American Flowers Week’s Floral Cape by Tara Folker of Splints & Daises


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Romantic and mysterious, the floral cape designed by Tara Folker of Splints & Daisies features all-American grown botanicals from Stargazer Barn in Arcata, California. (c) With Love and Embers

Floral Palette: Bulb flowers, including Irises, tulips and callas; Foliages, including ornamental cabbage, sword fern and wild huckleberry.
Floral ingredients supplied by Stargazer BarnArcata, California
Designer: Tara Folker, Splints & Daisies, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; @splintsanddaisies

Floral designer and artist Tara Folker

Tara Folker has been designing flowers for nearly two decades, having opened her own dried florals and woven basketry business when she was 19. Coming from a family of artists on her mother and grandmother’s side and of plant lovers on her father’s side, Tara concludes, “Things mixed for me, and I ended up in artistic florals.”

While she doesn’t describe herself as a fashion designer, Tara has produced a number of wearable floral garments for styled shoots. “I call it my playtime because it’s when I can actually do what I want to do. As anyone in the wedding industry knows, you don’t always get that. With styled shoots, I’m going to do what I love.”

When Bill Prescott, Stargazer Barn, offered to provide the flowers and foliage for Tara’s American Flowers Week con­cept, the timing was perfect. Tara and her team photographed in early January when not much local product was avail­able on the East Coast.

She treasured the chance to select from Stargazer’s greenhouses and fields in Northern Cali­fornia: Fancy and standard tulips, ‘White Versailles’ Freesias, ‘Telsar’ Irises, ‘Cantor’ callas and all sorts of greenery, such as white and purple ornamental cabbage, sword ferns and lacy sweet huckleberry. The color palette: purples, peaches, white and green – quiet and moody for the season.

I had never seen the huck before, but it looked fun. Plus, I loved that the sword ferns were harvest­ed from the Redwoods just a few days before the shoot.

Tara is comfortable with designing in real time, on location, rather than committing to a sketch or recipe in advance. She took as her muse Ashley Garner, the beautiful, edgy model, and the raw warehouse space at Hingework, a Lancaster event studio with large windows, white brick walls and a con­temporary/industrial vibe.

The designer imagined a semitrans­parent floral cape that would showcase all of the fresh flowering bulbs, draping fluidly from the model’s form. “I didn’t want to do a dress or a skirt again, but I wanted to create something wearable that was new to me, too, so that I could feel satisfied with the design.”

Ashley’s style – juxtaposed against the soft, romantic, feminine florals – emoted an almost fantasylike narrative. A black leotard and leggings allowed Ashley’s body form to be another organic element while the makeup accentuated her eyes and lips. Of course, the model’s bare head also became part of Tara’s overall vision.

Tara envisioned a short shrug or capelet with sleeves, but while building the underpin­nings with chicken wire, she realized sleeves would restrict Ashley’s movement and feel stiff. For a tall, lanky model, that just didn’t make sense.

“In the end, the chicken wire is almost like a scarf that lays across her shoulders. With not much of a base, the flowers them­selves became the garment,” Tara says. “The flowers were tied onto the wire that I did use, and it really hugged her shoulders.”

Model: Ashley Garner
Makeup: Stefani BurketBonafide Ginger, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Photography: Jillian and Ryan McGrath, With Love & Embers, Hummelstown, Pennsylvania
Location: Hingework, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Originally published in FLORISTS’ REVIEW | JUNE 2017 |

American Flowers Week’s Floral Menswear by Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes of Seattle’s RHR Horticulture


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Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture’s botanical tapestry for American Flowers Week 2017 (c) Mary Grace Long Photography

Floral Palette: A medley of flowers and foliage from the landscape, hothouse and nature
Designer: Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes, RHR Horticulture, Seattle, WA @rhrhorticulture

Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes, guest designer for American Flowers Week 2017

Riz Reyes is a garden and floral designer whose creations have won gold medal and people’s choice awards at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show, all achieved while he also worked as a horticulture manager at public and private landscapes in Seattle.

Riz considers Portland, Ore., floral designer Françoise Weeks one of his mentors, and he is influenced by the work of Belgian floral artist Daniel Ost and British designer Zite Elze, the artistic inspiration for this piece.

Asked to create a woodland-inspired menswear look for American Flowers Week 2017, Riz’s response was highly personal.

The whole concept of men and flowers is intriguing to me because it touches on my background and the journey I took to get into horticulture, floriculture, plants and flowers. For me, there was always that stigma of little boys and flowers not being a favored thing.

Because this shoot was scheduled for early January, Riz drew on product from California and Oregon, such as pincushions (Leucospermum) and Grevillea foliage, sourced through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market from Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers.

“I especially like working with things that are textural. A lot of the materials and natural elements that I use and the range of colors that I like are inspired by the Pacific Northwest and its ferns, moss and lichen,” he says.

