Finding our Floral Muse
Slow Flowers Society's fifth gathering welcomed design inspiration, a floral takeover and conversations about sustainable practices to New York's lower Hudson Valley
Photography by Alex Brooks and Niesha Blancas
This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Slow Flowers Journal, a digital quarterly magazine. Click here to see the full issue.
Above: On Day One, attendees participated in a Floral Takeover, led by speaker TJ McGrath Since its inaugural conference in 2017, the Slow Flowers Summit has given attendees a chance to learn from artists, innovators, and thought leaders whose commitment to domestic flowers is at the heart of the Slow Flowers Movement. Progressive and sustainably-minded floral professionals met in New York for the 2022 Slow Flowers Summit, which took place for three days in late June.
The fifth Slow Flowers Summit drew 125 attendees from 25 states and two Canadian provinces. Guests heard from seven presenters and enjoyed a farm tour, five design demonstrations, an interactive day of hands-on design, and a immersive maker-artisan experience.
The Summit took place June 26-28 during American Flowers Week as a live, in-person forum for florists, flower farmers, retailers, wholesalers, floral educators, and members of the media. Two venues in Westchester County, about 35 minutes north of New York City, hosted the events. On Day One, attendees convened at The Red Barn at Maple Grove Farm in Bedford, New York, a private farm owned by local philanthropist George Bianco. On Days Two and Three, the Summit moved to nearby Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and its Arts & Ecology Lab, which develops sustainable uses for all that a farm produces.
Three Slow Flowers members presented their floral design techniques on Sunday, June 26, and all utilized locally-grown and American-grown botanicals in their creations. Xenia D'Ambrosi, owner of Sweet Earth Co., based in Pound Ridge, New York, kicked off the day with a presentation on how her business incorporates cutting garden design services and demonstrated a hand-tied bouquet. Xenia also served as the Summit's local co-host. Nicole Cordier of Cordier Botanical Art, based on the island of Hawaii, demonstrated a beautiful centerpiece blending tropical Hawaii-grown blooms with temperate perennials and annuals. TJ McGrath of TJ McGrath Design, of Plainfield, New Jersey, led participants in creating a freestanding, foam-free botanical installation during the floral takeover, while other speakers and attendees designed centerpieces and hand-tied bouquets as part of the afternoon floral design sessions at The Red Barn at Maple Grove Farm. More than one thousand floral stems enriched the creative experience, donated by 14 growers.
The Summit transitioned to the famed Stone Barns Center for the following two days, with presentations focusing on "Flowers as Artist's Muse." Shannon Algiere and Philippe Gouze presented an introduction of Stone Barns Center's history and mission, and Philippe demonstrated a meadow-inspired floral piece using botanicals harvested from the Stone Barns flower fields, greenhouses and wild spaces. Keynote presentations by two prominent female artists followed, introducing audience members to their botanically-inspired media. Ceramic artist Frances Palmer and paper and plaster artist Ronnie Nicole Robinson shared highly personal narratives about how the flowers they grow and gather inform their aesthetic. TJ McGrath closed the day with a design demonstration using Stone Barns Center-grown flowers and foam-free mechanics. Summit attendees enjoyed seasonal, farm-to-table fare from the kitchen at Blue Hill at Stone Barns Center, the on-site restaurant, including an optional four-course dinner that attracted many attendees and their guests. The final day's programming offered a round-robin of five "Floral Immersion" sessions presented by local artisans and makers, as well as by Stone Barns Center's staff members, including demonstrations in botanical dyeing, papermaking, ceramics and clay, seasonal tablescape design and a guided tour of the on-site flower farm.
About our Attendees According to a post-event survey, attendees identified themselves as follows (respondents were invited to select multiple categories):
49% Florist/Floral Designer 32% Flower Farmer/Farmer-Florist/Grower 28% Flower Enthusiast/Flower Grower 11.5% Retail Florist 9.5% Educator 5.5% Wholesaler 3.5% Media
Thank you to our Sponsors This was the most ambitious schedule since the Slow Flowers Summit began, made possible by support from generous sponsors, including premiere sponsor Mayesh; presenting sponsors CalFlowers and Rooted Farmers; supporting sponsors Johnny's Selected Seeds and Red Twig Farms; with additional sponsorship from Details Flowers Software, New Age Floral, Osborne Quality Seeds, Longfield Gardens, and EcoFresh Bouquet. In addition, Summit gift bags included support from Amour Vert, BLOOM Imprint, Farmgirl Flowers, Gather Flora, Olms Bamboo, Slow Flowers Society and True Client Pro. See sidebar for floral contributors.
What draws people to the Slow Flowers Summit? "Connecting with other attendees" (75%); "Learning about new resources" (74%); "Learning new skills" (70%) are the three top-cited benefits of attending the Summit, according to responses. "I had the best time at the 2022 Slow Flowers Summit," says Karla Smith-Brown of OLIVEE Floral. "It was incredible to have the unique opportunity to connect with likeminded floristry professionals and nerd out about all things flowers and sustainability. Super grateful for the experience, can’t wait for next year."
Floral journalist Jill Brooke, editorial director of Flower Power Daily, shared this observation: "When you gather some of the most innovative and dedicated farmers, the collective soil stirs in unexpected special ways…I witnessed a laboratory of ideas, which is exactly what you want a Summit to be. I loved the sharing of ideas and learning what works and doesn’t work as attendees discussed how to make the world a better place through sustainability."
Thank you to our Floral Donors
A robust floral donation program supported the Slow Flowers Summit and featured domestic flowers from Bloomcourt Farm, Connecticut Flower Collective, Garden State Flower Cooperative, Stone Barns Center for Food + Agriculture, Becky at Appleberry Farm, Charles Little & Co., Gather Flora (Menagerie Farm & Flower and Rose Story Farm), Grace Flowers Hawaii, Grateful Gardeners, Johnny's Selected Seeds Trial Gardens, Seed-on-Hudson, Sweet Earth Co., The Farm at Oxford and Jersey Cut Flower Market.
Announcing Slow Flowers Summit 2023 The sixth Slow Flowers Summit returns to the west and will take place June 26-27, 2023, at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Bellevue, Washington (outside Seattle). The full schedule and conference details will be announced in December 2022. More information is available at slowflowerssummit.com.