Debra Prinzing

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Episode 278: Slow Flowers’ 2017 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Happy New Year and Welcome to the third annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast.

Unlike most TREND reports, this compilation tracks changing shifts, emerging ideas and new concepts that are taking hold in the American floral world.  Think of it as your Next, New and Now Report. These topics are gleaned from my conversations and interviews that took place with many of you during 2016– Slow Flowers members, including farmers, florists and creatives.  I know some of you have already experienced these emerging developments and your influence has inspired this list.

If you would like a copy of this report, please click here: 2017-floral-insights [PDF download]

I look forward to your reaction, thoughts, and input on the Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast, including the ideas and themes I may have overlooked! I invite you to share yours in the comment section below.

Let’s get started:

. In the midst of global floriculture, with trade in cut flowers estimated at more than $100 billion per year, $13 billion of which takes place in the U.S., we’ve been seduced by the notion that the world is our oyster (or flower field).

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

Mellano & Co. is a Certified American Grown flower farm.

In many markets around the country, the wholesale florist is the only commercial cut flowers and foliage source for floral designers, flower shops and studios to purchase product.Yet after branding themselves as the only way to access a world of floral options, some wholesale florists are returning to their roots, at least in part. They are proactively sourcing from American flower farms large and small to stock their coolers and shelves. And beyond this step, many are also using signage and labeling to inform buyers of the origin of that product.

I believe the explosion of farmer-florists and the growth of small-scale floral agriculture in markets across North America has occurred in part because of frustration with the lack of or limited local sourcing by conventional wholesalers. Let me say that again: Farmer-Florists and small-scale floral agriculture have stepped into the gaping void created when wholesalers turned their backs on local flower farmers. And now they’re waking up to the missed opportunity.

The success of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, well-documented by me and on this podcast over the past several years, as well as the continued growth of the farmer-owned Oregon Flower Growers Association market in Portland underscore that demand for local flowers is already in place.

Now we are witnessing a shift among some conventional wholesalers to align their brand with American Grown and Locally-grown flowers. Mayesh Wholesale Florist is the most active in this arena, with active support for, American Flowers Week, Lisa Waud’s Flower House Detroit, and other sponsorships.

When Mayesh opened its renovated Portland, Oregon, branch in early November, the company asked me to make a design presentation. The team there was very supportive of my request for all locally-grown product — hat’s off to Mayesh and I certainly expect that their success at the cash register will motivate other conventional wholesale florists to get onboard.

I’ve previously singled out Santa Barbara-based Florabundance, led by Joost Bongaerts, for making the effort to label all California-grown floral and foliage offerings on his online wholesale site. It is an effective tool — one I hope others will emulate. It is certainly a step that demonstrates excellent customer service and an awareness that Florabundance shoppers want to know the origin of the flowers they purchase.

This past fall, I surveyed members for their take on a number of topics and trends. When I asked, “If you shop with Conventional Florists, are you finding more American grown and locally-grown product than in the past?” 70 percent of respondents said yes.

Here are a few of the specific comments to elaborate:

  • I request American grown from my Rep, and I think there are more boutique, seasonal items that are coming from smaller farmers
  • I have been asking my conventional wholesalers to bring in more American grown product and I think it is helping. The “American Grown” branding really helps us to know that is happening.
  • It’s definitely taking place and some people at the conventional wholesalers are proud to share that their products are American grown.

This last comment reflects that the industry still has far to go. One member noted:

  • It’s a toss up. They say they want to add more but I’m not sure if they are working really hard at. And they don’t do a very good job at advertising what is local and what is not. My Rep knows that I want American grown but still have to ask every time

. This insight is closely connected with item number one.

In general, the conventional wholesale model is changing, as traditional channels of floral distribution are disrupted. I predict that more flower farms will seek and establish new ways to bypass the conventional wholesale pipeline and market direct to florists and consumers. This is a hot topic and certainly one that’s hard to find anyone willing to go on record to discuss.
Our Slow Flowers survey revealed numerous sales channels among flower farmers. Granted, the majority of Slow Flowers farm-members are small-scale producers, but I believe they are the ones modeling how diversification and direct-to-florist commerce can succeed. When asked about their distribution channels, our respondents cited the following top three outlets:

  • Seventy percent are growing flowers for their own weddings and event clients;
  • This is followed closely by farms selling direct to other florists and wedding designers, at around 67 percent
  • With 53 percent of flower farms reporting they sell to local flower shops
    After this top tier, the percentages drop down to one third of respondents who sell flowers via farmers’ markets and CSA subscribers (basically consumer-direct) and about one-quarter who sell to local wholesalers and grocery/supermarket buyers.There is another farm-direct model, and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models.

There is another farm-direct model and here’s where I think the disruption is most revealing. A number of large farms are experimenting with direct-to-florist and direct-to-consumer models. A few successful single-crop models have been in place, such as Danielle Hahn’s Rose Story Farm, which in the past few years has shifted almost completely away from selling through wholesalers to florist-direct fulfillment, and many of the Alaska peony growers who sell direct to florists and consumers.

Now, diversified, large-scale growers are beginning to spin off consumer-focused web shops, such as Sun Valley’s Stargazer Barn or Resendiz Brothers’ Protea Store. In the scheme of things, these new ventures are moving only a small fraction of their parent farms’ floral inventory.

But I predict that as large farms bend to demand for farm-direct sourcing of flowers (by consumers and florists alike), the path from field to bouquet will speed up and perhaps take fewer detours through brokers and wholesalers. That means fresher, more seasonal and better value for all floral customers.


Episode 236: Anne Bradfield of Seattle’s Floressence Studio

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
Anne Bradfield, owner of Seattle-based Floressence -- captured on the hunt for beautiful and locally-grown Northwest flowers!

Anne Bradfield, owner of Seattle-based Floressence — captured while she was on the hunt for beautiful and locally-grown Northwest flowers!

Love this elevated arrangement!

Love this elevated arrangement!

This week’s conversation is one I’ve wanted to record for a while. You know when you run into someone you really like — and who you want to get to know better, perhaps at the grocery store, or (for me) at the flower market — and you greet one another warmly and say “we should get together for coffee?”

Well that was the case with my friend Anne Bradfield. Owner of a design studio called Floressence, Anne was one of the very first floral designers I found myself chatting with back in 2011 when the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market launched.

A gorgeous Floressence-designed wedding

A gorgeous Floressence-designed wedding

A Floressence Bride

A Floressence Bride

logo1At the time, I was there frequently, both because I was working on my two books, The 50 Mile Bouquet – which featured the stories of many of the flower farmers and floral designers involved with the market, and Slow Flowers, a project that relied on a steady supply of local blooms for my weekly design projects. And I often ran into Anne, who was there shopping for her major wedding and corporate event clients.

Love the inspiration that Anne shares in today's podcast. (c) Laurel McConnell

Love Anne’s inspiration shared in today’s podcast.

Anne soon invited me to speak at a meeting of the Greater Seattle Floral Association, where I met many of our region’s top wedding, event and retail florists. And we kept bumping into one another. . . both always in a rush, and always promising to get together.

You may recognize Anne’s voice because I recorded it for this podcast a few months ago when I interviewed several designers who participated in Lisa Waud’s hands-on large-scale floral art workshop at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. And that encounter was the impetus for today’s conversation.

Anne studied interdisciplinary visual art at the University of Washington and she will share how her journey led her through a few career stops before she purchased Floressence thirteen years ago, when she was in her late twenties.


Melissa Feveyear of Seattle’s Terra Bella Flowers – Pioneering Local and Sustainable Floral Design for 10 Years (Episode 210)

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Love this portrait of Melissa, the crown of her head encircled with flowers.

Love this portrait of Melissa, the crown of her head encircled with flowers.

This week’s guest is my very good friend and “flower-sister” Melissa Feveyear, owner and creative director of Terra Bella Flowers.

Melissa’s appearance on the Slow Flowers Podcast  is especially exciting this week because she and her work will be showcased at the next Field to Vase Dinner, set for Saturday, September 12th at Jello Mold Farm in Mt. Vernon, just north of Seattle.

