Debra Prinzing

Get the Email Newsletter!

Episode 330: Slow Flowers’ 2018 Floral Insights & Industry Forecast

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018


The fourth annual Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights & Industry Forecast for 2018

I’m excited to announce that Florists’ Review has come onboard as Slow Flowers‘ lead sponsor for 2018, signifying a strategic partnership that acknowledges the many ways the Slow Flowers approach is moving into many facets of floristry — at all points along the farm to consumer pipeline. Florists’ Review is the only independent monthly magazine for the retail, wholesale and supplier market, reaching the largest number of floral professionals in the industry. I’m honored to be a Contributing Editor producing the monthly Slow Flowers Journal section, filled with unique content reflecting the cultural shift taking place in flower sourcing and design.

Since 2014, I have drawn from input from members of the Slow Flowers Community, past guests of the Slow Flowers Podcast and other progressive leaders in the floral industry — including farmers, florists and design creatives — to “predict” the future. While by no means a statistical survey, the Slow Flowers Floral Insights & Industry Forecast serves as a botanical crystal ball to identify emerging themes affecting the domestic floral industry. I’m excited to share these key insights for the first time in print form, here in the pages of Florists’ Review’s “Slow Flowers Journal” section.

Think of these topics as your inspiration checklist for 2018 — Your Next, New and Now Report. Some of you are already engaged in these up-and-coming developments, so consider yourself on-topic!

The overarching theme for 2018 is “Flowers without Borders,” which to me reflects the disappearance of silo-like barriers that previously separated growers of flowers from sellers of flowers from designers of flowers. Thanks to technology and social media, the ability of conventional “gatekeepers” to control the flow of information and product has greatly diminished. Transparency is power, making it easier than ever before to identify sources of fresh and uncommonly beautiful flowers and foliage. So here’s to a new floral landscape where accessibility is the driving force.

#1 Flower Farmers Diversify into Seeds, Bulbs and Plants

Beyond selling their crops to wholesale, retailer and independent florists, entrepreneurial flower farmers are finding new ways to turn expertise into cash flow. This phenomenon has moved far beyond seed-swapping and informal exchanges of plant cuttings.

One story of diversification comes from Bailey Hale of Ardelia Farm + Co. in Irasburg, Vermont. A trained horticulturist and two-time Philadelphia Flower Show gold medal floral designer (through his former studio MODA Botanica), Bailey now raises specialty cut flowers for farmers’ markets and florists and provides full-service wedding and event design. He turned his own hunger to find sources for uncommon “couture” flowers into a spin-off venture called Farmer Bailey, a custom plug brokerage.

When he’s not tending to his own farm, which is famous for producing sweet peas long into Vermont’s cool summer months, Bailey has become a cut flower hunter. He evaluates new varieties, contracts with a large wholesale nursery to custom grow “plugs” of must-have cultivars and markets his ever-expanding online catalog of irresistible choices to flower farmers and farmer-florists like himself. Bailey saw an un-served opportunity in the marketplace and used his connections and ingenuity to fill the demand. The result is a thriving new venture and the chance to influence the types of blooms — from Asters to Verbenas — entering the floral marketplace.

#2 Flower Farmers Launch Direct-Ship Wholesale Programs
Shipping to designers in markets that don’t otherwise have access to their unusual flowers, Gretel and Steve Adams of Sunny Meadows Flower Farm in Columbus, Ohio, “have opened door to get our product to florists without having to physically deliver it,” Gretel explains. Recently, their farm joined a shipping cooperative to take advantage of discounted overnight rates, an essential part of keeping their pricing competitive.

After a season of testing packaging methods and learning to navigate the FedEx system, Sunny Meadows expects to unveil The Columbus Flower Company’s national wholesale flower shipping program this spring, beginning with its huge ranunculus harvest. “We’d like to be able to send flowers to designers in New York, or Los Angeles, or places that don’t have access to a good flower market,” she says.

Gretel, also a wedding and event designer, feels she can add value for florists who order from the farm. “My favorite clients are florists who give me an inspiration board and a budget and I’ll pull a mix of ingredients that I myself would use.”

