Debra Prinzing

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ASCFG #4: Wild World of Weddings (Episode 171)

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Wedding bouquets: the ultimate design challenge

Today’s episode was recorded on October 20th at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers conference held in Wilmington, Delaware – and it is our fourth featured segment from that event.

“Wild World of Weddings” is a panel showcasing four voices that may be quite familiar to listeners of this podcast.

You’ll hear Jennie Love, of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, based in Philadelphia; Sarah Ryhanen of Brooklyn-based Saipua; Ellen Frost of Local Color Flowers in Baltimore and Sullivan Owen, owner of Sullivan Owen Floral & Event Design, also based in Philadelphia.

This free-ranging panel was left unstructured so that audience members could ask ANYTHING they wanted to know about growing, designing and selling local flowers to the bridal and wedding marketplace.

The panel wasn’t moderated per se, but you will first hear Jennie Love, who co-chaired the entire conference with Becky Devlin.

Remember, like all of our episodes from ASCFG, this one exceeds one hour in length. So I’ll keep my intro short and get right to the juicy material.

There’s amazing intel to learn from these four women — and you’ll hear a range of topics — from marketing your design business to navigating consultations to pricing and contracts.

Flower farmers and floral designers – and farmer-florists – will learn volumes from this panel.

Let’s get started with Jennie Love. After Jennie’s first remarks, I’ll interject to introduce each new voice who joins the conversation. You’ll begin to get used to the unique voices and points of view of each panel member as the segment continues.

Thanks for joining me and if you’re interested in learning more about any of these four talented designers, check out to find links to their social sites.

For the rest of December, my Slow Flowers Podcast episodes are very special and I’m thrilled to share two new voices with you.

On Dec. 17th, you’ll meet Molly Oliver Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers, a farmer-florist who’s growing her botanical ingredients right in the heart of Brooklyn!

And then on Dec. 24th, I’m very pleased to welcome Emily Thompson, owner of Emily Thompson Flowers, another New York star, a floral designer whose wild, rustic style is at the same time thoroughly elegant and timeless.

I recorded both interviews in person while spending a few days in NYC after attending the Cut Flower Growers Association conference and I’ve been eagerly waiting to broadcast them.

To wrap up the year, on December 31st, we’ll be looking to the future. I’ll host an episode that includes my 2015 forecast for the floral industry. Yes, I have a crystal ball and I’m going to gaze into it and share my insights with you.


If you’re hoping for something special to show up in your stocking or under the tree this year, be sure to send the gifters in your life to to buy you a space at the design table next July when Slow Flowers and the Field to Vase blog produce Peony Party.

You’ll join Christina Stembel and me over four fabulous peony-filled days focusing on the cultivation and design of Alaska Peonies.

Find all the details at There are only 20 spaces so grab your spot soon!

My personal goal is to put more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. I promise that when you tune in next week, you’ll hear another insightful and educational episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Listeners like you have downloaded the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 27,000 times. If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at




SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: The Little Flower School of Brooklyn comes to Oregon (Episode 143)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


'Who needs a prince' - seriously great iris name!

‘Who needs a prince’ – seriously great iris name!

Last week was quite amazing in so many ways. First of all, I was on assignment for Country Gardens magazine, working with the uber-talented photographer Laurie Black, my collaborator in so many great articles that we’ve created over the years for editor James Baggett and art director Nick Crow.

With her partner-husband Mark King (ever the calm one and a genius when it comes to all the technical aspects of location photography), Laurie and I were tasked with capturing the story of Schreiner’s Iris Farm, the lovely and alluring bearded iris, and the two women who are nearly single-handedly reviving interest in these old-fashioned spring flowers. 

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Nicolette (left) and Sarah (right), at their happy place in the iris garden.

Those women are my guests today – Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua and Nicolette Owen of Nicolette Camille. While they independently own their own Brooklyn-based floral studios, together the friends collaborate as teachers through The Little Flower School of Brooklyn. 

'Oh Jamaica'

‘Oh Jamaica’

Smitten by the bearded iris, especially watercolor-washed varieties in apricot-peach-pink; smoky browns; mustardy-yellow; mahogany and silvery-lavender spectrums, Nicolette and Sarah have been fans of Schreiner’s Irises for years.

They worked with the Salem, Oregon-based, third-generation family farm to create a one-day Iris-intensive and invited students to join the fun.

