American Flowers Week labels decorate bouquets from Le Mera Gardens ~ photographed at the Fry Family Farm Store in Southern Oregon (c) Photo by Erica @ofthewonder

Designed by Tonya Berge of Washington’s Berge’s Blooms for American Flowers Week. She captioned the image on Instagram with this sentiment: “freedom • the power to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”

By Mackenzie Nichols

This year’s American Flowers Week reached garden and flower lovers from all across the country and inspired dozens of events and celebrations to commemorate and honor local farmers, flower growers, and florists who garner a passion for USA-grown blooms.

Steve (left) and Suzy (right) Fry with the Fry Family Farm “family” in Oregon’s Rogue Valley — celebrating American Flowers Week with hyper-local flowers grown by farming partner Joan Thorndike of Le Mera Gardens (c) Photo by Erica @ofthewonder

On social media platforms, #americanflowersweek received over three million impressions, incited over 900 original posts, and according to Real Time Tracker of Instagram and Twitter platforms, inspired a whopping 80.1% positive sentiments. As the Slow Flowers message continues to spread, here are some of the highlights from American Flowers Week 2018. 

Slow Flowers member, farmer-florist Jim Martin of Compost in My Shoe, emceed the American Flowers Week design competition, called “Bloom Battle.”

Lowcountry Flower Growers “Bloom Battle” Design Competition

On June 30th, Marion Square in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, bustled with activity in honor of American Flowers Week. Three local designers competed in a “Bloom Battle” floral design competition at the Charleston Farmers Market to showcase their talents working with locally sourced and sustainable blooms. Laura Mewborn of Feast and Flora Farm helped organize the event, which showcased not only the designers, but also the Southern flower farms who provided the flowers.

It’s important for us to educate the public about the importance of using locally grown flowers. They are all relatively young farms [providing the flowers], and when we all combine like this to host a big event, we are much more visible. People can see the impact that they have on the individual farmers, and they think of their purchasing power.

Judges and contestants participated in the Low Country Flower Growers’ fun event to promote American Flowers Week 2018. The two Bloom Battle judges, Nikki Seibert of Wit Meets Grit and Kelli Shaw of Kelli Shaw Designs, on the left, posed with the three competing designers, pictured on the right.

Eight participating farms doled out the best of their blooms to the three competing designers, who arranged pieces in front of judges Nikki Seibert of Wit Meets Grit and Kelli Shaw of Kelli Shaw Designs. The competition was based on three categories:

  • a centerpiece for a pool party
  • flowers for a boy’s birthday party
  • a farm-to-table banquet arrangement.

The goal for the farmers, Laura explains, was to feature flowers that consumers may not be familiar with in terms of seasonal flowers that bloom during summertime.

“People generally think of zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers in terms of growing summer flowers,” she says. “We wanted to showcase crops that people don’t necessarily already grow, like lisianthus, lilies, celosia, and amaranthus.”

This diversity of American-grown flowers enticed locals and tourists alike to come to Mewborn and other farmers with gardening questions, wanting to know more about the benefits of locally-sourced blooms and how they might be able to grow them in their own gardens. According to Laura, Marion Square’s Charleston Farmers Market was a successful venue to host the event as many tourists pass through the area who can ultimately spread the message of American Flowers Week and the Lowcountry Flower Growers coalition throughout the country.

The winning designer, Tony Reale of Roadside Blooms, arranged a farm-to-table bouquet design that stole the show with its amaranthus, lisianthus, and natural-wood accent.

“The Charleston Farmers Market in Marion Square is a very busy market in general,” Laura says. “There are so many tourists there, which means that the message is going out far beyond and past just the local people. Now, it is going to people all across the country.”

In comparison to last year’s Lowcountry Flower Growers booth, where farmers simply handed out zinnias, Laura notes that this design competition allowed the farmers to do something that was more involved, and the response was largely positive.

Tony Reale from Roadside Blooms ultimately won, but designers Ann Cinniffee from Purple Magnolia and Noah Sanderson from The Bearded Florist also received prizes to commemorate the event and celebrate in locally-grown, naturally sourced floral designs. In the future, Mewborn wants to incorporate more of a fundraising feel for upcoming American Flowers Week events, and she will also be hosting another event for Lowcountry Flower Growers in August.

Laura Mewbourn of Feast & Flora Farm and Peachey Trudell of One Wild Acre smiled among their locally-grown blooms in honor of American Flowers Week.

“It’s been great to have conversations with people, and they seem surprised by how much we can grow here in Charleston,” Laura adds. “These events are incredible to let people know that we’re here.”

