- Jennifer Jewell
SLOW FLOWERS FOR THE SUMMER (& LIFE), with DEBRA PRINZING
Debra Prinzing is the founder and leader of The Slow Flowers Society – She joins us in this first week of summer (after Memorial Day and before the Summer Solstice in three weeks) in the US to share more about the many facets of her passion for being a voice for the floral world. a Seattle-based writer, speaker and leading advocate for American Grown Flowers, through Debra’s many Slow Flowers-branded projects, she has convened a national conversation that stimulates consumers and professionals alike to make conscious choices about the flowers in their lives.
"Inspiring the floral industry and its consumers to embrace local, seasonal, and sustainable flowers. "
Slow Flowers Society
In our conversation Debra and I explore all things #SlowFlowersSociety – including the upcoming in person Slow Flowers Summit 2021 taking place at the historic Filoli House & Garden in Woodside, California the last weekend of June (and where I will serve as the Capstone Speaker!), AND Debra's newest venture, the co-founding of a new publishing imprint: BLOOM.
"The Slow Flowers™ Society is an inclusive community dedicated to preserving domestic flower farms and supporting a floral industry that relies on a safe, seasonal and local supply of sustainably-farmed flowers and foliage. Our members are engaged in all facets of the flower marketplace.`
The Slow Flowers Movement began in 2013 with the publication of Debra Prinzing's book, Slow Flowers, and has ignited the imaginations of flower lovers, florists, flower farmers and growers across the U.S. (and around the globe)!"
CONNECT with Debra's prismatic work around Slow Flowers - from the Slow Flowers Podcast to the Slow Flowers Journal to the Bloom books to the 2021 Slow Flowers SUMMIT - online at: https://www.slowflowerssociety.com/, or on Instagram at: @dkprinzing or @slowflowerssociety
Debra was featured in my 2020 book, The Earth in Her Hands. She is a visionary change-maker who derives her passion from her love of plants, flowers, the garden and garden folk. Here is the excerpted chapter on Debra:
HerWork Writer; founder and owner, SlowFlowers Society, LLC,Seattle,Washington Her landscaPe “My landscape is an ocean beach. I always feel at peace when I can sit quietly and watch the rhythmic and irregular patterns of waves advancing and receding. Beachcombing is one of my favorite ways to experience the amazing diversity of our natural world, and I confess to filling my pockets or the hem of an upturned shirt to carry my special finds home with me.”
Her Plant Journey Garden journalist Debra Prinzing, founder of the Slow Flowers Society and movement, has been a leader in shifting our national consciousness “ and conversation around where and how the flowers in our life are grown. She focuses on how floral consumers (gardeners, growers, floral designers) can help resolve concerns about a flower industry that is not sustainably grown nor locally sourced. Much of her advocacy is communicated through her books, The 50 Mile Bouquet (2012) and Slow Flowers (2013), and her website slowflowerssociety.com, which she founded in 2014. She also has a weekly Slow Flowers podcast and an online directory connecting American flower farmers with one another and a larger market.
Debra seems to have inherited a gardening gene that skipped from her grandfathers on both sides of her family directly to her. One grew great banks of peonies in Illinois, the other prize-winning dahlias in Indiana. Her parents didn’t garden, but they loved nature, and regular family road trips taught her this love, too—of national parks, seashores, and seasonal colors.
Since her first home and garden of her own, with her husband Bruce Brooks, Debra has been “intentionally involved in plants. There’s an urge to tend to the earth when you feel responsible for it.” Her favorite quote, by the twentieth- century English writer Beverley Nichols, speaks to that sentiment: “Surely, if you are privileged to own a plot of earth, it is your duty, both to God and man, to make it beautiful.”
After a career in business and lifestyle journalism, Debra says “the universe kept putting flower farmers in my way, and when I looked back at all the flower people I’d ever interviewed for books or magazines, I knew there was something in that realm that really appealed.” She just kept meeting them, and “it felt like a clear sign. I knew—this is what I want to write about, this is what I want to document, these are the people who don’t have voices—I could give them voice.”
“Frustrated and disturbed” that she could grow the same flowers in her back garden, and “yet the marketplace was not offering anything but foreign-grown imported flowers with this huge transportation footprint, to say nothing of the unknown environmental and human rights impact in the country of origin,”
Debra felt keenly “the injustice of what was happening in the floral industry domestically.” As her Slow Flowers manifesto summarizes, “For various reasons, be it economic, trade, or government policy, the floral industry since the early 1990s has undergone a major shift in the way flowers are grown and marketed. Slow Flowers began in the United States, where 80 percent of cut flowers sold are imported from other countries and continents. The movement recognizes that this is not sustainable for people or for the planet. . . Slow Flowers believes it is irresponsible to support the continued production and consumption of a perishable product that devours so many valuable resources ( jet fuel, packaging material, water, to name a few), especially when there is a domestic alternative to imported flowers.”
Since 2012, Debra’s work has “100 percent focused on helping flower lovers—gardeners and consumers, as well as professionals (florists and designers)— embrace a new floral ethos and make conscious and informed flower-buying decisions to source domesti- cally and locally.” She explains, “I am a documentary storyteller who gives voice to doers and makers, artists and farmers, the people behind the flowers.” Through the many branches of Slow Flowers, reintroduced in 2019 as the Slow Flowers Society, she “strives to shine light on positive successes in flower farming, floral design, and every point along the floral continuum. In many ways, it’s a form of social persuasion. I like to showcase positive examples of success that (I hope) will disrupt industry apathy about the origin of flowers.” The Slow Flowers movement “has become part of the floral industry’s vernacular to describe seasonal, local, and sustainable practices.”
Despite success and headway, Debra acknowledges “there’ve been many weeks and years where I’ve had to repeat myself like a broken record, saying the same things about seasonal, local, and sustainable flow-ers. The needle is moving slower than I wish. But then I see changes in the floral industry, and I feel optimistic again. When I’m interviewed for the New York Times, when leading NYC-based and DC-based wedding and event designers—people whose work and careers have been heavily reliant upon imported flowers—go out and buy farms where they can grow some of their own flowers, well, that is pretty gratifying.” Being asked by Florists’ Review, the top floral industry trade mag- azine, to launch a print version of her online Slow Flowers Journal “similarly validated” Debra’s work and subjects, “sending a message that my mission is relevant to the broader floral community.”
“The inspiration for Slow Flowers begins in gardens, meadows, orchards, and fields, where the timeless act of cutting or harvesting botanicals season by season is part of the natural cycle of a year. Having a relationship with the grower who planted and nurtured each flower is nothing short of magical. They are the unsung heroes—the faces behind the flowers we love.”
OTHER INSPIRING Women for Debra:
♦ Karen Page, landscape designer, Chimacum, Washington
♦ Jean Zaputil, garden designer, writer, and artist, Davenport, Iowa
♦ Diane Szukovathy, co-owner, Jello Mold Farm, Mt. Vernon, Washington. Cofounder of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market (2011), a Pacific North- west flower farmers’ cooperative in Seattle, Washington
♦ Christina Stembel, founder and CEO, Farmgirl Flowers, San Francisco, Californi
JOIN US again next week, when Cultivating Place is in conversation with another floral voice, this time from the UK. Claire Bowen – the creative behind the floral space Honeysuckle & Hilda, and author of The Healing Power of Flowers. Join us!
Thinking out loud this week:
After a year and some of very little travel, very little if any gathering, very little communal laughter and celebration this summer of 2021 seems magical.
I flew on a plane to see my eldest daughter graduate from college and to have a full family gathering in her honor was nothing short of miraculous; I traveled on a another plane to see my father in his recovery and to support my step-mother in her care giving. She and I went to a sweet little brick and mortar shop called NEST in Abiquiu, NM where they live and the wildly creative and hard working jeweler and owner of Nest Tamara Kay has curated not only her own inspired jewelry, but the art of local and far-flung painters, ceramicists, herbalists, and writers. She had a delicious collection of poetry books – some by individual poets, some compilations. The following week she was hosting a poetry reading for a poet local to the area. When I asked her if she had a website – she said yes, but she really didn’t want to focus on that. What she wanted to focus all of her generous supply of energy on was being part of a renaissance of brick and mortar shops across the country helping to anchor and help her community to coalesce around art, beauty, meaning and their place together.
On each of these first tender forays into the world with my vaccinations and without violating protocols – my sensitivity to the joys of gathering with others was so sharp and sweet. It is the unadulterated joy I am feeling at being at the Slow Flowers Summit – it is the great joy and connection I feel holding a real book in my hands, too.
We as humans and gardeners – we are social creatures, we are tactile creatures and we are generative in community – with our plants, our soil, our weather, and one another. We are herd animals and so much better together….really not just virtually.
and so let's end this first week of June with this:
And floral and garden hearted folk….
I am so glad that summer is here – even with 108 degrees in the forecast already where I live – it is another of the moments in the season when we try to slow down, to enjoy weekends outside, holidays by oceans, mountains, lakes, the scent of favorite flowers, the shade of favorite and beloved trees, the songs of the birds, the bees, yes, even the big brood of summer cicadas.
They all remind us that this planet is loving and generous and sensual and ours to know and care for in return.
Enjoy some lazy loving summer days with her – ok?
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