Here’s how the workshop was described:

In this class, students will bask in the glory of the fields at peak bloom, and in a tour of the display gardens witness first hand the incredible diversity of color and form this unique perennial offers. We’ll discuss and demonstrate the tenets of composing an arrangement in our elegantly layered Little Flower School style. Special emphasis will be placed on flower selection, color blending and the mechanics of building a low lush sprawling arrangement without the use of floral foam. Working with the very best of the Schreiner’s specimens, along with a menagerie of other locally grown Oregon flowers, students will receive in-depth. one-on-one instruction as they build their own rambling garden style arrangement.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises and perennials.

Generous in sharing their knowledge, Sarah and Nicolette demonstrated with their favorite irises, annuals, foliage and perennials.

The day was packed with beauty and creativity. It was an inspired, sublime experience — from the first moment when we met, toured the gallery of irises and the gorgeous display beds showcasing irises and their favorite companion perennials — to an afternoon of floral design instruction. Meeting many members of the Schreiner family was a bonus! Thanks to Steve Schreiner, Ray Schreiner and sister Liz Schmidt (plus we met sister Paula, who stopped by while leading an iris tour for Portland’s Japanese Garden).

About 18 students gathered for the workshop, from established floral designers to apprentices and those considering a career switch, and me – a floral dilettante! Together, we fixated on Sarah and Nicolette’s language of flowers. 

These two communicate with such beautiful interlocking poetry and prose. And you’ll just have to wait for the summer 2015 issue of Country Gardens to learn more, read my story and see Laurie’s awesome photography!


Love these colorful benches at Schreiner's Iris Farm.

Love these colorful benches at Schreiner’s Iris Farm.

After our workshop, however, the three of us sat down in the double-Adirondack benches so generously provided by the Schreiner family. We talked a lot about the farmer-florist concept, the Slow Flowers movement, and the importance of staying close to the source of your flowers.


Nicolette at work.

Nicolette at work.

Here’s a little more about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn:

The Little Flower School is the teaching project of Nicolette Owen (Nicolette Camille) and Sarah Ryhanen (Saipua); each known for their loose, natural, garden-focused floral designs. Fueled by their reverence for flowers and penchant for travel, the two traverse the globe teaching, learning, and hunting down the most beautiful floral specimens.

Sarah and Nicolette first met over dinner in July of 2008 – a time when each of their separate floral businesses were first establishing. As distinct competitors, their friendship championed a spirit of collaboration and – they hope – has helped to foster an atmosphere of sharing and collaboration amidst a new wave of New York floral designers.

Students of The Little Flower School are men and women; novices, floral enthusiasts, designers in other medium, those looking to start their own floral business, and those with established floral businesses looking to broaden their design knowledge. Classes are seasonally oriented and often exalt a particular flower or design concept. 

Here’s more about Nicolette: 

Nicolette Owen runs her custom floral design studio, Nicolette Camille Floral, in Brooklyn NY. Her work is known for its romantic effusions, nuanced color and texture. Each arrangement is evocative of both the wild and formal garden. Nicolette’s first book collaboration, Bringing Nature Home, was released by Rizzoli in April 2012.


Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves - biannual and perennial forms.

Sarah extolling the virtues of foxgloves – biannual and perennial forms.

And more about Sarah: 

Sarah Ryhanen is a self taught flower designer, grower and  co-founder of Saipua. Her compositions have a haunting, sensual quality. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Vogue and Martha Stewart. She splits her time between the Saipua studio in Red Hook Brooklyn and Worlds End, her new flower farm in upstate NY.  And listen to my earlier podcast interview with Sarah here, in which we speak of her decision to begin growing her own flowers with her partner Eric Famisan.

Please enjoy this conversation and join in by sharing your comments below. 

Thank you for joining me this week. Because of the support from you and others, listeners have downloaded episodes of the Slow Flowers Podcast more than 12,200  times! I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts. 

If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. 

 The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts and  Andrew Wheatley. You can learn more about their work at

SLOW FLOWERS Podcast: Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua – a Brooklyn floral designer plants her own flower farm (Episode 110)

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013


Sarah Ryhanen of Saipua, is a Brooklyn floral designer who has planted her own flower farm (Episode 110)

Saipua means "soap" in Finnish, reflecting Sarah's family heritage.

Saipua means “soap” in Finnish, reflecting Sarah’s family heritage.


Nicolette and Sarah

Nicolette Owen (left) and Sarah Ryhanen (right), collaborators in The Little Flower School of Brooklyn.