Riz began with the Market’s availability list to choose an array of small succulents such as Aeonium, Sempervivum and Echeveria; Phalaenopsis orchids; spray roses; hellebores; globe thistles (Echinops); Pieris japonica; the metallic blue fruit and buds of Viburnum tinus; sprays of Grevillea blossoms and G. ‘Ivanhoe’ foliage; Leucadendron foliage; the mosslike textures of the crested Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Cristata’) and Dianthus ‘Green Trick’; the fascinating marble vine (Diplocyclos palmatus); buds of larkspur (Delphinium hybrid); and the immature fruits of date palm (Phoenix dactylifera). He also foraged for lichen, small pods and ferns from nature.

Behind-the-scenes at our photo shoot with model Alexander Brooks, photographer Mary Grace Long, designer Riz Reyes and make-up artist Yessie Libby. Photographed, January 2017.

“I had never done anything of this magnitude,” he admits. Working with a mannequin torso was essential to give shape to the vest and a corresponding jacket as he added botanical elements. Riz first applied two coats of adhesive spray to the vest to get a sticky surface for attaching the textural “embroidery” of flowers, plants, foliages, pods and lichen.

At the same time, he used liquid floral adhesive to attach individual pieces, balancing shapes, colors and varieties, to create an overall pattern. The textilelike design is reminiscent of a Persian rug or antique tapestry in its depth and detail.

To Riz, it was important to collaborate with the model and photographer and to develop a level of trust with both.“Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would be able to work in this dynamic. There is this profile of a guy being the giver of flowers. So for me, the grand takeaway from this experience – and hopefully, it will come true – is to dispel the assumption that men and flowers don’t exist together.”

Model: Alexander Brooks
Makeup: Yessie Libby, Yessie Makeup Artistry, Seattle, Wash.
Photography: Mary Grace Long, Mary Grace Long Photography, Seattle, Wash.
Location: Mary Grace Long Studio and Discovery Park, Seattle, Wash.

Originally published in FLORISTS’ REVIEW | JUNE 2017

Unveiling our 2018 American Flowers Week Branding with Artist Ellen Hoverkamp


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Artist Ellen Hoverkamp created a one-of-a-kind American Flowers Week botanical work for our 2018 campaign!

Ellen Hoverkamp

I’m so thrilled to share this beautiful red-white-and-blue botanical composition that we commissioned from Connecticut-based artist Ellen Hoverkamp.

I’ve known Ellen for a number of years through the Garden Writers’ Association and we first me virtually when I reviewed the award-winning book she created with Ken Druse called Natural Companions (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012) for an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Recently, I spent the day with Ellen. She served as my local chauffeur and host when I traveled East for the Connecticut Slow Flowers Meet-Up. That event took place in early October at Trout Lily Farm, which is owned by Michael Russo and Raymond Lennox. Learn more about Trout Lily Farm in my recent interview with Michael for the Slow Flowers Podcast.

As it turns out, Ellen and Michael go way back as friends and fellow art students in both high school and college. Ellen’s work, which is termed “scanner photography,” utilizes freshly-picked flowers, foliage and other gifts from nature as her raw material. When composed into a botanical still-life and then scanned, the resulting digital image can be printed on archival, museum-grade paper for framing, or printed for other products, such as note cards or Ellen’s beautiful silk scarves.

After reuniting with Ellen and seeing her beautiful work again up close, it occurred to me that I wanted to commission a piece in which she created a red-white-and-blue floral portrait for American Flowers Week 2018.

Given the season in New England, it was possibly the last moment when I could have requested that Ellen create a piece for us! Fortunately, Michael and Raymond still had a few dahlias and other goodies on their flower farm for her to clip and incorporate into her floral portrait. Plus, Ellen told me that she also had several cuttings being stored in her refrigerator for (it seems) just this purpose.

I hope you love this gift from the garden — as interpreted by such a talented artist — as much as I do! The graphic branding, which Jenny Diaz created by adding our American Flowers Week typography, will be used in a number of ways to promote next year’s week-long campaign.


Here’s more about Ellen and how she developed this method and style for her work. The text from our Q&A comes from a 2015 article I wrote about her for Garden Design magazine.

Ellen Hoverkamp first started composing images from nature using an early model flatbed photo scanner in 1997, she didn’t even own a camera. Nor did she know the names of most of the plants she used. “It was all about form and color for me.”

Fast-forward to 2005 and Hoverkamp’s evocative and artful assemblages of botanicals and edibles have been profiled in The New York Times. They’ve since been exhibited in museums and graced covers of books (Natural Companions) and periodicals (Organic Gardening and Sweet Paul). She arranges flowers, pods, branches, vines, gourds and roots as vivid still-lifes against striking black backdrops. If Hoverkamp had been born three or four centuries ago, she would have been a Dutch master painter. “I love the hyper-real details of my images,” she says.