Isabella Thorndike Church of Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design designed a fantastic floral “painting” depicting a barn and fields for American Flowers Week. All photos: (c) Juliet Ashley Photography

Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design Installation at Fry Family Farm

Mother-daughter team Joan Thorndike and Isabella Thorndike Church work side-by-side at Le Mera Gardens, Joan’s established flower farm in Talent, Oregon, providing fresh cut flowers directly to local florists, grocery stores, and for weddings and events.

In the past, Isabella and her mother have plastered American Flowers Week stickers on each bouquet, and this year Isabella decided to take the celebration a couple steps forward by installing a 4-by-6-foot floral display including more than 5,000 stems of locally-grown Oregon flowers.

Jeremiah Thorndike Church delivers a bounty of Oregon-grown blooms for use in the vivid botanical installation (c) Juliet Ashley Photography

The botanical installation took around six hours to complete with a small crew by her side, and drew substantial foot traffic into Fry Family Farm where she set up the display, Isabella says.

“The installation drew people into the store and we were able to talk to them about locally grown flowers,” she adds. “When I was making the installation, I posted about it on Instagram, and several people came in to watch the process. People were in awe of the size and the amount of flowers I used.”

Originally, Isabella did not intend to have her stems show through the back of the installation, but once she started going, she realized that the exposed stems effectively showed viewers just how many local blooms were used in the arrangement (c) Juliet Ashley Photography

Isabella repurposed a ready-made metal frame from Fry Family Farm and hung it vertically, covering it in a chicken-wire base to arrange the flowers.

She harvested flowers such as delphinium, feverfew, Russian statice, and larkspur to create a life-size floral depiction of the Fry Family Farm logo, and kept the stems exposed from the back so that onlookers could get a feel for how many flowers were used in the display. The spectacle intrigued and inspired viewers to have a go at their own installations, and increased dialogue about the importance of locally sourced flowers.

“People were psyched to see how it worked,” Isabella continues, noting that the exposed stems on the reverse side of the botanical installation was equally beautiful. “Several women were like ‘I’m going to get chicken wire and make it myself.’ Others returned to see the drying process. They had to touch the flowers to see if they were real. They asked about the different kinds of flowers. People don’t normally engage, but they were engaging more with this installation piece.”

Isabella Thorndike Church carefully adds her locally-grown blooms into the chicken-wire base of her installation for Fry Family Farm (c) Juliet Ashley Photography

Along with the display, Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design, Le Mera Gardens, and Fry Family Farm used American Flowers Week stickers on the bouquets they sent out to recipients, and they handed out a free sunflower to every customer who walked in the shop. One Fry Family Store employee, Daria Lisandrelli, said that she was surprised by how many people were already aware of American Flowers Week.

We’ve been promoting American Flowers Week across all sectors. We’ve had the AFW stickers on our bouquets, and when people come into the farm store, we give them a free sunflower in honor of the week. This year, we had the Fry Family Farm venue to have the installation piece and were able to bring it all together.

The staff of Scenic Place Peonies wore locally-grown flower hats to commemorate American Flowers Week during the Fourth of July parade in Homer, Alaska.

Scenic Place Peonies Celebrates AFW at the Homer, Alaska, Fourth of July Parade

Independence Day in Homer, Alaska, was blooming this year thanks to the farmers, employees, and designers from Scenic Place Peonies farm. As a long-time member of the Chamber of Commerce in Homer, which sponsors the parade, Beth Van Sandt and her crew were invited to drive their wrapped reefer truck in this year’s 4th of July extravaganza, handing out their farm-grown blooms to attendees and wearing locally-sourced flower hats to commemorate American Flowers Week.

The response was overwhelmingly positive with exclamations of surprise and pure joy at receiving flowers from the crew,” she says. “I believe it brought awareness to many that we have beautiful wildflowers in our backyard and all it takes is cutting some to bring that beauty into our homes.

The Scenic Place Peonies crew handed out “wild-sourced” chocolate lilies, geranium, and Alaska’s state flower, the forget-me-not, to parade-goers. Images of Scenic Place Peonies’ employees filled the farm’s Instagram and Facebook feeds, as they smiled and wore flower hats adorned with local greenery, tulips, daisies, and a variety of wildflowers. The flowers, sourced from their property of meadows in Alaska, brought awareness and happiness to the Homer, AK, parade.

“American Flowers Week is a time to celebrate the hard work that flower farmers perform each day,” Van Sandt said. “It’s very rewarding when your labor of love is expressed through the eyes of an eager recipients face.”

Grace Flowers Hawaii engaged Instagram followers in the week-long giveaway of blooms grown on The Big Island, making a lot of people very happy and educating them about local flowers.

