The 50-Mile Bouquet


Please welcome photographer David Perry who, along with author Debra Prinzing, has been at work on this book about sustainable cut flowers, The 50 Mile Bouquet, for–well.  A loooooong time.  Honestly, I can think of few authors who have been as committed to their subject as these two have been. They knew from the get-go that they just HAD to do this book and they started doing it, long before they had a publisher, a deadline, a contract–any of the usual sorts of things that get most of us motivated.

Anyway, it’s a lovely book, and the two of them have really become part of this community of flower farmers who are into local, organic, fresh, seasonal–all the things we love about flowers.  In this guest post, David writes about his own crazy publication date experience, but I have a feeling that for these two, the pub date is only the beginning, not the end, of their journey through the world of home-grown, sustainable flowers.

Here, by the way, is a nice piece from David in Huffington Post, and here’sDebra in the New York Times.

But now, here’s David on his pub date adventures–and read on for a chance to win a copy of the book.

I like to goof around and tempt fate as much as the next guy, but I swear it was not my idea to have our book’s release date coincide with April Fool’s Day. Still, when those pesky, publishing world dice were rolled, when that auspicious pair of numbers, “four and one,” came up, it did seem to me that there might just be a silver lining shimmering there within the odd mystery of it, somehow.

When you think about it, Debra and I had been rolling the dice, gambling with our time and our own money, trying to get this emerging story told from the get go. For more than four years we stubbornly kept on, even when certain, ‘in-the-know’ gatekeepers who shall remain unnamed, kept telling us, over and over, that we were crazy. So really, why would either of us have started expecting ‘conventional’ or ‘normal’ at this stage of the game?

I decided to embrace it.

After delivering a signed, thank-you copy of The 50 Mile Bouquet to my dear friend, flower farmer, Jan Roozen at the Ballard Farmer’s Market (Jan is featured in the book on pages 52-53), I made my way to one of Seattle’s favorite landmarks, the Fremont Troll.

It’s important to understand that though the beloved Fremont Troll has been living boldly under the Aurora Bridge since Halloween of 1990, he lives within our hearts and our imaginations, as well. So who better, really, to call upon? Who better to entreat for help in celebrating the April Fools tie-in to our official book-release date?

I had been entertaining thoughts of trying one of those elaborate, good ju-ju incantations to get the troll’s attention, and had been going over the particular steps, again and again in my head. But as soon as I arrived and looked around, I abandoned that notion as just a little too ‘crazy’. Too many other eager supplicants who had made their own perilous pilgrimages from neighborhoods like Queen Anne and Ravenna, and White Center. And then there was that strange couple from Madrid who kept making out while she fondled the troll’s enormous nostril for the benefit of their friend’s camera. Add to all that the realization that I simply could not remember whether one is to properly swing the chicken clock-wise, or counter-clockwise over one’s head and you begin to understand why I decided it would be best to just sit quiet and wait for a sign.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only poor soul who didn’t understand the finer points of karmic hen twirling, for in the hour that I stood there waiting, nary a chicken was to be seen hurtling about in euphoric circles, and this on April Fool’s Day, no less.

Still, there was a pair of teenage kids who arrived with two, camera-wielding mom-types in tow, and despite their lack of a proper chicken, I simply could not ignore just how much fun they all seemed to be having taking each other’s pictures with the troll and laughing. They immediately seemed like my kind of people. However, I was a little concerned that they might not see me as ‘their kind of people’, so I approached them slowly and cautiously, holding a flawless, new copy of The 50 Mile Bouquet at arm’s length in front of me, looking directly into their eyes and speaking in calm, reassuring tones while introducing myself by name.

“Hello…” I began, timidly, trying not to spook them.

To my great relief, they did not run away. Better yet, they did not even look afraid.

When I explained that I hoped they’d help me celebrate the auspicious, first day of April, which was also our new book’s birthday, by enacting, perchance, one small, slightly rewritten scene from that recently released, Hunger Games movie, with young, Sammy volunteering herself in tribute, then reading aloud selected passages from The 50 Mile Bouquet, including excerpts of the Floral Gospel According to Jan Roozen, which pronounces the abomination of putting daffodils in the same vase with tulips, unless there is a baggie involved. She would do all this, I explained, while she sat upon Joey’s back, as he knelt in front of the giant troll.

Well, duh, you didn’t have to explain it to these folks twice. They too could see, almost immediately, that we were all birds of a similar feather. The kids looked to the adults with eager nodding faces and puppy-dog eyes, and the mom and the auntie looked back at me and smiled. We apparently had a deal.

By now you may be wondering where I’m going with this.

I relate this story to you because, as one of the proud parents of a newly published book, I feel a duty to relay some of what I have learned during its long gestation.

