Fall Wedding at the Chicago Club

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Some weddings fall together effortlessly, and this was one of them. With every passing year, my business attracts lovelier and lovelier clientele and this gorgeous bride was no exception to this happy trend. She chose the Chicago Club in part due to the mega glorious new roof top they’ve unveiled with stunning, supervillain views of the city, and her palette of champagne with touches of merlot, cappuccino and aubergine was perfection. For a wild, gestural look on the tables, we employed Japanese anemone, Cafe au lait dahlias and Caucasian scabiosa from our farm, as well as fruited quince branches, foraged sumac and boughs of pistachio.

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Los Poblanos Lavender Farm

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Los Poblanos lavender farm in New Mexico is one of the very coolest wedding venues I’ve ever seen. The land was settled in 1920, and was originally inhabited by the Anasazi (ancient pueblo Indians) in the 14th century. Many of the original settlers in this area were thought to have come from Puebla, Mexico, a citizen of which is called a “Poblano”. In 1932, Ruth Hanna McCormick Simms commissioned architect John Gaw Meem and numerous WPA artists and craftsmen to renovate the ranch house and create the Cultural Center with gardens designed by Rose Greeley, one of the very first american women to practice landscape architecture.

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The farm’s lavender products have a magical quality to them. With centuries of use all over the world, Lavender is a powerful antidepressant, antiseptic and healing agent- the Japanese use it as aroma-therapy in factories to increase productivity and it was used in both the first and second World Wars, not only in the treatment of wounds but as a cleaning agent in hospitals.  Just inhaling the scent of lavender is known to increase the alpha brain waves in the back of the head, aiding in relaxation and tranquility and thus boosting the immune system. Their Lavender Hand Salve is my favorite to repair my hands after a long day working at our flower farm- a luxurious solution to a luxurious problem!

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Eau de lime basil

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Our farm’s theme this year is fragrance, we are growing lime basil, chocolate and pineapple mint, lavender and the like. I like to bring old fashions back in floral design whenever possible, and these days people rarely encounter scented flowers. There is no aromatic luxury quite like working out there after a heavy rain, the wind kicking up wafts of tuberose, wild sweet pea and chocolate cosmos! The bouquet pictured below is wildly fragrant with grape hyacinth, cheerfulness jonquils and muscari…

frontal blue and yellow bouquet

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Foxgloves and thistle

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We are a bit late planting at Five Row Farm this year, but I say you are only late planting your first flower farm! And, we have the most fantastic PH balanced soil and meticulously tilled beds courtesy of our farmer friend John Tong. However, our seedlings are already bearing many blooms, see foxgloves, dahlias and thistle wedding below…

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Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

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Sometimes it seems that my true occupation is to listen to people describe their distaste for carnations, lilies and even roses.  Now, with heavily petaled garden roses being all they rage, even the rose, a classic symbol of romantic perfection, has also been shunned. You probably can’t imagine my joy when I was asked to design a debutant ball based on John Singer Sargent’s painting, Carnation, Lily, Lily Rose, but it was real. Restoring these innocent beauties to their righteous place at the top of the flower chain is a job I was born to do!

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First off, we decided to create what would look like the forest on the stage, and brought in 24ft oak and maple trees forming an allée of sorts for the debutants to emerge from like the girls in the painting. Next, we created two 16ft “mossy ruins” on either side, which formed a kind hedge that obscured the big band of 20 tuxedoed musicians on the stage, they looked like they stepped out of Fantasia! The mossy ruin we sculpted in sections out of foam and covered in living moss and maiden hair fern, foxgloves and Juilet garden rose bushes tumbling over mossy rocks and lichen. We also hand-painted 300 paper lanterns, which hung from deep green glossy camellia and magnolia, giving the room a soft rosy glow…

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Scilla appear

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There is no thrill of Spring quite like spotting blue Scilla flowers blanketing the earth, these minute beauties massing together to produce this trick of the eye, this message just for those with eyes to see! My mother always pointed them out to me in “Grandma’s garden”  , the wilder garden across from the Lincoln Park Conservatory in Spring. Like near incantations, the way mothers teach the language of flowers to their children, planting these mysterious words and beautiful images in their minds has always been especially lovely to me,  delphinium, daffodil, scilla…..

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Wintering over

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Every year there comes a period of time when I actually can’t look at any more flowers. This past January, my eyes were actually weary of them,  sumptuous seed catalogs would arrive and I had to toss them aside.  It’s a natural part of the cyclical nature of this work, it’s all go go go, growth and production from early spring straight through to Christmas, and then I’ve got to just hunker down, rest, gestate. Our farm is now also in dormancy, nestled down under straw and goat manure, ( solid gold fertilizer), from our West Side friend Carolyn Ioder‘s goats. She keeps them in Oak Park and makes the most incredible feta, goat cheese and milk. As members of the Goat Guild, we take advantage of the manure for the farm, and it is also pretty fun to run them up the street to their gorgeous urban pasture….

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Winter Flowers

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As lovely as the flowers are that we can get imported are, we sorely miss cutting product fresh from our farm- these cafe au lait dahlias were a huge element in most of our fall weddings, love their multi-hued petals! Planting for specific weddings and events is really thrilling, and we are expanding our farm vastly next year to produce on a larger scale as our biz flourishes.  During this exciting time where everyone is dreaming up gorgeousness for celebrations and ceremonies, pouring over seed and bulb catalogues for each new client is an ultimate luxury.

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Cake Flowers

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Although we got the farm planted late this year, it’s really beginning to jump off now. Our cosmos got stem rot as usual but are still blooming prolifically. We planted 17 different varieties of dahlias alone for our fall weddings, but of course the Cafe au Lait steal the show every time! You can’t tell if they are pink, gold, ivory or all of the above…

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Constance Spry

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When working with red I always think of Constance Spry, the legendary English social reformer and society florist whose heyday was in the 1930’s and 40’s. Famously introducing vegetables, weeds and found objects as vases to the art form,  she was essentially to flower arranging what the sex pistols were to rock-n-roll. When discussing the color red she says,

” Striking and beautiful effects may be obtained by mixing strongly contrasting shades of red and by adding fruits and berries. You get brilliance rather than hardness by combining many shades and tones in an arrangement; rose, vermillion, crimson, magenta and so on to provide a strong, warm effect that is comparable in color to the sound of a trumpet blast.”

She goes on to strictly advise that when sending flowers to men, one must use entirely red flowers… what could be more brilliant?

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