentiment and values to an undertaking like a botanical garment made entirely from fresh and natural materials. I’ve heard anecdotally from several Slow Flowers members as they’ve planned their creations and I know they are committed to sourcing a good percentage of their looks with domestic crops. Let’s cheer them on and see what they create. Including Melissa of Terra Bella, nine Slow Flowers members are participating as Fleurs de Villes designers — more than half of all the dresses you’ll see! They include:

TJ Montague of Garden Party Design

Tobey Nelson of Tobey Nelson Events & Design

Maura Whalen of Casablanca Floral

Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs

Keita Horn of Smashing Petals

Annika McIntosh of Hazel Landscapes & Designs

Tomasi Boselawa, CFD, of Tiare Floral Design

Tammy Myers and the florists of Lora Bloom

Other Fleurs de Villes florists include: a Natural Design; Fena Flowers; Seattle Floral Design; Zupan’s Markets; Leah Erickson; Ondine; and you’ll see supporting floral installations by Apotheca Design and Soren Events.

Jennifer Jewell is the author of The Earth in Her Hands, which includes a profile of Lorene Edwards Forkner, Christin Geall and Debra Prinzing, among many others.

If that’s not enough floral, horticulture and botanical inspiration, you can find me on Thursday, February 27th at 12:30 pm, as part of a panel entitled:WOMEN AT WORK: MAKING A LIVING WHILE FOLLOWING YOUR PLANT PASSION,” moderated by author Jennifer Jewell, and featuring Lorene Edwards Forkner, Cristin Geall and me. Get your Northwest Flower & Garden Festival tickets here — and I’ll see you there!

Jumping ahead to future events . . . the clock is ticking along as we continue to finalize details for the 4th Annual Slow Flowers Summit – June 26-28, 2020 in San Francisco Bay Area at Filoli.

We only have 50 seats left so I urge you to follow the links in today’s show notes and reserve your space with the Slow Flowers tribe! Your Ticket Includes: All-Day Sunday, June 28 + Monday, June 29 with 5 Presentations + 7 Fabulous Speakers, all meals, refreshments and evening cocktail receptions;

Floral Design Demonstrations; an Interactive Floral Installation; Author Book-Signings; Cool Take-Home Gifts . . . and then, on Tuesday Morning, June 30th, a behind the scenes tour at Farmgirl Flowers HQ where you’ll enjoy a Light Breakfast + Coffee, and meet our good friend Christina Stembel of Farmgirl Flowers.

I can’t wait to see you there!

(c) Mary Grace Long photography

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 578,000 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.

Thank you to our Sponsors

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Our partnership with Florists’ Review is such a valuable one, providing a forum for beautiful and inspiring editorial content in the #slowflowersjournal section – month after month. Take advantage of the special subscription offer for members of the Slow Flowers Community.

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

FarmersWeb. FarmersWeb software makes it simple for flower farms to streamline working with their buyers. By lessening the administrative load and increasing efficiency, FarmersWeb helps your farm save time, reduce errors, and work with more buyers overall. Learn more at

Our next sponsor thanks goes to 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

Music Credits:

Le Marais; Symphony 40 in G Minor; Via Verre; Gaena; Glass Beads
by Blue Dot Sessions

Lovely by Tryad

In The Field
Music from: