Making Fast Friends at the Slow Flowers Summit

Earlier this summer, I (Chantal, hi) spent a weekend in Seattle. I was there for the Slow Flowers Summit, a one-day mindmeld dedicated to U.S.-grown flowers and the people who farm, garden, and design with them. The SURF Incubator space had eye-popping views of the Puget Sound and of course dahlias, roses and amaranth from Washington State, not to mention larger-than-life peonies fresh from Alaska.

Foam-Free Flower Wall by Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative, one of the featured speakers.

The summit was envisioned by Slow Flowers pioneer Debra Prinzing, who is also a noted author and speaker. (We like to call her our Fairy Garden Godmother, ever since she invited us to a Field to Vase dinner in a field of ranunculus.) Debra asked me to moderate a panel about inclusivity in the floral design world; that is, inclusivity across race, culture, income, ability, and sexual and gender identity. My panel-mates were legends: visionary landscape designer Leslie Bennett of Pine House Edible Gardens, floral spellcaster Nicole Cordier Wahlquist of Grace Flowers Hawaii, and rockstar horticulturist Riz Reyes of RHR Horticulture.

I got through three questions out of my planned twelve. So it goes without saying this conversation was hot. My favorite part was when we each named our unsung garden heroes, which included Pearl Fryar, Jim Yoshihara, Maurice Harris and famous-but-not-famous-for-their-plant-writing authors Alice Walker and Jamaica Kincaid. We put their faces and their works on the big screen.

The legend herself, Debra Prinzing.


During our inclusivity/diversity panel, I chatted with floral movers and shakers (from left) Leslie Bennett, Riz Reyes, and Nicole Cordier Wahquist.

Writer Amy Stewart gave the keynote for the Slow Flowers Summit, using the 10-year anniversary of her landmark bestseller Flower Confidential as a starting point for talking about where the U.S. flower industry is right now, and where it’s going. For example, how can we market ourselves better? One idea I loved was the delivery selfie, in which your (maybe pierced, tattooed) delivery people snap blossomy shots of themselves before they drop off the bouquet you ordered.

James A. Baggett of BHG and Country Gardens was the emcee and got everyone acquainted with generous intros plus juicy anecdotes. (Such as, you ask? Well…tea that’s spilled in Seattle stays in Seattle.) We saw how the Victorian language of flowers could be brought into 2017 during a talk/demo by Teresa Sabankaya of Bonny Doon Garden Co. Before our eyes, she made meaningful posies in which, for example, protea stands for fortitude and is a thoughtful flower to give to anyone going through a gnarly life experience.

The inimitable Amy Stewart.

As the emcee, BHG‘s James A. Baggett was equal parts sage and hilarious.

Teresa Sabankaya shows how to make meaningful tussie-mussies.

Mud Baron WILL put these flowers on your head.

Flower therapy is real, y’all.

The mind and muscle behind the conference’s Foam-Free Flower Wall, Emily Ellen Anderson of Lola Creative showed us how to be more open to expanding on our skills and career aspirations. Toward the end, someone floated the idea of her leading a workshop on constructing using power tools, a whole sea of hands went up. For the finale, we put our wildest dreams on paper with drawings of earth, sky, and space, led by artist Lisa Waud of Pot and Box, who also took us behind the scenes of her famous Flower House installation.

Speaking of behind the scenes, Mud Baron of Muir Ranch was backstage at the Slow Flowers Summit, putting flowers on everyone’s head. At the end of the day he led us in a chant: “Debra is awesome.” Blooming right.


Lisa Waud.

Emily Ellen Anderson.

Pretty hard to top dahlia season in Seattle.


To end the night, the beer cocktails flowed at No Anchor. Yeah!