Dining in a Field of Slow Flowers



You know those glamorous-looking field-to-table dinners shown in high-end magazines? Well, just take it up a notch, if that’s possible, and you have Field to Vase dinners like the one I got to crash as “press” last week in Gainesville, Virginia.

20607062004_a2a0556713_zThe event was part of a 10-city dinner tour showing off “Certified American Grown” flowers and the farmers who grow them. So in addition to great local food, wine and beer, flowers grown in the fields around us graced the tables. No wonder Food & Wine Magazine called these dinners the “ultimate al fresco dinner party.” I’d call this one magical.


Our photogenic hosts were Andrea and Lou Gagnon at their farm and LynnVale Studio. The 10-acre farm has been in Lou’s family for eight generations – since 1832 – and is surrounded by 100 acres of forest, pasture and corn pastures owned by his mother.

Lou is a former architect, designer, and Disney Imagineer who retired early, moved with Andrea back to the farm. In 2002 they combined his farming knowledge with her design experience to start their business.

IMG_8336Before dinner Andrea gave us a tour and revealed that it was Celosia that got her hooked on growing flowers and that flower-growing is therapeutic for her – also her gym. Now she gets to grow all of these flowers, including the dahlias and heirloom mums we saw in hoop houses, and countless zinnias – the farm’s “mainstay.” She’s “in love with scented geraniums” and has been known to supplements what’s grown on the farm by foraging around neighbors’ fields.

The farm sells to lots of “high-end designers” (no doubt!) and will custom-grow for clients.


This farm is one of over 100 flower farms  that are “100% Homegrown Certified” and supply the florists, shops, and studios in the Slow Flowers directory of people designing with American-grown flowers. The directory was created by everyone’s favorite slow-flower-pusher, Debra Prinzing, seen above hydrating in style.

Honestly I’d read Debra’s guest rant and a lot of coverage of the cause but hadn’t fallen in love with it until I saw this farm and met the growers. Now I’m a besotted convert.

Photo credit for second and third photos: Linda Blue for Certified American Grown Flowers.


  1. I love the whole idea (and support the cause), but I see two problems – for me, at least. First of all, it would shut out people who are allergic to bee stings (and could possibly imperil someone who was allergic and unaware of it), and spiders. If I caught a spider crawling on me while seated at the table, I’m afraid I’d trash the place trying to get away from it. Other than that, it’s entirely awesome.

  2. I am that rare person who is deathly allergic to all stinging insects and must get three different shots of immunotherapy-venom at my allergist’s office every couple weeks. More importantly, I try to grow as many flowers as possible to attract pollinators because: We need them more than they need us. I don’t have a death wish; I have a life wish. Also, only the yellow jacket wasps will sting without provocation and that only late in the season, and—sorry, Susan#1—spiders wouldn’t be around if they weren’t eating something we might like even less. Best wishes to all.

  3. How I wish I could have been there! Thank you for documenting the great people making super great changes. Debra absolutely rocks and I value the important mission she’s promoting. Who ever thought about where their cut flowers come from a few years ago? And I’m all for bees and spiders, too! And the butterflies that nectar on the flowers you mention.

    • I agree that yellow jacket wasps can take the pleasure out of al fresco dining at this time of the year. Some people say fresh cucumber slices or fabric-softener sheets, placed around the table, will keep them away. Most importantly, the little monsters are particularly attracted to sweet soda in cans; if they’re buzzing around, do not drink directly from a can. They can be insidious. I once noticed a group of them had finished off an entire chicken drumstick in an hour.

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