A 107 Year Old Tradition

The 2019 First Ladies Luncheon is a little over just three short months away and the Certified American Grown Organization is currently looking for volunteers to be on this year’s design team.

I have the honor or serving as this year’s lead designer along with my co-lead, Christi Lopez of Bergerons Flowers. Together we will be leading a team of 30 volunteers from around the country in creating beautiful floral decor for the 108th First Ladies Luncheon!

I thought it would be a good time to do a look back on last year’s luncheon to give everyone a sneak peek into what goes on behind the scenes to produce this event. My hope is that you may want to apply to join me in Washington, D.C. this May to experience the beauty of American Grown Flowers!


But first, a little history about the First Ladies Luncheon…

Founded in 1908, the Congressional Club was created to provide a non-partisan setting for friendships among the spouses of members of the House and Senate in Washington, D.C. One of the many activities and events they host throughout the year is their Annual First Ladies Luncheon, which is a luncheon that honors the First Lady and the charity of her choice. Spouses of current and former Members of Congress, the President’s Administration, and the Supreme Court, business leaders, philanthropists and friends of the Congressional Club, gather in Washington, D.C., for a celebration of bi-partisan community service. Considered one of Washington’s most exciting and historic events, this tradition fosters friendships among our nation’s leaders.

Now About the Flowers…

For the past three years, Certified American Grown Organization has been the sponsor for all of the flowers that are used for this event. Twenty certified American grown flower and foliage farms from across the United States came together for this annual event to showcase the beauty that is grown in our country in May. From the West coast to the East coast, 18,000 stems of flowers and foliages were brought in to create beautiful floral decor that represented last year’s unique theme.

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Who is Certified American Grown? CAG is an organization that is made up of flower farmers from across the United States that are committed to guaranteeing the public that their flowers have been grown in the U.S. Certified American Grown is the only third party organization in the floral industry that guarantees that the bouquet or bunch of flowers that you are purchasing is actually homegrown. Since its launch in 2014, Certified American Grown has been able to communicate the domestic origins of the flowers and foliages. They have also been able to create a brand that stands for high quality, variety and farm freshness that people are looking for. 

As a florist who goes to the flower markets looking for American grown flowers, the logo that the Certified American Grown organization has branded themselves with has been so helpful to me as a consumer in this industry. It makes it easy to pick out domestic flowers at the market in a whole ocean of imported flowers and I know that not only is my money supporting an American flower farm but I can also feel confident that my flowers are of the highest quality!


Back to the Luncheon…

For the 2018 luncheon, the theme was “Limitless Horizons” with a focus on the great state of Arizona. This theme was chosen by the 2018 chair of the Congressional Club, whose home state is Arizona. With a focus on the Red Rock of Sedona, orange and turquoise tones were chosen to showcase Arizona’s beautiful natural landscapes. Color was used throughout the floral arrangements including vibrant purples, oranges, yellows, pinks, and reds. Texture was also highlighted with unique foliages and potted plants including succulents.

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Now About the Experience of Volunteering…

We are looking for professional floral designers, farmers and/or floral industry peers to join us in designing and executing this year’s luncheon. As you can see this is a large job with a lot of parts so a strong team is vital to the success of this event. As a volunteer you will be asked to help in a variety of different tasks including receiving flowers and dry goods, unpacking and organizing work rooms, processing all of the donated flowers, prepping for the design portion, executing all designs, and finally installing on the day of the luncheon.

Here is our talented team of designers, farmers, and industry peers from last year’s luncheon:


Besides getting to design for such a beautiful event, you will also be able to spend 3.5 days networking with your peers. In the first year I volunteered for the luncheon, I was greeted with a room full of other floral designers, some who I knew and some who I knew of. It was such a valuable experience to spend those days working side by side, learning about each other and about how we can all help in furthering the American Grown message. We got to talk “shop”, bonding over our experiences of being business owners. I left feeling refreshed and renewed about my company and my journey, ready to take on a new wedding season back home.

I was also greeted by some of America’s most talented flower farmers, who had come to aid in the design process but also to meet professional floral designers, like myself, who may be interested in buying their beautiful flowers in the future. Leaving D.C. that year, I left with a handful of new contacts which has aided me in growing my own company.

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Lastly, seeing all of the flowers and foliages that came in from across the United States from Certified American grown flower farms was breath taking to say the least! Some of the product I had never seen before never mind worked with, so it was such a valuable experience for me to see more product in person, get to design with it, and then have the contact information from those farms for me to source from when I got home. Because of this volunteer experience I have been able to add to my resource list, buying and using from more American flower farms throughout the year.


So what do you say? Want to join me in Washington, D.C. this May to design for our First Lady of the United States?

If you are curious what 18,000 stems of flowers looks like then this is an opportunity for you! If you want to meet new friends and contacts to help grow your company then sign up today!

Applications will be accepted until Monday, March 4, 2019.

Head over to American Grown Flowers
for more information and to apply!

I hope to see you in May!

-Mary Kate

Photographer: Kirsten Smith Photography

A look back on our Farmer Florist Class: Perfect Peonies

Ticket sales are live for our 2018 Farmer Florist Series so I thought it would be cool to show you what our attendees experienced last year. Our first class in the series, Perfect Peonies, is a beautiful morning that excites all the senses and leaves peony lovers wanting to run and convert their backyard into a colorful peony farm like David and Anne's!!!! Here's a behind the scenes look into last June. We hope you will join us this year to learn how to grow and design with one of my favorite flowers, the peony!

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Last June, The Local Bouquet partnered with Electric Moon Peony Farm to co-teach our 2nd Annual Farmer Florist class series "Perfect Peonies". David Rockermann and Anne Kubik, owners of Electric Moon Peony Farm in Adamsville, Rhode Island, welcomed 13 attendees to show them an inside look at their local peony operation and to share their wealth of knowledge on the proper way to grow this beautiful perennial! 

On a warm Spring, Saturday morning I joined David and Anne on their 3 acre farm to give our peony-loving attendees an in-depth learning experience that included lots of hands on demonstrations and discussions on growing peonies, individual hands on design time with the rows and rows of colorful blooms as our backdrop and a whole morning of just us and the peonies. 

For me- this class has always felt like being in flower heaven and I am instantly filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude to not only experience the beauty at Electric Moon Peony Farm but to also have the opportunity to share it with others. It is truely a site to see, over thirty varieties of peonies in full bloom, bees buzzing around happily, yet a stillness that makes you want to pause and stay awhile! I always tell David and Anne each June that if I could live in their backyard I would! 

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To start off our morning, David and Anne led the group through the rows and rows of peonies, which were planted five years ago. They shared their personal story of how they became flower farmers, how they acquired this extensive collection, and even the horticultural history of the peony plants (which always fascinates me). To listen to these two speak about gardening is like listening to a fine artist describe their masterpiece. They are truely stewards of all of the gorgeous blooms that flower each year and its no wonder that hundreds of people flock to their quaint little farm each year just to get a glimpse into their world!  

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This year, David and Anne were gracious enough to give our attendees not only a full farm tour but also a live demonstration on how to plant a peony root stock, showing the science and the love that goes into getting the surrounding environment just right to help the plant thrive. They spoke about ways to identify and treat disease, how to properly water and feed this perennial and even what the best varieties are of peonies to invest in. Attendees were encouraged to ask any and all questions, giving an opportunity to learn from peony experts! 

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Half way through the class, attendees were then invited to join me for some hands on design time using a variety of peonies fresh from the field. Together we designed a hand-held bouquet using some of the same florist techniques that we use in The Local Bouquet studio.  Along with the peonies, I also sourced other locally grown flowers from surrounding farms including beautiful poppies, sweet pea, stock, and foxglove -showing our attendees just how much is grown locally here in New England and how to they too can feel joy from creating beautiful designs from the annuals and perennials in their own garden. 

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I'm probably a bit biased, but this is one of my favorite parts about our Farmer Florist class series.  I love leading the attendees through the design portion because not only does it allow me an opportunity to share my story and The Local Bouquet's mission, but it also allows me to learn about how others view design, nature, and locally grown flowers. It is so fun to see what everyone creates with the same ingredients. No two designs are EVER the same! This class was filled with all levels of designers; some avid gardeners and some beginners who were eager just to experience their very own locally grown peonies! 

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2017's class was such a success that David, Anne and I are so excited for the 2018 "Perfect Peonies" Farmer Florist Class. We want to continue to welcome the public into our worlds and share our love for peonies, horticulture and locally grown flowers. We want to present information that is useful, inspiring and challenging to motivate others to grow the very best peonies they can and to also have the confidence to design endless creations with them! 

If you have attended this class, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and share this blog with your friends. Sign ups for our 2018 class are now live. For more information on this class and the other two classes we are offering this year and to sign up, click on the tab below.

Remember, now until March 1st we are gifting you with a 15% off coupon when you sign up for all three of the classes in the Farmer Florist Series. Use code HAPPYBIRTHDAY at checkout!

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Photographer: Maaike Bernstrom Photography

Farm: Electric Moon Peony Farm, Adamsville RI

Meet the Farmer

I have been dreaming about sharing a more in-depth, behind the scenes look into The Local Bouquet so that our readers and followers can get to know us more and feel a deeper connection with our brand. To do that, I have designed a special "Friday Feature" that I will be writing once a month showcasing one of the amazing flower farmers that I work directly with to source all of the flowers and foliages you see in our designs. These articles will be a Q&A style interview, highlighting topics such as girl-boss, flower farming, and even fun facts about the woman behind the brand. My hope is that this monthly article will inspire us all to get out and achieve those big, beautiful dreams we have for ourselves, because these ladies sure are! 

 This week I talked with the talented, kind, and generous farmer, Phoebe Poole, owner of Weatherlow Florals. Weatherlow Florals is located in the coastal and rural town of Westport, MA and is part of Weatherlow Farms. Their 200 rolling acres of pasture, field, woodlands, and wetlands are home to a growing abundance of livestock, wildlife and Phoebe's beautiful flowers!

 Phoebe had eight years of growing experience before she started Weatherlow Florals in 2016.  Her past farm experience included vegetable and livestock farming, as well as edible and cut flower production. During the off-season, she can be found traveling, visiting other farms for inspiration, and pouring over seed catalogs. Phoebe lives in Dartmouth MA with her farm dog, Daisy.

Read my interview with her to learn more about this amazing farmer making big waves in the local flower movement!

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A veterinarian and a marine biologist!

Why flowers?
Because they’re challenging, there are endless varieties and new things to learn, and you can fit a lot in a small space!

How did you come up with the name of your company?
I’m the flower arm of Weatherlow Farms, so therefore Weatherlow Florals.

What inspires you as you are building your brand?

What is your favorite thing about your farm?
Our high tunnels - they extend the season earlier into the spring, and later into the fall, and protect crops from our strong spring winds!

What inspires you as an entrepreneur?
Sustainability, both business-wise and farming-wise - making the community and the soil better through growing and selling flowers.

Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned in running your business?
Setting realistic goals and sticking to them.

Name your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your business? Go ahead, brag a little!
Emailing incredible floral designers that I’ve admired forever and getting an email back!

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?
Write a business plan.

What does success mean to you?
Helping to meet the demand for local flowers and foliages, and inspiring more demand!

Favorite season for locally grown flowers?
Early spring - flowering branches and bulbs, sweet peas and anemones. Enough said!

If you could only grow one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Poppies for sure - which is cheating because there are so many varieties - because they are delicate but have amazing impact.

Name a woman or women whom you admire or look up to?
Very cliche, but Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers in Washington state. She is an incredibly talented flower grower and business person.

What is one thing you couldn’t work without?
Good, sharp clippers.

What is one thing you never leave home without?
Same - good, sharp clippers! They’re always in the car, just in case I see some neat foliage by the side of the road!

What is your favorite thing to come home to after a long day? 
A glass of wine and a flower magazine - and my sweet dog, Daisy.

What kind of music pumps you up?
Terrible 90s pop!

Favorite ice cream flavor?
Mint chocolate chip.

If you weren’t flower farming anymore, what would you be doing?
Raising dairy goats.

Which of your traits are you most proud of?



If you enjoyed this interview and want to visit Weatherlow Farms and learn first hand from Phoebe, consider joining us this summer at our Farmer Florist Series- "Dahlia Dreaming". For more information to reserve your seat for this beautiful and informative workshop click on the link below:

Photographer: Erin McGinn
Venue: Weatherlow Farms