Debra Prinzing

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Florida-Grown Ferns, Foliage and Greenery with Erik Hagstrom of Albin Hagstrom & Sons (Episode 194)

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

RHS_CHELSEAThe Slow Flowers Podcast is coming to you this week from Britain, where I’ve been touring the Chelsea Flower Show, reporting on gardening and floral trends for, and speaking to a passionate group of British Flower Farmers. I promise to bring home inspiring podcast interviews to share in the coming weeks.

And if you want to listen to what’s happening in the British-Grown flower movement, including the perspective of both florists and flower farmers, I’ve added links to past interviews here:

Episode 129: Reclaiming our Floral Heritage . . . Lessons from #Britishflowers

Episode 186: The Flower Farmer’s Year with Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers UK

Flowers from the Farm, the UK's nationwide network of cut flower growers

Flowers from the Farm, the UK’s nationwide network of cut flower growers

A special thanks to Gillian Hodgson of Fieldhouse Flowers and the force behind Flowers from the Farm – an organization of British flower farmers, as well as to Sarah Statham of Simply by Arrangement, both of Yorkshire, who created a magnificent itinerary for my visit. You’ll hear from them both in future reports.

And here are a few more pieces of good news, shared by members on both American coasts:

First from Mary Coombs, who with her sister Dawn Clark operate A Garden Party based in Elmer, New Jersey:

Subject line: It is Working

“I was meeting with a client last night and I asked her how she found us. Much to my delight, she found us via! She is a perfect fit for my company and I am proud to be listed on this site. Thank you for working so hard on this!
I will also be talking about the Slow Flowers movement on Fox 29 Philadelphia on Monday morning. They are coming to film us in the garden for three live segments to air during their news show. I am nervous but excited!”

Mary’s note is so encouraging that I wanted you to hear it – and check out this news clip featuring Mary and Dawn.

“Anything you can get locally grown will be fresher; it will last longer; it’s going to do better in the vase.” — Dawn Clark, A Garden Party.

And next, a note from one of my favorite flower farmers, Joan Thorndike of Le Mera Gardens, based in Talent, Oregon, just outside Ashland. Joan is featured in The 50 Mile Bouquet, and she was an early supporter of She is a farmer and a florist, famous for her summertime Oregon wine-country weddings.

Here’s Joan’s note, a text that arrived on my phone screen:

“Twice last week a potential customer called me because they knew all about your Slow Flowers as a concept – and so wanted to find a source close rather than far. Thank you for what you do!”

Please keep these updates coming – it is your anecdotal stories of customers finding their American grown flowers from farms and floral designers that allow me to share the news with others interested in joining this movement.

4th generatoin Fern Farmer Eric Hagstrom.

4th generatoin Fern Farmer Erik Hagstrom.

signI met today’s guest in person – finally – after a long-distance social media acquaintance. Please meet Erik Hagstrom of Albin Hagstrom & Son.

Based in Pierson, Florida, Albin Hagstrom & Son is one of, if not THE, largest American farms growing ferns, greenery and all types of cut foliage for the floral marketplace.

The family-owned business was started in 1928.

Glossy and durable -- Leatherleaf fern.

Glossy and durable — Leatherleaf fern.

ft_ah_14611-e1370480079963Not only did Albin Hagstrom & Son join the site very early after we launched, Erik has been a super supportive member. On two occasions, when I was booked to do interviews with Florida radio personalities, I asked him to send a sample box of Florida ferns and foliage to the host. He more than exceeded my expectations.

Such a generous gesture that proved to be a tangible example of the Slow Flowers movement – and in both cases, those radio hosts mentioned receiving those beautiful Florida ferns while we were on the air. That’s the kind of partnership that helps all of us in the movement.

Under the live oak, as I attempted to reach the naturally draped Spanish moss.

Under the live oak, as I attempted to reach the naturally draped Spanish moss.

Last week I spent five days in Orlando, Florida. I was thrilled to have an extra day before I started speaking and designing on the Festival Stage at Disney Epcot’s Flower & Garden Show, and while my two sons went off to Magic Kingdom, I headed north on Interstate, about 75 miles south of where Albin Hagstrom & Sons is located, to find the hamlet of Pierson, population 1,730.

Variegated pittosporum shrubs, growing prolifically under a shade structure.

Variegated pittosporum shrubs, growing prolifically under a shade structure.

I had a fun visit with Erik’s dad, Richard, grandson of founder Albin, who has just turned 80 and is a walking encyclopedia of fern-farming.

Tree ferns, naturalized under the canopy of live oak trees.

Tree ferns, naturalized under the canopy of live oak trees.

Then Erik and I jumped in his pickup  truck to drive through some of the production area, passing through shade structures and then following a narrow road through the “hammock” where ferns grow naturally under the canopy of ancient live oak trees.

Mostera. Beautiful, but I wasn't going to venture too close!

Mostera. Beautiful, but I wasn’t going to venture too close!