I first learned about Sarah Ryhanen when I read an article about The Little Flower School of Brooklyn, a venture she had created with fellow floral designer Nicolette Owen of Nicolette Camille Floral. The article was in none other than the New York Times, in which the writer proclaimed the renaissance of old-fashioned floral design for modern-era crafters. 

Reading that article was like a huge floral flag being waved in front of my eyes.

Right on! The floral world I was so fascinated with documenting for The 50 Mile Bouquet was in good hands with these young, passionate, talented, urban designers. 

bowls and shears

All the supplies, beautiful, simple and ready for the flower arranging students at The Little Flower School of Brooklyn.

So like probably everyone else in the country, I started stalking Sarah through her web site and blog, and following Nicolette’s work through her web site and the lovely floral arrangements she created for Bringing Nature Home (Rizzoli, 2012), a book by photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo.

Welcome to Saipua

Welcome to Saipua + Flower School.

When I spent a few days in New York City last August, I contacted them to ask whether I could sit in on one of their workshops. The class was sold-out, of course, so I was just an observer. It was amazing to me that 12 persons (11 women and 1 man) gathered on a sweltering Saturday morning to create bowls of flowers in an un-airconditioned warehouse-studio in Brooklyn. There was so much excitement in the room, with a combination of newcomers and repeat students. People soaked up every word, concept and idea Sarah and Nicolette offered – and they were unabashedly proud of their own creations. 

Every detail was attended to in advance, as you can see by the photos I took that day. Sarah and Nicolette shared about their own design processes, about the way they select floral ingredients, and how they prefer to use materials like pin frogs and chicken wire (rather than foam). 

floral ingredients

Seasonal, locally-grown late summer flowers.

As the designs took shape, I had a bird’s eye view, perched in the tiny loft above the workshop. After students finished their arrangements, the women served them champagne and appetizers, like a fancy party. It’s no wonder these creative gatherings are so popular! It’s like going on an art retreat in the midst of your crazy, busy life. A moment in time that prompts anyone to feel more creative, more experimental, more artisitc.

When we met, one of the things Nicolette and Sarah and I discussed was the challenge of finding the flowers and botanicals they wanted and needed for special events, from weddings to workshops. Sarah told me that she and her partner Eric Famisan had recently purchased farmland in upstate New York, where they were in the early stages of planting a flower farm. 

students at work

A creative explosion of floral expression – enjoy this bird’s eye view.


Final bouquets

A still-life of the beautiful arrangements created by students of The Little Flower School of Brooklyn, August 2012.

Since then, I’ve watched as The Farm at World’s End has evolved, through Sarah and Eric’s wonderfully-photographed blog and honest, heartfelt text. 

Under a heading called “The Idea,” here’s what Sarah writes:

When the economy took a dive in 2008 we started to see a major loss in the NYC flower market. Loss of interesting product. The unusual, weedy, wild stuff that I was so into and that made my work unique. The trouble was that wholesalers had to be safe – the floral industry is one of the first to feel the blow of a weak economy. So wholesalers on the flower block of 28th street stuck to what they knew would sell; your South American hot house roses, ranunculus, lilies, peonies. Here’s a perfect example  — pre 2008 you could buy Garden Valley Roses (fragile, exquisite but expensive heirloom roses) on the block. 

Around that time I was starting to explore other outlets for material. We found local farms to supplement our market purchases (River Garden, Lebak, Added Value), and also started ordering product direct from the west coast – the promised land of flowers. 

Still there was always something I could not locate. Auricula, campanula “pantaloons”, black hellebores, unusual bearded iris…at Saipua we now spend hours and hours searching for the highest quality, most unusual flowers. Visiting flower farms and talking to growers is the best part of my job. You meet these crazy, passionate people and let me tell you – it’s contagious. Eventually you got to try growing yourself. So here we are.

On the flower block back in the city, the guys joke – when are you going to start selling us flowers? I try to explain to them (and to everyone who has not yet been to Worlds End) that it’s a slow process. That we’re years away from producing the opulent abundance that people envision when they hear “Flower Farm”. But I’ve come to realize that it’s not about quantity. I’m not in the business of hustling anymore. None of our work at Saipua will ever require thousands of stems.  It will however require a brown iris. And by god, I’m going to grow it.

Fortunately for listeners of The Slow Flowers Podcast, I had a quick 36-hour layover in New York a few weeks ago, en route to my Italian writing retreat. It coincided with a late afternoon opportunity to sit at the kitchen table in Sarah’s Brooklyn apartment, just around the corner from Saipua’s studio. We talked about farming, flowers and collaboration. Please enjoy the conversation.