The second lecture/demo I attended at Art in Bloom was by Debra Prinzing, “a Seattle-based writer, speaker and leading advocate for American grown flowers. Through her many Slow Flowers-branded projects, she has convened a national conversation that stimulates consumers and professionals alike to make conscious choices about their floral purchases,” according to her website.
She said people seemed to understand the term “Slow Flowers” immediately, although – not being familiar with “Slow Food” – I didn’t. It just refers to locally grown, organically grown, sustainable fresh flowers. She had statistics flashing by on a slide loop, about the enormous percentage of flowers in the U.S. that are flown in from Colombia and Ecuador. Like, upwards of 80 percent. She’s advocating for purchasing from local flower farmers, for various reasons.
“I wasn’t going to show slides,” she said, “but we got here and there were these great big screens, so I just put some stuff up to flip through. They’re just on a loop; don’t try to make them match what I’m talking about. But let me know when the pilot shows up. I want to tell that story.”
The pilot was her pilot on her journey from Seattle to St. Louis for this gig. She was bringing some hellebores with her for her arrangements. She explained, “I know there are carbon implications from my flight, but at least these came with me and weren’t flown in on a special jet. You have to make up your own mind what ‘sustainable’ means to you.” I liked her for that.
Anyway, she was carrying them in a bucket of water – which required dumping the water at security, then refilling at a Starbucks on the concourse – and had been hoping to stash the bucket in a hanging-bag storage locker on the plane, but there was no room. So the pilot carried her bucket of flowers in the cockpit with him.
She had four or five different arrangements she wanted to show us, using various flowers and twigs and things that are in season right now. One of her books – possibly the most recent – is based on 52 weeks of arrangements using only plants that are blooming or otherwise being interesting (like red-osier dogwood being red) during that season. And it came about because she wanted to make a point to an insufferable (my word), provincial New Yorker! Now I am not only in her corner, I’m sponging her forehead and giving her pep talks.
Actually it was a chance remark. Some New Yorker complained to Prinzing that it was impossible to buy locally grown flowers, because she couldn’t get them at the bodega in her neighborhood. So Prinzing set out to prove that one can find things for floral displays anywhere, with a little imagination. “Unfortunately I started this project in November,” she admitted ruefully. “So I did a lot of things with pine cones and twigs.”
Prinzing called this approach “the anti-FTD” and demonstrated some of her arrangements using the hellebores that were so lovingly delivered by Alaska Airlines, as well as some finds from a local St. Louis merchant, Urban Buds, that is listed on her Slow Flowers website as a locally sourced distributor. The owner of Urban Buds was seated right behind me and fielded questions from Prinzing with good humor. “Do you talk to your flowers?” she was asked. “We talk, sing, dance, whatever!” answered the owner, whose name I heard as Mema. She had a Whoopi Goldberg voice and delivery. I will buy flowers from her.
My one objection to Prinzing’s lecture/demo was that she called her first arrangement her “Spring Solstice Bouquet.” I told myself it’s okay, she just slipped up – she means Equinox – but then she said it again. So I fretted and argued with myself over the term “Spring Solstice.” I did not correct her – not even when I got my book autographed.
And it was Debra Prinzing who finally answered my question of how to replace water in a vase in which you’ve spent a good 40 minutes arranging flowers. She said she just sort of holds them in place and dumps out as much water as she can, then uses the spray attachment on the faucet to start refilling. She continues to fill even after water slops out, because she’s using displacement, “like we learned in 8th grade biology.” (Hm. Physics, maybe?) She said some florists tell her they use a turkey baster to remove the old water, but that seems like it would take forever. Whew. That thought had crossed my mind, but I do not do well with turkey basters. Grabbing the flowers, dumping out water and pumping in fresh water sounds like something I could do.
Except I never even brought my arrangement home because asshole cats would knock it over. I left it at work and the nice ladies there took care of changing the water for me.