Joan Ewer Thorndike with gloves and floral clippers harvests velvet red certified organic fresh coxcombs grown in a covered hoophouse on the Le Mera flower farm in Ashland Oregon.

Episode 359: Slow Flowers Podcast Turns 5

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Today is the 5th anniversary of the Slow Flowers Podcast, and I thank you for tuning in. Debra Prinzing talks with original guest Joan Thorndike of Le Mera Gardens and Isabella Thorndike Church of Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design.


This has been a year of highlights in so many ways, as the Slow Flowers Message and Manifesto continue to resonate, not to mention build momentum, as an authentic, relatable — and legitimate topic in the floral industry.

In five years, since my first episode Number 100 on June 23, 2013, the Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 340,000 times by listeners who have enjoyed 260 unique episodes.

The Slow Flowers Podcast was recently recognized with a Silver Media Award from GWA: The Association for Garden Communicators, a group of my professional peers in green industry journalism.

The American Horticultural Society recently honored me with the Frances Jones Poetker Award for significant contributions to floral design in publications, on the platform and to the public and this Podcast is a big part of that platform.

And we’ve just wrapped up the fourth annual American Flowers Week — the original domestic floral promotion holiday — as well as a very successful Slow Flowers Summit, which was held in Washington, D.C., during the heart of American Flowers Week.

Thank you all for joining me on this journey of advocacy and outreach as I shout aloud the message and importance of domestic, seasonal, local and sustainable flowers and the people who grow and design with them!

Five years ago in late June 2013, I was on location in Ashland, Oregon, working with James Baggett, then editor of Country Gardens magazine, and photographers Laurie Black and Mark King, to produce a farm-to-table story in Oregon’s wine country.

The trip enabled me to reconnect with Joan Thorndike of LeMera Gardens, a generous and brilliant flower farmer who is featured in the pages of The 50 Mile Bouquet.

Joan’s flowers adorned the table of that winery dinner we documented, and she welcomed James and me to visit her flower fields while we were there.

I enjoyed Joan’s hospitality further because she invited me to stay at her family home. That’s when I met her husband Dan and one of their two daughters, Camila.

Joan wanted to show me the Ashland Farmers’ Market, suggesting we walk through the urban woods along a local nature trail to reach the center of town. I asked her if I could bring my digital recorder and tape a segment for my brand new podcast. She gamely said yes. You can actually hear audio of our footsteps and breathing as we briskly walked to town.

We discussed local flowers, the Rogue River Valley’s sustainable agriculture scene, Joan’s own commitment to organic flowers and the origins and growth of Le Mera Gardens. Three hundred eighty people downloaded that original episode and (I hope) listened to it. From that seed of a beginning, the Slow Flowers Podcast has grown by leaps and bounds.

Today, we typically have more than 2,000 listeners per episode — and that means more of you around the globe are hearing the message, absorbing the wisdom, and being inspired by the people behind the flowers. People like Joan Thorndike.

Today, in recognition of her role in educating and influencing me and my work, I have invited Joan as a return guest to talk about all things local in floral design and floral agriculture.

I want to expose her story to a much larger audience than those who heard our conversation five years ago.

And how wonderful to add a bonus guest: Isabella Thorndike Church, Joan and Dan’s 2nd daughter, who is now co-farming with Joan at LeMera Gardens and leading her own studio called Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design.

Here’s a little bit more about both of these women: Joan has been farming fresh cut flowers in Southern Oregon’s Rogue River Valley since 1992. She was born and raised in Santiago, Chile where flowers come in huge bundles, small posies, and fresh abundance.

In 2001 Le Mera Gardens and Fry Family Farms joined their worlds of flower farming, and have settled into growing and harvesting an ever expanding array of specialty cut flowers on 10 acres of open fields and greenhouses. Le Mera Gardens is featured in the groundbreaking book The 50 Mile Bouquet and is a proud charter member of the Slow Flowers movement celebrating American-grown local flowers.

Joan credits her “formal” education in commercial flower growing to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, its research publications, regional and national conferences, and to the writings of author and professor of horticulture Dr. Allan M. Armitage.

Le Mera Gardens is a charter member of Thrive (home of the Rogue Flavor Trademark), and is an online member of Local Harvest.

Joan’s two daughters, Camila and Isabella, spent their childhood summers seeking shade from 90-100ºF weather on the flower farm. Her husband Dan has been known to moonlight carrying flats of plants, and to provide Le Mera Gardens with many an odd shaped metal structure generously built by Medford Fabrication, his family’s metal fabrication business.

Le Mera’s fields, season-extending hoop houses, and propagation greenhouses are located in Talent, Phoenix and northwest Medford. All are managed and cultivated under Oregon Tilth Certified Organic, Bee Friendly and Salmon Safe farming practices.

Le Mera Gardens employs dozens of women and men who live in the immediate community. They seed, transplant, cultivate and harvest our flowers year after year.

As Joan writes on her web site: Le Mera Gardens is grateful for the loyal patronage of its Rogue Valley customers, most especially of area florists, designers and bridal parties. Their support allows us to manage, preserve and protect our Valley’s beautiful agricultural lands.

Isabella Thorndike Church is the owner and lead designer of Jacklily Seasonal Floral Design. Jacklily is a fine art floral studio located in the rolling hills of Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. Working with fresh, locally-grown and consciously-sourced material, Jacklily creates lush designs. As Isabella writes on her web site:

“Everything I do begins in the field. There, the colors and textures of the Rogue Valley arrange themselves according to the season. I believe that local, seasonal flowers that are grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers are healthy for us and for the earth. The flowers at your wedding or event should be as unique as you are. From bridal bouquets to full wedding or event design, the locally grown materials I work with are carefully selected and arranged to bring your floral vision to life. She declares: Floral design is an agricultural act.”

See the full original report on Debra Prinzing's blog >


Photos by David Perry, Ann Nguyen, Rob Jaffe, Isabella Thorndike Church, Rick Urbanski