For the past several years, I've been obsessed with edible gardens. I love everything about edibles: the amazing varieties of heirloom seeds, the history, the funky misshapen beauties that burst in your mouth and run down your chin. I love teaching kids and friends and friends’ kids how to grow food--how to empower a family to eat healthfully, inexpensively, and deliciously. I adore the challenges of creating beauty out of a kitchen garden, refusing to hide it in a back corner of shame, and instead making it a gorgeous focal point of an outdoor living space. (“Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”)
But in the beginning, before I became obsessed with okra and smitten by squash, I grew flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.
Flowers cheer. Flowers celebrate. Flowers comfort. Barring allergies, have you ever seen someone unhappily receiving flowers?
(Well, OK. Truthfully, there was one time when my college boyfriend sent me a dozen red roses, and I threw them in the trash. He was a jerk, and those were NOT heartfelt flowers. They were cheating, dirty scoundrel guilt flowers. But enough of that story, let’s get back to my love affair with blooms.)
From that moment, I knew I’d always grow my own bouquets. In fact, I became slightly obsessed with flowers. Growing them, sourcing them, following the top farmer florists like Floret and Saipua, watching what they trialed, learning from their blogs and articles about the best varieties for cutting and design, the most elegant ways to arrange, the most fragrant, stunning, dreamy, delicious blooms and foliage to covet.
I planted a cutting garden, cramming in as much beauty as possible into a tiny bit of sunny space.
I even began scouting land on the sly. Truly, the dream of life as a flower farmer consumed me. Like most things, I’m certain the fantasy can turn nightmarish in the throes of day-to-day business. Weather, pests, fickle trends, bridezillas and their mothers…I know it’s not all happy bouquet-making and peaceful strolls among blossoms. Still, a girl can dream, and I did, often and obsessively. (Peter is not enamored with the idea of becoming a farmer. He balances my blissful musings with a strong dose of reality, which is a good thing.)
First of all, I was thrilled to be invited again to Allen’s beautiful home, Moss Mountain. Last year, you probably heard my shriek when I received my invitation to Garden2Blog. To say I was excited is like saying that Café au Lait dahlias are cute blooms. You can read about my first adventure with Garden2Blog here.
This year, the lovely folks at P. Allen Smith arranged a reunion event, inviting all of the bloggers who’ve attended G2B since its inception five years ago. Not only was I delighted to join my friends again and meet more bloggers in person that I’ve only known virtually, I eagerly anticipated returning to Moss Mountain.
There’s something magical—and a tad otherworldly--about Moss Mountain.
Allen’s vision touches every aspect of the farm, gardens, and home. A girl can’t help but soak in inspiration when surrounded by so much beauty and creativity. Soon, I’ll share more about Allen, Moss Mountain, the house, farm, and sponsors.
But today, we’re talking about flowers.
Oh my…the flowers…
Frilly, perfumed peonies cascading over containers’ edges.
Alliums reaching toward the ceiling, adding architectural elements to arrangements. Antique hued hydrangeas, delicately displayed and elegantly tucked into nooks.
Throughout the farmhouse, flowers framed every function—cooking, dining, lounging.
From elaborate arrangements to simple bud vases with single stems, flowers graced every room.
But these aren’t just any flowers. These flowers, carefully designed and displayed, delivered a message:
We’re American Grown.
Delicate and fragrant and bold and beautiful, the displays of American Grown flowers are part of a movement, arranged to foster a conversation about origin.
From our love affair with local food and the locavore movement, locally grown, American raised flowers form a natural progression in dining and entertaining options. With more than 80 percent of cut flowers imported into the U.S.—sad, tired, pesticide laden, fuel consuming flowers from the Netherlands and South America—the option of just harvested, fresh-from-the-field flowers delivered domestically provides a perfect choice for local lovers. The goal, though, is to expand beyond the locavore movement and make American Grown flowers an intrinsic choice when expressing love, accenting a meal, saying thank you, or exchanging vows.
Imported flowers, grown for hardiness rather than fragrance, covered in fungicides and pesticides to meet the Department of Agriculture’s import regulations, and traveling thousands of miles before reaching their final destination not only become soulless blooms—but their tired petals and limp foliage hides greater problems. In Columbia, for instance, children as young as nine work in the greenhouses, while adult employees earn minimum wage and few benefits. Additionally, a survey found that workers may be exposed to as many as 127 chemicals, primarily fungicides and pesticides, according to this article. (For more information about the cut flower industry, don’t miss Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart.)
The reality is that most of us don’t know where our bouquet of grocery store roses originated. And most of us would be appalled at the history behind those pretty pink buds.