Grace Flowers Hawaii’s Free Bouquet of the Day Giveaway

For this year’s American Flowers Week, manager Nicole Cordier and her team at Grace Flowers Hawaii decided to up the ante in terms of interactive customer service by hiding a “Free Bouquet a Day” each day somewhere on The Big Island.

Each morning, a staff member would take a photo of the free floral arrangement and tease it on Instagram and Facebook with cryptic hints as to where customers might be able to discover it later in the day. Then, Nicole or a team member took the free bouquet, lei, or orchid to its hiding place, and snapped a photo for their social platforms, urging followers to move fast if they wanted to win the challenge. Along with the prize, she attached a note to the free merchandise describing the concept of the giveaway and why they decided to host the challenge during American Flowers Week.

These free Bouquet of the Day arrangements featured locally-grown tropical flowers and evoked a cheery, summertime feel.

“The response was enigmatic,” she recalls. “I remember someone commenting on the photo that they drove from their home as soon as they saw the post and by the time they got to the hiding place, it was gone. She thanked us for adding excitement to her day.”

Each day, Grace Flowers Hawaii staff members hid their Free Bouquet of the Day giveaways in various scenic locations on the Big Island.

According to Nicole, the concept behind the Free Bouquet of the Day Giveaway was to highlight flowers, foliage, and plants grown on the tropical Hawaiian Islands, and “the Big Island in particular.”

By showcasing the diversity of plants grown by local farmers in Hawaii, Cordier brought attention to the Slow Flowers Movement through tropicals and warmer-temperate plants. From orchid leis to large-anthurium arrangements to Hawaiian-grown orchid plants in attractive containers, the spectrum for the Free Bouquet a Day Giveaway was broad and indicative of the biodiversity on the Big Island of Hawaii.

American Flowers Week, to us, is a time when specific attention is placed on supporting American flower farmers, which is important because it brings a concerted shift and push in consumer awareness about where flowers are grown and how far some flowers must travel from origin to market. It’s important to support our domestic floral/agriculture industry which will in turn make this a viable livelihood for our workforce, and better for this planet.

Impact, Influence and Impressions for American Flowers Week 2018

MORE American Flowers Week Ideas

Along with the events outlined above, many other celebrations occurred across the nation to honor American Flowers Week. Here are a few more of the highlights.

Laureen Kelly’s award-winning snapdragons

Longfield Gardens Photo Contest

Longfield Gardens, based in Lakewood, New Jersey, hosted its second American Flowers Week photo contest from June 30th through July 4th, asking their social media followers to post a photo of their favorite American-grown arrangements in order to win a $100 gift certificate. The winner, Laureen Kelly, posted a photo of her healthy snapdragon arrangement to the Longfield Gardens Facebook page (above).

Syndicate Sales Made in America Easel Stand at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Syndicate Sales’ Director of Education Tom Bowling created a special arrangement to be placed in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, D.C. with Syndicate’s new Made in America Easel Stand, which is manufactured in the United States (above).

Syndicate Sales gave an attribution to American Flowers Week through the hashtag on Instagram.

Maple and Mum Mobile Flower Shop Announcement

In honor of American Flowers Week, Connecticut-based Slow Flowers members,  Maple and Mum Floral Designs announced that they will be “bringing locally grown flowers to the Connecticut shoreline and beyond,” through an Instagram post on July 4th. Maple and Mum’s mobile flower shop is up and running, and followers are urged to check their page for upcoming locations along the East coast (above).

Town and Country Markets Grocery Display

At Town and Country Markets in Seattle, Washington, floral category director Melanie Cherry and her team set up an American Flowers Week display featuring Hawaii-grown tropicals.

Other displays garnered attention with bunches of sweet peas from Willow and Mabel Garden Company and “Farmers Favorites.”

Stars of the Meadow Baker’s Dozen Supper

On July 3rd, Stars of the Meadow of Accord, New York, hosted a “Baker’s Dozen Supper” where attendees gathered for “homemade strawberry ice cream topped with black caps,” according to their Instagram post. Locally grown boutonnieres and arrangements made an appearance at the event, where guests celebrated American-grown flowers.

About Mackenzie Nichols:

With this feature story, we’re introducing a new Slow Flowers contributor, Mackenzie Nichols.

Mackenzie is a freelance writer and experienced floral designer. She writes regularly for the Society of American Florists’ Floral Management magazine, and her work also appears in The Boston Globe, The American Gardener, Canadian Florist, and Tastemakers music magazine. She interned with MSNBC, Donna Morgan, and The American Horticultural Society and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a minor in Music Industry from Northeastern University. Mackenzie worked as a floral designer for Fern Flowers in Boston’s Back Bay Area, and Tiger Lily Florist, the top flower shop in Charleston, South Carolina. She lives in Manhattan’s East Village.