The Slow Flower Challenge


A possible collection of stems and fruit inspired by Slow Flowers

Yesterday, I did the perfect thing on a rainy November day. I attended a thought provoking lecture by Debra Prinzing , author of the best selling book Slow Flowers at Blithewold Mansion and Gardens annual fundraiser luncheon. The phrase Slow Flowers is a take on the Slow Food Movement embraced by the food industry with its focus on sustainability, using local crops and food products. By supporting the Slow Flowers movement Debra is encouraging us to not buy imported cut flowers from South America, Europe, Israel etc. (just think of the fuel costs, pesticide use, and more). We should look to what is in season. Much material is waiting to be picked in our backyards, on our windowsills or being grown by local flower farmers and in nearby greenhouse operations.

In her book, Slow Flowers, Debra illustrates how she took on the challenge of creating flower arrangements using only locally sourced material each week of the calendar year, including winter. I think her title is a bit misleading;  some of the plant material she uses, especially during the winter months, is in the form of foliage, branches, fruit and seed pods, when flowers are more limited. Totally cool…sometimes limitations make way for creative thinking. Yes, Debra is from Seattle, a climate which is kinder than what we have here in New England, and one would expect she has more plant options. Still, I left feeling committed to take on this challenge. Maybe not a different arrangement every week, but once or twice a month could be doable.


TOP L-R: Asparagus, Aster ‘Ezo Murasaki’, Stewartia, Hakonechloa.  MID: Hydrangea quercifolia, Viburnum, Cardinal Candy, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’, Hydrangea paniculata.  BOT: Spirea ‘Ogon’, Chrysanthemum ‘Wil’s Wonderful’, Kolwitzia ‘Dreamcatcher’, Acer shirasawanum ‘Jordan’

So today, November 7th, I began the challenge. I gave myself a half hour to select plants. A walk about the garden revealed a vast array of choices. I decided to limit my palette to these 12 selections.


November 7th arrangement

Here’s the result. When it comes to botanical arrangements, I prefer the “just picked from the garden” style…not contrived or fussy, but exuberant in that cornucopia kind of way, with some unconventional stems tucked in for surprise. Maybe when winter cuts my supply short, I’ll explore the more minimalist style of Ikebana. Are you inspired to take on this challenge? Let me know what discoveries you find locally and that are in season.  

I plan to post an image of what I find and come up with for my next arrangement on the Avant Gardens Facebook page in a couple of weeks. “Like” us if you haven’t already done so to follow my postings. I’ve also been asked by Debra Prinzing to post images at #slowflowerschallenge # slow flowers on Instagram. You can enter your slow flower arrangements there too.

18 thoughts on “The Slow Flower Challenge”

  1. Hi Katherine, wow, what a lovely post! I’m so pleased that you “got it” when I spoke about the Slow Flowers Movement. You are definitely part of the tribe, now! Your seasonal design ingredients are gorgeous, and so is your arrangement. I’m so lucky I came to Rhode Island BEFORE the frost hit Blithewold!
    my best, Debra

  2. Simply splendid!!
    What a great feast of fall color, texture, form and character.
    Great to meet you.

  3. kathy, I love your selections for your arrangement. I definately have trouble limiting what I pick even in Nov right before a frost. Your nursery is a treasure trove of material!! I can’t wait to see your upcoming creations!

  4. Definitely looking forward to your future postings. Your challenge is one I intend to take on.


  5. How clever to write a book about natural arrangements! I recently attended a floral demonstration by Tony Todesco, international designer, and he used only material from his yard. I was inspired to create my own simple design. The oakleaf hydrangea, virburnam, & leucothoe provided color & texture.

  6. Love it , too. Couldn’t go to the talk, but was curious. It’s much harder to do Ikebana type arrangements with natural materials ” out of season” , so am really looking forward to seeing what people come up with!

  7. Kathy,
    You are the perfect candidate to take up this challenge. I so look forward to seeing your creations. I’ve resisted Facebook so far; I may have to sign up if that’s the only place you’ll be posting your weekly photos. Do tell…
    P.S. I feel a monthly workshop opportunity. Sign me up!

  8. Peg, You were reading my mind. ion a few weeks I’m doing an evergreen wreath workshop with boughs and branches from what’s on our property. Thinking of a series of workshops in 2015. I’ll keep you posted!

  9. Just wonderful Kathy! I always appreciate your color and texture palette. Taking a course in permaculture via Cornell Distance Learning and Slow Flowers is another “connection” I can make to those principles.

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