Debra Prinzing

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Episode 587: Walking the Talk: Unpacking the Slow Flowers Manifesto and putting our six values into practice for your floral enterprise

Wednesday, December 7th, 2022

Today, I want to share a bonus episode with you — an updated lecture originally created for the FREESIA Summit, held in September 2022. FREESIA is an acronym for Florists Recognizing Environmental & Eco-Sustainable Ideas & Applications and the online conference was produced by Hitomi Gilliam and Colin Gilliam.

The presentation is called “Walking the talk” and it examines our Slow Flowers’ values and concepts and discusses how our members are putting them into practice. In this episode, I’ll introduce you to several Slow Flowers Society members and highlight their stories. You can have all the theory you want, but implementing these values is what will help you build a sustainable brand for your business.

Slow Flowers in flower letters
This SLOW FLOWERS image was designed by Nancy Cameron of Destiny Hill Flower Farm

I first started writing about the concept of Slow Flowers more than 10 years ago, coining the phrase “Slow Flowers” as a way to describe the values of slow, seasonal and domestic flowers. We defined the term Slow Flowers and what it reflects as a cultural shift: “A movement that encourages consumers to purchase locally-grown flowers and connects them with the source, from the flower farmer to the floral designer.”

During one of the open chat sessions during the FREESIA Summit, an audience member commented:  “We have to find a network of like-minded professionals to gather together and support our work,” and I had to pause and say: “That’s what Slow Flowers is!” That’s our laser-focused mission. Specifically, the Slow Flowers Movement has two audiences. We have the floral industry and we have consumers, and really, our message is constantly talking about the benefits of local, seasonal, and domestic flowers. And we want to influence floral buying practices of both groups.

Some people say, “Is it mainstream yet?” According to Keyhole, a social media tracker, in a recent 365-day period, the hashtag #slowflowers, created 67 million social media impressions. the term is now being used worldwide to really communicate and convey sustainability. Our members use the Slow Flowers affiliation to elevate and amplify their branding and marketing. They use it to telegraph to their customers and clients what they’re all about.

An important model for the Slow Flowers Movement is the Slow Food Movement. Many of you know about Slow Food, that phenomenal organization founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini in Italy, as an organization that promotes local food and traditional cooking and really. Slow Food was an anti-fast food response to what was happening in the culinary world. We took similar inspiration to shine a light on what has happened over the past 3 decades in the floral marketplace. Yes, I blatantly borrowed the adjective “slow” and added the word “flowers” to it.

Slow Food has a manifesto and so I thought it be only fitting if Slow Flowers had one, too. I wrote our Slow Flowers Manifesto in 2017, as a call to action and to help our members define the spirit of their work and their own mission.

Slow Flowers lecture title slide Walking the Talk

Let’s talk about the six values that are featured in the Slow Flowers Manifesto, and I’ll break them down by theme and what our members are doing to really reflect those values.

Slow Flowers Manifesto_Value one
The Slow Flowers Challenge (c) Debra Prinzing

Our first value is “To recognize and respect the seasons by celebrating and designing with flowers when they naturally bloom.”

As a guiding principle, we are influenced by what we see in the Slow Food movement, where people are saying, “To really celebrate flavor and the best food available is to eat it in season.” The strawberry’s lack of flavor in January is a frequent example given, but if you get it right off the vine or right off the plant in the middle of summer, there’s nothing more pure as the essence of season.

Similarly, we see this in the flower world. I think the idea of seasonality is universal and relatable to gardeners, and it certainly makes sense to me, since I come out from horticulture as a garden writer. During the pandemic, we saw something like 23 million new people who entered gardening during the shut-down. Having conversations about seasonality is important, because people are understanding they need to connect to nature more than ever.

The phrase “Slow Flowers” first appears in my books. I wrote The 50 Mile Bouquet in 2012 and used the phrase Slow Flowers throughout that book, kind of as a shorthand to explain to people what the topic was about.

The following year in 2013, I wrote a follow-up book called Slow Flowers, in which I set out to create a bouquet each week from my cutting garden in Seattle, using what grew there in season. It was a experiment to say, “You know what? There’s a dormant season in winter; it’s quieter, my design palette includes twigs and conifers. I asked: Can I create an arrangement as aesthetically pleasing as an expression of the current season, with as much excitement as I might during the peak of summer when everything’s exploding?”

The Slow Flowers book stimulated wonderful responses. There was a Slow Flowers Challenge in 2014 that started when one of my readers began using the hashtag #theslowflowerschallenge and sharing it on social media, asking other gardeners to join her. Inspired by her effort, we took it upon ourselves to create an opportunity for everybody to post and share images of their seasonal, garden-inspired arrangements. Flower lovers, gardeners, and florists joined in to create an arrangement every week, posting and sharing — it really exploded.

While I was out presenting lectures and presentations at flower shows, garden clubs, and other venues, I heard from audiences who said to me, “Okay, Debra, I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid; I believe in what you’re talking about, but how do I find farmers and florists who are sourcing locally?”

I was asked the same question by my peers in the media who were interested in the renaissance that was taking place in our floral marketplace. In response, I launched in 2014, and began to use the platform to highlight our members as sources for local flowers.

Flower farmers and florists joined very early on to be part of the Movement. For example, farmer-florist Beth Syphers of Salem, Oregon-based Crowley House Flower Farm, joined as a member. She uses her association to promote the unique garden roses and other amazing crops her farm grows for the floral trade.

I was really fortunate, at the very beginning of this journey, to partner with local flower farmers in the Pacific Northwest, including those who formed the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in 2011, including Crowley House Flower Farm. I like to say I was their embedded journalist.

The farmers of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market are focused on bringing premium couture flowers to the florists of their region. They have differentiated local flowers from imported flowers and commercially-grown flowers.

I attribute the secret of their success to specializing in flowers that can’t be shipped or only bloom for a short period of time, like the beautiful lilacs which are grown by Jello Mold Farm in Washington’s Skagit Valley. Jello Mold is pictured on the cover of The 50 Mile Bouquet and you heard owners Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall on this podcast recently. As a storyteller, by partnering with the Growers Market and its farmers, I focused more people’s attention on locality of flowers.

The natural evolution of interviewing flower farmers led to connections with their customers, who are the florists, like Melissa Feveyear of Terra Bella Flowers,  based in Seattle. She highlights seasonal flowers in her shop and educates her customers about her farm sources as part of her branding, such as her Instagram post: “Support Local Growers.” In fact, Melissa was a founding member of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, the only florist to join with the growers in launching the co-op.

These actions inspired other florists. Tammy Myers, of First & Bloom, also in the Seattle area, specializes in locally grown and American grown everyday flowers. She is rebranding for 2023 with the “eco-florist” tagline. After 9 years in business, her mission hasn’t changed.

Melissa and Tammy are among 850 florists and flower farmers, farmer-florists, retailers, wholesalers, and designers who are Slow Flowers Society practitioners.

Slow Flowers Value Number Two
Above: Adam O’Neal of PepperHarrow Farm in Winterset, Iowa (c) PepperHarrow Farm

Clearly, we all can see the benefits of supporting local flowers –our first mandate. These concepts inform value number two, which is really all about the transportation footprint.

In the past decade especially, as our community of flower farmers and floral designers, consumers and floral enthusiasts is gaining momentum, we are seeing people who view their floral purchases in the same way they spend their food dollars, with the goal of sourcing our flowers as close to home as possible. In North America, that’s obviously a challenge, because many areas have winter weather conditions, and so that’s where we really rely on flowers from warmer states like Hawaii, California, Florida, or even Oregon and Washington, but local is clearly the value that segues into this issue of the flower transportation conversation.

We wanted to know consumer attitudes about the correlation between where their flowers are grown and how they are purchased.

There hasn’t been a baseline understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviors for a long time, in terms of understanding their concern about local. In 2021, we partnered with the National Gardening Association and their annual National Garden Survey, which conducts a scientifically accurate survey of 2,500 households across the US, mainly asking them about lawn and garden trends and purchases and behaviors.

For two years, we have asked, “How important is it to you that the flowers you purchase are locally grown?”

In 2022, 65% said it is very or somewhat important; and that is up from 58% in 2021. This is very encouraging. We’re going to keep asking this question and measuring how the trend line is going.

We asked a second question, “How important is it to you to buy US grown cut flowers?” The response was not quite as high as the question around local flowers, but it’s still impressive, with 61% of respondents saying it is very or somewhat important; and that is up from 57% in 2021.

The National Gardening Survey is consumer-focused, which is why we also survey Slow Flowers members every year on issues and concerns that relate to their businesses. As I mentioned earlier our members include flower farmers, florists, studio and wedding and event florists, retail florists, and also people that define themselves as farmer-florists, as well as wholesalers and suppliers.

This past year, we asked, “What type of local support are you currently experiencing?”

89% of our respondents said that more customers are interested in my floral enterprise because it’s local.

45% said more customers are requesting locally grown flowers for their designs, so that’s really affirming.

Let’s talk about some of the things that we are seeing in context of the transportation footprint. The old-fashioned, original dictionary definition of FLORIST is one who is in the business of raising or selling flowers and ornamental plants. It’s a concept that’s having a comeback because of the Slow Flowers movement and an interest in locally grown flowers.

So, we asked our members, “What percentage of the flowers used in your designs do you grow yourself?”

A very large percentage, 55%, said that they grow 76 to 100% of the flowers used in their own designs. Only about 10% of our respondents saying they don’t grow any of their own flowers.

As an extension, we asked, “How important is it to you and your business to purchase US made products for use in your floral designs?” This relates more to the whole issue of hard goods and accessories. A year ago, we hadn’t quite felt the pinch of supply chain.

Now, we’re seeing an increased focus on reusing vases, recycling, repurposing — a lot of innovation is taking place in fighting supply chain challenges. I just wanted to mention one interesting example of this way to address supply shortages. Tammy Myers, of First & Bloom, who I mentioned in the first section recently partnered with an organization here in Seattle called Ridwell. Ridwell is a private recycling company that takes items that municipalities don’t have a recycling method for, including light bulbs and batteries and plastic bags. Tammy created a pilot project with Ridwell to recycle glass vases that homeowners have collected under their sinks or in cupboards. I believe they ran this project in two neighborhoods with an overwhelming response.

Tammy has created vase collections of these recycled vessels, by shape and size, from bud vases to centerpiece sizes, and is re-selling them at an affordable rate to cover her costs to supply local florists who need a regular quantity of vases and have had trouble sourcing them. We’ll be following this story as it unfolds. It’s encouraging to see how one person has diverted used glass vases from landfills.

To understand local, we wanted to explore flower sourcing and that goes back to the farm and the wholesaler. What does local mean? Some of the things that people would consider local include growing your own cutting garden; wild-gathering, buying farm-direct, or ordering from a farm one or two state away, or shopping for Certified American Grown flowers. I like to describe it as the pebble in the pond approach, with the goal of sourcing as close to home as possible.

When I wrote The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was very much inspired by the food mile, so I started my own cutting garden. I like to call it the five-step bouquet, because it is right outside my backyard.

Major wholesalers are responding to florist requests for local and American grown flowers, like a poster that Mayesh Wholesale Florist hung in their Portland branch, which reads: “Mayesh is Proud to Offer Local + American Grown Product,” and they’ve used this graphic on some of their sponsorship branding with Slow Flowers.

We know, good or bad, that grocery accounts for 50% of all floral sales and grocery customers want locally grown flowers. But not all grocery stores put a priority on supplying domestic or local flowers. We are thrilled that Town & Country Markets, a family- owned grocery chain in the Seattle area with six stores, are Slow Flowers members. Every year, Town & Country produces a special floral department promotion during American Flowers Week to highlight the local flower farms, which, of course, we love.

Whole Foods, certainly before their Amazon ownership, and even now, region by region, partners with local farmers. Our members Chet and Kristy Anderson of The Fresh Herb Company in Boulder, Colorado, for example, supply all of the Whole Foods branches in the Rocky Mountain region. Their program is so big, they’re delivering flowers to the Whole Foods distribution center, which supplies something like 12 stores across the Rocky Mountain region.

Individual Whole Foods stores also partner with growers to bring hyper-local flowers to their customers. For example, the Williams family of WilMor Farms in Metter, Georgia, supply the Whole Foods outlet in Savannah, Georgia. They support WilMor Farms with in-store signage, at the point-of-purchase and on bunches and bouquet labels.

I encourage people to define local on their own terms. If you put in the work, you can find local flowers everywhere. Yet LOCAL is a rather elusive term.  We researched whether there was a U.S. Government definition of “Local.” The USDA’s Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act defines local as a maximum 400-mile distance between where a product is produced and where it is consumed, or in the state in which the product is produced.

Slow Flowers Manifesto: Value Three
Local flowers – From the garden and farm (c) Debra Prinzing

Okay, let’s talk about Value Number Three. “To support flower farmers small and large by crediting them, when possible, through proper labeling at the wholesale and consumer level.”

When we see florists including “local messaging” into their branding, we know it captures the imagination of clients who care about how their money is spent. By supporting farmers small and large when we credit them, it helps everyone who is in the business of selling domestic and local flowers. This is very much about transparency in labeling. When people join Slow Flowers Society as a member, we say to them, “You don’t have to be 100% local or domestic in your sourcing, you just have to be willing to be transparent with consumers. If someone’s asking for local flowers in a particular category, for example, and you can’t supply it because you only have imported, you just have to be honest and tell them.” Through education, we’re encouraging flower farmers to develop relationships or partnerships with wholesalers. With strong farmers, with an increase in flower farming as a viable economic enterprise in agriculture, the equation benefits us all.

There has been a huge explosion of regional wholesale models, including collectives, cooperatives and other marketing networks. Inspired by the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, which opened in 2011, regional hubs are popping up across North America, as farmers open their own wholesale operations to sell direct to florists.

Every single week I receive an inquiry from somebody who wants resources on how to start their own collective in their region, perhaps with as few as three flower farmers coming together with a central location to sell their flowers. You can learn more in the webinar that we produced with Johnny’s Seeds in 2021, called Producer Cooperatives for Small Scale Farms, which is available for free to watch on their website.

There are also new online selling platforms emerging to help flower farmers with technology, so Gather Flora is out of the West Coast in California, Rooted Farmers is based out of the East Coast. Each of these models has unique proprietary software, created by people who saw a need for a platform that allows farmers to upload their inventory and make it easy for florists to shop from multiple farms at once, so this is a real connection, a missing link. When I started, I envisioned that Slow Flowers would be a tool to help consumers and florists find flower farmers, but I’m not an eCommerce expert and I never wanted to do transactions through the site, so I really applaud these groups that are coming together to solve that pain point to help flower farmers sell their product professionally to florists.

I mentioned earlier the benefit to florists who base their brands on local sourcing, and here’s just one florist I want to highlight. Pilar Zuniga is based in the Oakland area. Her studio is called Gorgeous and Green and her online store prominently offers local flowers.

Not only do I think this is really important, we often see florists who feature their farm sources on their blogs and websites. For example, Grace Flowers Hawaii on the Big Island, owned by Allison Higgins, recently posted a story about Daisy Dukes Farm, which is one of their local flower sources, which we love to see. These are simple things anybody can do, in terms of just educating your customers about your values.

Hometown Flower Company, our members based on Long Island, is another example. Owner Jaclyn Rutigliano is a third-generation florist, whose family were conventional florists. She has reimagined a new model for floristry, saying, “I want to focus on local.” One of the ways Hometown Flower Company communicates this brand attribute is through a map of Long Island that shows exactly where their flower farms and partners are located along the island. It’s really fun to see this map and realize that one little business is supporting a lot of flower farmers.

Back to our Slow Flowers member surveys, we captured florists’ increasing desire to go to the source, which is completely disrupting how flowers are sold. We asked our members, “What percentage of your cut flower purchases are through farm-direct channels?” Almost 40% report that it’s 76 to 100% of how they buy flowers. I just want to comment that this trending pattern is exactly one of the reasons why wholesalers are ramping up their focus on local-sourced flowers within their branches, using signage and labeling to telegraph that they, too, are working with local florists.

In last year’s member survey we also asked, “If you purchase from conventional wholesale florists, are you finding more American grown and local options than in the past?”

70% of our respondents said yes, so I think that’s just something that we’re going to see more of across the board. And this is an encouraging trendline.

Value number four: “To encourage sustainable and organic farming practices that respect people and the environment.”

You can see a great example of this value on the homepage of Le Mera Gardens, in Ashland, Oregon. Joan Thorndike has operated Le Mera Gardens for more than 30 years. Long before Slow Flowers was even a term, Joan sought organic certification. She says, as a mother who always had her children on the farm with her, she wanted her children to be safe, but she also wanted her florists and their children to be safe and their consumers to be safe.

We discussed florists who feature the farms they source from – as a way to inform their customers. Joan has flipped it around and she lists the florists who carry Le Mera’s local flowers. Joan wants to let people know, “Here are the florists who buy their flowers from our farm; please go patronize them.” I love this reciprocity.

In terms of Sustainability, there are many definitions, but one widely used example is a definition from the United Nations: “Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

So, what does it mean in the floral trade? I love a little sign I found years ago on a counter of a flower shop in Portland that reads: “We compost all floral cuttings.” It’s just a simple sign that goes a long way to communicate sustainability. That particular florist was located next to a farm-to-table restaurant, which made a big deal about composting their food waste, so she felt like she wanted to get in on that act, and it was a small but smart gesture. Kelsey Ruhland of Foxbound Flowers in Eugene, Oregon, recently shared that she weighs her flower waste every single week before putting it into the municipal compost collection, because she’s trying to document, over the course of a year, how much flower waste she’s composting, which is an extra step. Clearly it takes work – and intentionality – to be sustainable. But letting your market know what you’re doing is important.

One of the best ways to teach the values of sustainable flowers takes place when consumers and florists can step onto a flower farm. We did a report for Johnny’s Seeds featuring the ways that farmers are staging on-farm events as an education, a marketing, and a community-building tool.

Staging open houses or farm tours clearly nurture organic, in-person connections between consumers and local flowers. The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, especially before COVID, regularly held open days at their member farms. Usually held on a Sunday, families were invited for a day of festivities, and a lot of florists came for the country experience and to see where the flowers that they buy, week in and week out, were grown.

There are a few other sustainable themes I’d like to discuss. As a home gardener who is 100% organic in my own backyard, I understand sustainable farming practices. While I don’t plant cover crops, there are some practices I emulate, such as rotating planting areas and harvesting rainwater.

Not all flower farms can achieve a USDA organic certification. There are other third-party designations that evaluate sustainable practices, such as the Certified Naturally Grown program, a peer-to-peer farmer evaluation that was formed because of all the rigor and difficulty of becoming certified through the USDA.

In the Pacific Northwest we see farms seeking Salmon-Safe certification. This is a label seen on Oregon and Washington wines as a way to telegraph to consumers that their vineyard farming practices have been designated to be safe for salmon habitat. The flower farmers at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market have gone through this evaluation and they view it as another way to communicate to consumers that they’re serious about their practices.

At Jello Mold, Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall have also hosted floral departments from local grocery stores, so that the staff gain product knowledge and education. At Right Field Farm in Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C., David Brunton and his family send a weekly email to their CSA customers. The email tells everybody what’s happening on this small family farm; what they’re growing; something unique about a particular variety that’s available that week; where people can also buy their flowers at the local natural grocery store. The highly personalized communication nurtures authentic connections between people and flowers.

Slow Flowers Manifesto Value Five
Myriah Towner, documentary producer of Black Farmer Stories

We added Value Five in 2020. This was an important action, in response to our desire to proactively pursue equity, inclusion and representation in the floral marketplace with as much support as we give to environmental sustainability.

Personally, I was inspired by one of my mentors, a Black horticulture professional and friend through the gardening industry; She pointed out that the missing component of sustainability so often overlooked is human sustainability.

We believe that supporting environmental sustainability is only part of the equation. We have to show we care as much about representation, inclusion, and equity in the floral industry as we do our environmental choices, so this value five is really important.

Slow Flowers is committed to expanding our inclusion, representation and diversity, including through our partnership with Bloom Imprint, which is our book publishing venture owned with Robin Avni. Earlier in 2022, Bloom Imprint published Black Flora by Teresa J.  Speight, which features top Black farmers and florists across the U.S.

Black Flora amplify the voices of not only floriculture professionals, but agricultural and horticultural professionals. Why is it important to feature Black florists and flower farmers? When young and emerging floral professionals see someone who looks like them practicing professionally, it sends such a important message about the values that we have. Among the many other inspiring floral entrepreneurs, you’ll want to meet Dee Hall of Mermaid City Flower Farm in Norfolk, Virginia. She started Black Flower Farmers last year as a community group for specialty cut flower growers across the U.S., and we really want to support this expanding farming group.

Flower farmer Aishah Lurry owns Patagonia Flower Farm, and she is both a Slow Flowers member as well as active in the Black Flower Farmers group. Aishah has created an incredibly vibrant local business in a market that, honestly, never had local flowers, in Tucson, Arizona, so she’s really changing people’s definition of what’s local. When you see that she’s growing lisianthus and tulips in the high desert, it’s kind of mind-blowing. She’s just a real leader in the industry.

By supporting Black floral professionals and other people of color in the floral industry, we all benefit from connections and shared values. One leader is Valerie Crisostomo, an Atlanta-based wedding and event florist. She started Black Girl Florists in 2020 . It’s an organization much like Slow Flowers, a network of Black florists across the US. They’ve become a real important resource for each other and to share a unified voice. Black Girl Florists had their first conference in 2022, it included wedding and event professionals, as well as florists and flower farmers.

One of the other groups recently emerging on Instagram is Florists of Color, a feed to be celebrated. It’s hosted by Pilar Zuniga of Gorgeous and Green; I mentioned her earlier. A Latina florist, Pilar has expanded representation of all Florists of Color, including indigenous and Asian and Pacific Islanders and all Black and brown florists and flower farmers through the Instagram account. I encourage you all to join me in elevating and promoting representation and justice in the floral marketplace. Let’s ensure the growth and sustainability of the people in our profession.

Slow Flowers Manifesto Value Six
Organically-grown flowers from the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden (c) Debra Prinzing

Let’s wrap up with our last value, value number six, “to eliminate waste and the use of chemical products in the floral industry.”

We just have to look at the media coverage around Queen Elizabeth’s recent funeral to see that the topic of floral industry waste is a global issue. I illustrated this point with a story published in September by CBC News in Canada, critiquing the amount of plastic wrapping accumulated from all the bouquets that were left at Buckingham Palace and other places to commemorate Queen Elizabeth.

Perhaps all those flower bouquet purchase were good for flower retailers, but the criticism generated by scenes of plastic trash by the container loads was disheartening, especially since most of that cellophane is not recyclable. One of our members, Becky Feasby of Prairie Girl Flowers, was quoted in the article questioning whether there are other ways that packaging can be changed to reduce plastic.

On a positive note, it was encouraging to also read coverage about the flowers in the wreath placed on Queen Elizabeth’s coffin — and the fact that they came from gardens that were important to both her and to King Charles III. I love this sentence that caught my eyes: “At His Majesty’s request, this wreath is made in a totally sustainable way, in a nest of English moss and oak branches, and without the use of floral foam.” I think we have Shane Connolly to thank for that influence on King Charles III.

Increasingly, people are concerned about the single-use plastics in the floral industry. In last year’s Slow Flowers Member Survey, we asked, “What percentage of your design work uses alternatives to floral foam?” 75% of our respondents said 75 to 100% of their work is foam-free.

We also asked our members to identify the foam-free mechanics they used.  95% of our respondents identified chicken wire, which, of course, we know about. The other top ones were pin frogs, hairpin frogs, Holly Chapple’s Syndicated eggs and cages, chicken wire and moss, taped grids, and other organic mechanics like branches.

Another organization you’ll want to check out is The Sustainable Floristry Network. Founded by Australian florist Rita Feldmann, SFN features several of our Slow Flowers members as ambassadors, including Susan McLeary, Becky Feasby, Pilar Zuniga, and Tobey Nelson. Slow Flowers has joined on as an advisor. One of their statements really moves me. It says: “We can’t wait for the day the Sustainable Floristry Network closes its doors. On that day, floristry will be carbon neutral, non-toxic and waste-free, with safe and fair conditions for all working in the industry. We’ll get there when all sides of floristry come together, creating a system that equally supports our passion, our livelihoods, and the planet

Slow Flowers spelled out in flower petals
Another beautiful Slow Flowers vignette, created by our friends at Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Slow Flowers supports this statement and Slow Flowers is synonymous with local, seasonal, and sustainable, and inclusive floristry and flower farming. Since our origins more than a decade ago, we have been advocating, often quietly and often seen as a fringe element in the marketplace, and now, it’s so gratifying to see what an influence we have brought to the industry, changing the conversation, and bringing our values into the mainstream.

I think everybody who gardens will find the mental health benefits of growing their own flowers. And when that happens, the floral consumer is enlightened and engaged in sustainable issues that relate to our profession.

There is so much more to share, and I hope you’ll get more involved, whether you’re already a member or if you wish to learn more. Click here to join us as a member!

Download PDF of the Walking the Talk slideshow below:

Thank you to our Sponsors

This show is brought to you by, the free, online directory to more than 850 florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

Farmgirl Flowers 2022

Thank you to our lead sponsor, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $10 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually. Discover more at

Thank you to CalFlowers, the leading floral trade association in California, providing valuable transportation and other benefits to flower growers and the entire floral supply chain in California and 48 other states. The Association is a leader in bringing fresh cut flowers to the U.S. market and in promoting the benefits of flowers to new generations of American consumers. Learn more at

Thank you to Store It Cold, creators of the revolutionary CoolBot, a popular solution for flower farmers, studio florists and farmer-florists.  Save $1000s when you build your own walk-in cooler with the CoolBot and an air conditioner.  Don’t have time to build your own?  They also have turnkey units available. Learn more at   

Thank you to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. Its mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at

Slow Flowers Podcast Logo with flowers, recorder and mic

Thanks so much for joining me today! The Slow Flowers Podcast is a member-supported endeavor, downloaded more than 900,000 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 our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too.

If you’re new to our weekly Show and our long-running Podcast, check out all of our resources at

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Show & Podcast. The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. 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.  Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more Slow Flowers on the table, one stem, one vase at a time.

Music credits:

Enter the Room; Turning on the Lights; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions

by Tryad

In The Field

Episode 487: Slow Flowers Floral Insights & Industry Forecast for 2021

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

The Pursuit of Nature

This Forecast began seven years ago in 2014 when I began documenting shifts and changes in the Slow Flowers Movement. I recently described the origins of this important exercise in my new online course, Taking Stock and Looking Ahead [P.S. follow this link to learn how you can take this free course as my gift to you.]

Here’s how I remember it:
In 2014, when I launched as an online directory of American flowers and the growers and florists who supplied them, I worked with two talented public relations friends to get the word out to the media. While planning a visit to meet with lifestyle and garden magazine editors in New York, one of the PR experts urged me to create a Power Point slide deck that included an overview of floral trends I associated with the emerging Slow Flowers movement.

In creating that deck, which became my first forecast for 2015 (see above), I learned a few important lessons. I share this in the context of the social media term “impostor syndrome,” because it’s no surprise — we all feel that sometimes. When Lola and Marla encouraged me to write a trend forecast, at first I thought: Who am I to forecast trends? Isn’t that a role only for the experts?

Their response: You have a point of view and it’s based on hundreds of interviews that you conduct for articles and for your Podcast over the course of each year. See what bubbles up from those topics and themes that excites you about the year to come.

I realized that since I was the one who conducted those interviews and wrote those articles, I was viewing trends through my own lens and filter — the Slow Flowers perspective.

When I shared that Power Point deck with editors and had positive responses (as in, they took it seriously during our meetings), I later decided to post the 10 insights on my blog and record a Slow Flowers Podcast episode about it. You can go back and listen to episode 174 from December 31, 2014

The Power Point deck I shared with editors became a blog post and, as I mentioned, the Podcast show notes. Then I shared it with Slow Flowers members in my monthly newsletter. And then a few floral trade publications picked it up.

As a result, I became an “Accidental Forecaster”, and that has elevated Slow Flowers’ unique and relevant viewpoint in the floral marketplace. I’ve learned some valuable lessons. We’re no longer waiting for Martha Stewart or Oprah or Chip and Joanna to tell us what’s on trend. Each of us can speak with an authentic voice about our observations, key cultural shifts and new creative directions in the floral space. In the end, the forecast is a tool; a roadmap that helps me and others consider what is around the bend or across the horizon. It sparks conversation and sometimes, to be honest, it sparks controversy.

The Pursuit of Nature

So let’s get started! I have 10 insights to share with you for the year to come. I’m calling our 2021 Report: “In Pursuit of Nature,” and you can understand why, right?

As we enter 2021, at least in the short term, not much will feel different from the past nine months. And if there is anything we’ve learned since mid-March 2020, it’s the essential and irreplaceable role of flowers and plants for our survival. And that’s why my outlook is deeply connected to humankind’s pursuit of nature — and how floral entrepreneurs like you can and should tap into and enhance that pursuit through your efforts.

I learned about the term “Biophilia” in October 2019 when I interviewed Tom Precht and Sarah Daken of Grateful Gardeners. Tom is a big advocate of Biophilia and he opened my eyes to its relevance as we make personal and business decisions that impact our planet’s survival. He discussed the definition when I interviewed him, but here it is again, according to Merriam Webster:
Biophilia: “a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature

All you have to do is read the headlines of 2020 to see a collective shift toward nature, plants, the environment – and yes, flowers.

A recent article in the Washington Post caught my attention. The headline reads: The isolation of the pandemic caused her to form a new and intense relationship to nature. She was hardly alone. The benefits of being outdoors for your physical and mental well-being are well documented, but in this coronavirus era, they may be immeasurable.”

A Forbes headline reads: “Nature Is Good For Your Mental Health, Sometimes”

The University of Washington shared this research: “Dose of nature at home could help mental health, well-being during COVID-19” The report stated:

“Studies have proven that even the smallest bit of nature — a single tree, a small patch of flowers, a house plant — can generate health benefits,” said Kathleen Wolf, a UW research social scientist in the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. “Look closely in your neighborhood, and the bit of nature you may have taken for granted up until now may become the focus of your attention and help you feel better.”

What are we watching for in 2021? The Slow Flowers Community’s experiences of 2020 definitely inform what is top of mind for 2021. Over the past several years, as we’ve devoted considerable time and resources to educate consumers and professionals alike; and thankfully, we are coming off a year when the attention of many turned to the Slow Flowers Movement.

Locally-grown, seasonal and sustainable flowers answer questions about a safe and reliable supply of flowers. Awareness our Movement continues to increased as floral consumers and florists alike shifted their focus to what’s closer to home. Panic over the international floral supply chains has quickly turned to a subtle but significant and newfound understanding that if we don’t nurture and support our local flower supply, there may come a day when farmland has been converted to real estate developments; where commitment to a safer, more sustainable earth has been displaced by convenience.

The anecdotal feedback I’m hearing is heartening. I received an email recently from a leader in, shall I say, “mainstream” floristry, who wrote:

“After two decades of thinking traditional wholesaler connections were the only way to run a floral studio or shop, I’m slowly starting to learn about local flower-farmers and am constantly in awe of their entrepreneurial spirit, and can’t imagine how much hard work goes into what they do. For that, I want to give them as much business as I can! I know that you had a big hand in getting this trend in motion and I thank you for that!”

As we seek new and diverse voices in the Slow Flowers Movement, I believe we will continue to witness a positive shift to a more progressive, inclusive, conscious marketplace for the flowers you grow and design with. And we will continue to document the shift with stories, interviews and resources to encourage you.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to our 2021 Slow Flowers Member Survey, more than 200 of you, who I mentioned during last week’s “Year in Review” report, is triple past year’s participation.

In addition to the Survey, which asked members to share about their floral businesses, including emerging themes and topics important to them, this Forecast is informed by my 2020 storytelling — first-person interviews for print and digital Slow Flowers Journal stories, interviews with more than one-hundred Slow Flowers Podcast guests, and conversations with thought-leaders in floral design, flower farming and related creative professions.

I hope you find these insights and the 2021 forecast valuable to you. You may hear some themes that resonate with you and I’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions about what you agree with and what topics you wish we included.

You can Download a PDF of the 2021 Forecast here:

#1 Floral Wellness

Molly Culver of Molly Oliver Flowers in Brooklyn created the “Seasonal Flower Project” in 2020 — a popular local-flower subscription program that supported her favorite farms and put those flowers in the hands of people eager to connect with nature. Listen to our interview with Molly in Episode 451

The yearning for a connection to nature is truly unprecedented in our society, something many of you witnessed first-hand when Mother’s Day 2020 shattered prior years’ records for floral sales. Demand added up to three words: People. Need. Flowers.

In past Forecasts, I’ve touched on similar themes, including the popularity of Aromatherapy Bars (2018) and the Year of the Houseplant (2019). Floral Wellness is more sweeping in its meaning. More than ever, consumers and their senses are drawn to your blooms. They are drawn for fragrance and scent, for medicinal qualities, for skin and body care benefits, for nutritional meals, palette-satisfying beverages, and for — above all — their mental health.

