“Designers are drawn to Vermont’s beauty and R&R,with an education about domestic flowers.”
As more florists choose flowers and greenery from local and domestic farms, the shift in sourcing practices has stimulated countless conversations that begin with “Where can I find?,” “Who is growing?” and “What’s in bloom now?”
Those questions inform two wedding and event florists who’ve built their individual brands on local and seasonal sourcing. Mary Kate Kinnane of The Local Bouquet in Little Compton, R.I., and Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore in Damascus, Md., are part of the Slow Flowers’ shift toward intentionally supporting domestic flower farms. The two frequently field questions from peers, and they willingly share insights, contacts and advice.
A lush and seasonal floral arch features botanicals from Mountain Flower Farm
Florists’ Review contributor Alison Ellis harvests blooms.
Mary Kate Kinnane (center) of The Local Bouquet leads a branding session.
So it made sense to invite other designers to join their two-day visit to a favorite flower farm. Their September workshop took place at Mountain Flower Farm in Warren, Vt., whose owner, Walt Krukowski, has supplied floral designers nationwide for more than two decades.
Attendees from Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont joined Krukowski and other instructors at Mountain Flower Farm over two days in late September. The timing coincided with peak Hydrangea season, providing a sensory experience and ample “ingredients” for a seasonal design session of hand-tied bouquets and a foam-free floral wedding arch.
Surrounded by hundreds of flowering ornamental shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines and foliage plants, the group first gathered beneath a whimsical circus-style tent as Krukowski shared his farming journey, including how his growing practices deliver high-quality blooms to the floral marketplace. His insights helped professional florists to better understand everything from product pricing and handling to how to advocate about the benefits of seasonality with customers.
BRANDING AND COMMUNICATION TIPS
• Share your story and your “why.” “Even if you’re able to use only 10 percent American-grown flowers, share that you are conscious about it and why it matters to you.
• Bring customers in on the experience. “Show who the farmer is, show behind-the-scenes of you in your studio, show what seasonality looks like in June, and then carry that through your brand.”
• Organize your images by season, such as on Pinterest and on your website. For inspiration, check the seasonality boards of the flower farmers you follow.
• When you post on social media, say where the flowers came from and tag all of your sources. “I think our bridal clients appreciate how transparent we are with where we source from and what it took to get those flowers to the shop.
• More resources are available from The Local Bouquet, including details on the “Farmer/Florist Workshop Series” in 2020.
Source: The Local Bouquet
Bouquet design session with Kelly Shore, Alison Ellis and Blair Roberts Lynn.
Flower farmer Walt Krukowski reviews attributes of seasonal Hydrangea varieties.
Stacey Lee of Paeonia Designs uses an EcoFresh Bouquet wrap for the foam-free arch; Model Erin Bennett poses with locally grown flowers and one of Knoll Farm’s purebred Icelandic sheep; Participants also used “pillow” mechanics from Syndicate Sales; Blair Roberts Lynn designs with autumn flowers.
During her presentation, Shore walked attendees through her flower sourcing process from domestic farms, including those close to her in Maryland, as well as from growers who specialize in key crops like Mountain Flower Farm’s peony, lilac and Hydrangea varieties, greenhouse growers in California, or foliage producers in Florida.
Kinnane introduced the many ways she bases her brand marketing efforts around local and American-grown flower sourcing, giving attendees tips on educating potential customers. Since starting The Local Bouquet in 2013, “We went right into designing 100 percent with American-grown flowers, and I think that has helped me stay true to our mission – because it has never been an option to fill in holes with imports,” she says.
Kinnane believes studios and shops should constantly communicate their sourcing approach across all channels. “I try to consistently drive people to my website to read and learn about where my flowers come from first; then we talk about the wedding,” she notes.
After the education sessions, Krukowski invited participants to harvest from his five acres of fields, and they selected stems from cultivated rows and foraged from the wilder edges of his property. Along with annuals purchased from Jessica Witcher of Understory Farm in Sudbury, Vt., the attendees reveled in the local and seasonal botanical options. They returned to Knoll Farm in Fayston, Vt., which housed and fed attendees, and spent the final afternoon there, creating bouquets that revealed the individual design aesthetic of each.
YEAR-LONG DOMESTIC SOURCING TIPS
• Sign up for every availability list you can for local growers and ones that ship.
• Communicate with your wholesaler that when you place orders you want everything American grown and if there is something that is not, you want to be given the option of choosing to accept it or not.
• Start a monthly log.
• Add farms’ availability and pricing to the inventory/ordering section of your event planning software.
• More resources are available from Petals by the Shore, including details on floral sourcing workshops in 2020.