Anytime I wanted to take a photo, Erik indulged me by stopping and letting me hop out. However, when we slowed down to view the shade house where Monstera foliage grows, he warned me that rattlesnakes like to hang out in the protective tangle at the base of these tropical-looking plants with such dramatic leaves. Um, no thank you. I stayed in the car! But I did find it interesting that most of Albin Hagstrom & Son’s Monstera goes to the cruise ships that dock in Florida.

The Hagstrom family homestead, built in the 1920s by great grandfather Albin. You can see the Swedish farmhouse influence in its simple lines and appealing symmetry.

The Hagstrom family homestead, built in the 1920s by great grandfather Albin. You can see the Swedish farmhouse influence in its simple lines and appealing symmetry.

And by the way, Erik is a man of many interests. He started his career working for the famous Daytona International Speedway and has an extensive background in promotions and marketing. While he eventually left the world of racing to grow ferns, Erik is still a huge fan of NASCAR events. He is the owner of an American-made pickup truck, a fact that did not escape my notice!

Tree ferns, just picked and ready for shipping to all 50 states.

Tree ferns, just picked and ready for shipping to all 50 states.

I hope you enjoy our podcast interview and gain a newfound appreciation for FOLIAGE — an important source of botanical beauty for floral design. I left with a huge box of samples and was delighted to use the ferns, foliage, grasses and greenery in my demonstrations on the Epcot stage during the following three days. I was proud to tell my audiences that about those American grown, FLORIDA grown stems beautifying my vases. And in a state where nearly all of the imported flowers and foliage flow through nearby Miami International Airport, it was doubly important to have this gorgeous and tangible example of the Slow Flowers movement in my hands.

Thanks again for joining me today and please visit to see my photos and to follow links to all Erik’s social sites.

Albin Hagstrom & Son on Facebook

Erik Hagstrom on Twitter: @erikhagstrom

Listeners like you have downloaded the podcast nearly 49,000 times. Until next week please 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 Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at

Art as Inspiration for Floral Design

Saturday, September 20th, 2014
'Dianthus', by Jean Bradbury.

‘Dianthus’, by Jean Bradbury.

I think all artists and designers love to experiment with new media because it challenges us to think more creatively and with inventiveness.

'Zinnias', by Jean Bradbury

‘Zinnias’, by Jean Bradbury

And that’s what makes me so excited about the upcoming class I’ll be teaching on Saturday, October 4th (1-3 p.m.). “From Art to Vase” is a hands-on floral workshop that takes inspiration from the Inflorescence exhibition at Kirkland Art Center, just across Lake Washington, east of Seattle.


Friday night's opening of INFLORESCENCE at Kirkland Arts Center.

Friday night’s opening of INFLORESCENCE at Kirkland Arts Center.

Inflorescence is a terrific new show that opened on September 19th at KAC, curated by Seattle artist Susan Melrath.You can see the show now through November 25th. Click here for gallery hours and address and please note that KAC is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Three of Susan Melrath's pieces, arranged in a verdant triptych.

Three of Susan Melrath’s pieces, arranged in a verdant triptych.

'Green Theory', by Susan Melrath.

‘Green Theory’, by Susan Melrath.

An incredibly gifted artist (and the daughter of a florist) who loves to play with color, texture and scale, Susan dreamed up this show and invited six other Northwest artists to exhibit their works in response to the show’s title. Inflorescence features the work of Jean Bradbury, Lisa Conway, Patty Haller, Stephanie Hargrave, Fred Lisaius and Liz Tran, in addition to Susan Melrath.

So what is “Inflorescence”?

Liz Tran's exuberant still-life's of flowers in their vase.

Liz Tran’s exuberant still-life’s of flowers in their vase.

Think back to your high school botany or college hort science class. Many of you know of the term as it describes a blooming part of a plant. For the purposes of the KAC show Susan uses this definition: “A group or cluster of flowers growing from a common stem in a characteristic arrangement.”

A lovely piece by landscape artist Patty Haller.

A lovely piece by landscape artist Patty Haller.

I love the idea that each work of art in this beautifully curated show is a part of the whole, just like the cluster of flowers that may emerge from a single stem.

Patty Haller's painting  'Whidbey Yarrow' (left); Fred Lisaius painting 'Mossy Log' (right).

Patty Haller’s painting
‘Whidbey Yarrow’ (left); Fred Lisaius painting ‘Mossy Log’ (right).

Each artist is collectively of like mind while also incredibly individual. They use what is seen and experienced through nature as well as the botanical beauty of plants (real or imagined) to express themselves creatively.

When I say the show is beautifully curated, I’m referring to the harmonious way Susan has grouped and hung or placed pieces throughout KAC’s gallery. The works speak to one another with a pleasing rhythm — through various palettes, forms and canvas sizes. Please consider a day trip to Kirkland to observe and admire these works.

Lisa Conway ceramic piece (left) Stephanie Hargrave paintings (right).

Lisa Conway ceramic piece (left) Stephanie Hargrave encaustics (right).