I define Floral Wellness as
An embrace of the therapeutic importance of flowers, both in our own environments and as a meaningful way to share with others. Floral Wellness nurtures a positive and habitual desire to have flowers in our lives and as an expression of our desire for others to also experience flowers’ emotional, physical, mental and psychic value.

This idea can be manifested in ways both simple and accessible to your clients, as well as more ambitious endeavors. From the rise of flower workshops (in person at a safe distance or in many virtual forms) to the explosion of CSA subscriptions as more consumers desired more flowers, Floral Wellness took root in 2020 and is yours to nurture and enhance with new offerings to your community in 2021.

A few comments bubbled up from our 2021 Member Survey that underscore this idea and I’ll share them here:

“People want more flowers!”
“More local and more of it!”
“I believe local will become more desired.”
“People want to bring more flowers into their homes and are getting into floral design as a hobby.”
“Flowers bring smiles and happiness in times when we need it most.”
“I think people will be more oriented towards decorating their living spaces. Also, gifting flowers to loved ones.”

“Customers may start treating themselves with fresh flowers.”
“As work-from-home becomes normalized, the interest in gardening/flowers/natural world grows.”
“I’m seeing a desire for more beauty and more positivity.”

This insight’s key takeaway for you: Use a megaphone to share your story, your flowers, and your belief that flowers are essential to our wellness and health.

#2 The Virtual Florist

All images from “Designer’s Choice,” a July 2020 Slow Flowers Journal Report in Florists’ Review — featuring (clockwise, from top left): greenSinner, Maple + Mum, Floral Alchemy, Sellwood Flower Co. and Studio Artiflora

What do I mean by the Virtual Florist? We’re living in a world of “virtual” everything, so the term is truly relevant and timely. In the Slow Flowers Community, we spent 2020 covering the ascent of virtual floristry, through our podcast interviews, in Slow Flowers Journal stories, and during our weekly and monthly Slow Flowers member virtual meet-ups. For the Virtual Florist, innovation and creativity meet a marketplaces of Covid-imposed limitations and constraints.

The Virtual Florist
is adaptable, flexible and inventive in finding ways to successfully deliver flowers to his or her community.
The Virtual Florist utilizes technology and serves customers’ needs where they are. The Virtual Florist disrupts “definitions” of what type of florist you may have been in the past.

This means you might own a retail flower store, but you’ve added an online shop; or, you’re studio-based, but you now offer everyday flowers through contact-free curbside delivery; or, you’ve never grown flowers before, but this year you’ve planted thousands of tulip bulbs to sell from your front porch using only your neighborhood’s Facebook page to get out the word (that’s a real story about one of our members!)

The Virtual Florist consults, teaches and inspires in new ways, too. Virtual floristry is more egalitarian and transparent. Anyone can turn on a camera and film a demonstration or tutorial for IGTV, Facebook Live, YouTube and on other platforms — the field is more level than before. It’s not just the “big names” who are attracting audiences, especially because the return to expensive, in-person workshops will be slow and gradual.

This insight’s key takeaway for you: Dial up your imagination. What may have began as a coping mechanism to stay busy or stimulate creativity is now a new business opportunity. Develop and invest time and resources into at least one virtual component of your floral enterprise. Be ready to connect with your community whose shopping habits have dramatically changed, perhaps forever.

#3 Flowers in a Box

Mail-order Floral Offerings from Slow Flowers members, clockwise from top left: Petals by the Shore, Postal Petals, Harmony Harvest Farm and Flora Fun Box

Shipping flowers is nothing new, but until this moment, only a few successful companies were getting it right.

In our 2018 forecast, I identified the early adopters behind this shift with the insight “Flower Farmers Launch Direct-Ship Wholesale Programs,” so what’s new about “Flowers in a Box?”

Now, based on necessity, we are witnessing more models, most consumer-direct, designed to move local and seasonal flowers from point A to point B, with more Slow Flowers members experimenting in the world of boxed and shipped blooms.

Slow Flowers members who had never before shipped flowers began to do so in 2020. The first report we shared about this shift can be heard in early April when I interviewed Mandy O’Shea of 3 Porch Farm about the decision to ship early spring flowers when local farmers’ markets and on-farm sales were impossible. It was a survival strategy that foreshadowed a strategic business shift. You can find a link to that conversation in Episode 448.

Flowers in a Box covers a diversity of methods and formats, from overnight shipping of bulk flowers, arrangements, floral packages for weddings and more.

Members are also experimenting with the shipping of dried flowers and live plants. And others are mixing design tutorials into the mix (a nod to Insight #2 and The Virtual Florist).

This past fall, we published a six-part Slow Flowers Journal series, called New Floral Marketing Models and Platforms. I’ll share the link for you to go back and read the series in case you missed it. One of the series’ most interesting themes – to me – explores how designers and flower farmers are partnering to create boxed floral collections for home-based floral enthusiasts. Check out my stories about Petals by the Shore, Postal Petals and Flora Fun Box as examples.

We will be tracking more of this “Flowers in a Box” phenomenon moving into 2021, relying on our membership in CalFlowers, the only national trade group that offers flower farmers and floral designers access to deep discounts on overnight shipping rates. CalFlowers has joined the upcoming Slow Flowers Summit 2021 as a Supporting Sponsor, and we will be sharing more about this organization in future programs.

This insight’s key takeaway for you: Ask yourself: What can you put in a box — perishable or non-perishable — and offer to customers who are not in your physical market, but who want to share and experience your brand?

#4 Botanical Activism

Scenes from Slow Flowers initiatives around the U.S., clockwise from top left: Portland, Maine, installation; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, installation; Slow Flowers’ social media badge; Detroit, Michigan, installation; and Say Their Names Memorial in Kirkland, Washington

2020 was a year in which I stepped back to evaluate whether my beliefs and values were in alignment with our brand. And I know this was the case for many of you, as well.

We highlighted “Cause-Related Flowers” in our 2018 Forecast, citing the news that more flower farmers and florists were investing their talents to help nonprofits and others in their communities through floral philanthropy efforts.

The contributions of so many of our members – growers and designers alike – continue to impact our communities. It began with the simple question: Did you donate your flowers to any causes or charities this past year? So many of you can answer in the affirmative.

But something is different now. We’ve all been touched by the awareness that the social and environmental landscape is dramatically changing. And if we do not step up to walk the talk in our own floral enterprises, I believe we are only deceiving ourselves.

I define Botanical Activism as one expression of social enterprise.
For Slow Flowers members, this takes shape in many ways:

Writing a statement of purpose for
your brand
Committing resources to racial equity, inclusion and representation in your business practice

Using your flowers to speak volumes about the issues you care about, from climate change to human rights.

And yes, you may occasionally feel the sting of criticism. I’ve seen it in social media posts, along the lines of this comment: “I just want to see beautiful flowers and I come here for a respite away from the conflict and disagreements I watch or hear on the news. Why do you have to be so political here on a floral feed?”

I believe we can no longer stay comfortable in our safe flower worlds when others are suffering discrimination or injustice. I’m not saying we need to become full-time activists. We have businesses to run, bills to pay, households to support, of course. But even in small and subtle ways, we can be Botanical Activists to signal our values and beliefs.

Your answers in the 2021 Slow Flowers Member Survey revealed your beliefs and passion for causes important to your brands:

  • 61% of our Members say they are taking steps to create Inclusion, Representation and Equity policies for their businesses
  • 53% of our Members are aligning their brands with human rights and social justice messaging/activities
  • 46% of our Members’ businesses have participated in cause-related activities to support Black Lives Matter and antiracism campaigns

In 2020, I witnessed the manifestation of these values across the Slow Flowers membership, inspired by so many of you, your efforts to take a stand for social justice, and to show positive support through your flowers.

Moving forward, this isn’t optional. It’s essential. For Slow Flowers, we are adding a sixth statement to the Slow Flowers Manifesto, originally written in 2017 and published on Slow Flowers Journal. Every one of the five original statements in our Manifesto could be considered by some to be radical and norm-busting in the conventional sense. They include:

Slow Flowers commits to the following practices:

  • To recognize and respect the seasons by celebrating and designing with flowers when they naturally bloom
  • To reduce the transportation footprint of the flowers and foliage consumed in the marketplace by sourcing as locally as possible
  • To support flower farmers small and large by crediting them when possible through proper labeling at the wholesale and consumer level
  • To encourage sustainable and organic farming practices that respect people and the environment
  • To eliminate waste and the use of chemical products in the floral industry

Today I am adding a sixth statement, long in coming and inspired by the actions of many of our members and colleagues in the green profession:

To proactively pursue equity, inclusion and representation in the floral marketplace, intentionally valuing
Black floral professionals
(farmers, floral designers and vendors) in our business practice with as much support as we give to environmental sustainability.

I recently came across a wonderful affirmation from SF-based diversity and inclusion expert Arthur Chan of Arthur Chan Consulting and it resonates with this new addition to our Manifesto.

This insight’s key takeaway for you: Belonging implies community and my pledge to each of you is to model this value in all of Slow Flowers’ actions, programs, content and investments, not just for 2021 but beyond. As I said last week in our year-in-review, until the Slow Flowers Society looks more like the communities we live and work in, more needs to be done. So, in the coming year, we will be highlighting your Botanical Activism — what causes are your flowers supporting? How are you enhancing your community and sharing your values? Please keep me posted as I seek stories of equity and inclusion, and continue the conversation.

# 5 Theatre of the Tabletop

Designs from left: Tobey Nelson, Tobey Nelson Weddings & Events; Susan Chambers, BloominCouture; Dawn Clark and Mary Coombs, A Garden Party LLC; Beth Syphers, Crowley House Flower Farm; and Kelli Galloway, Hops Petunia Floral

The inspiration for this insight arrived in my in-box in October, when a college friend of mine sent a link from The Guardian, a UK daily newspaper. The headline read: “‘Napkins are the new fashion’: the improbable rise of tablescaping”

Written by lifestyle reporter Hannah Marriott, the article captured my imagination, as she likens tabletops to our own personal stage for artistic expression.

She wrote: ” . . . it was in lockdown, perhaps inevitably, that tablescaping became a phenomenon. With so many of us working from home, our social lives disappearing and desperate for some comfort, our focus on our homes was never sharper.

The article continues: “Tablescaping, a small joy that can take a few minutes or a few hours, and makes dinnertime instantly prettier, is part of this national self soothing.”

Gate Cottage Garden botanical tabletop collection @scottwittmanartsculpture

The person who shared this article with me, my friend Scott Wittman, is a creative director who has spent his own COVID year exiled in the Kent countryside away from his London office. He has invested all of his free time photographing the blooms in his garden to document the passing of time, season by season. It helps that his pre-Georgian cottage is surrounded by an acre of a traditional English garden planted about 40 years ago — that’s priceless inspiration!

Scott’s garden and his photography project led him to produce an entire product line for the table, including dishes and linen tablecloths and napkins adorned with his graphic and polychromatic botanical photography. He plans on debuting the “Gate Cottage Garden” collection at the 2021 Chelsea Flower Show and I’ve been urging Scott to figure out distribution in the U.S. For now, check out images of his garden-inspired table accessories in our show notes and follow him on IG at @scottwittmanartsculpture

As I pulled together insights for 2021, I couldn’t forget this old-new idea of tablescaping and it came up again in several conversations, including, most recently with Susan Chambers, Slow Flowers florist based in San Francisco. She described to me how her business BloominCouture has changed in 2020, with more residential floristry accounts than ever.

“It goes beyond flowers,,” Susan says. “So much of what I’m hearing my clients say (is) that they want to understand, not just the floristry, but creating that moment at the table. They want me to create the vision, the pomegranates down the table, the privet berries dripping out of the arrangement. They’re wanting that me to come in and create that moment for them before the dinner party.”

Tablescaping can be the ultimate Slow Flowers expression, as your florals enhance human interactions, mark occasions both special and ordinary, and celebrate the art of dining. Many of you design tablescapes for styled shoots — some of the most adventurous and theatrical meals imaginable. Let’s celebrate the objects we cherish, and create palettes that honor both how food is grown and the origin of the floral decor. I view the theatre of the tabletop as a way to honor the gift of time.

Tablescape designed by Rayne Grace Hoke of Flora’s Muse and Laura W. Tibbitts of Midcoast Blooms

This insight’s key takeaway for you: How can you combine your flowers and floral designs into a full package? Hannah Marriott’s article in The Guardian triggers so many ideas that you’ll want to explore in 2021. She writes: “Thanks to social distancing and unbridled screen time, the ‘tablescapes’ hashtag now has 455,000 Instagram posts and counting, and it is lifting sales during the crisis. In lockdown, with the hospitality industry on pause, tablescaping took a different direction. For one thing, it provided an income stream – or at least a trickle – to companies whose businesses might have capsized in the crisis.”

#6 Reversing Climate Change

Slow Flowers’ member farms, from left Seattle Wholesale Growers Market dahlia farm shown against the September 2020 wildfire smoke; Stacey Denton of Flora Farm in Ashland, Oregon, using high tunnels to grow sweet peas; at Red Twig Farms in Johnstown, Ohio, low-tunnels for crop protection

Last year, in the 2020 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast, I featured Climate Change for the first time with an insight titled “Responding to Climate Change.” The urgency felt by the Slow Flowers Community is heightened as we move into 2021. Your responses to Climate Change questions in the Slow Flowers Survey reveal that urgency. It can seem overwhelming, but our individual actions and the policies we collectively support are powerful tools to employ as a community.

Last year, Forty-four percent of our survey respondents said they were adjusting growing practices to adapt to climate change. In this year’s Survey, 54% of Members say they are aligning their brands with climate change messaging/activities.

We also asked you to share about How Has Climate Change Affected You and Your Business? Here is a recap:

  • Nearly 60% of you cite weather irregularities (too much or too little rain)
  • 30% say abnormally warm OR abnormally cold spring seasons
  • 25% cite early frost arrival
  • Nearly 20% blame disaster-related damage (wildfire, flooding, hurricane, hailstorms, tornados and other weather tragedies)
  • Another reason cited includes extended hot periods with no precipitation. 

One respondent put it this way: “Weather seems more extreme and unpredictable.”

Another wrote: “It’s not at disaster level yet, but the damaging winds and rains devastated my cosmos and the smoke from the fires sullied my white roses and strawflowers.”

What can we do? What active steps are you taking to address Climate Change in your farm, shop or studio? We know about and have covered the importance of No-Till Farming Methods, Cover Crops, Crop Rotation, Raised Beds, Water efficient irrigation. We know florists are more actively than ever rejecting single-use plastics and other chemical-based products in their designs.

What else? In the coming year, Slow Flowers commits to more reporting on your efforts to reverse climate change, efforts that will inspire others and will empower our members to take positive action in small and large ways.

For now, this insight’s Key takeaway for you: Educate yourself. Join me in seeking meaningful change as we strive to protect our climate, environment, communities and planet.

#7 Beyond the Hobbyist

Deeper Learning, clockwise from top left: Farmer-Florist workshop taught by Niki Irving of Flourish Flower Farm; a similar workshop taught by Liz Kreig of Maple Flower Farm; Cutting Garden Design with Longfield Gardens & Slow Flowers; wreath design workshops taught by Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard; and Debra Prinzing floral design to fellow Garden Writers

The DIY trend has been with us for a decade, and according to my friend and publishing partner Robin Avni, after that length of time a trend that was once new, such as do-it-yourself, folds into the broader culture and becomes mainstream. Originally, I wanted to call this insight “Beyond DIY: Figure it Out” and I turned to Robin to help me flesh it out. My idea was that since more consumers than ever are seeking new knowledge, floral enterprises need to be attuned to this reality in order to offer them what they’re seeking.

But a conversation with Robin gave me a new term: Beyond the Hobbyist. Robin is my go-to expert when I want to understand what’s happening in the consumer marketplace; she spent many years working in consumer research managing a portfolio of Fortune 500 clients as a Senior Director and Lead Consumer Strategist at Iconoculture, and as a Senior Ethnographer at The Hartman Group, where she engaged in primary consumer qualitative research. And those of you who have a copy of my new book Slow Flowers Journal-volume one will know of Robin’s influence as a visual designer — she is the creative director for that publication and my partner in the BLOOM Imprint, the new book-publishing arm of Slow Flowers.

According to Robin, DIY is everywhere, and thus, no longer new. “People feel they can access information on YouTube and figure things out themselves, from painting their walls to building a deck to designing an outdoor space,” she explains.

