Accidental Advocate

A sit down with Christine Hoffman, founder of Twin Cities Flower Exchange

A portrait of Christine Hoffman, founder of Twin Cities Flower Exchange, holding green plants.
When it comes to holiday arrangements, fresh greenery (and lots of it!) is a must-have for Hoffman (Courtesy Christine Hoffman)

When one-time photo and events stylist Christine Hoffman opened Foxglove, a gift and flower shop on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue in 2013, she wanted to stock only locally grown and chemical-free flowers. She could find only a couple local farmers who could supply them. But she suspected she might have stumbled across a bigger idea. She was right: It’s called the Slow Flowers Movement. Hoffman has since become its local authority and founder of the Twin Cities Flower Exchange, a weekly wholesale market for locally grown, chemical-free flowers. Next year, Minneapolis will host the national Slow Flowers Summit July 1–2.

How did you discover the Slow Flowers Movement?

When I opened Foxglove, I knew I wanted to carry flowers—just loose flowers in buckets—and I really wanted them to be local and chemical-free, partially because I’d been working with flowers for events and didn’t really like what was available.

I found two farmers who were growing in any quantity for commercial or wholesale use. I thought there should be more than that, and that’s when I came upon Debra Prinzing’s book The 50 Mile Bouquet. The premise of that book was to do an arrangement every week with what she could source within 50 miles, similar to the slow-food or farm-to-table movement. I sent her an email and she very kindly replied back. We have since become good friends and colleagues. She was the first one to coin the term “slow flowers.” She started slowflow​ers.com, which is a national database for farmers, retailers, and anyone using locally grown flowers in their business.

A bouquet of flowers sitting on a bench from Twin Cities Flower Exchange.
(Courtesy Christine Hoffman)

Why are you an advocate for the movement?

Accidentally, I think. I didn’t really know anything about floral industry. I just knew I wanted local and chemical-free flowers. That was really important to me. As I read more about the floral industry and how most of the flowers we buy are grown and shipped in, I got more and more passionate about the whole idea of local flowers, slow flowers. Anytime I can, I talk about it; I do educational workshops and speak. When people find out more about that bouquet they buy at the grocery store, what it went through to get there, they’re pretty quick converts.

Is interest in slow flowers building?

Oh, yes. Now we have about 15 farmers who participate in the Flower Exchange, and many more are growing or starting to grow. It’s blossomed a lot. The market is starting to catch up to demand. The wholesale [exchange idea] has also started in other areas. I’d say once a month I get a call from someone about starting up an exchange.

A hanging bouquet of flowers from Twin Cities Flower Exchange.
(Courtesy Christine Hoffman)

How do you stick to local flowers during the holidays?

That’s where I think it gets more fun—some people would say more challenging. You do have a limited selection in a Minnesota winter, but my preference for holiday decorating is keeping it pretty simple with fresh greens—you really can’t beat the fragrance and the look. I use a lot of the plain, fresh greens in my own decorating, and I also dry a lot of products during the summer that I incorporate into my seasonal decorating—a lot of celosia, salvia, statice, gumphrena, strawflowers, and I love sticks! My sticks are always in season! But the dried flowers are a little more delicate and have a wider color palette. I also like to use curly willow to make simple, plain willow wreaths.

Any suggestions for the DIY-er?

Look at what you have on hand a little differently. I like to use dry materials—I use just the flower or the petals. I call it “flower confetti,” which is always a nice addition to a table setting or cheese board. Flower confetti is one of my favorite things for the holidays.

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