So where do I come in? More than a year ago, Susan sent me a note asking if I would be willing to teach a floral arranging workshop in conjunction with the show she was pulling together.

Inflorescence Postcard Front 1When I said “sure,” she wrote back:  

I spoke with the Exhibitions Coordinator today and she loved the idea of an education component that wasn’t just another painting class. Floral arranging will bring a new crowd into the arts center. 

And here I have to take a little commercial break for the way social media can bring people together. I met Susan briefly in 2012 when my friend Lorene Edwards Forkner brought me with her to see a prior exhibit featuring Susan’s paintings (and I’m not even sure I know how the two of them originally connected).

We had a brief conversation with the artist, exchanged cards and then began to follow each other on Facebook. I loved seeing Susan’s work via her period newsletters and I suspect she was the recipient of my newsletters. Funny how that works. And I’m so thrilled to be a small part of this amazing show that she dreamed up in her fabulous imagination.

Now it is a reality. I hope you can see how perfect these pieces are for a starting point to create arrangements that express one’s response to the pigments, inks, glazes and washes of color.

More gorgeous forms by ceramic artist Lisa Conway.

More gorgeous forms by ceramic artist Lisa Conway.

There’s still room in the workshop. I’m going to provide all the flowers and instruction. All you have to do is bring a vase, clippers, and an open mind.

Each participant will select a specific work of art as a starting point for their creative arranging. You’ll find just the right piece to inform your floral palette, structure/scale and proportion/form. It’s Art for the Vase!

Cost: $50 Pre-registration required here.

Garden Tribe Video: Debra’s Eco-Floral Design Tips

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Earlier this year I met the creative team of Garden Tribe, Beth LaDove and Jen Long, two Bay Area creatives who have combined their love of gardening, documentary video and education to bring hands-on horticulture to life on the small screen.

Garden Tribe has been lauded in the San Francisco Chronicle as “an online classroom that connects the world of gardeners with world-class horticultural experts and garden/floral designers.”

Sunset magazine singled out Garden Tribe as a “Best in the West” online find.


I first learned of Garden Tribe when they debuted a workshop about designing and building “living arrangements,” taught by Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Design (and The 50 Mile Bouquet fame) at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show.

After some discussion, Jen and Beth asked me to develop some online floral content for their new site. We filmed on day in early June at the beautiful Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma, California.

Today, thanks to Garden Tribe’s generosity, I am thrilled to share a “sneak peek” video clip to whet your appetite for the full workshop.

Please enjoy “Eco-Friendly Floral Design – Quick Tips” (see above) and “Cutting Flowers” (below).

You can find details about the full curriculum of workshops at

Beth LaDove (left) and Jen Long (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

Jen Long (left) and Beth LaDove (right), creators of Garden Tribe.

I was so impressed with their vision that I asked Beth and Jen to take part in a Q&A about their mission.

Debra: Please introduce yourselves and explain your interest/passion for gardening?

Beth & Jen: We are both lifelong gardeners and entrepreneurs. Beth comes from a long lineage of Italian food growers. Jen has never met a flower she didn’t want to grow. Between the two of us, we’ve probably been obsessed with just about every kind of garden and plant out there, at one time or another. Together, we have a shared passion for growing things. And these days, we are thrilled to be growing a business designed to give people a more joyful, meaningful experience of gardening.

Debra: How did you come up with the idea to launch online video educational programming?

Beth & Jen: We get questions all the time about how and when people should do things in their garden. The best way to answer those questions is by literally showing people what to do. We decided to create beautiful video classes that demonstrate real gardening, step-by-step. We also designed our classes to stream online, so that learning can happen anytime, anywhere.

Debra: Why GARDEN TRIBE? It’s such a cute name!

Beth & Jen: Gardening knowledge has always passed along in a tribal way–from person-to-person, out in the field. We named our company Garden Tribe because it honors how important it is to learn from each other, and cultivate our community.

Debra: Who is your target audience?

Beth & Jen: We know that all gardeners, from beginning to experienced, are looking for trustworthy information. That search often begins online, and the quality of that information greatly impacts the real world DIY experience.

We’re providing curated, high-quality content for people who want to learn from top experts, so that their projects can get started right, the first time. Because our real goal is to get people where they most want to be: out in the garden and having fun.

Debra: How many classes have you produced and what do you have cooked up in the future?

Beth & Jen: We have seven classes streaming now, with more launching in the near future. We’re also always adding new seasonal content. (The best way to stay in-the-know is to join our mailing list.)

As for future projects, we’re busy creating a new way for everyone on to connect and share!

Debra: Anything else you want people to know?

Beth & Jen: We’re excited to be part of a growing movement that’s bringing the next generation into gardening. It’s so amazing to work with world-renowned experts (like you, Debra!) and share all that gardening knowledge online, around the globe. We’d love everyone to join our tribe, and share their questions, ideas and inspiration!

Thanks to you both~ and thanks for sharing your passion with my tribe!