Hoverkamp relies on cuttings from public gardens, nurseries and private landscapes to create her pieces. “I scan what other people grow,” she jokes. “I’m forever grateful to the people and places that supply me with plants. The mission of my work is to bring attention to the efforts of gardeners and to the beauty of nature.”


“I created 144 botanical images for Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2012), with author / photographer, Ken Druse. He provided plants for 66 of my scanner photographs. Sometimes I worked at his place in New Jersey; occasionally, cuttings were shipped to my studio. Once, Ken delivered plants to me at a parking lot. He would provide lists of Latin plant names for sampling at particular private gardens. That year, the growing season seemed to be about 3 weeks off schedule in CT. I would see all sorts of beautiful floral material that wasn’t on Ken’s list prompting him to say, “Pick whatever turns you on and we’ll figure it out.” I will forever be proud of our collaboration.


“My most favorite (and also the most challenging) flowers for scanning are peonies from private gardens. I love this composition of Sandi Blaze’s peonies with beauty bush and ninebark, picked from her cottage style gardens, dubbed, “Pixie Perennials” ( in Wilton, Conn. An image I composed at Jennifer Brown’s garden, in Greenwich, CT, shows the beautiful diversity of peony forms and petal colors.”


“I used edibles for my art long before the popularity of the farm-to-table initiative. I’ve always liked combining organic vegetables with ornamental floral material. I collect the vast majority of edibles at Trout Lily Farm ( in North Guilford, Conn. They are grown by my longstanding dear friend Michael Russo, vegetable and flower farmer and floral designer. Michael has collaborated with me and sustained my work since the early days. He has expanded his gardens at Trout Lily Farm offering me more variety – and his farm stand customers reap the benefits, as well. The cool thing is that I can set up my scanner in his barn and work directly from the garden.”


“I love the Northeast’s many public gardens. I have had two solo exhibitions in the Alice Milton Gallery at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Mass. ( and I was their first Artist in Residence. On August 22nd, I’ll be teaching ‘APPetizing Edibles,” an introduction to imaging food using a flatbed scanner and to editing scans using mobile-device photo apps. On September 10th, Trout Lily Farm and I will be vendors in the marketplace as part of “Gardener’s Day 2015: A Celebration of Plants” at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island ( The personable team of gardening enthusiasts and horticultural professionals guide and welcome visitors to the lovely grounds of this historical estate.”


“I consider Broken Arrow Nursery (, growers of rare and unusual plants in Hamden, Conn., a favorite destination. The Jaynes family and their knowledgeable staff are longstanding contributors of cuttings, and have provided great information and general support for my work.”


“I love using Florian pruners ( They are handy, dependable and made in the U.S.A. I wear Foxgloves (, which made of soft Lycra fabric and are perfect for flower picking. They were created by my friend Harriet Zbikowski, a landscape architect and professional horticulturist.

NOTE: Ellen’s American Flowers Week 2018 piece will be available to order as a print early next year — and we’ll share the link to her online order page soon. For now, you can peruse her catalog of botanical images, prints, cards and scarves — HERE.

Lennie Larkin’s report on the inaugural Slow Flowers Summit


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Only four months have passed since the first Slow Flowers Summit took place during American Flowers Week, but the feedback continues to remind us that our “Ted Talk for Flower Lovers” was a success.

We invited Lennie Larkin of B-Side Farm in Sonoma County, California, to attend as a media guest.

She recently reported on the Summit and shared her impressions in her column in Cut Flower Quarterly, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers’ member publication. Lennie is the West and Northwest regional director for ASCFG, so she regularly dispatches her point of view with the members in our region.

That article has just been posted and I’m excited to share it with you today. I’m so impressed with the highlights Lennie shared, including her personal insights.

Her summary featured takeaways from Amy Stewart’s presentation on the 10-year retrospective of “Flower Confidential” and our Panel Discussion with Chantal Aida Gordon, Leslie Bennett, Riz Reyes and Nicole Cordier Wahlquist on diversity, inclusion and representation in floriculture and horticulture.

Lennie makes a point during the panel Q&A

Read the full Lennie Larkin Column (PDF) here.

Keynote speaker Amy Stewart

One thing Amy really wanted to impress upon us during her talk was that her takeaways on the international flower industry are actually more nuanced than they may seem at first glance. Namely, as we navigate the ins and outs of the domestic vs. imported flower industries, it can be easy to forget the jobs and the people behind all this commerce and the full dialogue around it. Things become a lot less black and white and yes, more nuanced, when we’re able to remember this.

Panelists, from left, including moderator Chantal Aida Gordon, Leslie Bennett, Riz Reyes and Nichole Cordier Wahlquist.

