May 24th, 2013
Tight flower heads, soft foliage that doesn’t bruise easily, and interesting textural elements – add up to a wedding bouquet for a friend far away.
A dear friend of mine is getting married today, in a state halfway across the country. None of her close friends are there to support her, mostly because she only recently moved away from Seattle to be close to her sweetheart. But at least she’s going to hold a bouquet of flowers I made Wednesday and sent via FedEx overnight delivery service. Her new husband will be wearing a sweet little boutonniere I sent along.
Here’s how to successfully make and send a long-distance gift of flowers:
1. Select durable flowers with fairly tight buds. I chose all Northwest-grown flowers in a cream-to-peach-to-coral palette:
- Spray roses have tiny heads and are long-lasting. ‘Moonstruck’ is a creamy white variety grown by Peterkort Roses.
- Peonies are super-durable, especially when you start at the “marshmallow” stage when just a small amount of color is showing at the top of the bud. The blush peonies I used are sublime, grown by Ojeda Farms.
- Ranunculus are a more fragile than the spray roses or tighter peonies, but the petal colors are so delicious that I took a risk. I chose mostly-closed flower heads and tried to nestle them between other, sturdier flowers to sort of shelter them in the bouquet. These were grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers. She literally saved the last ranunculus stems of the season for me.
- Poppies, especially in bud with those fuzzy green cases, are the epitome of springtime. The petals on these are more like a persimmon-orange color, which made them a little too dark for the bouquet palette. So I used only the tightest buds and lifted them up above the main bouquet. A sliver of the dark orange peeked out, but that only added to its charm. These were grown by Jello Mold Farm.
May 19th, 2013
A Softer Side of Green
An unexpected combination, inspired by the pale ‘Supergreen’ hybrid tea roses given to me by the grower
This sweet detail shows the delicate features of the apricot verbascum and the varietgated Star of Bethlehem
15 stems Dusty Miller foliage (Centaurea cineraria), grown by Charles Little & Co.
5 stems lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), grown by Charles Little & Co.
15 stems ‘Supergreen’ hybrid tea roses, grown by Peterkort Roses
9 stems Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans), grown by Choice Bulb Farms
6 stems Verbascum ‘Caribbean Crush’, grown by Jello Mold Farm
7½-inch tall x 7-inch diameter woven basket with a 6-inch tall x 6½ inch wide glass insert
Vase in an instant: Any container can double as a flower vase as long as you can hide a watertight vessel inside of it. This simple, budget-conscious technique instantly expands your design choices. I frequently pick up glass vases for 50-cents to a few dollars at the thrift store, which means I always have extras on hand to tuck inside boxes, baskets, tins – and even leaky watering cans .
May 14th, 2013
Field-grown peonies should be selected at the “marshmallow” stage, when the heads have just a little give when squeezed.
Forget flowers grown far from home. You’ll find the best blooms right in your own neighborhood – straight from a local flower farmer.
The growth of local farmers’ markets is staggering – up 17 percent nationwide in 2011, according to the USDA (USDA Farmers’ Market Data). And as more farmers’ markets establish in communities across the U.S., you can be certain to find more beautiful flower stalls, which is great news for the DIY floral designer, hostess and nature- lover.
When you shop at a weekly farmers’ market, look for fresh, seasonal and uncommon floral crops – you’ll be wowed by the selection and quality. Yes, it’s fun to meet the people who grow these blooms. But you can also learn from their experience and knowledge — ask your flower farmer for tips on how to care for their beautiful stems at home. Here are some of the best ways to enjoy farmers’ market flowers and extend their vase life:
Selection: Most farmers harvest their crops as close to market day as possible, ensuring very fresh varieties – straight from the field. Shop early in the morning for the best choice (plus, flowers are always happier when it’s cooler!). If the market is in an uncovered location, expect to see large awnings or umbrellas to keep the floral products out of direct sun. Look at the stall’s hygiene – are the buckets clean and filled with fresh water? Be sure to ask “Where is your farm?” and “Why type of growing practices do you use?” – let the vendor know you appreciate sustainable practices.
What to look for:
Chicago floral designer Lynn Fosbender, owner of Pollen Flowers, relies on Midwest flower farmers for her summertime vase arrangements and bouquets.
When choosing a mixed bouquet, look at all the ingredients to see that they are equally fresh. The focal flowers, softly-textured delicate elements and foliage should feel plump; not wilted or limp. When selecting a straight bunch, often called a “grower’s bunch,” check that all the stems are similar in length and all the blooms are similar size.
- Flower heads should be relatively tight on most varieties, ensuring that they will continue to open in the vase on your dining table.
- Some flowers, such as dahlias, do not open further once cut, so what you see is what you get. Others, like zinnias, can be fully open and they’ll last well over a week.
- With lilies, such as Stargazer or the Asiatic varieties, choose stems with plump, tight buds and possibly only one full bloom – you’ll have more than a week of enjoyment as those flowers open in succession.
- Sunflowers should be about half or two-thirds open and will soon look fuller as their petals unfurl in the vase.
- Tulips should have a tight head with the tips of the foliage as tall as possible (if the tulip head is far above the foliage tips, it means the flowers have been in water for several days, as the stems continue to “grow”).