As an insight, though, Beyond the Hobbyist embodies so much more than DIY, more than saving money or exploring a hobby, Robin explains. “It’s about embracing a skill that gives you a sense of pride and feeds your soul. It’s about having a deeper, long-lasting connection to a skill, such as flower gardening and floral design.”

She continues: “People want to learn new skills, but then, they want to fold it into their lifestyle. They want to go beyond something superficial. They want to know that when they gather flowers from the farm-stand they can replicate at home what they learned in your design class; thanks to your class, they understand why it’s important to support the stems and change the water regularly.”

Easy, mechanics from the professional to Beyond the Hobbyist

I suspect this sentiment is a driving force behind the popularity of product lines like Holly x Syndicate’s egg and pillow mechanics, available not just to the trade, but to the enlightened floral enthusiast who wants to use the same tools and supplies that the pros use. Similarly, having the ability to order single units of the Floral Genius pin-frogs means these professional tools are getting into the hands of anyone who wants to elevate their floral design practice.

Beyond the Hobbyist is all about intentionality rather than a random DIY experience.

We will continue to witness this urge to both know a skill AND understand the why and how behind it, Robin explains. “For example, once a customer experiences a flower farm, they want more. They don’t necessarily want to be a flower farmer, but they want to understand how to grow their own cut flowers, and nurture that practice through the seasons for their own enjoyment and to share with friends and family.”

A polychromatic series: Seeing Color in the Garden @gardenercook

We talked about this further and what came to mind is the desire among many consumers to have a “Daily Practice.” And that led to my friend Lorene Edwards Forkner, Seattle Times gardening columnist, author and artist. Lorene’s Instagram feed @gardenercook features her daily practice called #seeingcolorinthegarden. Lorene is a past guest of this podcast and she will share her story and talents at the 2021 Slow Flowers Summit, leading participants in her mindful practice of painting small watercolor studies of plants and other items she collects from nature. You can see more in our Slow Flowers Mercantile, where we have a digital download gallery of Lorene’s work.

While learning a new skill and adopting a practice is useful for all floral professionals, the key takeaway from this insight is actually a challenge question to you: How do you help your customers and clients embrace a more meaningful connection to flowers? How can you create and nurture opportunities that go beyond DIY hobbies and convert your customers into floral practitioners?

When you draw back the curtain and share insider knowledge that your clients and customers can incorporate into their lifestyles, you build deeper engagements. People want to know the professional skills of growing and design; they don’t necessarily want to adopt a new profession, but you can interpret and empower them with skills, knowledge and confidence.

Learning and gathering knowledge is more important than ever. What services, products and experiences can you offer to your marketplace in 2021? What are you teaching and sharing? A final thought, one that I learned while developing online courses for the Slow Flowers Creative Workshop. Teach what you know. Nothing is more authentic.

#8 Marketplace Inclusion & Farmland Equity

Top Row: Slow Flowers Members who recently presented at the Young Farmers & Cooks Conference: Julius Tillery, Black Cotton U.S.; Taij & VC Cotten, Perry-winkle Farm; Aishah Lurry, Patagonia Flower Farm; and Julio Freitas, The Flower Hat
Bottom Row: #BlackFloristFriday social media campaign, created by Talia Boone of Postal Petals and Quote from Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm

This insight is closely connected to Insight #4 – Botanical Activism, while also addressing two themes essential to the future survival of the floral economy.

The first topic – Marketplace Inclusion — speaks to the importance of proactively changing our business practices to support floral enterprises owned by the BIPOC community, (that’s Black, indigenous and people of color). For so long, I focused my energies on the belief that our floral profession would survive if only consumers learned to ask “where were these flowers grown” and “what growing practices were used to grow them?”

If there is one important lesson from the racial awareness and awakening of 2020, it’s that my values demand that I ask a different set of questions, such as: “how can I support and shine a light on florists, flower farmers, vendors and customers who look different than me, a middle-aged white woman?” “How can I invest in the success of underrepresented and overlooked talent, and in doing so, ensure their success and my success are equally valued?”

At Slow Flowers, we enter 2021 with an embrace of inclusivity, representation and equity in our profession. As I discussed last week, our Professional Development Fund devotes resources to invite Black farmers and florists to join the Slow Flowers Society. YOU are encouraged to participate in this endeavor by nominating Black farmers and florists in your community to be part of our efforts — please reach out with your suggestions!

Until the Slow Flowers Society looks more like the communities we live and work in, we will not be sustainable.

I have learned much from garden designer and Slow Flowers advocate Leslie Bennett, who earlier this year joined me as a return podcast guest. Leslie owns Pine House Edible Gardens, an Oakland-based design-build landscaping studio. She is the creator of Black Sanctuary Gardens, which believes that gardens are places that provide respite and restoration; healing and inspiration. The Black Sanctuary Gardens project creates and documents garden sites where Black women’s creativity, spirituality, and human experience can be cultivated and nurtured. 

Slow Flowers donated to the Black Sanctuary Gardens project in 2020 and we feel grateful to learn from the example Leslie is modeling — using her talents and resources to design and build gardens where transformative change can take place, and where we can work to grow the world we want for ourselves and for our communities. 

Leslie and the team behind the Black Sanctuary Gardens project are curating their time and talent to create safe and beautiful garden spaces that celebrate Black women’s humanity and the communities they hold dear within the Oakland, California area. Financial contributions allow them to provide their gifts at low to no-cost to these valued community members. This is a model I’d love to see replicated across the community in other regions.

Soul Fire Farm – a life-giving hub for education, advocacy and activism

The second theme included in Insight # 7 is Land Equity. Joining progressive voices in domestic agriculture to advocate for land equity is a cause I believe will benefit the Slow Flowers community as we see much-needed diversity and representation in flower farming.

In 2020, we financially supported Soul Fire Farm. Based in Grafton, New York, Soul Fire Farm was co-founded by past Podcast guest Leah Penniman, author of Farming While Black. She is a Black Kreyol educator, farmer, author, and food justice activist whose mission is to end racism in the food system and reclaim an ancestral connection to land. As co-Executive Director of Soul Fire Farm, Leah is part of a team that facilitates food sovereignty programs – including farmer trainings for Black and Brown people, a subsidized farm food distribution program for people living under food apartheid, and domestic and international organizing toward equity in the food system.

Soul Fire Farm recently provided us with a list of well-established Black-led farming organizations and I’ll share it in today’s show notes for you to check out. Please consider following and supporting the farming organizations in your community as we move into 2021, while seeking a more diverse Slow Flowers community that benefits all.

#9 Opposite Palettes

Contrasting and Complementary Palettes from the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden

Last year, 24% of our Slow Flowers Survey respondents cited YELLOW as their top color prediction for 2020. Yellow edged out all other colors by single-digit percentages, but there was still no clear standout, leading me to predict a Polychromatic Palette for 2020.

Here we are in January 2021, and Pantone already has declared “Illuminating,” a glowing shade of yellow, as one of two colors for 2021.

For the 2021 survey, both Yellow and Orange topped your list. Specific percentages break out as follows:

Shades of Yellow (23%) “Yellow for optimism.” Mustards and mauves.” “From rich masala yellow in curries to lavish buttercream yellow on cupcakes, the comfort of food will translate to floral expressions.”

Shades of Orange (19.5%) “I think we are seeing hints of orange, and yellow with pinks and blush.” “Everything across the range of citrus tones to fruity apricot.”

Shades of Green (14%) “The clean feeling of green, with foliage in an array of green tones and various shapes.”

Shades of Purple & Violet (13%) “I think we will see a trend towards subdued jewel tones that play off of each other.” “I find the possibilities with purple are both complimentary and contrasting and love finding those matches. People also seem to really gravitate to the purple tones, or at least, that’s what I think, maybe because I like purple flowers so much!”

Shades of Red (4.5%) “Reds, burgundy, pinks monochromatic.”

Shades of Blue (3%) “Mellow, soft blues — the world needs calming tones in these crazy times.”

So what notable color palette do we predict will influence flower farming and floral design in the coming year?

I flipped to the color section of my book Slow Flowers to see what I wrote back in 2013. I quoted Harold Piercy, former principal of the Constance Spry Flower School in England, who wrote this in 1983: ” . . . in flower arranging, I have always found it advisable to discard any prconceptions about colours.” He went on to write: “Keep an open mind and do not be ruled by the colour wheel. You may hit upon unexpected satisfactory results during your experiments.”

