Friday, December 28, 2018

New industry, opportunity for local entrepreneurs SLOW FLOWERS

Eighty percent of the cut flowers that make up the bouquets of American florists arrive daily from another country. These blooms come from the Middle East, South America and Asia.

This astonishing situation got the attention of Debra Prinzing, a Washington State master gardener volunteer.

Prinzing has a degree in textiles and design and an extensive career in journalism. The author of 10 books, she is a contributor to Better Homes and Gardens and her articles on gardening, architecture and design appear frequently in the Los Angeles Times.

Through the process of researching and writing about the world of seasonal flowers, she wrote a book titled "The 50 Mile Bouquet," published in 2012.

Between the book's covers, she explained in detail that domestically raised flowers could make up a daily flower arrangement 52 weeks of the year.

The book received many excellent reviews and, of course, some critics who argued it was not possible to produce a weekly, year-round fresh homegrown bouquet from local flowers.

Prinzing, a little hot under the collar, went back to the drawing board and produced a second book titled "Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow, and Farm" in 2013.

While the book focuses on flowers, it has many similarities to the "Slow Food Movement" that emphasizes using seasonal and locally produced foods.

Suddenly, Prinzing has become the leader of a popular trend called the "Slow Flower Movement," which earned her the American Horticultural Society's prestigious Frances Jones Poetker Award.

The movement has a website – – that lists growers and florists across the country who are participating in the changing footprint of the American floral industry.

Prinzing, who says, "growing and harvesting flowers is in my DNA," launched her movement four years ago and already has more than 700 businesses across the United States and Canada that have championed her philosophy.

She is the president of Garden Writers Association and a member of the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers.

This "Slow Flower Movement" is an opportunity for growth here in the Mahoning Valley.

If you are an entrepreneur or know an entrepreneur who likes to get their hands in the soil, consider the opportunity. There are many university extension resources available regarding the cut-flower business.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

My View: Stitches in time preserve Grandma's flowers

Our grandmother, Marian Etta Edgett Smith, loved flowers. She grew roses and begonias, forsythias and foxgloves, sweet peas and tiger lilies. She also loved crafts. She knitted sweaters, crocheted tablecloths and bedspreads, caned chairs and created beautiful hand-sewn quilts.

The quilts were some of her most skilled handiwork and it's no wonder that she had begun working on one with the appropriately named pattern "Grandmother's Flower Garden." It was the most popular quilt design after 1925. Each "flower" consisted of 37 small hexagons: one central hexagon and three outer rows consisting of six, 12 and 18 hexagons, respectively.

In our grandmother's version, the center and the second row consisted of bold solid color fabrics and the outer row was solid white. However, she used fabrics with colorful floral designs for the third row.

Many of the floral-patterned pieces were cut from what had once been 25-pound flour sacks that were sold in the 1930s. These sacks, when emptied, were often saved and used to make diapers, dresses and dish cloths as well as aprons and quilts. In those days, nothing was wasted.

The flowers were entirely hand-sewn and if you were to closely inspect Grandma's handiwork from the back, you would see the beauty of thousands of tiny, perfect stitches. Each stitch was equal in length, and there was equal spacing between stitches, all done with precision eyeballing. When finished, each flower looked similar to a honeycomb, and represented a great deal of skilled labor, and a whole lot of love that Grandma employed while sewing the small pieces together.

But, alas, this quilt was never finished. Grandma grew old and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. She passed away in 1991. While going through her belongings shortly after the funeral, her daughter (and our mother), Marilyn, took those perfectly hand-stitched flowers and lovingly put them in a safe place thinking she might finish the quilt, for she had been taught well the sewing skills of her mother. As we all know, time has a way of slipping through our fingers, like thread through a needle, and the quilt remained unfinished.

Now, our mother is 84 years old and has some physical limitations that make sewing nearly impossible. Still, she never stopped thinking about "Grandma's flowers." Her mind kept needling her, but she required the nimble fingers of someone more able, and thus entered my younger sister, Gerri, who was equally qualified for the task.