In Weyers Cave, Virginia, Jessica Hall and her family run two businesses, Harmony Harvest Farm (specialty cut flowers) and Floral Genius (pin frogs and other flower frogs). Jessica also reports of plans to ship flowers in 2018, borrowing lessons learned from shipping flower frogs across the U.S. to Floral Genius’s  wholesale accounts.

Harmony Harvest spent 2017 trialing packaging, stem hydration and shipping methods to determine best practices for a farm-to-florist wholesale program. “I believe there is a collective army (of smaller flower farms) that can take care of the U.S. need; they might be able to grow those flowers and see that it’s possible to ship. I’m going to figure it out and hopefully that will change the industry,” she says.

#3 Retail Garden Centers Add Floral Design Services

Last year’s Floral Insights report highlighted “Return of Brick and Mortar,” documenting a possible reversal of the decades-long decline in floral retail, as I witnessed studio florists with a distinct local and community focus open a new generation of retail flower shops. The next wave in this shift continues in retail nurseries and garden centers, which are opening or reviving in-house floral shops with a distinctly local emphasis.

Slow Flowers Journal featured The Flower Shop at O’Donal’s Nursery outside Portland, Maine — which recently introduced full-service floral design as a sister business to a 60-acre tree and shrub nursery. Manager Rayne Grace Hoke credits having a distinct aesthetic inspired by O’Donal’s extensive plant collection for much of the shop’s success.

On the opposite coast, Windmill Gardens, an independent garden center in Sumner, Washington, also debuted a new flower department. According to owner Ben DeGoede, Windmill brought floral design in-house for the first time since 2001, taking over space once occupied by a tenant and rebranding as Windmill Floral Studio. The beautiful, full-service shop has a commitment to providing only locally-grown and American-grown flowers. “The Slow Flowers movement and the buy local movement has inspired us to take floral back again,” he explains.

General manager Wendy Pedersen explains that the flower shop “wants customers to support local farmers.” There are obvious synergies for couples who book Windmill Gardens’ outdoor wedding venue and hire Windmill Floral Studio to design their flowers.

#4 Flower Farmers Shift into Retail

While it may seem “counter-trend,” a number of flower farms are opening retail spaces in prime locations where their flowers are marketed alongside related hard goods and artisan products. It’s a move welcomed by consumers who want to buy farm-direct in urban and suburban markets. I’ve identified Chicago, Boston and Albuquerque, among other cities where flower farmers have opened retail shops to sell their blooms.

In Boston, Field & Vase, a new venture of Stow Greenhouses, has opened two retail spaces at The Shops at Prudential Center, a major downtown retail hub. Barbara Rietscha and Dave Buchholz incubated their first retail venture two years ago at Boston Public Market, a year-round, indoor farmers’ market with 40 vendors and a New England-grown mandate. Success in that venue attracted the attention of developers at the tony Prudential Tower, and this past September, Field & Vase opened two locations there — a permanent kiosk in the heart of the mall’s central court and a full-service shop-studio that is large enough to accommodate custom design work, event production, client consultations and ongoing workshops.

Barbara says adding multiple retail channels to sell their farm’s value-added flowers was an intentional decision. By selling the flowers they grow direct to consumers through retail, Field & Vase enjoys larger margins and gets out of the wholesale environment dominated by price competition with imports. Additionally, at the Prudential locations, the business promotes other flower farms that aren’t set up to do retail themselves. “We source within the U.S. because we believe in local,” Barbara says. “We want to be a venue for flower farmers who don’t have retail outlets themselves.”

#5 Aromatherapy and Wellness Remedies

Botanically-inspired fragrances, body care remedies and other herbal and scented goods have a natural affinity for floral consumers, and I’ve noted some brilliant ways that florists are taking advantage of this. From developing their own candle and soap collections to offering aromatherapy-themed events, florists are tapping into ways to cross-promote flowers and aromatics.

Stacey Carlton, AIFD, of The Flora Culturist in Chicago has made the fragrance connection for her customers with an “Aromatherapy Bar” service. It’s a smart way to extend into a new revenue stream incorporated into parties and special events. Guests are invited to create a personal, custom fragrance blend — or to follow Stacey’s cleverly personalized scent recipes. From intimate gatherings like bridal showers to large interactive events, the Aromatherapy Bar gives guests a social experience and a new way to engage with fragrance.