Yellow Roses from the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden

I dove deep into the comments that you shared in response to the survey’s Question#23 — Describe in more Detail Your Floral Palette Prediction.

I have to give a huge congratulations to the many Slow Flowers Survey responses that were spot on about YELLOW. In 2017, Slow Flowers’ Floral Forecast predicted soft yellows in an insight titled: “Beyond Blush.” It has taken four years since then for Pantone to agree! Let me include a few of your comments here so you can congratulate yourself on nailing Pantone’s color declaration for 2021 — an important emerging floral palette we forecasted here years ago!

(c) Missy Palacol Photography

“I’m only wishing. I have lemon chiffon peonies that I would love to see a bump in desire for.”
“Into yellow lately.”
“Cream-mustard; pale yellow. Happy shades.”
“More sunny, happy color.”
“Bright, positive, with an endless summer-like feeling.”
“Pale yellows to golden tones.”
“Yellow is inherently cheery and I think people will want more good cheer. Also, floral designers have been trying to sell clients on yellow and mustard forever — maybe this is our year that clients will finally go for it!”
“Orange or yellow. We need some brightness in 2021!”
“Soft, buttery yellows.”
“Yellow is building momentum! And there are so many shades that blend well with the popular muddy/neutral palettes.”
“Soft, light, buttery yellow.”
“Seeing more demand for yellow flowers.”
“2020 has been a dark year and I think we could all use a little sunshine in our future.”
“Warm yellows — amber, mustard, butter – seen alone or with accents in deeper shades.”
“After the Pandemic, we want LIFE! We will want color and variety. Yellow was a very big color in fashion just before the Pandemic and I think it will be picked up again after.”
“I think the soft yellows and warm golden colors are what we need for 2021! We need a soft glowing hug after 2020!”

Orange & Blue(ish) dial up the palette contrast! (c) Debra Prinzing design and photograph

Clearly, we all love yellow. But of course, we do not want to follow Pantone. Let’s move beyond a single hue and explore what’s coming next:

I predict the most exciting floral palettes will feature Complementary or Contrasting Colors. With color pairs that reside opposite each other on the color wheel — combinations and variations of of course Yellow + Purple, but also interpretations of Red + Green; Orange + Blue.

What do you think of “Opposite Palettes”? A few survey comments jumped out to me in agreement:

“Oranges reaching out in different directions — yellow, reds, or complementary purple.”
“Purples combined with pale yellows, oranges and whites.”
“I find the possibilities with purple are both complimentary and contrasting and love finding those matches.”
“Pink, peach, coral, orange, yellow and then contrasting with blue.”

Red & Green Complements (c) Debra Prinzing design and photograph

What is the key insight here?
Simply, that we live in a colorful floral world and we need to experiment more! And find ways to excite customers and clients with new, shall we say, contrasts and complements, on the horizon!

At the core of it, this insight reinforces the importance of selling color as a much-desired product. Remember, you and your flowers are ready to meet consumers’ hunger for more color in their lives.

#10 Star Quality

From Left: Fleurs de Villes designs by Tobey Nelson and Thomasi Boselawa; Kristen Griffith VanderYacht of Big Flower Fight; Ace Berry, AIFD, PFCI – a finalist on Full Bloom; the Full Bloom judging panel

All of a sudden, miraculously in 2020, celebrity florists are taking center stage alongside chefs and fashion designers!

Whatever you think about floral competition television, seeing flowers and plants in the hands of professional designers on programs like Netflix’s “Big Flower Fight” and HBO’s “Full Bloom” definitely felt validating. We are witnessing flowers – elevated — in mainstream TV programming! That’s news worth celebrating!

I lived vicariously through both programs and was honored to host Big Flower Fight’s head judge Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht as a guest on the Slow Flowers Podcast and profile him for a Florists’ Review cover story earlier this year.

I also enthusiatically rooted for Ace Berry, AIFD, PFCI, another past guest of this podcast, who competed in HBO’s “Full Bloom.” I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t watched to the finale, but you can learn much more about Ace in Episode 421, originally aired in October 2019.

Nine Slow Flowers members designed floral fashions for the 2020 Fleurs de Villes Exhibit at the Northwest Flower & Garden Festival
DESIGN CREDITS (c) for Fleurs de Villes
Top row, from left: Casablanca Floral, Flirty Fleurs and Garden Party Design
Center row, from left: Hazel Landscapes & Design, LORA Bloom, Smashing Petals
Bottom row, from left: Terra Bella Flowers & Mercantile, Tiare Floral Design, Tobey Nelson Weddings & Events

I felt quite the same sense of pride earlier this year when the popular Fleurs de Villes exhibition came to Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Festival. With flowers transformed into wearable fashions displayed on a parade of mannequins — it clearly was the most popular feature of the flower and garden festival. The success of Fleurs de Villes is similar to the buzz created by the two floral competition shows I just mentioned.

I was delighted to interview Karen Marshall and Tina Barkley, the creatives behind Fleurs de Villes – which I called a Bespoke Floral Phenomenon, on the Slow Flowers Podcast this past February.  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. 

What is the magic? I believe that seeing flowers used as an artistic expression ignites the imagination of those who view them. Beyond the sheer scale and beauty of floral installations, massive topiary and botanically-dressed mannequins, flowers are the starting point that connect many consumers with the natural world. And who can argue with that?

For Fleurs de Villes, show-goers were invited to vote for their favorite design. For Big Flower Fight and Full Bloom, viewers rooted for their favorite contestants. There’s buy-in when the audience has a stake in the outcome, and ultimately, more people know more about flowers, which takes us full circle to our Insight #1 — Floral Wellness.

I hope to see all of these floral celebrity projects return to our lives in 2021, but I will offer a vocal plea for one change: Please, No FLORAL FOAM. As we’ve urged the mainstream floral profession for years: please wean yourself from a dependence on foam. Be truly creative and find alternative mechanics to express your art!

It can be done; believe me, we’ve consistently documented no-foam mechanic strategies on this podcast and in our other Slow Flowers channels. For goodness sake’s, even the famed Chelsea Flower Show has declared future exhibitions to be foam-free.

If you’re interested in showing off your own Star Quality, I invite you to join the 2021 American Flowers Week botanical couture creative team. Our creators are Slow Flowers member florists and flower farmers who and produce wearable botanical couture photographed on live models for publication.

On Friday, January 15th, you’re invited to join me for a free webinar and Learn how YOU can participate in American Flowers Week 2021

Hear advice and tips from Slow Flowers member designers and growers! We will discuss how each created an iconic botanical couture look for American Flowers Week, including flower sourcing, model selection and photography. You can join the Webinar to learn whether this opportunity is right for you! The Webinar takes place 9am Pacific/Noon Eastern on Friday, January 15, 2021.

Okay, what an inspiring list of 10 insights! Thank you for reviewing this list with me today. I  want to pause here to marvel at what has happened since I began writing down what I viewed on the horizon for the Slow Flowers movement and its followers and members.

The simple act of speaking, writing and sharing one’s perspective is a personal superpower, one you can also claim, because each of us has an utterly unique world view. While it seems trite to seek out COVID’s “silver linings,” you may find meaningful truths to interpret from the past year’s chaos. Use them as a foundation for your 2021 planning. Yes, you want to make resolutions and set goals. You can also set your Intention. And intention can be our rudder to guide us through choppy waters and uncertain times. That’s clearly what we need in this moment.

Thank you to our Sponsors

This podcast is brought to you by, the free, online directory to more than 800 florists, shops, and studios who design with local, seasonal and sustainable flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

And thank you to our lead sponsor for 2021, Farmgirl Flowers. Farmgirl Flowers delivers iconic burlap-wrapped bouquets and lush, abundant arrangements to customers across the U.S., supporting more than 20 U.S. flower farms by purchasing more than $9 million dollars of U.S.-grown fresh and seasonal flowers and foliage annually, and providing competitive salaries and benefits to 240 team members based in Watsonville, California and Miami, Florida. Discover more at

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Find the full catalog of flower seeds and bulbs at

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

The Gardener’s Workshop, which offers a full curriculum of online education for flower farmers and farmer-florists. Online education is more important this year than ever, and you’ll want to check out the course offerings at

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 675,000 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 our domestic cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious. I know you feel it, too.

I value your support and invite you to show your thanks to support Slow Flowers’ ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right 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:

Heliotrope; Vittoro; Open Flames; Shift of Currents; Surly Bonds; Gaenaby Blue Dot Sessions

Lovely by Tryad

In The Field