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Fabulous Fresh Cut Flowers

Fabulous Fresh Cut Flowers

It’s summer – floral abundance is everywhere!  I love love love flowers both in my garden and in my house.  Although my own garden is mainly succulents, bromeliads and Mediterranean plants, I’m fortunate to live in an area where I get beautiful, locally grown flowers at our Santa Barbara Farmers Market every week.  Debra Prinzing, outdoor living expert and author of the books 50 Mile Bouquet and Slow Flowers, answered a few questions for me that you’ll definitely want to check out.  Scroll on down to find her answers, a few of my tips on keeping flowers fresher longer and of course, a video.

All the pictures you see in this post were taken at our farmers market throughout the year. Some are organically grown in the field by farmers and some are sustainably grown in greenhouses in nearby Carpinteria which happens to be one of our country’s top cut flower growing regions.  I met Debra Prinzing at her book signing and floral demo as part of the annual Carpinteria Greenhouse and Nursery tour this past April.   The arrangements she made that day were simple, beautiful and creative so I hope this post inspires you to do the same.

Debra, Nell and Debra

Debra Hempe, me & Debra Prinzing with 2 of her books

Gorgeous table arrangement

1 of the sweet arrangements Debra made that day at the demo

Here are my questions along with Debra’s answers.  You can find out more about her and visit her beautiful blog at

1)  Are you seeing an increase in interest for locally grown flowers?

More than ever before people are asking about the origins of the cut flowers they buy. This is especially the case among foodies and gardeners! If we are conscious about our “food mile,” then the natural next step is to be conscious about everything else we consume and the distance those products travel from their source – flowers included.
However, there is far to go before everyone asks for American-grown flowers first. A new consumer research study by the California Cut Flower Commission (CCFC) and the Buy California Marketing Agreement (BCMA) provides some very supportive data regarding consumers’ affinity and desire for products grown in the United States over those imported from other countries. According to the most recent nationwide study, 75% of consumers prefer products grown in the United States.(Source)
The CCFC found in its recent nationwide omnibus survey that 74% of consumers have no idea where their flowers come from, yet 58% of them would prefer California Grown Flowers if given a choice. To me this data reveals that retailers, especially mass merchants and grocery stores, are missing out on a huge opportunity to market flowers by region, state and country of origin. LOCAL can mean everything from your neighborhood farmer’s market to flowers from the state in which you live to American-grown flowers from another state if you aren’t able to source within your immediate vicinity.
Beautiful flowers

2)  Is there a market for organic flowers?

Yes, there is a specialized market for organic flowers, mostly for “green” weddings. USDA Certified Organic flower farms are rare and if they do exist, they are small operations. The Certified Organic program was developed for monocrops of food. Flower farms are often highly diverse and require all sorts of growing methods. Most U.S. flower farms that I’ve visited are using a wide array of sustainable practices even though they might not technically be called organic. There are some  success stories, though. California Organic Flowers ; floret in Washington; and Brightflower Farm  in Illinois are examples of successful, small-scale certified organic flower farms. In the Pacific Northwest, many flower farms are seeking Salmon Safe certification, run by a third-party agency that surveys and evaluates farms, vineyards and ranches for their sustainable practices to ensure salmon habitats are preserved.
I mentioned the “green” wedding market. Organic flowers factor into the wish list for eco-conscious wedding parties, a list that also includes organic/local/farm-to-table food and wine; invitations printed on recycled paper; zero-waste event facilities; and a low-carbon footprint venue. I believe locally-grown flowers are always the best choice for weddings, since they reflect place and seasonality (even if those blooms are not officially certified organic).
Stunning flower displays

3)  What are 3 of the hottest trends you see in floral arranging right now?

*  Designing with unripe fruit from vines and branches (raspberries, blueberries, plums, olives, crabapples, etc).
*  Eliminating florist foam and other formaldehyde–based products and returning to old-fashioned methods for stabilizing arrangements, such as chicken wire, flower frogs, branches, hand-tied arrangements and other eco-techniques.
*  Flower foraging, which some might think is an illicit practice. It’s fun and creative to source uncommon floral ingredients from fields, roadside ditches, neglected parcels or your neighbor’s yard. But always ask permission before you start clipping!

Beautiful arrangement with daisies

4)  What are a few ideas for containers or vases that people may not have thought of?

*  Vintage American pottery (the perfect companions for American flowers): My absolute favorite choice for arrangements include McCoy, Haeger, Floraline, Bauer, Hull and other containers from the 1930s through the 60s. Flea markets, thrift stores, antique malls, grandmother’s china cabinet . . . all are great sources for vintage inspiration.

 *  Anything metal: I have a collection of tarnished trophies and teapots. All are great for arrangements and they usually have generous openings that hold lots of stems.
*  Footed anything: Glass, ceramic and metal (brass, copper, aluminum) fruit bowls or serving pieces are easy to come by at thrift stores or on sites like eBay. If you can elevate the arrangement above the surface of your dining table by 5-8 inches using a footed vessel . . . wow – it has instant sophistication.

Gorgeous and colorful arrangement

5)  What are your 5 favorite flowers for a cutting garden?

I actually think it’s harder to find uncommon, long-lasting foliage than anything else. I have intentionally incorporated huge swaths of foliage plants in my garden so I never run out or have to resort to the ordinary options (a good rule of thumb is to use equal parts foliage stems to flower stems OR up to twice as many foliage stems to flower stems).
My must-haves: Ladies Mantle, Dusty Miller, Ninebark (in various colors), Cotinus (also in various colors) and oak leaf hydrangea.

Beautiful orange flowers

6)  Are you working on another book these days?

Thanks for asking! I am not writing another book (yet) but I am working with my development team to create, which will be launched as a Beta site this fall. is a nationwide Online Guide to florists, shops and studios that design with American-grown flowers. Free to consumers, this directory-style site makes it easy to find a florist in any state, a studio or florist who will hand-craft a beautiful gift arrangement, design a luscious wedding bouquet or create a dazzling centerpiece using ONLY American-grown flowers, foliage, branches, berries and other enticing botanicals. Designers, florists and flower farmers who join will be part of an exciting forum that connects eco-conscious consumers with American-grown flowers. Floral businesses are invited to showcase their own Slow Flower story and mission and share a gallery of photography that informs and inspires future customers. 

Stunning lillies

Now I’m going to share with you some ways you can keep your cut flowers fresher.

*  Don’t buy flowers that look droopy or old – they won’t miraculously perk up when you get home.

*  Get your flowers into water as soon as possible – don’t buy them & then go to a movie.

*  Cut them, at an angle, as soon as you get them home & put them in cool water.

*  Keep the foliage out of the water – strip it off if need be.

*  Add the little packet of preservative or flower food that may come with them or simply use a little sugar & bleach.  Sprite or 7-Up works fine too.

* Don’t place them in a hot window or next to a heater – remember they’re flowers, not cacti.

* Add water if need be (some flowers will drink a lot)  & change the water every 4-5 days.

Looking at my vases of flowers throughout  the day make me smile – always.  I support locally grown flowers and the “American Grown” flower movement every week.  I hope you will too

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