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 257: Pistil & Stamen, Growing Botanical Beauty and Creating Community in New Orleans

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
My guest is Denise Richter (right) of New Orleans-based Pistil & Stamen, who I recently met in person during her West Coast travels

My guest is Denise Richter (right) of New Orleans-based Pistil & Stamen, who I recently met in person during her West Coast travels

FINAL_with_Bonny_Doon_00539_DP_CreativeWorkshop-01 (2)I want to start this episode sharing more details about the upcoming Slow Flowers Creative Workshop that I’ll be co-teaching with Teresa Sabankaya of Santa Cruz’s Bonny Doon Garden Co. on Sunday, August 21st and Monday, August 22nd.

This valuable experience is designed to help you clarify, document and communicate your personal aesthetic message as a floral professional.

In a safe, supportive and intimate setting, our small group will focus on YOU! We’ll go deep into Slow Flowers “brand building” as each participant finds his or her own voice as a floral storyteller.

00571_DP_SlowFlowers_Meetup (2)If you’ve been thinking about investing in your businesses’ future, now is the time to sign up. Today’s podcast interview features my conversation with Teresa about some of the content that we plan to cover.

You’re also invited to join the Slow Flowers Meet Up from 3-6 pm on August 22nd! Check out details here.

In August 2014, a writer named Susan Langenhennig of the Times Picayune, the major daily newspaper in New Orleans, published an article, which she titled:

The farm-to-vase movement: Local flower farms sprout on urban lots around New Orleans.

Susan wrote: “The mantra of the eat-local food movement is heading into the flower fields. Decades ago, that ethos began opening eyes to agricultural practices and sparking questions of how and where food is grown. Now a nascent cut-flower farming industry in New Orleans hopes to get consumers to think as much about the provenance of the bouquets they buy as the food they eat.
Within the last year, several local flower farmers — all of them growing on small urban lots — formed the 
New Orleans Flower Growers Association to pool resources and share advice. The group’s farmers use sustainable practices, without the synthetic herbicides and pesticides typical in the commercial flower industry. Selling locally, they hope to reduce the average bouquet’s carbon footprint to just tiptoes.”

Pistil & Stamen's lush, over-the-top urn design

Pistil & Stamen’s lush, over-the-top urn design

Susan quoted today’s guest, Denise Richter, who owns Pistil & Stamen, a flower farm with business partner Megan McHugh. She also highlighted veteran and emerging flower growers in the New Orleans Flower Growers Association, and she asked me to comment on the “trend” that’s called Slow Flowers.

“It’s a gradual awareness in where our flowers come from. Food is way ahead… It’s the same customer who will ask in a restaurant, ‘Where was this salmon caught or raised?’ What’s the food mile? What’s the flower mile?”Foodies and gardeners “get it first,” Prinzing said.

When the story was published was literally two months old and no one from Louisiana had joined as members. Through the article, I connected virtually with Denise and other New Orleans Flower Collective members and invited them to join

They did and their involvement has helped visitors to the site — people from across the country — to find and connect with some wonderful resources for local, Louisiana-grown cut flowers and floral design. Here is their mission:

The New Orleans Flower Growers Association (NOFGA) is a small group of New Orleans based flower growers that share a love of growing and a commitment to natural and sustainable practices. Growers exchange knowledge, marketing and production resources to support a burgeoning organic and local flower production industry. NOFGA also connects buyers with the flower farmers who are producing locally and sustainable grown flowers.

Denise Richter (left) and Megan McHugh (right)

Denise Richter (left) and Megan McHugh (right)

Last month, I met Denise in person. As you’ll hear in this episode, she visited the Pacific Northwest recently and was warmly welcomed by the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market community of farmers and florists. We met over pizza and beer when Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall invited Denise to stop by Jello Mold Farm for a community gathering after the Market’s flower farm tour.

I was jazzed to make a human connection to someone I only previously knew through social media, but I couldn’t let Denise sneak out of town without turning on the recorder to capture a conversation with her about Pistil and Stamen. I asked her to update the Slow Flowers Podcast audience on the New Orleans flower scene, two years after that original article appeared.