You really can’t ignore any realm of existence any more as you navigate that winding road toward a book’s birth, even down to appeasing immense trolls and inviting complete strangers to help you entreat the powers that be, and celebrate the great mystery that is getting a book published.

These days it’s not enough to simply be good, to merely create the essential elements for a book, to catch a glimpse or a dream that needs to be told. It’s not enough to refine your pitch to the point that you can explain your premise in five sentences or less, while still maintaining some of its poetry, or to hone and organize your sources, or to gather those many, essential story threads from life’s four winds and then weave them all together into an enlarging and compelling narrative.

It’s not enough to shoot more than forty thousand photographs from which you’ll only be able to include a hundred and seventy six, or to make your peace with the fact that several of those included won’t necessarily be your ‘best’ images on a particular subject, or even your favorites, but trusting, instead that they will be what is best for a particular page or spread, or story-informing spot.

It’s not enough any more that the pictures in a book simply be beautiful. They need now to also to be great communicators, team players and nuanced elicitors of emotion.

When you see all of these things come together, when you witness the diverse players on a story’s birthing team, from the brave publisher to the wise editor, to the visionary designer and its original creators, all managing to avoid those numerous pitfalls that inevitably rise up, emerging somehow, whole on the other side with their completed tale, you then behold what we readers, we loyal, page-turning, goofball lovers of story refer to as a “book.”

And these books, my friends, they are not easily born.

I invite you, finally, to meet ours, to gaze upon its faces, to immerse yourself within the stories of America’s emerging local, seasonal and sustainable flower movement. Allow us introduce you to wondrous designers and courageous flower farmers. Meet ardent, soulful gardeners. Look into their eyes, gaze upon their creations and be amazed as we have been amazed.

Welcome flower lovers. You’ll find that you’re among friends here.So!  People!  To win a copy, post a comment about the thing that is blooming (or leafing, or branching, or rooting, or climbing or living or dying) in your garden RIGHT NOW that is most worthy of putting in a vase today. Have at it!


  1. The scarlet amaryllis having finally faded and the many hydrangeas still a week or two away from starting their full glory, I’m left with the perfectly lovely Rosa “Louis Phillipe”, some sweet woodland phlox (P. divaricata), and the white cemetery iris (I. albicans), which has established some clumps 6’x 8′ out by the little 19th Century family graveyard near the live oaks. Maybe I’ll just put a handful of each in an old milk bottle and leave them to just be their gorgeous selves.

  2. The camassia quamash is just started to open its buds, the perfect time for picking this beautiful flower with a good vase life. I would love to win this book as I started a locally field-grown cut flower business two years ago when a friend told a restaurant that I grew flowers more beautiful than they were buying wholesale. The feedback from the customers is great. When I delivered bleeding hearts this week, one customer said she came in every week just to see what flowers were delivered. It’s now time to expand and this book seems aligned with my business model.

  3. With the crazy warm weather here in New York, the dogwoods are starting to bloom! I love just a branch or two of dogwood in a vase – I’m not that talented at doing the whole Japanese arranging thing, but dogwoods and a Japanese vase make it easy!

  4. The daffodils on the north side of the house started blooming a few days ago. The crabapple tree in the front yard is right on the verge. And the dandelions and violets make the lawn beautiful.

  5. Would love to win a copy of book, a new-bee in the garden world. Everyday I am starting my work day drinking my green tea and reading Garden Rant at work. Have a great day ALL.

  6. I counted last Sunday and we had 46 species and 58 varieties of flowers in bloom on our little urban lot in Madison, WI. The Tulipa linifolia and Tulipa clusiana are beautiful but I wouldn’t want to put them in a vase. The great white trillium can’t be picked without killing the plant and the Virginia bluebells don’t last. We have bleeding hearts and hybrid tulips in a vase at the moment. I think I’ll pick a little bouquet of pansies. They wintered over from last fall and are blooming merrily away. They will brighten the shelf by the sink in the kitchen.

  7. I have many different kinds of daffodils, and the epimediums have popped open. But the crowning glory right now is the white trout lilies that I splurged on last year at $5.00 a bulb. They are not getting picked.

  8. The violas blooming like crazy that my two boys helped plant this weekend. They are so proud (as am I)!

  9. my old fashioned roses have started blooming and they smell wonderful. The smell of Tipsy Imperial Concubine is wonderful and makes a good cut flower. Also irises. lots and lots of them.

  10. Everything is early this year here in upstate NY. I have narcissus, hellebores, epimediums, magnolia, amelanchier, grape hyacinths and plum trees all in bloom or about to be.

  11. As I look outside, I think a combination of Helen Jane’s rose (a passalong from a friend’s mother’s garden) and the foliage of larkspur would make a great study in texture and color.

  12. I actually have many a bouquet of foliage! In my kitchen there lies; Tansy, Nepeta, Lysimachia “aurea”, and a sprig from a fallen Sentinel Pine… Flowers included are pinched off Arugula and what’s left of my white Muscari. It’s quite stunning. Definitely a blend of great textures and colors.
    In other areas of my house it’s butterfly bush cuttings rooting in water. I consider my experiments to be proper for vases for decoration. Doesn’t help that my sense of ‘proper’ is quite askew. ♥

  13. What a great book idea! And a good book back-story too.

    In my garden right now are blooming a row of young black cherry trees. Some didn’t fare too well in last year’s October snowstorm, and need pruning. Into the house the pruned branches will go, to snow petals on the tablecloth!

  14. Since we are still landscaping the yard, little is actually planted that could bloom, but we do have some weeds blooming! Don’t think that they would look good in a vase …

  15. This is not what you want to hear, but I prefer flowers on their own roots, so I have fabulous plants blooming in pots. However, I am a big fan of the troll and April Fool’s Day. My best friend was born on 4/1 and I met my husband on April Fool’s Day.

  16. This book sounds terrific! Has been on my wishlist since I first heard of it. Right now, I would have to say apple blossoms…the trees in our old orchard are full out open and beautiful! I had apple blossoms and lilacs from our farm for my wedding bouquet and it is still my favorite combo.

  17. Having been a forager and flower arranger for many years, I Love to observe the seasons and appreciate what is available at the moment. Of course spring is abundance overload. My arrangement du jour is lilacs and queen of the night purple tulips with columbine foliage and a few lambs ears in a milk bottle. It’s beautiful and fragrant. If you don’t win the book, please buy it, it’s fantastic! Enjoy your gardens and cut flower arrangements…

  18. Not sure how worthy dandelions are of vases…but at least if they were in a vase they wouldn’t be reseeding in my lawn! 😉

  19. This book is going on my to-read list!

    On the table right now, I’ve got a mug of baby hosta leaves, soft new catmint foliage and bright sprigs of lime spirea and it’s making me quite happy!

  20. Lilacs! They are just beginning to bloom here. Not only do they smell good, they bring such fond memories of being in the garden with my Grandmother.

  21. I have saucer magnolia in bud; looks almost like tulips, and I have lots of those too, decorative crab apple tree is blooming, as well as camellia, leopard’s bane and wood hyacinth. Plan to put them all in two bouquets for our local spring garden workshop on Saturday.

  22. The lilacs are opening up now. I gave up on picking them–I swear the scent changes as soon as they are in a vase. And they never last long enough in the house, even if you do smash the stems.

    Oh wait, you wanted what IS worth of a vase. That would be ‘Menton’ tulips. I love the subtle mix of pink and orange. A large bouquet will go with me to the pediatric cardiology unit when I return to work at the hospital on Thursday.

  23. I prefer flowers on their own roots, too. But I’ve been eating my violas in salads, so I guess I could pick a few, too. I have so many! The bulbs are long done, but the irises are just beginning. I get them at plant exchanges and local sales, so it’s a surprise when they bloom. I have one iris labeled “black” that’s turned out to be a lovely deep, deep burgundy. I’m waiting to see what color the “apricot” irises from a friend of a friend turn out to be. But my favorites are the fragrant ones, and I do stop to smell the irises!

  24. Penstemon eatonii because an inflorescence snapped off in the wind the other day and it is in a vase on my kitchen table right now.

  25. The daphne odora and the daffodils (daph & daff) have finished their blooms, as have the early tulips. The yellow iris (did I really buy that many bulbs of the same color?) are just short of blooming. The Black Dragon (I think) wisteria being turned into a tree is happily blooming in the front yard, and I must check with the Japanese Maples and wisteria in the lower courtyard (split level house). The roses are alllll either blooming or ready for their first flush of the season. The Cox’s Orange Pippin is awash with blooms, but the pomegranates have yet to show. The not-Meyer lemon still has lemons from the last blooming, and the Meyer in the back of my van is full of buds. I’m not sure where to put it, but it WILL add to the wonderful scent of two lots of citrus lovers.

    David & Debra, I love your stubbornness in the face of naysayers, as well as your sense of whimsy and mirth. May those qualities be always with you!

  26. That’s a breathtaking book cover. it gives you a peek of what’s inside. This sure is a must read of all garden/plant lovers out there. Someone I know got a copy of this, I can’t wait to grab one soon. ♥

  27. My pink debutant camellia is blooming beautifully. I picked a blossom and floated it in the bird bath. I think the birds really appreciate the spa like atmosphere.

  28. The lilacs are in bloom! The day is sunny and breezy, the air is perfumed…the bees are buzzing and I don’t have to work today and can garden all day! Nirvana!

  29. I have a startling purple orchid in bloom right now but can’t imagine picking it to bring inside. The brugmansia’s have just finished their monthly intoxicating show, so that won’t work. My beloved appleblossom amaryllis came and went already. The voodoo lily is sending up a flower, but those stink to high heaven so I won’t be bringing that interesting bloom indoors. The daturas don’t last in a vase.

    So I think I will fall back on a big bouquet of bulbine, plumbago, honeycomb buddleia, and some zebra grass. Thanks for giving me the inspiration to go wander around in my garden to enjoy this beautiful day and beautiful place! And God bless those hard working flower gardeners who share their bounty with the brown thumbed people out there, making everyone’s day a bit brighter!

  30. Almost 20 years ago, I sent away for seeds of Cowichan Primula–dark red, no eye–and planted them with my then toddler. When we moved and built a house on acreage when she was 6, I brought the plants along and have divided and divided over the years so that now, they’re in masses everywhere, stems tall and blooms so rich, dark and leathery leaves. She’s at home studying for exams, so I’ll slip some into the small Indian metal vase I’ve used every year.

  31. If I win this book I would give to to my mother ( right after I read it and checked out all the pictures….shhhh) who has a small but amazing flower garden next to her apartment. I have a few snow crocuses out and all the snow is gone but if I had to put something in a vase it would have to be budding branches from the apple tree or may be some old poppy seed heads. Not much going on here I am afraid.

  32. I adore azaleas in bloom and have, from time to time, taken a branch inside to put into a vase. And, I have one side of my house that has a succession of flowers just for cutting and bring inside when the need arises. It starts with daffodils, then tulips, then irises, then lilies, and then I always plant some zinnias for the summer. The irises are blooming now.

  33. Here in Colorado my vase would be filled with purple and yellow ‘Mardi Gras’ tulips. Both colors are bright and vivid and look wonderful together. To add a little interest I would add couple of sprigs of Austrian Copper rose, as it just started adding flower buds to its growth. The orange flowers would go nicely with the purple and yellow.

  34. I’d have to say my sweet peas ‘matucana’. They are a sure sign of spring here in Berkeley. They reseed themselves freely and smell just like a Grape Nehi!

  35. I have PINK lilly of the valley blooming right now and they smell so good. Also, 3 of my clematis are going strong. Elsa Spath, Multi Blue, and gurnsey. The alliums are all in full bloom and make such a statement! Everything is so early this year…. I am looking forward to the book. Peace to you and yours.

  36. Only just hearing about this book via Kerry Michaels, and just saw David’s photo blog. I’m riveted and want to find out more!

  37. Would love to have a copy of this book. The cover picture is gorgeous. The daffodils have been and gone with warm weather. But with cooler weather last few weeks the lilacs and tulips have stayed around much longer.

  38. I’m only able to get out to the house once a week – missed last week due to tax crunch – but have had tulips and narcissus. Am waiting for the lilacs and azalea.

  39. OH. My. Goodness. Thank You! I just took the Amazon “Look Inside” of your book and I am so thrilled and amazed and grateful and excited that you wrote and illustrated (with your photos) this book! I’ve been gardening organically for OVer 40 years, both veggies and flowers, and was thrilled that you explored and exposed/introduced the organic flower market. The veggie market has gained wonderful consumer support and finally the corporate grocers are supplying, but I never dreamed the flower market would get this attention and support! Yay for you, showing how important and viable this market is as well! I’m not a commercial grower, I just support the organic method of gardening for the health of the planet and those of us living now, and for future generations.

    To make a longer story shorter..(you wouldn’t believe what I’ve already deleted)
    What I have in vase now is Lily of the Valley, Bleeding Heart, and fern. Haven’t picked the Centaura montana because I have only one plant blooming, but it’s so tempting. Ahh,so many others blooming but not for the vase, so many already gone and so many yet to blossom. I love flowers!

  40. My girls are running around the yard begging me to allow them to pick some flowers. I have strict rules or they would bring everything and anything inside. When you are 4 you are still learning that you have to pick the stalk as well. We have been admiring the stunning columbines we sewed last spring, each with a different color combination from whites, pinks, corals, lavenders to deep purple. What a rainbow! Perhaps with the branches I trimmed off of the leafing redbud.

  41. I am looking at the leaves of my Oakleaf Hydrangea which are just opening. They’re grey green and covered with hair, looking very nice and feeling silky soft: I had not noticed this before.

    Tulips are done….spent all their time in large pots in the back porch, as are the I’m enjoying the first Leucojum -summer snowflake-I’ve ever grown. Very sweet, like a larger snowdrop on tall stems, no fragrance.

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