According to Lennie, the panel led by Chantal “felt like a discussion that was long time coming for our industry.” She felt motivated to respond to many of the points covered by the panel, and offered this encouragement:

I think it’s important for us to take a look at ourselves and remember that we’re not just passive actors out in the world, that we all in fact play huge roles in setting industry norms and standards. Who else can we get to that table?

Thanks for your support, Lennie — and for endorsing the Summit! We’d love you to attend our 2018 Summit, details of which will be announced soon!

Photo credits: Hannah Brenlan and Luke Holtgeerts

Behind the Scenes as we ready for American Flowers Week 2018


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“In Process” — Kelly Shore (left), preps her Alaska Peony model Ashley Johnson; Hedda Brorstrom (right) attends to a few details for the dahlia dress worn by model Sophia Lane

American Flowers Week began in 2015, and it has grown significantly in three short years to involve participation across all channels of domestic flowers — from seeds to bouquets to beautiful floral fashions.

Your involvement helped us generate more than 5 million impressions on social media (Instagram and Twitter) during this year’s campaign, a major leap from the 400,000 measured in 2015 and 1.2 million measured in 2016.

We’re making a difference in the relationship people have with their flowers — and that’s inspiring!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update here, but not because I have forgotten about American Flowers Week! The fact is, we’ve been hard at work developing next year’s amazing promotions, partnerships and platforms to elevate and expand this one-week celebration of domestic botanicals and you can be sure that plans are well underway for an incredible American Flowers Week 2018.

I’m excited to share some of the latest news with you!

Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events created our red-white-and-blue floral ‘fro for 2016, with graphic design from Jenny Diaz

As you know, for 2016, we commissioned Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events to design a beautiful red-white-and-blue floral ‘fro using all American-grown blooms.

With talents of photographer Amanda DuMouchelle, makeup artist Imagine Three Beauty Studio and our beautiful model Monique Montri, the iconic image is still posted and shared today.

That led to the ambitious campaign to produce an extensive lineup of floral fashions showcasing the best local, seasonal and domestic flowers, unveiled earlier this year.

The floral creativity we witnessed by Slow Flowers members — flower farmers and floral designers — was mind-blowing and we’ve yet to share all of the images captured by our photographers.

You can read about our first piece of 2017, a sunflower gown designed by Amy Kunkel-Patterson of Gather Design Co., modeled by stylish flower farmer Kelly Uhlig of Sonshine Farm and captured on film by Anna Peters, with hair and makeup by Yessie Libby.

A quartet of four other amazing floral fashions followed, and I’ve been remiss about posting those — so look for the back-story of our rose tutu, floral cape, woodland menswear vest and peony Geisha in the coming weeks. Those were created by Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co., Tara Folker of Splints & Daisies, Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture and Arthur Williams of Babylon Floral Design.

From left: Ashley & Kelly during our prep time; Kelly’s tapestry of Scenic Place peony blooms; and floating peonies, on location at the Homer Marina

But for now, let’s jump ahead to 2018 . . . and our PEONY Look!

Slow Flowers‘ designers and flower farmers have already stepped up to help us capture two of next year’s five floral looks on film and while we can’t reveal the completed designs yet, we can credit the talented teams and give you a little behind-the-scenes taste of what to expect when promotions launch for American Flowers Week 2018.

In July, with Kelly Shore of Petals by the Shore and Beth Van Sandt & Kurt Weichhand of Scenic Place Peonies, we visually documented a quintessential moment for Alaska-grown peonies!

Kelly and Beth partnered on numerous creative endeavors during a single week at the end of July 2017 . . . including the Field to Vase Dinner and a romantic styled shoot that Kelly designed, which was photographed in Scenic Place’s peony fields and published in the October issue of Florists’ Review (in the Slow Flowers Journal section).

But . . . thanks to Beth’s brainstorm and Kelly’s willingness to jump in and say “yes,” we also produced a thoroughly unique peony experience on the docks and shoreline of the fishing marina in Homer, Alaska. Beth wanted our American Flowers Week “look” to blend Homer’s two economic engines — commercial fishing and peony farming.
We were lucky for so many reasons, including:

  • Joshua and Brittney Veldstra of Homer-based Joshua Veldstra Photography signed on to document the story with their amazing talents.
  • The folks at Grunden’s donated a pair of white bib overalls and “Deck Boss” boots, the feminine version of the attire you’ll see worn by commercial fishing pro’s.
  • Our beautiful model jumped right in and said “yes” to everything we asked of her. Ashley Johnson, flower-farmer-in-training, spent this past summer as a WOOFER (that’s World-Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) at Scenic Place. We were super lucky that she agreed to be our model!
  • There were other helpers who made this shoot such a success: Lisa Thorne of Thorne & Thistle, a Slow Flowers member who traveled to Homer to volunteer for all of the Field to Vase activities; and Elizabeth Morphis, a Scenic Place Peonies team member who assisted with hair, makeup and design!