Megan McHugh and Denise Richter

Megan McHugh (foreground) and Denise Richter (standing)

Here’s some background on this dynamic team:

Denise Richter left a fashion career at Calvin Klein to study food systems and community organizing at NYU, and has been working on farms and urban gardens ever since.  She came to New Orleans to start the Edible Schoolyard NOLA, an organization that aims to change the way students eat, learn and live in 5 public charter schools in the city. As a garden educator and garden manager for seven years, she spearheaded curriculum development, staff mentoring, and garden builds.  Building garden classrooms that were as aesthetically pleasing as they were functional and educational, she has always loved and cared about making beautiful spaces for community members of all ages to enjoy.   This extended to bringing the outside in, making bouquets from the garden for the cafeteria tables, front office desk and for special school events.

A beautiful Pistil & Stamen bouquet

A beautiful Pistil & Stamen bouquet

Megan McHugh came to New Orleans to start a garden education program at MLK Charter School in the Lower 9th ward.  With a degree in Literature and an MFA in Creative Writing, she has been always less interested in the nitty gritty science behind agriculture (soil scientist she is not!) than the utter delight and magic behind growing food and flowers.  Her passion for creating meaningful and fun experiences for students within their regimented school day led her to garden education, along with her years of community gardening experience. When her small program lost its funding, she began working with Denise at ESY NOLA, developing gardens.  She soon became the resident florist of the school, fielding bouquet requests regularly, and her plant choices became very influenced by her need for design material!  This creative, multi-functional gardening is one reason Pistil & Stamen is so adept at using edible elements in their work such as unique herbs, peppers, asparagus and more.

P&S logoThe women share this from the Pistil & Stamen web site:

Seven years ago, we met over coffee to chat about our mutual profession, school gardening, and realized we had even more in common than that. Both of us having designed, tended to and taught in gardens throughout the city, we found in each other a shared passion for creating the most beautiful spaces we could –  growing native plants, cut flowers and gorgeous perennials along with our veggies.  Growing food for people on its own wasn’t enough.  We wanted to grow beauty for them as well.
And now, we happily hand our clients arrangements grown in urban gardens on St. Claude Ave and Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard.  We design bouquets as we do our gardens –  with respect for natural forms and movement.  And we are quite pleased to create habitat for increasingly threatened pollinators, and that our gardens inspire many a passerby to stop and smell the roses, or the sweat peas, or the jasmine.
Community-minded and eager to share these green spaces in the heart of our city, we love having people to our gardens for workshops, parties, and volunteer days.

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I love one point that Denise made about the New Orleans Flower Growers Association/Collective. She noted that the local media “would not have done a story about one of us – but collectively, there is a story.” I couldn’t agree more.

If you are involved in an interview or photo shoot with media in your region, be sure to add a rich layer of relevance to the narrative by telling the writer or editor to the community. We can help give your story national context and validate that you are a pioneer in bringing local and sustainable flowers to the marketplace. Put that journalist in touch with me so I can share a voice of affirmation to what you’re doing. Don’t miss the opportunity to place yourself in the national conversation about domestic and local flowers.

And please get in touch with me if you would like more statistics and sources to validate the metrics around local flowers. As always, I’m available at When you highlight Slow Flowers in your local press, you’re helping sisters and brothers in the Slow Flowers movement everywhere as well as yourself!


DIG DEEP: Our new collateral piece outlines the many benefits of your membership.

This week we also published a new piece listing the Value of your membership. It’s a membership that is so much more than helping customers find you. It is about branding, marketing, connections and community. Download a high-res version of this piece here and share it with colleagues who’ve yet to invest in themselves or their businesses by being part of this important national cause.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 110,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

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Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2016: 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

More sponsor thanks goes to 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

A big bouquet of thanks goes to Longfield Gardens… providing 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

And finally, thank you 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

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 and Hannah Brenlan. Learn more about their work at

Music credits:
Gillicuddy – “Fudge”
Josh Woodward – “Perfect (Instrumental Version)”
Josh Woodward – “Once Tomorrow (Instrumental Version)”
Additional music from: