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Home Blog Sourcing Local Flowers at Destination Events: A Conversation with Katie Davis of Ponderosa & Thyme
August 13th 2018

Sourcing Local Flowers at Destination Events: A Conversation with Katie Davis of Ponderosa & Thyme

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What are some of the new and creative ways locally-grown flowers are being used? This was the question I had on my mind when I reached out to a handful of industry leaders to discuss seasonally-inspired floral design styles. Over the past four days, the blog has featured my conversations with Holly Chapple, Susan McLeary, Zoe Field and Gabriela Salazar.

Today I’m chatting with Katie Davis, the founder of Ponderosa & Thyme. Based in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, Katie hosts destination events, workshops and creative retreats for artists, floral designers and other creatives at gorgeous venues across the country and around the globe. Some of her upcoming retreats will take her to France, Scotland and Australia where guests at these flower-focused events are surrounded by majestic mountains, picturesque farms and even a castle! I wanted to learn more about Katie’s approach to seasonality and strategies for sourcing seasonal blooms, especially in some of these in these awe-inspiring, but often far-flung destinations. Here’s a little excerpt from our conversation:

Ponderosa & Thyme feature on Floret Blog about seasonal flowers for destination events

Mariel Hannah Photography

Can you share a little about your strategy for sourcing local, seasonal blooms for your events and why is this important to you? Has it gotten easier over time or how has it changed in the last few years?

I love working with seasonal flowers and supporting my local growers. It has always been important to me that my floral designs fit within and compliment the season, venue and environment that they are created for. I try to make sure that all of my arrangements incorporate local flowers and foliage, which adds a sense of cohesion to our events in a way that only local product can. 

When I discovered the local flower movement and all the growers connected to it, I was overjoyed! Thanks to the massive work done by the Floret community, there is now awareness and visibility of flower farmers world-wide. 

In the beginning of my floristry career it seemed hard to find people that were growing flowers, but now it’s much easier to find flower growers providing an absolutely incredible variety of goodness. I’ve found that the need to ship anything from overseas is mostly limited to the winter months now.

I have used the Farmer-Florist Collective to connect with growers in other states and around the world, and every year the network gets stronger and the relationships grow deeper. In my time making connections with the global flower community, I have found that flower growers are some of the most generous and hard working people out there. Flower farmers make the world a kinder place. 

Because of my deep love for flower farmers and the desire to bring awareness to the local flower scene, we are hosting several classes and floral intensives this year at flower farms and we are sourcing the majority of the blooms for our other workshops across the globe from local growers near our workshop locations. This is only possible because of the amazing online community that has been built through the local flower movement.  

Ponderosa & Thyme feature on Floret Blog

In the photo above by Sterra Ashleigh Photography, all of the lilac, forget-me-nots, bluebells, tulips, columbine, narcissus, heuchera, spirea and redbud were home grown by me and our manager Sarah Pearson. What a happy thing it was to harvest and design with flowers from the garden! 

Sometimes for bridal work I love to make a big statement by paring back. By using simple ingredients en masse that are blooming everywhere, the new context helps the bride achieve a cohesive look with the flowers accenting what’s happening in nature. 

Ponderosa-Thyme-Floret- destination-event

Photo credit (l-r) Sweet Life Photography, Mariel Hannah

For the photo on the left above, I used foraged grasses plus dried lunaria and nigella sourced from the Oregon Flower Growers Association. I love incorporating local dried flowers into my arrangements, especially in the winter! Dried flowers, full of texture and muted color, are a great way to incorporate local flowers into your design work all year long.

What advice do you have for other designers who are interested in increasing their use of locally-grown flowers in their event work?

Just start. Connect with local growers as often as you can. Build relationships with the people in your community and region. If you see a grower at the wholesaler or farmer’s market, start a conversation, ask to visit their farm and support them by buying their flowers. 

If you live somewhere too hot or cold for a wide variety of seasonal flowers, look for the closest area that grows flowers. I work with farmers up and down the West Coast and have found that flowers from the next state over will likely have a lower environmental impact and be fresher than flowers being shipped in from across the world. 

Order early and work closely with your growers to know what will be available. If you give enough notice, sometimes growers will offer to grow specific things for you, which is really exciting because then you’ll have some specialty blooms to use that you wouldn’t be able to source through a traditional wholesale market. Plan your palette and order what will (most likely) be available, and then be flexible with your designs as Mother Nature often has her own opinion. 

If you need to, you can work with some of the larger scale wholesalers to order a specific bloom or fill out your selection later, but ideally the color scheme and main blooms will be coming from the local growers you are working with.

You will need to communicate well with your clients to manage expectations when using all local flowers, but if they are flexible the results can be glorious! While you may not be able to promise a certain list of flowers, you can promise to deliver something amazing within their color scheme, and those are usually my happiest events.

Consider growing your own flowers in your own little bit of earth (no matter the size)! You will gain a better awareness of the seasons when you try it out yourself. During this process you will also build a deeper appreciation for the art of growing flowers and the hard work that goes into it. This will help you love your farmers even more! While most florists won’t be able to grow all of their own florals, growing a few will allow you to add some super unique blooms that you can feel especially proud of. 

What are the types of flowers and foliage that you can never seems to get enough of? 

Garden roses, spirea, lavender, dogwood, foxglove, hollyhock, jasmine, chocolate lace flower, smokebush, wild lily of the valley, strawflower, wisteria and Japanese anemone… This is a hard question for me because I have favorites for every season! 

Thanks Katie for your time and for your continued support and dedication to the seasonal flower movement. Your work is an inspiration.

Learn more about Ponderosa & Thyme.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series as much as I’ve had connecting with these talented, trailblazing designers, innovators and flower farmers. There are so many ways to incorporate seasonal flowers into celebrations, art and daily life. I hope you add some flower magic to your day!

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