Enjoy a sneak peek of our visual story above — you’ve never before seen Alaska-grown peonies expressed in such a creative way that underscores the importance of season, place and beauty! The entire reveal will occur during American Flowers Week, June 28th through July 4th! I thank everyone who made this happen — they are my heroes!

From left: designer Heddah Brorstrom attaches more than 350 local dahlias to the “skirt”; a lovely detail of the floral artistry expressed in this project; and real-time photography.

Next up: Dreaming of DAHLIAS!

I’ve been wishing for a dahlia “look” for American Flowers Week for many reasons, the most obvious of which is that the renaissance of field-grown dahlias has been a game-changer for Slow Flowers members — farmers and designers alike. No other flower is so precious and coveted in summer and early autumn. No other flower is dependent on local sourcing, a boon for those who grow and design with them.

I asked Slow Flowers member Kate Rowe, co-owner with Omar Duran of Aztec Dahlias in Petaluma, California, if she would sponsor a photo shoot depicting dahlias in a floral fashion — and she said YES!

We agreed together that Hedda Brorstrom, a farmer-florist who owns Full Bloom Farm in nearby Sebastopol, California, would be THE person to design the look.

Yet the larger backdrop for our October 16th photo shoot, captured by Becca Henry at Aztec Dahlias’ farm, was less than ideal.

Everyone in Sonoma County has been coping with the onslaught of horrendous wildfires — in fact, every person involved in this photo shoot has a connection with a loved one who has lost everything to the fires. Working conditions for flower farmers in Sonoma County have been highly risky due to the poor air quality and intense heat. We weren’t really sure that the schedule would work out due to all these external (negative) conditions.

But . . . the dahlia dream team pulled it off — and I’m so impressed with their talents! The entire look, worn so elegantly by model Sophia Lane, was achieved due to the “village” of talents. THANK YOU to everyone involved!

Hedda Brorstrom – Floral Designer
Becca Henry – Photographer
MaryAnn Nardo – Harvesting / Floral Design Assist
7 Petals Floral Design @7petalsdesign
Sophia Lane – Model
– Amanda Lane, Mom
Dan’yell Powell – Harvest / Assist
Sarah Reyes – Assist
Unfurled Design @unfurleddesign
Kate Rowe – Dahlias
Aztec Dahlias @aztec_dahlias

What’s Next?

Our anticipation for American Flowers Week 2018 continues and I’m eager to involve more Slow Flowers members in the campaign! The Peony and Dahlia fashions will be published in the Slow Flowers Journal section of Florists’ Review magazine in our June 2018 issue — that’s the big “reveal” of all this gorgeous American-grown creativity! And stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes news to come . . .

American Flowers Week 2017 Recap

Yep, you read that right: 5 million and counting! That’s the social media impressions generated by YOU and YOUR Instagram & Twitter Posts in the past 30 days!! #AmericanFlowersWeek has exploded — just like fireworks!

In our third year, participation in AFW more than tripled the impressions generated last year, putting #americanflowersweek on the map in all 50 states!

[Imagine the true metrics if Facebook let us track hashtags? Just sayin’!]
Thank you to each one who joined in! The Slow Flowers Community has the momentum to effect change in the marketplace, so continue posting and sharing the #slowflowers message every week of the year! Source:

The 3rd Annual American Flowers Week has come to a close and it was our best ever!With participation across the U.S. in all sectors of the floral industry, this New Floral Holiday is waving the flag and making a splash from coast to coast.

Read on to discover how the Slow Flowers Community spent this year’s campaign celebrating American-grown flowers — be inspired and start making plans for your 2018 floral parties, events and creative projects!

Floral Fashions — a Couture Approach

Showcasing the design work of four Slow Flowers members, from left: Tara Folker of Splints & Daisies; Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture; Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. and Amy Kunkel-Patterson of Gather Design Co.

This year, Slow Flowers, which presents American Flowers Week, commissioned five floral-inspired fashion shoots depicting iconic American grown blooms. The designers who contributed their creativity and artistic talents teamed up with generous flower farms that donated stems straight from their fields and greenhouses.

Four of the five looks are shown above. We’re saving the final look to feature in an article that will appear in the August 2017 issue of Florists’ Review — so stay tuned for the big reveal! Our All-American floral looks would never have been possible without the support of Slow Flowers’ sponsors, including Certified American GrownArctic Alaska Peony CooperativeLongfield GardensSyndicate SalesSeattle Wholesale Growers MarketJohnny’s Selected Seeds and Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.

American Flowers Week at the Grocery Store

Melanie Cherry, Town & Country Markets’ floral boss, shared this shot of an in-store sunflower display for American Flowers Week.

Diana Westcott, regional floral buyer for Whole Foods’ Mid-Atlantic Region based in Maryland, shared this beautiful display from one of her floral departments!