After many years since Grandma's passing, our mother decided that instead of constructing one quilt, it would be more meaningful for those who fondly remembered Grandma Marian to each have one of those lovingly made flowers.

Most recently, the process began for my sister. She painstakingly ironed each raw edge under, often while having a one-sided, teary-eyed "conversation" with Grandma, thanking her for passing along the love of crafting to her children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. She searched for the perfect complimentary background color for each flower, cut a rectangular piece, hemmed the edges and sewed a single flower to the center.

Repeating the process many times allowed the creation of numerous finished pieces (a deconstructed quilt, if you will), each to be used as a wall hanging or framed under glass.

Now, 27 years after her death, and who knows how many years since the quilt pieces were first started, Grandma's flowers are being delivered to those who lovingly remember Marian Etta Edgett Smith. There's no better way to keep Grandma and her love of flowers and crafts alive.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Enjoy flowers' beauty, wild or otherwise

We have all experienced or seen pictures of beautiful fields of flowers. The colors are amazing, and I can only imagine the pride the grower must feel.

I think my favorite flower is the bluebonnet. Texas is famous for them. When thinking of these beautiful flowers I am reminded that not all are intentionally grown, such as those the farmer plants. Some flowers are wildflowers; they spring up where they will and are nurtured and cared for by only a loving God.

The intentional and wildflowers grow under different circumstances. Both are beautiful in their own special way. When they are gathered together and arranged by a special touch, the outcome is a thing of beauty.

Autumn and winter are times when we typically think of the holidays, family and friends. It can be a time when many families come together. This can be a time of celebration for the "intentional" and a time of difficulty for the "wildflowers."

You see, the intentional usually have had someone taking care of them from the beginning — planting, watering, fertilizing — in the best possible conditions. The wildflowers, however, had to go it alone with only the Lord’s care.

Do your family and circle of friends have intentionals and wildflowers? We may have all come through different circumstances, but when you put it all together with the Lord’s help, the arrangement can be a thing of beauty.

As we all know, the flowers eventually wither and die, as do we. Remember that our time is short, so enjoy the beauty of the intentional and the wildflower. This places us on higher ground.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Six Tips to Help Flowers Last

Some simple advice to ensure your next bunch looks better and lasts longer.

Florist Emily Bradbury has been in the industry for 13 years, so she knows a thing or two about prolonging the life of fresh-cut flowers. Her Melbourne floristry North St Botanical specialises in unconventional arrangements that showcase the textural and structural qualities of native foliage, flowers, pods and berries. Here she shares her best tips for keeping your cut blooms fresher, for longer.

Pick seasonal and local blooms, rather than imported. Your florist should be able to tell you which is which. For flowers such as tulips, buying them while they're still green is key to getting more life out of them. "It's a bit unnerving buying something prior to colour, but they will colour up eventually," Bradbury says.

Always check the stems and ensure they're freshly cut. If not, it means the flowers have been sitting around for a while. "If you go to a busy florist, the turnover rate is pretty good."

Cut the stems of woody flowers (such as blossoms and foliage) on an angle, so that when they touch the bottom of the vase there's still plenty of surface area exposed to water. You can even split the stems to increase their surface area – "Because it's wood, it doesn't drink as easily as a porous-stem flower, like a daffodil."

"Don't use sugar. Don't use bleach. Don't use aspirin – none of that is in nature." To lengthen your vase life, change the water every two to three days and recut the stems on an angle. Keep the flowers in a cool place, away from heaters and fireplaces.

When arranging blooms, don't mix members of the narcissus family (such as daffodils and jonquils) with other species. "They excrete a sap that's really bad for the other flowers."

When choosing a vase, Bradbury suggests something that tapers in at the top. "If you buy a vase with a really wide mouth, you're going to have to spend more on flowers … to fill it," she says. For hydrangeas, fill water to the top. Tulips prefer less water.