Floral Art Pop Up Shop beautifies downtown Vancouver, B.C.

A busy street corner was home to a one-week floral design popup store in downtown Vancouver, B.C.

I stumbled across the NEOflora badge on Facebook when I noticed that the very talented Arthur Williams, a Denver floral designer and owner of Babylon Floral who is profiled in The 50 Mile Bouquet, posted a comment that he was going to attend and contribute one-of-a-kind designs at the event. He was mentioned in a blog post about the best flowers for winter wedding. A little digging led me along a trail of links, where I discovered the news that NEOflora was taking place over a seven-day period at the end of October. And as it turned out, I was heading north to Vancouver for a few days last week.

The idea of a group of floral artists coming together to create a pop up flower shop on one of the city’s busiest shopping streets sparked my imagination. What a refreshing way to promote flowers as MORE than a commodity you find at the mass-market retailer or supermarket. According to NEOflora co founder Hitomi Gilliam, “NEOflora is a collaborative association of forward-thinking florists who want to appeal to the new consumer who may not be accustomed to buying flowers.”

When I arrived last Monday, there was no chance of missing the storefront. NEOflora’s location on a very busy street corner allowed the creators to hang huge floor-to-ceiling photographs in the windows depicting models wearing gorgeous floral headdresses. The energy spilled out of the store onto the street, drawing curious shoppers inside where they were blown away by the color palette, the incredible variety of botanical ingredients, and the verve of the designs. Everywhere there was a floral artist creating a new piece. The windows and walls were adorned with sculptural installations of flowers, branches and other natural ingredients. Down the center of the space was a traditional black-skirted fashion runway filled with huge vases of flowers. Three floral fashion shows were staged during the week-long event, featuring events for the trade, the public, and the bridal audience. Check out NEOflora’s Facebook page for video clips and photos of these events.

Along with Hitomi, I met several inspiring floral artists that day – and I hope to follow up with them in the future to write more about their work.

Here are their names, studios and links:

Alexis MacLeod, Simply Perfect Flowers (Abbotsford, BC)

Aniko Kovacs, Garlands Florist (Vancouver, BC)

Wendy Andrade, Wendy Andrade Designs (Kent, England)

Hitomi graciously answered my questions for a little video, which you can watch here:

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

  • The pop-up store draws attention and helps to elevate flowers and the artists who work with them from a commodity-based product to a highly-valued work of art.
  • One hundred floral designers from Canada and around the world have come together to help fund the one-week pop-up store; donations, fashion show ticket sales and floral sales also helped to pay for the short-term shop lease, which cost $25,000 (CAN) for two weeks.
  • Most of the flowers used in the store, and those featured on the runway, were donated by several members of the United Flower Growers Cooperative, the major wholesale flower auction house based in Vancouver.
  • When I asked Hitomi about the emphasis on locally-grown flowers, she said about 90-percent of the flowers used in NEOflora’s pop-up up project were BC-grown.

“that’s what the consumer is looking for – local & organic” — Hitomi Gilliam, NEOflora co-founder

More photos:

Succulent bowls, featured inside the NEOflora shop. The consumer interest in living arrangements is on the rise.

Hip signage and pre-made arrangements drew pedestrians into the store.

 Alexis MacLeod, owner and designer at Simply Perfect Flowers in Abbotsford, BC, created this gorgeous, green wired bouquet.

A beautiful array of locally-grown BC floral ingredients – on hand as raw materials for the designers

Even small bud vases went high-style, with roses and cockscomb in a hot color combo

An assortment of hand-tied bouquets on display for shoppers and promotional giveaways

A stunning detail shot of an autumn bouquet

Here’s the takeaway for all my LOCAL FLORA friends – growers and designers alike. Let’s take a page from the talent in Vancouver and bring flowers to the streets of America’s cities. This is a great model for promoting American-grown flowers and elevating the art of floral design to its rightful place in the fashion world!


Flower farmers receive important funding


Seattle, WA (October 2012) – On Oct. 1, 2012, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $101 million in grants to support America’s specialty crops producers, including $138,000 awarded to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farm-to-florist cooperative of flower growers in Washington, Oregon and Alaska.
The goal of USDA’s 2012 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crops producers and to stimulate agriculturally-based community economic development.
Administered in partnership with the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the multi-state grant will fund several new SWGMC programs. A major initiative will train key industry stakeholders in methods for achieving high quality cut flower production with emphasis on season extension, marketing techniques and sustainable growing practices. Funding will also assist the cooperative in providing Washington and Oregon floricultural producers with reliable volume sales opportunities to Puget Sound area supermarkets and chain stores, aiding the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative in building a self-sustaining marketing program for large scale buyers.
According to SWGMC President Diane Szukovathy, the Federal and State support provides critical resources to expand and improve the domestic cut flower industry in the Pacific Northwest.
“Washington is the second-largest cut-flower growing state in the nation and Oregon is the fourth-largest,” she said. “In February 2011, the independent flower producers and small family flower farms of the Pacific Northwest created a central marketplace for the floral community, strategically located in the heart of Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood. We provide wholesale customers with regular access to high quality, locally grown cut flowers. The farmers have self-funded the cooperative to date, without government support. Now, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program grants will provide much-needed seed money to help improve our distribution and marketing efficiencies and meet the growing demand for locally and sustainably-grown floral products.”
Rianne Perry, WSDA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administrator, noted: “This project supports Northwest flower growers’ sustainability and provides consumers with opportunities to buy local, high quality cut flowers. We are pleased to include this as one of the 25 projects we were able to fund to support Washington’s diverse agriculture, including floriculture.”
About the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market:

Overview: Washington is the 2nd largest cut flower growing state in the nation. From 1998 – 2009, cut flower producers increased from 52 to 88 and bulb growers  from 15 to 56 according to the USDA Floriculture Crop Survey. Critical to the ongoing success of the cut flower growers is the creation of a central market for the floral community in the Puget Sound region.  The central location provides customers with regular availability to locally grown cut flowers. Plus growers gain distribution efficiencies by combining delivery of plant material to shared customers. 

In February, 2011, growers from Washington, Oregon and Alaska formed the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative.  Shortly after forming the co-op, the Georgetown space was leased to house the market year around. The grand opening of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market was May 18, 2011. 

Vision: To cultivate a northwest floral industry that values and supports local growers.

Market Profile: 

Founded: February, 2011

Grower Members: 18 (10 from Washington, 6 from Oregon and 2 from Alaska)

Wholesale Hours of Operation:  Mondays 6-12, Wednesdays 6-2, Fridays 6-2

Customer Profile: retail and studio florists, event planners, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The market is open to the public from 10-2 on Fridays only.


Why did you form the Growers Co-op?

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market Cooperative was formed to create a central marketplace for local flower farmers to sell directly to the floral trade in the greater Seattle area throughout the year. Over time, the SWGMC is committed to providing production resources, promotion and distribution solutions to its members.
80% of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are now imported. The importation of foreign plant material from Columbia, Ecuador and throughout the world has created an increasingly competitive marketplace that has significantly reduced overall farmer profitability, and homogenized the flower varieties offered. Over the past five years, consumer demand for high quality, local and seasonally diverse floral products has steadily climbed, yet until SWGMC opened for business last year, such products were not available in the Seattle area on any consistent basis.

Is the market wholesale only?

The market is set up mainly to serve wholesale buyers with high quality floral products. Our customer base includes studio florists, shop owners, stores, caterers, restaurants, event planners, venues, designers and other professionals. Professional buyers pay a $35 annual buyer’s card fee. 

Beginning June 1, 2012, the market opened to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, with retail pricing and a $5 entry fee. The market’s board of directors recently made this decision to answer a strong level of interest from the public, and to help growers sell surplus product. 

Where is the market located?

In the Georgetown neighborhood located just south of downtown Seattle. We are 15 minutes from downtown Seattle and easily accessible from I-5 via the Michigan/Corson Street exit. Our address is 5840 Airport Way South, Suite 201, Seattle, WA  98108

What kind of flowers and plants do you offer at the market?

The market offers a wide variety of professional quality cut flowers, foliage and potted plants year round, including peonies, roses, calla lilies, Asiatic and oriental lilies, orchids, blooming branches, and specialty bulb and perennial crops. With a few seasonal exceptions, all of the flowers/plants offered for sale are locally grown, ensuring the freshest possible product for our customers. 

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They play well together in a vase, don’t they?

When you think about a succulent plant as a floral design ingredient, it’s important to use both its “leaves” and its “flowers.”

Robin Stockwell, succulent grower extraordinaire and owner of Succulent Gardens Nursery in Castroville, Calif., shared this lesson last Friday as part of our joint workshop, “All in Good Time,” a program of the Garden Conservancy and the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Thanks to the expert planning of Jenny Andrews, Garden Conservancy’s new Education Director, Robin (above) and I teamed up to talk about the Slow Flower movement. We especially focused on the idea of using wonderful, versatile, irresistible succulents from our gardens and pots.

In working on The 50 Mile Bouquet, I was introduced to the succulents-as-cut-ingredients technique. Several of the designers we featured use echeverias, aeoniums, graptopetalums, kalanchoes and other succulent cuttings as deftly as they use dahlias and roses. Susie Nadler and Flora Grubb, of The Cutting Garden at Flora Grubb Nursery, and Baylor Chapman of Lila B. Flowers, are rock stars when it comes to pairing succulents from the garden with flowers from the farm. Together these women inspired Sunset’s senior garden editor Julie Chai to use her succulent cuttings for the bridal party bouquets and centerpieces at her July 2011 wedding, also featured in our book.

Robin, though, was way ahead of all of us! A true pioneer, he was making bouquets of succulent flowers back in the 1980s. He shared a photo from a 1981 (black-and-white photographed) Sunset magazine article in which his then-young son was pictured with a vase of tall echeveria blooms. Let’s just call Robin an early-early-adopter to the succulent craze. He was so far ahead of his time that it has taken the rest of us 30 years to catch up!

“Succulents are the conservationists of the plant world” — Robin Stockwell

At the Garden Conservancy workshop, I started out the day with an illustrated talk called “10 Lessons I learned from the Slow Flower Movement.” Robin then wowed the audience with insights about how to harvest and what to do with each type of succulent. He explained that the rosette-looking succulents are actually leaves; many of the plants do produce long, slender stems bearing tiny pink flowers that dangle from them — also quite enticing.

I came prepared to carefully wire the rosettes and wrap their “faux stems” with green florist tape, but Robin demonstrated how you can cut the stem long enough to practically eliminate the wire. Play around with it and you’ll see what I mean. If the stem of the echeveria is 3-4 inches long, that might be enough to anchor it into a flower arrangement – cuz it certainly doesn’t need water to look dazzling (in fact, it will last far longer than any of the perennials or annuals in that vase). Kathleen Williford of the California Cut Flower Commission helped tremendously by gathering floral ingredients from local Monterey Bay area growers who supported the workshop with their donations. We couldn’t have done this without them!


My go-to vase for stunning arrangements is a 7-inch tall white ceramic pedestal dish. It’s square and probably originally intended for serving some kind of yummy dessert. It’s also the type of vessel that a conventional florist would fill with Oasis by shoving a cube of the toxic green foam into the base and then poking in stems to create a “full” arrangement. But instead, I used a mound of chicken wire, anchored with a reusable floral clay. Here are the steps:

1. Level one of the arrangement is to fill the entire surface of chicken wire with foliage, allowing it to drape over the edge of the vase and also create a soft dome of texture. I had brought some foliage along with me on the plane from Seattle to Oakland ~ Jello Mold Farm’s Physocarpus, called ‘Coppertina’ – which has a tawny hue that plays off the brighter dahlias and succulents.

2. Level two: Add dahlias in a grid of one at the center and five surrounding flowers. I cut the dahlia stems relatively short so that the flowers nestled low into the foliage. Thank you to Kevin Larkin of Corralitos Dahlias for supplying the gorgeous blooms!

3. Next, add 4-5 medium-sized aeoniums or echeverias between the dahlia blooms. The ones Robin gave me had 6-inch stems, but I still inserted a short piece of 12-gauge wire into the base of each to “extend” it for anchoring into the chicken wire. Susie Nadler cuts her succulent stems pretty short – about 1/2-inch – and then inserts wire and wraps the entire “stem” with floral tape, but I skipped this step here.

4. Final step: We needed some height! Imagine my reaction when Robin showed up with dozens of cut flowering stems from his hybrid echeverias. Dusky pink, dark coral, pale turquoise. . . the palette was dreamy! Robin’s hybrid echeverias produce mega-rosettes measuring up to 12-inches across, so no surprise that their flowers are also overly robust. The ones he brought me were 10-12 inches long. I inserted several into the bouquet, through the top and down between the other ingredients to be supported by the hidden chicken wire. The hover above the rest of the flowers to finish off the design with a wow-factor!


Carol Maerzke, my host for the visit, let me borrow her creamy-white vase for this arrangement. When your vase has upright or slightly fluted sides and a relatively narrow opening (6-7 inches), you don’t need to use a flower frog or chicken wire to stabilize stems. The ingredients behave nicely in this sort of vase. Here are the steps:

1. Fill the vase with varying heights of Asparagus fern, approximately one dozen. These are super-long-lasting and came from California Floral Greens (thanks, Jennifer Everett for the donation!)

2. Add shorter lengths of variegated pittosporum to offset the green and blend with the vase. Carol donated these from her lovely garden in Walnut Creek. I arranged most of these around the rim of the vase, covering the lip.

3. Insert several stems of beautiful white Lisianthus, to add a soft floral component. These were donated by Robert Kitayama of Kitayama Brothers Farms in Watsonville, Calif. Thanks, Robert!

4. Add two variegated succulent echeverias in the front of the arrangement, also draped over the rim of the vase. Thanks, Robin!

5. Add more upright elements for contrast in color, form and texture. Here, I inserted rose-streaked New Zealand flax (Phormium) from California Floral Greens and drumstick alliums grown by Jan Roozen of Choice Bulb Co., in Mount Vernon, Wash.

We had a great day, all around. What struck me later was a note Robin sent by email:

I’ve not thought a lot about the floral side of what I do over the past few years and even when I have, it was in bits and pieces. the presentation with you brought back a much more comprehensive memory of my past experiences and gave me quite a few new insights as well.

It was a great combination of two Slow Flowers points of view, and we were especially energized by the very engaged and supportive audience, as well as the great staff at the Garden Conservancy and the Ruth Bancroft Garden, especially Sophie Damerel, the education director there. A special thanks goes to Jenny Andrews, the Garden Conservancy’s new director of education and a longtime friend and former editor of mine from Garden Design magazine. She made this all work on her end and we couldn’t be happier with the results!

Robin Stockwell’s Succulent Tips for Floral Designers

1. Cut the “heads” off of plants using a clean, sharp florist’s knife or clippers. Robin sterilizes his tools in Lysol.

2. While succulents do not need much water, the aeoniums benefit from being in a little water when cut. Other succulent rosettes will be okay on a wire stem out of water. Obviously, after seven days or so in a vase, the succulent will be the last attractive element left. You’ll be able to re-use it in the next arrangement or let it produce some roots and replant it in a pot or the garden.

3. Soil mix. When replanting your succulent, use a soil mix formulated for cactus and succulent plants. Succulents appreciate soil that is well aerated and drains well. Coarse bark or crushed lava work well for this, sand does not. When I first started writing about succulent bowls, I interviewed Erin Keosian Taylor of botanik in Summerland, Calif., near Santa Barbara. Erin recommends planting rooted succulents in a mix of one-half organic potting soil and one-half cactus mix. I’ve had pretty good success with that recipe.

Repurposed Succulents

As a footnote, here’s what Carol did after we returned to her home Friday afternoon. The arrangements sat in her car for a little too long, so Carol took my bouquet apart and re-used the ingredients in a centerpiece with locally-grown sunflowers. I think the green aeonium rosettes look stunning with her sunflowers, don’t you?


“Learn how you can find local, sustainable flowers for aromatic and beautiful bouquets.”

It’s great to see the message that we set out to share spread far and wide. Romantic Homes magazine, in the current July issue, features our book in a two-page spread as part of its regular “Pages” book feature.

Thanks to editor Jacqueline deMontravel and her team for featuring The 50 Mile Bouquet in the July 2012 issue of Romantic Homes! Here’s a peek, or you can pick up a copy at the newsstand:

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A late-June bouquet with a vintage patina

The copper container highlights the rich colors of the foliage and flowers.

An amber-apricot-peach floral palette.

Lonny Boender and her “prize” bouquet – enjoy!

Earlier this week, I gave a talk to the Endolyne Garden Club here in Seattle. After the illustrated lecture on “10 Lessons I’ve learned from The 50 Mile Bouquet,” I demonstrated an arrangement using a yummy selection of just-picked ingredients from local flower farmers.

The entire palette looks like it’s been tea-stained. One woman suggested it was more “Downton Abbey” than modern-day. I think she’s right. It was the ‘Coppertina’ ninebark foliage (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Coppertina’) that got me started. Grown by Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall of Jello Mold Farm  in Skagit Valley, Washington, this foliage color is truly sublime. I love ninebark in all its forms — the deep plum and the classic green included. But the relatively new cultivar with copper-tones is quite alluring.

Once I chose the foliage, I took my regular circuit through the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market to find companionable blooms. I couldn’t resist the stunning, pale peach spires of Jan Roozen’s foxtail lilies (Eremurus sp.) from Choice Bulb Co. Those are the tallest elements of the arrangement above. Vivian Larson’s Everyday Flowers didn’t disappoint, either – I snatched up bunches of pale apricot stock (Matthiola incana), which are super fragrant, and peachy snapdragons with lots of buds. Then – surprise – peachy-pink yarrow from Charles Little & Co. in Eugene, Oregon. It all came together beautifully in the copper flower pot that Bruce gave me as a birthday gift years ago. Because I’ve had this vessel for six or seven years, it has started to mellow nicely.

The arrangement above was my “practice” bouquet, photographed in my living room. I used all of the same ingredients at the Garden Club demonstration – and one lucky member won the raffle to bring it home with her. The flowers and foliage should last up to a week if the water is refreshed every day or two – and if I see a single stem starting to “wilt” a little, I pull it out, re-cut it and return it to the vase. It often helps to revive the stem.


Local Flowers featured at SUNSET Celebration Weekend

by Debra Prinzing June 8, 2012 Florists and Floral Designers

Hooray for LOCAL Flower Farmers! A special thank you to the California Cut Flower Commission and the Flower Growers of Monterey Bay, California. Many of them shared ingredients for my two demonstrations at the recent SUNSET Celebration Weekend. Eddy Lehrer, a member of the audience, was kind enough to share photos of some of the individual […]

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Give your mom locally-grown flowers for Mother’s Day

by Debra Prinzing May 4, 2012 Growers

Taking the so-called expert to task Earlier this week, Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner was a guest on public radio’s Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal. Many of us listened in horror as this economics “expert” suggested that because imported flowers have such a huge carbon footprint, listeners should give their mothers PLASTIC FLOWERS for Mother’s Day. Here is a […]

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Goes well with flowers . . .

by Debra Prinzing April 27, 2012 Growers

Thanks Judy!

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by Debra Prinzing April 14, 2012 How We Did It

Mark your calendar and please join us at these April events: TODAY: Saturday, April 14 (1-2 p.m.) Meet David at West Seattle Nursery’s Annual Spring Open House. Bring your digital camera and/or smart phone for David’s hands-on demonstration of floral photography. Sunday, April 15 (2-3 p.m.) Ravenna Gardens at Seattle’s University Village presents The 50 Mile Bouquet, […]

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Follow Your Flowers From Field to Vase

by Debra Prinzing April 3, 2012 Facts and Lore

Do you enjoy flowers in your life? The following is the illustrated introduction from our new book, The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers (St. Lynn’s Press, 2012). Our official release date was April 1. Mother Earth News fully excerpted the introduction for its readers last week, and we wanted to share it here, […]

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