“Welcome to the 25th edition of the Slow Flowers Journal inside the pages of Florists’ Review”
Two years ago, Travis Rigby, publisher of Florists’ Review, invited me to create a new section to reflect a larger cultural shift that was taking place in the consumer marketplace, including in floral design. At the time, we told you the Slow Flowers Journal was designed to share ideas and information about local, seasonal and domestic botanicals, told through stories of florists, flower farmers and influential voices of the Slow Flowers Movement.
Travis wrote, “Our intent is not to advocate giving up other business models altogether, but rather, to introduce the new ideas that you can grow your own flowers; buy locally-grown and American-grown botanicals; insist on better labeling and even price yourself in a way that makes your work more enjoyable, healthier, richer and more authentic.”
Since the August 2017 launch of the Slow Flowers Journal, we’ve collected an impressive lineup of profiles, features, Q&As, event reports and product reviews, and filled more than 250 pages with original content! Our conversations introduced you to creative people, uncommon flowers, beautiful farms and inspiring business ideas, all with the goal of encouraging you to embrace seasonality and sustainability in your floral enterprise.
This has been a rewarding journey – one filled with the beauty of the natural world. We would like to thank everyone who shared their amazing talents with us, and we thank you for being part of the conversation.
Slow Flowers Journal
The Gathering Rose
Rachael Ann Lunghi of Siren Floral Co. demonstrates a hand-tied bouquet featuring garden roses.
– By Debra Prinzing
– Photography by Jona Christina, @jonachristinaphoto
Last April, 15 rose lovers traveled from around the U.S. and Canada to take part in a two-day workshop at Rose Story Farm in Carpinteria, Calif., just outside of Santa Barbara. Unlike most educational events in the floral design world, it was 100 percent financed by the organizers.
The purpose? According to Danielle Hahn of Rose Story Farm and her collaborator Felicia Alvarez of Menagerie Farm & Flower, based in Live Oak, in the Sacramento Valley, they created the one-of-a-kind workshop “to bring together people for a sharing of knowledge, exchange of ideas, formation of deeper connections and global inspiration.”
The women wanted to teach the foundations of farming, designing a rose farm or garden, selecting varieties for floral design and growing and designing with companion plants. Like gathering roses for an arrangement, they wanted to gather other artists and growers to join them as workshop presenters.
The genesis of The Gathering Rose, as the project was named, began as series of conversations that occurred when Alvarez traveled from her Northern California farm to visit Hahn’s farm on the state’s central coast. The two realized they shared mutual values as fellow growers of garden roses for the floral marketplace. “We began talking about how much we both were interested in providing education about rose growing and sharing our knowledge,” says Alvarez, who, like Hahn, fields a steady stream of near daily inquires about rose farming, cultivation and harvest from florists and entry-level farmer-florists.
“There is a burgeoning farmer-florist movement in the U.S, and a lot of people who are coming from different backgrounds that may not necessarily have farming or agriculture experience. Many are just starting from scratch,” Alvarez explains. “And many are discovering that there is a big difference between a field-grown garden rose and a conventional greenhouse rose.”
Hahn, who started Rose Story Farm in 1998 and was inducted into the Great Rosarians of the World in 2014, has a similar passion about sharing her decades of experience – including best practices – with others new to the profession.
“Roses are a vehicle to bring people together at our farm,” Hahn says. “Farming is collaborative, not competitive. I think that Felicia has very much that same mindset.” The two brainstormed about a workshop that would provide rare access to their combined expertise, and pair equal parts instruction with encouragement – not to mention inspiration from the sensory beauty of garden roses. Essentially, Hahn and Alvarez wanted to “pay it forward,” and share their knowledge with others hungry to learn more.
They unveiled details of their first workshop, “A Rose for All Seasons,” on February 12th, inviting followers to apply to the scholarship-based, no-fee-structure model.
The announcement read “To kick off this inaugural event in the series, we wanted to pay it forward to the farm and flower communities that have mentored us along our farming journeys, and offer all 15 tickets to the workshop complimentary with a scholarship application process.”
The very short window between application deadline and the actual workshop on April 1-2 did not deter interest. Hahn figures about 1,000 people sent in applications from around North America and beyond. Each answered just a few questions about who they were, their profession or business category, what it would mean to attend and how the workshop would help them in business or life.
“We reviewed the entries blind, so we didn’t know who had applied,” Alvarez explains. “We ended up selecting a diverse group of people at different levels of growth. We had everyone from an interior designer to someone who owns a catering company and event space, as well as other flower farmers and florists.”
As a guest of The Gathering Rose, I arrived like most attendees on Sunday, March 30, for an intimate welcome reception in the former stables-turned-great room at Rose Story Farm. We met the other instructors, including rose specialist and floral artist Fallon Shea, wedding and event designer, Rachael Ann Lunghi of Siren Floral Co., and fine art photographer Jona Christina.
With her husband Bill Hahn, our hostess led a walking tour of the 15-acre farm’s beautiful production fields. And later, she and Alvarez led a roundtable session where each scholarship winner shared his or her story and passion for roses. The workshop continued over the following two days with presentations on growing, garden design and arranging with roses. Students hailed from Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada.
Jeni Nelson, manager of The London Plane, was ecstatic to be selected as a scholarship winner. “Since learning about Rose Story Farm and receiving their boxes of gorgeous roses at our Seattle shop, I had a desire to visit the farm. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity to apply for The Gathering Rose,” Nelson says. “I gained a renewed purpose in my work of spreading beauty into the world. The work of growing, as well as floral design, is a labor of love and The Gathering Rose workshop reminded me of why I do what I do – because beauty matters.”
After the workshop, Nelson made a significant sourcing change for The London Plane. “I decided that moving forward, we would only source American-grown roses. Mother’s Day was the first opportunity following the workshop to ship in our roses solely from Rose Story Farm. We were deeply inspired by our design material this year, and it showed in our work.”
Floral designer Jenn Pineau, owner of Nature Composed in Middleburg, Va., says the workshop provided her with much-needed R&R, as well as a newfound appreciation for “the people behind the roses,” which deepens the experience of every arrangement she now makes. “After the workshop, I ordered some bare root roses from Felicia at Menagerie Farm. They’re in the ground and blooming now. I’m inspired to keep adding to my rose collection and I plan to sell rose plants at my shop next season.”
The attendees’ comments resonate with both Alvarez and Hahn, who say their own farms have benefitted from students’ increased understanding of their roses. The experience was meaningful in other ways, Alvarez notes. “We wanted to make sure people had the opportunity to learn from us and from each other, and I know those connections are still happening. I learned a lot from the participants as well, which helps me become a better grower and educator.”
The positive experience has inspired Hahn to begin planning a second edition of The Gathering Rose in the future. “We’ve received a tremendous amount of positive energy and feedback from hosting this event,” Hahn says. “It has been amazing to have people with new eyes look at what we’ve done and share their enthusiasm.”
|The Gathering Rose||thegatheringrose.com, @thegatheringrose|
|Rose Story Farm||rosestoryfarm.com, @rosestoryfarm|
|Menagerie Farm & Flower||menagerieflower.com, @menagerieflower|
Farmer-florist grows design ingredients in a city garden where chickens roam freely.
Portraits by Anna Peters, @annapeter_s
Eleanor Blackford, owner of Bash & Bloom, an event and design studio, believes that her flourishing city lot is the secret ingredient to her success. Her studio and 1,000-square-foot cut flower patch are located in Seattle’s South Beacon Hill neighborhood, where more than 100 varieties of flowers and foliage plants thrive. “We use these elements to personalize every project we work on,” she says.
Blackford launched her studio in 2011 while working in the nonprofit and social work sector. “A friend asked me to design the flowers for her wedding and I was completely hooked,” she says. It helps that her British-born mother and grandmother infused Blackford with a lifelong love of gardening and an aptitude for plant-tending.
The designer’s lush, organic, romantic and a little wild aesthetic is based entirely on seasonality. With a nine-month gardening season, and with the farm-to-florist Seattle Wholesale Growers Market located just a few miles from her home, it’s easy for Blackford to support her brand value of offering 100% domestic sourcing, “including as much locally grown as possible,” she explains.
Since 2015, when she moved into her future husband’s home, Blackford has supplemented her floral orders with her own-grown flowers. She has established annuals, perennials and flowering shrubs in parcels that edge the curbs and sidewalk, in raised beds that line the driveway, and an area along her front path. Grass no longer exists here, supplanted by seeds and bulbs. Five hens provide eggs for Blackford’s small family, but they also dig up the soil, eat bugs and provide manure that doubles as fertilizer. “It’s basically a little urban farm. I go out and do farm chores. I do crop rotation and use no-till methods. I’m all organic,” she maintains.
Blackford offers couples (and their wedding planners) an immersive experience where the flowers help define a mood or add impact through signature installations for their event. Known for her colorful design palette and garden-inspired aesthetic, Blackford tends to attract couples in search of an offbeat, whimsical look.
“My flowers are definitely a selling point for my clients,” she says. “It’s why some contact me in the first place, because they like the idea that I’ll grow some of the flowers that will be used in their wedding.”
Yet, there are weeks when Blackford doesn’t have a need for the event-specific annuals and perennials she grows. “One of the things I really enjoy about growing is that other designers want my flowers, too,” she points out. Blackford sells her extra harvest to florist friends, as well as on consignment at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, where her flowers are displayed alongside the blooms from Northwest area flower farms.
“This garden is a bonus, and if it makes money to pay for itself, then I’m happy. I save thousands of dollars over the course of the year, and I typically sell a couple thousand dollars worth of my flowers on top of that.”
Her marketing is low-key, but effective. For example, earlier in the season Blackford harvested masses of white-blooming corn cockle (Agrostemma sp.), posted photos on her Instagram feed (@bashandbloom), and let her followers know she planned to deliver the flowers to the Market on the following day. More than 250 likes and several comments followed, and the flowers sold quickly. The irony is that the patch of corn cockle had self-sown and re-bloomed after her 2018 planting, revealing Blackford’s preferred style of “lazy gardening.” “I like the garden to do the gardening for me,” she jokes. As an entrepreneur and new mom, this less-intensive approach is paying off. “I’m switching to growing not the big, juicy blooms, but the other things that are unique and stand out; that add different texture to my bouquets and arrangements,” Blackford says. “For example, cosmos and zinnia. Yes, they are often considered farmers’ market flowers, but seeds are available for so many different varieties and I think they are so pretty.”
Even when she designs with flowers from the Bash and Bloom cutting garden, Blackford is careful to price at the market rate. “I do not adjust my prices at all, because I don’t want anyone to think that growing my own flowers cheapens my work. I treat my flowers as if I bought them from any other vendor.”
Financial reasons aside, there are many benefits to growing flowers in her urban setting, Blackford adds. “It’s really important to me, especially living in the city, to connect with the earth. To put a seed in the dirt and see it grow. I don’t have to move out to the country to do this scale of flower growing, and I really like the diversity that this little farm provides. I like that I design weddings and I grow flowers. I don’t want to have to grow for a ton of other people’s weddings because then the creativity would disappear for me.”
Bash and Bloom: bashandbloom.com, @bashandbloom