Farmer-florist Hedda Brorstrom of Full Bloom Flower Farm in Groton, California, is a certified herbalist who studied at the California School of Herbal Studies. She extends her farm’s season by creating and selling “small batch, field to face” herbal and aromatherapy products.
Full Bloom Flower Farm’s skin care line includes rich hydrating creams made from roses, calendula and lavender grown on her farm. A rosemary hydrosol is an organic spray that can be used either on the face after sun exposure or used in cocktails after a long day of gardening. Hedda’s personal favorite product is the Injury Salve which she uses after a day of farming to soothe sore muscles. She sells her products online, alongside other farm-logo items like tank tops, sweatshirts and hats.

#6 Cause-Related Flowers

Flower farmers and florists alike are investing their talents in helping nonprofits and others in their communities. Floral philanthropy or “flowers with heart” efforts are inspiring, and I love seeing flowers used as a currency to change lives and advance important causes. A number of feel-good projects caught my attention in 2017 and I am certain they will continue in 2018.

The Bloom Project, profiled recently in Florists’ Review, is a 10-year-old volunteer-run program that upcycles donated flowers into bouquets for hospice and palliative care patients in Portland, Oregon.

On a national level, Christina Stembel’s Farmgirl Flowers selects and supports a monthly nonprofit partner by donating a portion of sales for a signature bouquet in its product mix.

“We started our ‘With Heart’ campaign because we wanted a way to give back to multiple organizations that are near and dear to our hearts throughout the year,” Christina explains. “It’s also a way we can support many organizations that our team members are passionate about.” Since it launched in April 2017, Farmgirl’s ‘With Heart’ program has contributed more than $70,000 to nine different charities.

I’m also impressed with charities using flower farming and floral design as a platform for change. It’s inspiring to watch nonprofit farms that help teens and adults train for the workplace or those that provide sustainable jobs for individuals with different abilities. Some notable efforts include Muir Ranch in Pasadena, WOW Farm in Oakland, Blawesome Farms in the Raleigh-Durham area, Blooming on the Inside in Portland, and other socially responsible enterprises.

The bottom line is that flowers can meet people where they are and be used as a positive tool to instigate change, stimulate progress and enhance lives.


Episode 287: Putting succulents on the floral map, with nurseryman and author Robin Stockwell, The Succulent Guy

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

Today’s guest Robin Stockwell is the author of SUCCULENTS (left), which features the design work (right) of Slow Flowers member Marialuisa Kaprielian of Urban Succulents in San Diego.

Windmill Floral Studio recently launched as the in-house, full-service florist inside a popular independent garden center — with a Slow Flowers philosophy.

Before I share my interview with succulent expert Robin Stockwell, I want to share a quick introduction of Windmill Gardens, an independent garden center based in Sumner, Washington.

Windmill founders John and Ansje DeGoede began their farm in 1968 by raising fresh cut flower crops such as iris, tulips, and daffodils. In the early 1970s, their product line was expanded to include fuchsia baskets, primroses, and more.

Today, nearly 50 years later, their son Ben DeGoede continues the growing tradition at Windmill Gardens, with seasonal assortments and baskets, as well as poinsettias.

The Floral Studio team (left, with Wendy Pedersen in the middle) and the shop’s welcome sign.

Windmill recently brought floral design in-house for the first time since 2001, taking over space previously occupied by a tenant, redesigning it into a beautiful, full-service shop, and making a commitment to provide only locally-grown and American-grown flowers to their everyday and wedding clients.

The grand opening took place this week and I grabbed some time with owner Ben DeGoede and general manager Wendy Pedersen to hear more.

As you recall, I cited “return of brick and mortar flower shops” as an emerging 2017 floral industry theme. The launch of Windmill Floral Studio reflects this insight, but also hints at a possible shift for traditional garden centers adding floral as a facet of their business.

Find Windmill Gardens/Floral Studio on Facebook

Follow Windmill Gardens/Floral Studio on Twitter

Follow Windmill Floral Studio on Instagram

The Succulent Guy, Robin Stockwell, author of a beautiful new title: “Succulents.”

Here a photo of the presentation Robin and I gave nearly five years ago — fun memories!

A detail from a design I made for the Garden Conservancy workshop with Robin Stockwell.