- Daffodils that are tight in bud will open beautifully to a full trumpet shape indoors.
- Peonies should be in the “marshmallow” stage (squeeze the bud gently and you’ll feel a spongy quality – like a marshmallow). If you buy fully-opened peonies, they won’t last long at home.
- Garden roses should not have tight heads or fully-opened heads; look for a partially open rose head.
- Tall or spiked flowers, such as delphiniums, gladiolas and snapdragons, should have tight or closed buds along the top one-third of the stem, with the lower two-thirds in bloom; those upper-most buds will open in your vase.
- Lilacs are not known for lasting more than 5 days or so – but their intoxicating fragrance makes up for their shorter vase life. Pick lilacs with the top florets still in bud.
- Hydrangeas should be almost fully open and they will need lots of fresh water – up to their necks in a vase – to ensure that the entire stem is hydrated.
- All stems should be clean, stripped of their bottom foliage, and not slimy. Any remaining leaves should be fresh and un-bruised.
May 9th, 2013
Lots of news to share, including this very timely interview that Seattle’s NPR station KPLU-FM aired today. Environment reporter Bellamy Pailthorp contacted me to discuss “sustainable flowers for Mother’s Day,” and thanks to her incredible interviewing and editing talents, a 25-minute conversation turned into a 4-1/2 minute segment. You can listen to it here.
Remember this cool logo: By the Bunch. It means these gorgeous bouquets are possible because their ingredients were grown by a bunch of awesome NW flower farmers
The interview gave me a chance to talk about the excitement at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market – a just-launched supermarket bouquet program called “By the Bunch.” The beauty of this program is that it produces a sizeable income stream for every farmer-member at the SWGM Cooperative. Together they are so much more than the sum of their parts (or their flower fields, for that matter).
Today, the Thursday before Mother’s Day, was perhaps the most insane work day ever experienced by the Bouquet team, including managers Kristen Parris and Nicole Cordier, along with their new design team members, Carly and Michelle.
But in order to produce a staggering number of bouquets today – something like 700 bunches – flower farmers Diane Szukovathy and Vivian Larson had to show up and volunteer their time as bouquet-makers. I stopped by at around 9:30 a.m. to catch the activity.
SWGMC Front-Desk Manager, talented designer and inspiring leader for the local flower movement, Nicole Cordier.
Oh, bouquet-making sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? But by 7 p.m., when I had to bring by supplies for a special event tomorrow morning, Kristen and Nicole were still there, finishing up the final 100 bunches. Ever-positive, but clearly exhausted, these women believe so much in getting sustainable and locally-grown blooms into the hands of Seattle area consumers that they are willing to go without food and breaks just to achieve the goal. As I told them: If you can get through Mother’s Day, you can do anything. (They probably didn’t need to hear it from me!)
Read more about the By the Bunch program here. The brand development, graphic design and packaging is supported by a USDA Multi-State Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
My photos from today’s visit will wow you. If you haven’t figured out what to give Mom for her special day on Sunday, May 12th, stop by these outlets for LOCAL, SEASONAL Bouquets – straight from Northwest fields: PCC Natural Markets, Town & Country Markets and Madison Market.
My camera snatched some of today’s delicious springtime beauty to share:
Sweet peas – so yummy in color, fragrance and form~
For the most perfect “fresh” green color of springtime, snowball viburnum. Aaah!
Just-picked floral elements await inclusion in mixed bouquets. Ranunculus and cherry blossoms
At 9:30 a.m. today, Michelle was ready to wheel an entire cart of bunches into the cooler. So exciting to have her on the SWGMC team!
The combination of green and pink petals make this the most sublime tulip I’ve ever seen.
A moment to smile, and who wouldn’t? Creating bouquets for Mother’s Day is a special job – and Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm (and SWGMC president) was on hand to help designer Carly and the rest of the team this morning.
Buckets of flowers, ready to gather into sweet Mother’s Day bouquets
Two of the founding farmers of SWGMC, Diane Szukovathy and Vivian Larson, spent the morning making bouquets with the team.
Later this morning I stopped by my local PCC Natural Market to see the By the Bunch floral display. Gotta love this messaging~
For every mother out there, HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY ~ and may you enjoy your garden, your flowers and your families.
May 5th, 2013
Still Life With Flowers
A wine crate serves as a shadowbox for this sweet spring bouquet of white lilacs and ranunculus in a bright pastel palette.
Grower Vivian Larson’s delectable spring ranunculus are in big demand by floral designers.
10 stems lilac (Syringa vulgaris), grown by Oregon Coastal Flowers
12 stems Ranunculus asiaticus, including ‘La Belle’ and ‘Super Green’ varieties, grown by Everyday Flowers
5-inch tall x 5-inch wide x 3-inch deep vase (overall height is 5½ inches)
From the Farmer
Extending the vase life: For decades, it’s been the conventional wisdom of florists that woody shrubs, such as lilacs and hydrangeas, benefit from a second cut, a vertical slice up the center of the stem, to increase the surface area that can absorb water. But according to professors Lane Greer and John M. Dole, authors of Woody Cut Stems for Growers and Florists, a research-based reference, the practice “has never been proven to extend vase life.” The best thing you can do is to use clean, sharp pruners and refresh the vase water every day or so.