Slowflowers member Rita Anders of Weimar, Texas-based Cuts of Color, delivered hundreds of bouquets and bunches of American Flowers Week blooms to Central Market in Houston. She texted us these photos and added: “Labels look great! I love the labels!”

Steve Pabody, partner in Triple Wren Farms in Ferndale, Washington (with his wife Sarah Pabody) have a fabulous partnership with Cone & Steiner General, a neighborhood convenience store, with soon-to-be 3 Seattle locations.


Kathleen Barber of Erika’s Fresh Flowers in Astoria, Oregon, donated all net proceeds of her locally grown bouquets sold during American Flowers Week to Northwest Battle Buddies, a nonprofit partnering combat veterans with professionally trained dogs. Love this idea and the personal, healing connections being made with Kathleen’s flowers.

Continue reading

American Flowers Week at Cone & Steiner


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Cone & Steiner’s displays feature locally-grown Triple Wren Farms bouquets for American Flowers Week.

Flower farmer Steve Pabody and grocery entrepreneur Dani Cone. It’s all about local, community, and connections.

On the first day of American Flowers Week, June 28th, I met up in Seattle with Steve Pabody, partner in Triple Wren Farms with his wife Sarah Pabody.

Their Ferndale, Wash., flower farm makes weekly deliveries to Cone & Steiner, an innovative new-old neighborhood convenience store, with soon-to-be 3 locations.

Steve delivered straight bunches of lovely anemones and mixed bouquets in Mason jars — all labeled American Flowers Week.

Triple Wren Farmrs’ anemones for American Flowers Week!

I had a chance to ask owner Dani Cone for her take on the holiday – and on buying from local flower farms. Enjoy our interview:

Here are a few more beautiful floral shots — eye candy that greets neighborhood customers stopping by Cone & Steiner, enticing them to grab a bunch to add to their coffee or sandwich purchase.

Beautiful mixed bouquets, wrapped in paper — ready to take home.

And P.S., these are just a few of the American Flowers Week bouquets that Triple Wren delivered to Pacific Northwest area retail outlets. Steve and Sarah delivered bouquets and growers’ bunches to New Seasons, Whole Foods and Metropolitan Market stores in the area, too!

Sunflower Gown by Amy Kunkel-Patterson, Gather Design Co.


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Amy Kunkel-Patterson of Gather Design Co. (right), works with a friend to prep the skirt of her beautiful American-grown sunflower gown

Floral Palette: Sunflower, Rudbeckia, Amaranth and ornamental grasses
Designer: Amy Kunkel-Patterson, Gather Design Co. (Seattle, WA)
Floral ingredients supplied by Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

[Note: this is an expanded bonus interview conducted for Florists’ Review June 2017]

Amy Kunkel-Patterson of Seattle’s Gather Design Co. once tried to convince a bridal studio to let her sew flowers onto a wedding gown for a styled shoot. They didn’t go for it, so faced with designing a gown out of classic American sunflowers, she jumped at the chance.
“I’ve been wanting to build a dress out of flowers, but there wasn’t a wedding gown designer around who would let me sew flowers on a very expensive dress,” she says.

Amy is the first to admit that working with sunflowers wouldn’t have been her first choice. “Most designers, especially designers who do weddings, would probably have the response I had: ‘Oh. Sunflowers. A big yellow thing with a dark center. Who wants that for their wedding?'”

Ever the researcher, Amy began to discuss her floral options with the staff and farmers of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. “They showed me all the options. Beyond yellow, there are varieties in the brown palette, and ones where the petals start a little bit yellow in the center and then fade to mostly brown. And then, they offered me a bunch of the burgundy and plum sunflowers. I’ll admit, I didn’t know there were plum-colored sunflowers before I did this project.”

The elevated palette allowed her to incorporate other seasonal field flowers, such as wine-colored amaranth and ‘Sahara Mix’ rudbeckia, which echoes the sunflower shape but on a softer, smaller scale.

When I saw the different shades and variations of the sunflowers, it was an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. And I knew this didn’t have to be just a solid yellow sunflower gown, but one with yellow fading into other colors to create something very elegant.

Having learned to sew and build things as a kid, the idea of working with unconventional tools wasn’t daunting. It’s these skills that have served Amy well as a wedding designer working on large-scale installations.

With the idea of a dress design in her mind’s eye, and with a willing model, flower farmer Kelly Uhlig of Sonshine Flower Farm in Langley, Wash., Amy began to fit a two-piece garment that would serve as the basis for her gown. “I actually started with a dress that I bought at Goodwill and cut down to make a bodice with a plunging neckline and a really open back. The skirt is a flat king bed sheet draped over two types of chicken wire and a bit of tulle, with a belt that fastens on the inside of the skirt so you don’t see it as it cinches around her waist.”

Amy jokes that at times she felt more like a builder than a floral designer because of the amount of metal involved, including a section of 1/2-inch grid hardware cloth. “The entire gown weighed about 65 pounds,” she points out.