Now let’s talk succulents. In July 2012, I co-presented a lecture and floral design workshop with Robin Stockwell, (now former) owner of Succulent Gardens Nursery in Castroville, California (Monterey Bay).

We were part of “All in Good Time,” a Garden Conservancy program hosted by the Ruth Bancroft Garden at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek, California.

I didn’t know Robin well, but I did know his amazing reputation for growing and popularizing succulents. My takeaway from time spent with Robin is that when you think about a succulent plant as a floral design ingredient, it’s important to use both its “leaves” and its “flowers.” Robin and I focused our presentation  on using wonderful, versatile, irresistible succulents from our gardens and pots in floral design.

By way of background, in 2010, while working on The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was introduced to the succulents-as-cut-ingredients technique. Several of the designers we featured in that book use echeverias, aeoniums, kalanchoes and other succulent cuttings as deftly as they use dahlias and roses.

“Lush and Leafy,” a succulent wreath designed by Slow Flowers member Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Design — for Robin’s book SUCCULENTS

Susie Nadler created a scrumptious local bouquet using ingredients from her own backyard, from local flower growers and – of course – from succulents at Flora Grubb Gardens.

Susie Nadler and Flora Grubb, of The Cutting Garden at Flora Grubb Nursery, and Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Flowers, are rock stars when it comes to pairing succulents from the garden with flowers from the farm. Together these women inspired Sunset’s former senior garden editor Julie Chai to use her succulent cuttings for the bridal party bouquets and centerpieces at her July 2011 wedding, also featured in our the pages of The 50 Mile Bouquet.

Robin, though, was way ahead of all of us! A true pioneer, he was making bouquets of succulent flowers back in the 1980s. He sent me a black-and-white photo from a 1981 Sunset magazine article in which his then-young son was pictured with a vase of tall echeveria blooms. Let’s just call Robin an early-early-adopter of the succulent craze. He was so far ahead of his time that it has taken the rest of us 30-plus years to catch up!

“Succulents are the conservationists of the plant world” — Robin Stockwell

A photograph from a 1981 Sunset magazine article about Robin Stockwell’s use of succulents in floral design.

At the Garden Conservancy workshop, Robin wowed the audience with insights about how to harvest and work with a variety of succulents. He explained that the rosette-looking succulents are actually leaves; many of the plants do produce long, slender stems bearing tiny flowers that dangle from them — also quite enticing.

The San Francisco Chronicle featured Robin’s amazing succulent globe when he created it for the SF Flower & Garden Show a few years ago. A-MAZ-ING!!! Click here to read more about this project and watch a video of its construction!

I came prepared to carefully wire the rosettes and wrap their “faux stems” with green florist tape, but Robin demonstrated how you can cut the stem long enough to practically eliminate the wire. Play around with it and you’ll see what I mean. If the stem of the echeveria is 3-4 inches long, that might be enough to anchor it into a flower arrangement;  it certainly doesn’t need water to look dazzling (in fact, it will last far longer than any of the perennials or annuals in that vase).

Marialuisa designed this charming “cake garland” for Robin Stockwell’s book, SUCCULENTS

We had a great day, all around. What struck me later was a gracious note Robin sent by email:

I’ve not thought a lot about the floral side of what I do over the past few years and even when I have, it was in bits and pieces. the presentation with you brought back a much more comprehensive memory of my past experiences and gave me quite a few new insights as well.

A table setting designed by Caitlin Atkinson, featured in SUCCULENTS

Reuniting with Robin was such a delight because it allowed us to have an extended conversation about his favorite topic AND the topic of his beautiful, brand new book called SUCCULENTS: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO CHOOSING, DESIGNING AND GROWING 200 EASY CARE PLANTS.

Published by Oxmoor House, a Time Inc Book imprint, Succulents was shepherded by Kathy Brenzel, who edited and closely collaborated with Robin.