In an effort to educate consumers and form a strong alliance of American floral growers, a volunteer coalition formed. In 2013, the American Grown Flowers and Foliage Task Force launched the brand: American Grown Flowers.
The goal is simple, but not necessarily easy: “Help consumers ensure that the flowers on their tables are as fresh, sustainable, and local as the food on their plates.”
To meet the goal of enhanced awareness of floral origins, the organization committed to creating an “identifiable, iconic, and amazingly beautiful brand/logo that communicates the domestic origins, as well as the high quality, freshness, and consistency of the flowers and foliage they grow,” according to the website. In 2014, the organization partnered with Made in USA Certified, Inc., a third party agency that verifies the source of products made and grown in the U.S. Today, American Grown farmers receive certification and recognition through the Made in the USA organization.
As part of the branding efforts, American Grown introduced Field to Vase Dinners.
Much like the wildly successful Outstanding in the Field dinners, which Peter and I attended several years ago in North Carolina, Field to Vase takes the event a step further: not only is the meal locally sourced and incredible delicious, the flowers on the tables echo the call that origin matters. Local, domestic, fresh, seasonal bouquets and arrangements star in the Field to Vase dinners, allowing guests to take pleasure in the "beauty and bliss of the age-old art and science of flower farming." As the dinner is locally sourced and prepared by star farm-to-table chefs, the conversation allows foodies and lifestyle aficionados to discuss and understand the equal importance of embracing local flowers.
As the grand finale of the Garden2Blog reunion, we experienced the joy of a Field to Vase dinner created by American Grown and the amazing blooms and wines of Stargazer Barn.
The masterminds behind the dinner transformed a lovely tent into a floral showcase.
Every arrangement, every detail was lush with loveliness.
From the moment we bloggers saw the preparations for the dinner, poor Mimi San Pedro, our G2B organizer extraordinaire, couldn’t contain us. Out came the cameras, with each of us vying for the perfect photos (without other bloggers in them), getting in the way of the staff trying to prep for the party.
Somehow, she wrangled us back into order to finish our activities for the day.
And then, magic.
My photos don’t do it justice, I’m sorry to say.
Each arrangement, fragrant, fresh, and lovely, provided the perfect PR for the American Grown movement. The brilliant stylings and designs, the gorgeously displayed domestic delights, every bloom and bud showcased the beauty of local flowers.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…
Flower crowns. I’m not kidding. They created flower crowns for us.
There’s something about wearing a flower crown that makes life a little more joyful.
Some people wear flower crowns better that others, but I didn’t care—it still made me happy! How can you not feel pure, silly joy with a wreath of lovelies wrapped around your head? (What is with my Herman Munster forehead, anyway? My mother was right—I do need to wear bangs, always.)
Even with my awkwardly high forehead, I love this photo of my flower-crown wearing friends. Can’t you feel the happiness radiating from them?
The Field to Vase dinner is one of my favorite memories of Moss Mountain. There are so many good moments from the trip that this is the highest compliment. As if the dinner wasn’t reason enough to embrace American Grown flowers, this happened:
On the kids’ first day of summer vacation, these stunning tulips from Stargazer Barn arrived.
Tulips, especially surprise American Grown tulips sent for no particular reason, are so much lovelier than guilty red roses from abroad.
I wish you could have been there for the Field to Vase dinner. It was perfection.
The beauty is—you don’t have to be a garden writer to experience American Grown flowers and the Field to Vase dinner. This year, American Grown is traveling to different flower farms throughout the country to host Field to Vase dinners. You can find more information about the location and dates here. And, as a treat, they’re offering a discount to you. Just use the code PALLEN at checkout.
Sadly, the Field to Vase dinners aren’t coming near our town, but I’m hoping to lobby the organizers to select a flower farm in the Carolinas next year. There’s a lovely flower farm owned by my friend, Ed, of Field and Flower, in Piedmont, SC, as well as a beautiful farmer florist in Leicester, NC, who created stunning flowers for our son and daughter-in-law’s wedding last year.
We need to make this happen.
After all, if I can’t fulfill my dreams of becoming a farmer florist, at least I can help support those people who create the beauty that I adore.
Then again, maybe Peter will change his mind if I can just get him to a Field to Vase dinner…
Have you attended a Field to Vase dinner? Please share your story if you have the opportunity to join one of the dinners.
Happy local blooms to you!
P.S. American Grown Flowers and Stargazer Barn were sponsors of P. Allen Smith’s Garden2Blog event, which I was invited to attend. Allen and his sponsors covered travel costs. However, you all know me: all opinions are my own, and if I don’t like something, I don’t write about it. In case you didn’t already guess…I adored the Field to Vase event. If you have the chance to attend, you will, too.