Only 10 designers in the country have been invited to create the floral installation for the Field to Vase Dinner series, a very special pop-up, floral-centric dining experience pairing local flowers and local food.



It is fitting that Melissa is the featured designer this week because she is a longtime customer of Jello Mold Farm and the entire floral community of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

You’ll hear us discuss her role in the Market’s origins as the first cooperative marketplace connecting local flower farmers with local florists.

Melissa, left, on location in her Seattle shop during our stylized photo shoot for The 50 Mile Bouquet. My talented friend Jean Zaputil, right, was our stylist.

Melissa, left, on location in her Seattle shop during our stylized photo shoot for The 50 Mile Bouquet. My talented friend Jean Zaputil, right, was our stylist.

Terra Bella is located in Seattle's Phinney Neighborhood on a busy pedestrian corner.

Terra Bella is located in Seattle’s Phinney Neighborhood on a busy pedestrian corner.

The visionary of Terra Bella Flowers, Melissa combines her obsession with all things rooting and a background in Environmental Studies/Hazardous Waste Management.

After working in the field and becoming aware of the amount of pesticides used in the production of cut flowers, she realized she couldn’t consciously support the conventional side of the floral industry. Melissa created Terra Bella Flowers nearly 10 years ago to prove that the business of flowers can be a beautiful thing, from the time the seed is planted, until her bouquet arrive at your door.

As we discuss in this episode, Melissa and her business are featured in The 50 Mile Bouquet, the book I wrote in 2012 featuring the photography of David Perry. As a special gift to you, I’ve included the free chapter called “Sublime and Sensuous,” which you can download her and read more of her story: MelissaFeveyear_The 50 Mile Bouquet Chapter

Melissa and Tutta Bella appeared in The 50 Mile Bouquet

Melissa and Tutta Bella appeared in The 50 Mile Bouquet

I began that chapter with this description of Melissa:

Curiosity and intentionality are two of her design tools; she selects foliage, blooms, and other fresh-from-the-field elements with the same care as if she personally grew each ephemeral blossom or stem in her own backyard. That connection with nature is vitally important to her artistic philosophy.

“If flowers aren’t locally or organically grown, then they are most likely coming from some huge factory farm,” she said. “My customers do not want flowers dipped in strong pesticides on their dinner table.”

Melissa has been a fabulous supporter of from the moment it was just an idea of mine. She has contributed her time and talents, appearing on the 2014 Indiegogo campaign video that helped raise more than $18,000 to launch the online directory (see above).

We’ve also teamed up to promote Slow Flowers on local television and at special events — and I know you’ll find Melissa and her story inspiring.

Another lovely seasonal floral arrangement from Terra Bella Flowers.

Another lovely seasonal floral arrangement from Terra Bella Flowers.

A lush, seasonal summer bouquet from Terra Bella Flowers.

A lush, seasonal summer bouquet from Terra Bella Flowers.

Here’s how you can connect with Melissa and Terra Bella Flowers:

Terra Bella Flowers on Facebook

Terra Bella Flowers on Instagram

Greater Seattle Floral Association

In August, Melissa and I did a pre-F2V Dinner walk-through of Jello Mold Farm with flower farmers Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall - don't they all look happy in the flower fields?

In August, Melissa and I did a pre-F2V Dinner walk-through of Jello Mold Farm with flower farmers Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall – don’t they all look happy in the flower fields?

Seattle-page-001Thanks for joining me today. If you’re in the Northwest and you want to experience the magic of Melissa’s Northwest Gothic floral installation at the September 12th Field to Vase Dinner, there’s still time. A few tickets are still available and I can’t wait for you to be part of the evening on a flower farm. Follow the link to reserve your seat at the table and use the special discount code SLOWFLOWERS to enjoy a $35 discount when purchasing your ticket.

Episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast have been downloaded more than 63,000 times and I thank the progressive floral community for supporting this endeavor. It is nothing short of inspiring to see the listenership increase each week – and we have received only 5-star reviews on iTunes, 22 in all.

Until 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. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

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 Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at