Zinnia party

 

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This time of year there is such a wonderful cacophony of color and texture in our studio and at the farm! It is the finale display of the entire year, a time when we say good bye to our urban goat neighbors, ( they live on a farm downstate in the winter) and begin cleaning up the farm and bedding it down for the winter with manure mixed with straw from the goats.  These cuties dine on produce donated from our local Whole Foods and manure from their stalls enriches our soil with nearly magical results.

I always say bouquets should have plenty of movement, and these white astilbe are a great way to add a little flounce, along with these stunner ranunculus in oxblood. One of our MVPs this year were these heirloom Persian Carpet Zinnias, also called Mexican zinnias or narrow-leaved zinnias. Having bicolored single and double flowers in gold, burgundy, cream, red and orange and blooming throughout the summer, we found them irresistible along with these Giant lime zinnias in green.

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Los Poblanos Lavender Farm

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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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lambs ear at the farm

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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

saad sample

blue and yellow bouquet

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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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Sweet Pea Madness

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gold and coral cpSpring has arrived in Chicago, as have some exquisite projects for our studio! Gilding foliage, waves of gift arrangements for fashion editors, and samples for some brilliant clients whose taste and vision have yielded really lavish and original results. Oh, and just incase you ever wondered what 170 stems of “Misty Apricot” sweet pea looks like, now you know!

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gilded coral foliage

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following the flowers

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I seriously do learn a lot from our clients.  A particularly glamorous groom once explained to me in an exquisite English accent that he preferred plants “that flower before they fruit,” as he set his feet on the coffee table in flowered pink socks.  As a city girl,  I thought this was just some smart-sounding poetry from a fancy classics professor,  but later realized that that is how it actually goes down in the natural world.

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Magical deliciousness

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bigtable chefs

Last weekend was a double header/ town AND country farm dinner weekend! We had the honor of bringing flowers we grew to Green City’s last Big Table dinner of the season celebrating urban farmers in Washington Park. We brought vermillion dahlias with lacy touches of  Cottoneaster berries and lemon basil. Pictured above are chefs Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass and Jared Batson of the Nomad Food Co. who, together with chefs from Farmhouse and Dream Cafe, prepared produce grown in the city with mind-boggling brilliance.

nasturtiums!

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Out at Five Row Farm, our dinner was a little less polished, but we made up for any rough edges in ambition and enthusiasm! Hazel, our bartender par excellence, served guava fresca-ginger-mint cocktails while guests cut their own bouquets,  enjoyed hay rides, made ice cream and toured the farm.

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KP!!

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Neva's bouquet

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True Romance

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When I tell people that I do flowers for weddings, many times they wince and say “Oh, but you must have to work with such awful Bridezillas!” It’s funny, I explain, but on the contrary we are lucky enough to somehow attract some of the most wonderful, low-key, chic clients and their eyes widen.

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What’s more is that I often get to witness, in such vulnerable and intimate moments, irrefutable evidence that gorgeous, breathtaking, true love actually does exist!  Yesterday,  we got to watch a couple in their 50’s nervously practice their first dance before guests arrived. It was electrifying. The groom was so intent of getting it right: quick-quick-slow…. quick-quick-slow…while holding his bride so close.

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We have been “tipping” the dahlias at our farm,  taking off the uppermost, first and burgeoning blooms to encourage lasting, stronger, taller ones.  Jessica who farms the plot adjacent to ours and her husband Nick helped us tie up our dahlias last weekend. Seeing him work to support her dream of farming, as she successfully farms an entire acre of land is awesome in the real sense of the word.

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apricot tumult

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Somedays in this industry I like to think of myself as a tummler. According to Every Goy’s Guide to Common Jewish Expressions, a tummler, (TOOM-ler) is someone who is maker of fun, commotion, tumult. Particularly someone who’s always making jokes- that can get the party started.  Also, someone hired professionally at a resort in the Borscht Belt to get people dancing and laughing.