Source: Petals by the Shore
Led by Shore and Kinnane, the students collaborated on a lavish autumn floral arch, using many floral and foliage varieties sourced from Mountain Flower Farm. Once their creations were photographed, the bouquets became centerpieces for a final farm-to-table dinner, sponsored by The Floral Reserve, a Providence, R.I-based wholesale flower market that highlights local and American-grown options.
For Blair Roberts Lynn, owner of Sweet Blossoms in Frederick, Md., the workshop fit her goals for innovating and diversifying her business practices. “Sourcing American-grown flowers is something that is becoming increasingly important to me,” she explains. “It’s important because I believe in shopping local, which helps to support not only local families but also local infrastructure. This type of sourcing is just one of the green practices I am employing throughout my business to be more sustainable.
The chance to experience Mountain Flower Farm was especially appealing to Lynn because she is already a farm customer. “I wanted to learn more about Walt and his farm. It’s so much more informative to be able to see the product in person and to build personal connections with the farmers.”
“Two AIFD florists bring local and domestic blooms to their South Dakota workshop.”
Photos by Kristen Heismeyer, Bricks Photography
All of the workshop participants collaborated on the moongate florals. Bouquet by Jackie Reiter Vorlicek, Prairie Home; Model: Jamie Ferrie.
Florals designed by Dawn Mensch-Walz, Vintage Vault; Model: Bailey Mayer.
Tabletop arrangement designed by Julie Wurr, Heart & Home.
Inspired Design Retreat:inspireddesign.info, @inspireddesign.infoSponsors: Accent Décor, Arctic Alaska Peonies, CalFlowers, Design Master, Floral Greens Farmers of Florida, Len Busch Roses, Smithers-Oasis and The Green Palace.
Patience Pickner, AIFD, PFCI, SDCF, and Ace Berry, AIFD, PFCI, TMF, are co-creators of Inspired Design, which presents education and design programs, often taught in partnership with wholesale florists or for professional florists associations. This past August, the two produced their first retreat-style workshop, held at The Green Palace, a wedding and event venue in Chamberlain, S.D., located close to The Picket Fence, Pickner’s floral and home décor store.
Called Inspired Design Retreat, the three-day session had two main goals: to provide participants with a library of social-media-ready images from a series of styled shoots and to source local, regional and domestic botanicals for the entire workshop.
Pickner and Berry, who owns Fulshear Floral Design in Fulshear, Texas, formed Inspired Design as a teaching partnership about eight years ago. They created educational content for North American Wholesale Florist, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., as well as classroom offerings on everything from sympathy and wedding florals to preparing for certification or competition.
As a three-day floral retreat, the new event gave participants an opportunity to “design for the soul, for the art of it and the love of it,” Pickner explains. “But the big part was featuring all locally grown and American-grown flowers. There are so many benefits, including supporting your local economy and cutting down a bit on your carbon footprint. Perhaps no one can do it all locally grown, but each of us can do a little more. As we discussed this idea, even people who don’t think about it much started to feel good about this element of the workshop.”
Tapping into South Dakota’s agricultural roots helped her make the connection with locally grown flowers, she explains.
“Farm-to-table is a big movement in our state, and I wanted to carry that through with the floral part of it. There’s something really cool about designing with locally grown flowers.”
Both Pickner and Berry have sourced from small-scale flower farms in their areas, and their experience influenced the retreat curriculum. For example, “There are many varieties, including Zinnia, Dahlia and even Anemone, that don’t ship well,” Pickner says.
In the Fulshear area outside Houston, where Berry is based, he procures Texas-grown Dahlia, Anemone, Ranunculus, Celosia and Zinnia from Vintage Farming Co. “I try to do everything I can to leave my money in my community,” Berry says. “These are the same people who are going to keep me around for the next 50 years, so I’m going to support them.”
These messages came through during the Aug. 8-10 retreat, as 17 participants from across the region were given free rein to create with flowers from South Dakota farms, from Len Busch Roses in Minnesota, and with donations from California and Florida flower growers.
One of the highlights for participants was taking a breakfast-and-mimosa cruise on the Missouri River before reaching a riverside destination where photographers, models and flowers awaited. “Participants knew nothing at this point, but we split them into five groups and said, ‘Here are your flowers and models. You have two hours to design whatever you want,’” Pickner recalls. “We had so much fun, and the models were amazing. They were willing to pose in the water, on the muddy riverbank and in the marshy area, so the teams actually had an opportunity to direct their styled shoots.”
For the second day, the session moved to The Green Palace, a century-old restored barn where participants designed event-style installations, including tabletop and wall décor, and later reviewed pricing formulas with Pickner and Berry.
The workshop culminated with a floral fashion show and farm-to-table dinner that attracted 150 guests, including customers of the Picket Fence and members of the community. The meal featured locally sourced beef and a menu of local produce, dessert and wine. “People are still asking when we are going to do this again,” Pickner says. “But what’s most gratifying is when they say, ‘I didn’t know you could do that kind of thing with flowers.’”