As the former longtime garden editor for Sunset Magazine, Kathy is the ideal partner for Robin. She wrote a wonderful intro to the book titled “Sunset, the Surfer and Succulents,” looking back to the magazine’s long relationship with Robin Stockwell and his early influence on the gardening world’s love affair with succulents. Robin’s new website The Succulent Guy, tells us that

Robin Stockwell has been growing succulents professionally since 1972 and through the years developed an expertise in their functional use. When the waves were good he took advantage of their waterwise, low maintenance qualities, knowing they would not miss him as he dropped everything to surf. He has dedicated his life to encouraging the use of these plants and worked with plant professionals and the general public to better understand them. As a grower he created small “living pictures” in the early 1970’s and later huge vertical gardens. He is famous for his succulent Globe, using upwards of 20,000 to 30,000 plants. As an innovator, writer, and speaker, he has inspired audiences in the joy of gardening with succulent plants.

Find Robin Stockwell, The Succulent Guy, on Facebook

Follow Robin Stockwell, The Succulent Guy, on Instagram

To enter our drawing for a giveaway of Robin’s new book — SUCCULENTS — you are invited to post a photo of one of your succulent arrangements at the Slow Flowers Community page on Facebook. We’ll draw the winner on March 15th.

A Hanging Cone project from SUCCULENTS, designed by Jodi Shaw of Flourish. The design incorporates moss cones.

Robin Stockwell’s Succulent Tips for Floral Designers

  1. Cut the “heads” off of plants using a clean, sharp florist’s knife or clippers. Robin sterilizes his tools in Lysol.
  2. While succulents do not need much water, the aeoniums benefit from being in a little water when cut. Other succulent rosettes will be okay on a wire stem out of water. Obviously, after seven days or so in a vase, the succulent will be the last attractive element left. You’ll be able to re-use it in the next arrangement or let it produce some roots and replant it in a pot or the garden.
  3. Soil mix. When replanting your succulent, use a soil mix formulated for cactus and succulent plants. Succulents appreciate soil that is well aerated and drains well. Coarse bark or crushed lava work well for this, sand does not.

Here’s some fun bonus content featuring my how-to for the floral arrangements I created using Robin’s succulent plants when we taught together nearly five years ago.

My go-to vase for stunning arrangements is a 7-inch tall white ceramic pedestal dish. It’s square and probably originally intended for serving some kind of yummy dessert. It’s also the type of vessel that a conventional florist would fill with Oasis by shoving a cube of the toxic green foam into the base and then poking in stems to create a “full” arrangement. But instead, I used a mound of chicken wire, anchored with a reusable floral clay. Here are the steps:

  1. Level one of the arrangement is to fill the entire surface of chicken wire with foliage, allowing it to drape over the edge of the vase and also create a soft dome of texture. I had brought some foliage along with me on the plane from Seattle to Oakland ~Jello Mold Farm’s Physocarpus, called ‘Coppertina’ – which has a tawny hue that plays off the brighter dahlias and succulents.
  2. Level two: Add dahlias in a grid of one at the center and five surrounding flowers. I cut the dahlia stems relatively short so that the flowers nestled low into the foliage. Thank you to Kevin Larkin of Corralitos Dahlias for supplying the gorgeous blooms!
  3. Next, add 4-5 medium-sized aeoniums or echeverias between the dahlia blooms. The ones Robin gave me had 6-inch stems, but I still inserted a short piece of 12-gauge wire into the base of each to “extend” it for anchoring into the chicken wire. Susie Nadler cuts her succulent stems pretty short – about 1/2-inch – and then inserts wire and wraps the entire “stem” with floral tape, but I skipped this step here.
  4. Final step: We needed some height! Imagine my reaction when Robin showed up with dozens of cut flowering stems from his hybrid echeverias. Dusky pink, dark coral, pale turquoise. . . the palette was dreamy! Robin’s hybrid echeverias produce mega-rosettes measuring up to 12-inches across, so no surprise that their flowers are also overly robust. The ones he brought me were 10-12 inches long. I inserted several into the bouquet, through the top and down between the other ingredients to be supported by the hidden chicken wire. The hover above the rest of the flowers to finish off the design with a wow-factor!

Thanks so much for listening today. The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 165,000 times by listeners like you. We ended the month of February with 9,647 downloads — an all-time high, which is pretty cool for the shortest month of the year! THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2017: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

We’re also grateful for support from Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

And welcome to our newest sponsor, the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at

Longfield Gardens has returned as a 2017 sponsor, and we couldn’t be happier to share their resources with you. Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

And finally, thank you Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more 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:
Dirtbike Lovers
by Blue Dot Sessions
by Bensound
Additional music from: