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A Visit to Twin Cities Flower Exchange

The group above gathered in St. Paul, Minnesota, to introduce me to Minnesota-grown flowers at a special meet-up hosted by Twin Cities Flower Exchange.

What happens on Day Two of the Slow Flowers Summit? On Tuesday morning, July 2nd, our focus shifts to the Twin Cities Flower Exchange, a farm-to-florist hub founded by Christine Hoffman, our co-host of the Slow Flowers Summit. We'll be warmly welcomed by Christine, as she shares her Minnesota-grown hospitality.

We asked this sustainable floral entrepreneur to share what to expect when we visit.

"The morning at TCFE will begin with a little coffee, breakfast and mingling in our host space, The Good Acre. Interest in the wholesale floral hub model is peaking, so we will allow plenty of time for you to tour the facility, ask questions and chat with some of our farmers and designers. Tuesday is always our drop-off day, so flowers will be coming in for our Wednesday market day and you will be able to get a glimpse of the weekly operations at The Exchange," she explains.

"We are also thrilled to have Ashley Fox of Ashley Fox Designs participating in our morning gathering. Ashley has been one of our biggest cheerleaders and supporters at The Exchange, and her enthusiasm for local flowers is contagious. Ashley will guide us through her personal approach to shopping The Exchange and share why she loves this model so much. She will then treat us to a quick floral demonstration using our local blooms!"

Minnesota-based designer and local flower proponent Ashley Fox

We caught up with Ashley to learn more -- and she shared in this fabulous Q&A:

Q. Describe Ashley Fox Designs:

A. We are a full-service floral company specializing in luxurious styling and designs for events, editorials and breathtaking installations in the Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota, area and beyond. We also lead 1:1 workshops with designers and craft those workshop session to their specific needs.

Q. Describe your design aesthetic:

A. I am inspired by a sophisticated, garden aesthetic and the natural world around me. Currently, I like to use more flowers and unusual foliage. I've been focusing more on using the flower colors and textures as the stand-alone element and the green being only an accent or creator of shape and movement when needed. My design philosophy is intentional design. Intentional meaning: focusing on what really matters in a design to make it remarkable, stand out, interesting and of course, really pretty. I create spaces for clients that are, by nature, one-of-a-kind and the goal is to create "wow factor" moments in the locations I design. I want to make spaces where people never want to leave the party.

Q. Historically, how did you approach sourcing for your commissions?

A. Picture this: Me driving the van, my two children in their car seats yelling "No mom! Don't stop on the road!" or "How many more flower stops are there?" -- common sayings when I first started my business as I sought out the most unusual blooms and stems I could find. I would drive not only to the flown-in product market in Minneapolis, but I would drive for many hours one day a week to source the most beautiful iris, peony, or unusual celosia, etc. I could find. The drive was worth the effort when the design met and exceeded my creative expectations. Now I don't have to do that. I can go to one location in Saint Paul, Minnesota -- to TCFE and gather all of the inspiration and blooms I need to create the beautiful, the alluring, the sexy (Amy McGee said it!) designs we are known for today.

Q. How long have you been shopping at TCFE?

A. I have been shopping at TCFE since opening day and almost every week since then. You could say I have been shopping there in its embryo stage as I would call Christine and ask her for her Japanese Anemone out of the neighbor's yard or request her potted herbs for greens to make the centerpieces I wanted.

Q. How has that changed your business approach? your design aesthetic?

A. This is a fantastic question and possibly lengthy response and I will try to be concise, which is what TCFE has allowed me to be in my work as well!

I'm a big believer of the elements in a design to "play nice" together. Meaning, each type plays off of the other in some way, whether it is shape and texture or color. The eye must move across the design, picking up the familiar and the surprising all at once until you come to the end of the design and you think "I want to do that again!" and you go back for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th look . . . When I shop at TCFE I can easily see the stems working together in this way. Yes, I can put items together from looking at a (computer) screen; I've developed that skill over the years. But the best and truest way to see the floral and foliage color is in person and a local market with everything in one location provides this experience.

Thank you, Christine and Ashley -- we can't wait to see you in the Twin Cities this summer!

Photography credits: Ashley Fox portrait: Rebecca Hollis

Ashley Fox workshop image: Amanda Nippoldt

Twin Cities Flower Exchange image: Debra Prinzing

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