The skirt’s wire foundation was necessary because of the heavy flower heads, more than 500 altogether. “I didn’t want the train to collapse so I had to create a physical structure to hold it out.”

Because of the sheer quantity of flower heads, Amy’s original idea of sewing each botanical piece to the fabric base wasn’t practical. “It would have taken far too long and the flowers would have wilted by the time I finished,” she says. Tubes and tubes of cold Oasis glue did the job, however — at least one-half gallon of glue by Amy’s estimate. “I didn’t start attaching the flowers until late afternoon the day before our photo shoot. Then I attached the rest of the sunflowers, the amaranth and rudbeckia on the day of the shoot. I’m so glad that my friend Erin Shackelford of Camas Design volunteered to wrap the little grass pieces into tassels to edge the hem of the skirt.”

Other finishing details include single threads of burgundy amaranth that drape beautifully over the model’s waist and hips, speckled turkey feathers collected from a local farm and a charming hair piece that echoes the botanicals use for the dress. “I’m just thrilled with how it turned out,” Amy says.


Model: Kelly Uhlig, Sonshine Farm, Langley, WA
Hair/Makeup: Yessie Libby, Yessie Makeup Artistry, Seattle
Photography: Anna Peters, Anna Peters Photography, Seattle
Location: Everyday Flowers, Stanwood, WA



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In Year Three, American Flowers Week Salutes Iconic U.S.-Grown Flowers and Foliages with a Couture Approach

*Note: This essay originally published in Florists’ Review June 2017 edition.

Photography credits: Anna Peters, Mary Grace Long, Jillian and Ryan McGrath, John Kaemmerling

In 2015, while in London for the Chelsea Flower Show, I met with Helen Evans, one of the geniuses behind New Covent Garden Market’s successful British Flowers Week campaign (June 19-25, 2017).

The U.K.’s most important wholesale floral hub launched BFW in 2013 as a low-budget, social media-driven “annual celebration of seasonal, locally-grown flowers and foliage united the U.K. cut flower industry and sparking public and media interest in where our flowers come from.” It has become a popular and successful campaign to promote British flowers — and floral designers.

By the time we had finished sipping from our steaming mugs of tea in the Market’s employee break room, I was thinking to myself: “I should start American Flowers Week.

Helen and her colleagues were immensely helpful and supportive. I returned to the U.S. in late May 2015 inspired by the BFW model, equipped with Helen’s suggestions and resources, and by the end of June, I introduced American Flowers Week.

The 2015 American Flowers Week Logo, designed by Jean Zaputil of Studio Z Design & Photography

It seems entirely fitting that our week coincides with Independence Day, July 4th. Not only do these dates provide a patriotic hook on which to hang AFW, the timing is perfect because there are local flowers growing on farms in all 50 U.S. states, Alaska included, in late June and early July. And, as one wholesale floral manager suggested: “It’s otherwise a down time in floral, so we love having a new event to help promote flowers.”

The initial grass-roots endeavor enjoyed 400,000 social media impressions during the 2015 campaign.

Susan McLeary of Passionflower Events created our red-white-and-blue floral ‘fro for 2016, with graphic design from Jenny Diaz

In 2016, we added beautiful collateral material, a free USA floral coloring map that participating florists and flower farmers could download and share with customers, and even red-white-and-blue stickers used by florists, flower farmers and retailers to label their AFW bouquets. Impressions on social media hit 1.3 million last year.

This year’s campaign graphic features Floral Fashion by Amy Kunkel-Patterson of Gather Design Co., photography by Anna Peters, and graphic design by Jenny Diaz — read the entire story tomorrow!

I can’t wait to see what we’ll reach for 2017. This is Day Two of American Flowers Week and we’ve already hit 2.0 million impressions on Twitter & Instagram alone! That’s radical! Love how the Slow Flowers Tribe is helping make American Flowers Week a *trending topic!

For 2017, I’ve borrowed yet another page from British Flowers Week. BFW selects five iconic U.K.-grown flowers and pairs each with a high-profile florist or design team to produce installations and vignettes. The press and online media devour these images — and of course, the publication of them creates a buzz about British flowers and the farmers and florists who supply them.

Slow Flowers, which presents AFW, has commissioned five floral-inspired fashion shoots depicting iconic American grown blooms. The designers who contributed their creativity and artistic talents teamed up with generous flower farms that donated stems straight from their fields and greenhouses.

The goal? To showcase domestic and seasonal flowers in a new and engaging way — and to show how inventiveness and ingenuity, along with American grown flowers, produce beautiful results.

These All-American floral looks would never have been possible without the support of Slow Flowers’ sponsors, including Certified American Grown, Arctic Alaska Peony Cooperative, Longfield Gardens, Syndicate Sales, Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.