Tammy Krein, owner of Ken’s Flower Shop in Bismarck, N.D., came to the workshop wanting “to think outside the box and create more unique floral pieces,” as part of her preparation for becoming an AIFD Certified Floral Designer.
“Being from North Dakota, we do not have as many opportunities to buy locally as in other states, so the ability to work with all American-grown product was huge,” she says. “I have been using some of the domestic sources already, but I’ve since been adding to them after seeing more of what is available. I’ve also found someone in nearby Bismarck who is starting a flower farm, so I’m hoping to continue working with local flower farms in my area.”
Pickner and Berry are already planning for the next Inspired Design Retreat, which will take place March 30-April 1, 2020, at High Pointe Estate in Liberty Hill, Texas, outside Austin.
“Arizona blooms when two farmer-florists collaborate.”
Terri Schuett, Happy Vine Flowers (left) and Kate Watters, Agave Maria Botanicals.
Kate Watters, owner of Agave Maria Botanicals, and Terri Schuett, owner of Happy Vine Flowers, are both well aware of the assumptions made about growing flowers in Arizona.
“People think of Arizona as palm trees, cacti, sun and heat,” Schuett says. “They don’t realize we have four seasons. We have hellebores blooming under blankets of snow; there are Ranunculus crops in the spring, sunflowers in the summer, chrysanthemums in the fall. Hundreds of flower types are grown all over the state, all year round. There is so much floral diversity in Arizona.”
Watters and Schuett met while interning for Paulden, Ariz.-based flower grower Whipstone Farm. Schuett is a veteran of local floral retail and a certified Arizona Master Florist and is now affiliated with the Agribusiness & Science Technology Center at Yavapai College in Prescott. Watters has an extensive background in botany, ecological restoration and agriculture, coming to floristry while establishing flower and vegetable gardens at Orchard Canyon on Oak Creek, a 10-acre destination resort in Sedona. The two women now partner to teach workshops and design florals for area weddings, drawing botanicals from Schuett’s cutting garden in Prescott Valley and flowers from the greenhouse and gardens managed by Watters.
At the peak of the season last August, the women gathered real-life models, flowers and photographers to capture the best of their region for a series of styled photoshoots.
“We have a deep desire to create meaningful florals and tell the stories of the people and places with flowers grown sustainably here in Northern Arizona,” Watters says. “We also wanted to share color, texture and unique flowers that you can find seasonally and locally.”
They titled the series “This is Arizona: Flowers, Faces, Places,” and produced three visual stories ranging from a seasonally inspired wedding to floral portrait sessions.
“Other than the moss, everything in these designs was locally sourced, including the flowers grown in the garden I tend and the native foliage foraged from our 10-acre property bordering Coconino National Forest, as well as from Terri’s Happy Vine garden,” Watters says.
Orchard Canyon is a popular Sedona wedding venue, and Watters’ Agave Maria Botanicals is a preferred vendor for events on the property. Bounty from the gardens there influenced the cascading bridal bouquet and floral arbor ingredients, including Dahlia, Lisianthus, Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, dusty miller, scented geraniums, ivy and two types of Amaranthus. Many of these botanicals were repeated in the foam-free arbor design, which also included rosemary, oregano, Pyracantha, table grapes and canyon grape vines.
The two portrait projects are more personal, reflecting each model’s story. For Keo, an indigenous Diné (Navajo tribe) and sociology student at Arizona State University who prefers the pronouns them/they, Watters and Schuett based the designs on Keo’s creative vision for the future. “They wanted to share an indigenous perspective through digital storytelling and clothing design,” Watters points out.
Schuett designed a botanical ring and earring that features Dahlia, succulents, Celosia, strawflower, ‘Queen Red Lime’ Zinnia and ‘Hopi Red Dye’ Amaranthus. The headpiece, designed by Watters, incorporates four types of Dahlia, Aztec marigolds, Yucca pods and many of the same elements used in the botanical jewelry.
“We created the ‘staff’ to honor Keo’s indigenous warrior identity using a foraged Yucca stalk, as well as burgundy Amaranthus, native-foraged manzanita, silk tassel, juniper branches, wild turkey feathers and a strand of miniature lights,” Watters adds.
A third portrait session captures Molly Wood, an assistant gardener at Orchard Canyon, and the edible flowers she and Watters grow to supply the menu for its farm-to-table restaurant. The gardens produce more than 100 types and varieties of flowers, herbs and food for the restaurant’s kitchen. The orchard produces fruit from 15 types of apple trees, 10 varieties of peach trees, cherry trees and more. In all, it is a place of beauty open for guests to come and learn.
“And it’s our mission to get people to eat as many flowers as possible,” Watters says.