Chatting with Debra Prinzing of Slow Flowers, USA

While on the Love'n'Fresh farm, I was lucky enough to be present for a visit, photo-shoot and farm dinner with Debra Prinzing, champion of Slow Flowers. Debra has a long-running, popular podcast "Slow Flowers" where she interviews all manner of people involved in the local flower movement in the US. She has also started Slow Flowers - the website -  a nationwide, online directory to florists, shops and studios who design with American-grown flowers. Like me, Debra's training was originally in textile design (funny how many people make that cross-over from fibre to flowers!) but she has made a life out of travelling the States researching and writing about gardens, horticulture and flowers. This is a woman with a passion and she is one of the real drivers behind the sustainable flower movement over there.

  Rob Cardillo (photographer) and I moving props around during the shoot at Love'n'Fresh. Image courtesy of  Debra Prinzing.

Rob Cardillo (photographer) and I moving props around during the shoot at Love'n'Fresh. Image courtesy of  Debra Prinzing.

One of the things that really sunk in while I was away, is just how different our industry is to that of the States. It made me even more aware of the fact that we need to stop looking to the US flower industry as a model and start looking at our own industry more carefully. We are not the States and we need to find our own ways forward to a better more friendly flowery future.

Debra interviewed Jenny and I about the Flower Farmer Fellowship and we spoke at length about my little flower farm and the Australian flower industry. It really is a great Podcast, so ...

Listen Here

You can here me say 'fall' and drop a couple of other Americanisms in there. It is so strange to listen to yourself being interviewed on the spot; scared to share it with my mum in case she pulls me up on saying 'um' too much! To be honest, listening back made me a bit teary this morning. For a couple of reasons: firstly, it made me miss Jennie, then it made me miss my blissful time over there and made me realise just how lucky I had been and lastly,  the interview reminded me of the immense faith that these people have in me and quite frankly, sometimes that is just a bit scary.

It's definitely here

Winter ....

and the doldrums ....

It is absolutely bucketing down outside and I feel like I haven't seen the sun all week?!? I went up to the patch this morning to try and get a little protective hoop house over some of the young seed sown ranunculus; that rain is due to turn to snow up there this afternoon.

Everything was wet. There is mud every where, I can't keep anything clean - I've given up already. It was howling a gale and I presently ended up on the ground, in the mud with a 10meter long bundle of plastic sheeting attacking me. Every time I tried to pin it down the wind would whip it out again and blow rain in my eyes; I screamed in frustration and told the ranunculus that they could just (*&%!@#-well toughen up or die. And with that I stormed off ... trailing the raging monster of plastic behind me.

The horses watched me go, I felt like they were laughing at me - that funny, noisy two-legger and her odd antics ... Actually, I feel like they laugh at me quite often, most of the time I laugh at me too; just not today. Today I was grump-Y.

Funny thing is, this happens every winter. I become so despondent; I lose faith. It seems that those tiny (beautifully laid out) tufts of green will never produce anything so beautiful as a flower. Indeed, I feel that they will never get taller than my hand! And then I think that if they do grow, there won't be enough, they'll be too late, they won't be the colours I want, I've planted too close, not close enough, they will flower all at once, I haven't got my staggering right .... 

It's completely silly but it happens every time! So I told my monkey brain to kindly shut up and decided to go and do something that would make me feel better. I went and bought myself a magazine (unheard of!) and sat down with a nice cup of green tea. Then I put these flowers together from the only few things left flowering on the patch and took some photos. I suppose things are starting to look up.

What happened?

Right, that's it. Everything STOP. I am doing this. Right. Now. 

I'm supposed to be planting, weeding and mulching but if I don't sit down and revive this blog asap, I fear the poor dear is going to slide into oblivion once and for all! 

 The last arrangement of the season: cosmos, rudbeckia, dahlias, scabiosa caucasica and atropurpurea, gaillardia, chocolate cosmos, bergamot, marigolds, agastache, salvia, persian carpet zinnias, echinacea, hydrangea and foraged autumnal foliages.

The last arrangement of the season: cosmos, rudbeckia, dahlias, scabiosa caucasica and atropurpurea, gaillardia, chocolate cosmos, bergamot, marigolds, agastache, salvia, persian carpet zinnias, echinacea, hydrangea and foraged autumnal foliages.

So what happened? Where did I go? 

I didn't go anywhere, I've been here all along; farming like crazy. I got a bit swamped and a little overwhelmed by the enormously challenging year that has been my first season flying solo as a real small scale flower grower.

I am only just now, coming up for air and this is what I realise: nothing went the way I had planned, it was a gazillion times harder than I thought it would be and I didn't make a cent but I did it, I'm still standing!!!

And do you know what? There was so much beauty along the way. True, mostly I was moving so fast, it all just looked like a blur but it was there - and I grew it. It is the most fulfilling and heart bursting feeling to watch someone walk into a shop, walk up to your flowers and comment on how wonderful they are. I am the proudest of mums, with the glowing-est of cheeks when I say "thank you, I grew them".

I hardly have a photo to show for it {unless you jump on Instagram folks, that I can do whilst still moving at speed} ... but trust me, it happened.

I can't possibly catch you upon all that has happened since my last post - back at the start of Spring!!! But in summary: there were flowers, buckets and buckets of flowers, nearly all of these were sold direct to other florists who are also keen do see some diversification in the local market. There was lots of weeding, serious irrigation troubles during the driest Summer on record (or something to that effect, I've stopped listening to the news), I moved house a couple of times, took on a small pile of wedding work and then, just as I was hitting my stride, I decided to completely redesign the layout of the patch! As the Summer flowers peaked, I decided to scale back the annual Autumn planting to a bare minimum so that I could dig up 80% of the patch and turn all the beds 90 degrees, put in semi-permanent pathways and permanent irrigation lines. All I can say is thank god for Dahlias, those 3 beds just kept on giving :-)

I am please to report that the patch renovation is now almost complete, just a few more beds to shape and paths to lay. Half of it is already full with the Spring flowerers: bulbs, digitalis, cerinthe, lupins, poppies (what a hit those paeoniflorum were this year!), nigella, cornflower, larkspur, some heirloom gypsophila and sweet peas. I had to quickly build a few more raised beds at our rental because I bought too many bulbs - it's easy to do - and then jam even more in between the roses!

So folks, that's where we are at as Winter takes to the stage. I am dearly looking forward to a bit of a rest and reassessment over Winter, maybe a chance to get some new ideas and projects off the ground?! One thing that will be happening, is more of this, this blog is important to me and I have missed it. Writing posts to imaginary people in your head whilst digging, is just not quite the same.

A first

My first arrangement off the new patch... 

... with some wild clematis and roadside grasses to play the supporting actresses.


So, the bulbs may not have quite lived up to my expectations when it comes to size and volume, but man, I gotta say, I do have good taste when it comes to varieties; look at those tones :-)