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I don’t think of myself as an “uncle Morty” type character with suspenders and my pants up under my armpits- but more as someone who has the opportunity to bring fresh life and fun into the room even before guests arrive, to lighten things up and set the stage for glamourous revelry.

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armour sample

When we work on bar or batmitzfah’s and the heavy hitting dj’s arrive with their entourage of headset wearing foxy dancers in tow,  I always try to impress upon them the the importance of their pedigreed heritage as party starters. I breathlessly explain to them that they are in fact modern day tummlers. They usually play along, politely disengaging as soon a possible,  but I am comforted by the knowledge that this esteemed profession carries on…

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The Garden Club of Charleston

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In April, I had the honor of presenting a talk and teaching a class for the Charleston Garden Club. The oldest garden club in the U.S., it is also the largest in the world. We had just enough time to visit the famous sweet grass basket makers of Charleston. Brought to Charleston (which was settled in 1663!) by enslaved people from West Africa, it is one of the oldest african art forms still practiced in the U.S. The baskets are woven from foraged fibers such a sweet grass native to South Carolina and are routinely sold for around a thousand dollars.

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Charleston is flower pig-heaven, with azalea bushes the size of houses it’s no wonder that  gardening and flower arranging are such serious business. I talked about honoring the finite amount of life-force that remains in a cut flower by processing correctly; accessing the intuitive by following your subject and how the only design rule today is not to follow any.

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Here I am demonstrating how you can double the size of a garden rose,  forcing the petals open by blowing on it. Using a basket made with camphor vines from the North Carolina mountains,  I illustrated the new feminine wild style with honeysuckle, azaleas, ferns and garden roses.

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Before the meeting began, the remarkable, 93 year old  Lucile MacLennan, a “living treasure” of Charleston gave the invocation which follows below. ( Please read with a gorgeous Alabama accent in mind)

“I would like to begin by quoting an old Chinese proverb, “If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.”

Psalm 8:3 When I consider the heavens, the work of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars which God has set in place, what is man that Thou art mindful of him?

For God has showed His name in the heavens, in burning stars, but on earth he has showed His name in tender flowers.  In the heaven now, in early morning at 6 a.m we can see the brilliant morning star, the planet Venus.  Likewise, in late afternoon, we see the huge evening star, the planet Jupiter.  Just last week astronomers announced the discovery of a dwarf planet, and a set of ring around a distant asteroid.  The same infinite God who established stars in the heavens, created a tiny yellow blossom in Spanish Moss, as well as the giant Angel Oak.  Let us never lose our sense of awe.

Isaiah 61:11 The earth brings forth her buds and the garden causes the things that are sown to spring forth.  If I love each budding tree, each flower petal, leaf and stem, then how much more should I revere the God who has created them.

Let us pray.  Today we have many faiths here; let each one pray according to her own faith.  We thank Thee, Oh Divine Maker, especially for Thy great gifts of beauty evidenced in nature. We thank Thee for the power to see and enjoy them and for the skill to use this beauty in helping others.  Let all lovely things fill us with gladness and lift up our hearts in gratitude.  We thank Thee for the miracle of Spring.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

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After lunch we began our studio class, first we worked on basket arrangements. I wasn’t so much of a teacher at all as a superfan, running around the room gasping at the garden club member’s masterful arrangements.

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We then moved on to cascading bouquets, which were rather effortless with all of the flowering native vines. What was so impressive was how, with basically the same materials, each woman’s bouquet was so different. I love all the movement here in Judy’s totally sumptuous bouquet. Christine’s bouquet was so dewey, organic and over the top all at once and the lovely Irene’s bouquet had so much attitude…

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Before heading to the airport our incredible hostess Nancy Hoel took us to meet her friend Louise whose Rosebank Farm is on John’s Island. We whizzed past the Angel Oak on our way, saving that for next year. We were just in time to meet Gina Perez pictured here, of Fiddle Farm, a farmer and mentee of Louise’s.

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Here is a bit of the day’s harvest at Rosebank.

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They produce exquisite eggs as well, and here is the genius in charge of QC.

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