Upcoming: For the next 5 days — through July 4th — I’ll post the story of each Floral Fashion, with insights from its designer, as well as flower farmers who provided the botanicals incorporated in each wearable style.

Join our Floral Mind-Meld*


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Behind the Scenes at the Slow Flowers Summit

What inspired me to create the Slow Flowers Summit?
Over the years, there have been other ideas floating around about a conference focused on flower farmers and florists coming together to learn about the Slow Flowers Movement, but nothing really gained traction and I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted it to be.

That is until two things happened last year.

Debra, with Amy Stewart (c) and Scott Brown (r), photo courtesy Field to Vase Dinner Tour.

The idea first began to form while I was chatting with my friend Amy Stewart and her husband Scott Brown at the first Field to Vase Dinner of 2016.

We were enjoying the spectacle of a tulip-filled commercial greenhouse at Sun Valley Flower Farm in Arcata, Calif., not too far from where Amy and Scott live.

And as we reminisced about Amy’s New York Times bestselling book Flower Confidential, which includes a significant narrative about Sun Valley and its CEO Lane DeVries (who was our host at that dinner), I blurted out to Amy: “Wow, do you realize that next year, 2017, will be the ten-year anniversary of Flower Confidential?”

She laughed and said, no, she hadn’t really made that connection. And then she said: “I should do something to commemorate that. We should do something together.”

Amy’s presentation: “Where We’ve Come From and Where We’re Heading” shares her floral obvervations and predictions.

We both filed the idea away and then later in the year, while I was beginning plans for American Flowers Week 2017, I thought, “Why don’t I hold some kind of symposium during that week? Maybe Amy will come and speak.”

The Slow Flowers Summit, the idea more than anything else concrete, bubbled up into my consciousness and I looked at the calendar to think about my options.

I called Amy and asked if she would be my keynote speaker to talk about the decade of change that we’ve witnessed in the domestic cut flower industry.

She immediately said, “Yes, I’m in!”

Amy’s involvement lent the gravitas that we needed as the hub around which to build a full day of conversations about the progressive ideas that the Slow Flowers Movement espouses. Rather than a farming-themed symposia, the Summit speaker lineup and topics came together to include professional floral design, domestic sourcing and environmentally-conscious practices, personal development, as well as business branding, values and creativity.

And this leads to the second thing that inspired and influenced me. I attended the Seattle TEDx conference last November, curious to experience that format. I wanted to think big and be nontraditional in my approach to staging my own mini-version of such an ambitious platform. The way TEDx is packaged and produced appeals to me. The use of visuals and video that accompanies the presentations, the condensed time-frame for multiple talks, the unexpected topics — all of these ideas influenced what I wanted for the Summit.

Teresa will present “Post-Modern Posies: Botanical Messages for today.”

So the lineup came together with Amy and I knew Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. had to be involved. Teresa is the “real” florist profiled by Amy in Flower Confidential — the Santa Cruz florist whose sidewalk kiosk filled with flowers from her own cutting garden gave Amy an alternative (and successful) model to contrast with the global floriculture industry documented elsewhere in her book.

James Baggett

I also wanted a dynamic emcee and I’m so fortunate that James Baggett, longtime friend and editor from Country Gardens magazine, said yes.

Now the garden editor for Better Homes & Gardens magazine, James’s energy, intelligence and engaging personality will strike the perfect chord for our day’s schedule of events.

And yes, he is a lover of all flora and fauna, especially puppies!

Two other innovators agreed to join the program and I am thrilled that they’ll be part of the Summit for similar reasons.

Emily (left) and Lisa (right) will push your creative thinking to new levels.

Both Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative (Seattle) and Lisa Waud of pot & box (Detroit) are floral designers who think and execute flowers in a thoroughly unconventional manner.

I believe their presentations will embolden audience members to take creative risks, develop a personal value and mission statement, and stay true to those beliefs as artists. In addition to talking about reinvention — personally, professionally and sustainably, Emily will produce a foam free floral wall in “real time,” over the course of the day’s activities — engaging participants to design alongside her and learn about her methods. Lisa will lead “a creative conversation” as she shares her personal journey in artistic risk-taking — including her story of the now-famous Flower House Detroit (2015) and Detroit Flower Week (2016).

Clockwise, from top left: Leslie Bennett, Chantal Aida Gordon, Riz Reyes and Nicole Cordier Wahlquist. Their panel discussion will open new paths to a more inclusive, meaningful experience for all of us.

It was at Detroit Flower Week that something really special occurred – a conversation about diversity (or lack thereof) in the floral industry. I was so pleased that Lisa hosted an in-the-round discussion among professionals attending Detroit Flower Week, and I wanted to continue the dialogue with a panel at the Summit. In my opinion, horticulture and floriculture have similar trajectories, so I’ve invited four amazing talents from both worlds to share their personal narratives about being people of color navigating their professional paths in flowers and gardens. Continue reading