Slow Flowers Movement
Image courtesy of Debra Prinzing
Think about the difference between a tomato from your garden in the summer and a tomato from the grocery store in January. Think about that fresh, juicy flesh of the former and the pale, mealy look of the latter.
Now think about a flower from your garden or local farmers' market—the silky leaves, the beautiful blooms. Know what's even better? Those cellophane-wrapped versions from the supermarket. Nothing says fresh-from-the-garden like some dyed blue daisies.
This kind of thinking is exactly what Debra Prinzing, Seattle and L.A.-based outdoor living expert, spends 144 pages working against in her new book, Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm (St. Lynn's Press).
"Many people support the Slow Food movement of sourcing food that's grown or raised locally and flowers deserve the same treatment," she says. "Though we don't eat flowers, I want to live in season with them the way a chef does with ingredients."
Prinzing challenged herself to create 52 weeks worth of bouquets using whatever she could find from local growers or in her own garden. Here are her thoughts on the hardest weeks and instinctual floral design, plus a DIY "recipe" for one of her favorite arrangements, Tulips & Twigs.
Did you grow up around flowers?
A love of gardening and flowers skipped a generation in my family. My father's father grew peonies in Illinois and my mother's father grew prize-winning dahlias in Indiana.
When did gardening register on your radar?
When I bought my first home. I have an undergraduate degree in textiles, so my eye sees a garden like a quilt. It's just a different medium to grow beauty.
Do you have a background in floral design?
Not professionally, but gardeners are uniquely qualified to be floral designers because they understand the seasons and bloom cycles. They know what looks good in a garden will also look good in a vase. To me, a vase of flowers is just a little garden.
What made you challenge yourself to create a bouquet each week of the year?
Working on my book The 50 Mile Bouquet put a face on the flower farmer for me. A lot of people think you can only do this if you live in a warm-weather climate year-round, but I thought, what the heck, I'm going to see what I can do. I did it to prove the naysayers wrong, but also to teach myself the spectrum of variety I can work from. It might be just tulips in the winter grown in a greenhouse, but you can do it.
Did you ever find yourself without inspiration?
The toughest weeks were the more dormant months in the garden, but then there would be a storm and spruce branches with cones would get knocked down in my driveway and I'd think, I should use those. Nature is so fascinating. If you look at every woody plant, shrub, vine and grass as a floral element, you'll start realizing you have more choices than you think.
You use so many gorgeous vases in your book. Are they as important as flowers?
If you're able to, choose a vase that's as much of an artistic element as the flowers themselves. I became obsessive about collecting vases and without knowing it I was drawn to American pottery. I think there's a connection between American flowers and American vessels.
How does the Slow Flowers movement relate to floral websites?
We've been trained to dial toll-free numbers and order flowers from nameless, faceless people. The downside is that you don't know what your loved one is receiving, even if you're looking at a photograph on the screen. When I have to send flowers, I go to sources I know are going to have American-grown flowers. Someone's cutting the flowers in the morning and shipping them that afternoon. Yes, there's a footprint to that but at least you're buying from an American farm.
What's the best way to find local growers for flowers?
Local farmers' markets are always the best place to find a grower. Here are some sites I recommend as well:
ASCFG.org – the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers
CCFC.org – California Cut Flower Commission
Rosiqueflowers.com – These bouquets are sold at the L.A. farmer's market and are also shipped around the country.
CAFGS.org – California Association of Flower Growers and Shippers. This site has great resources and links. You can also call them and say, "I'm in Nashville. Are there any businesses in my area that buy your product?" It can be complicated and people get discouraged. I'm trying to bridge the communication gap from farmer to the retail side.
Tell me about the cover image for Slow Flowers:
I love that green pot; I spent $10 on it at a vintage sale. Flowers will usually flip out of a short urn with a wide mouth but I used a flower frog to stabilize the flowers without using flower foam.
I like layers in my arrangements and I wanted to showcase the yellow and red tulips at different heights so people could see how different their forms are—the yellow ones are tall and slender and the red are chubby like Easter eggs. And the camellias were in bud, so I peeled all the green leaves off the branches.
A friend paid me the highest compliment: She said, “I could do that bouquet.” I want it to be accessible. Varying the heights make it look natural and not so coiffed.
Tulips & Twigs
From Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets From the Garden, Meadow and Farm
- 12 stems red tulips
- 10 stems yellow tulips
- 6 stems curly willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa”)
- 8 stems Camellia japonica
- Dome-shaped flower frog
- Five-inch tall x six-inch diameter matte green urn with handles
When placed in the base of the vessel, a dome-shaped flower frog is all that’s needed to keep the flowers erect.
To create this arrangement, I added all the red tulips first, cutting the stems short to draw attention to the egg-shaped flowers. Notice that the heights are slightly varied for interest. Vivid yellow strips create a second tier, their longer stems and more slender flower heads hovering above.
Curly willow is placed irregularly, seeming to embrace the entire arrangement. As a final touch, I added several camellia stems cut at different heights.