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.
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