Better than Fine

I have a friend who is really getting into floral design.  She’s a gardener too, so the entire current farmer-florist wilder look appeals to her greatly.  Her garden has taken on a whole new relevance to what she wants to do and she’s sparking like crazy when she talks about color combinations and what foliage works best and how to find a perfect anemone.  

Recently, my garden bud has decided she’s gifting floral designs this year for Christmas.   Ms. Gardener has been dabbling all along, watching Erin from Floret, following Francis Palmer and her pottery, taking classes at the New York Botanical Garden.  Cafe au Lait dahlias and their brethren showed up in her garden, she wants to plant more shrubs for greens, Trader Joe’s is seeing her show up to peruse the floral offerings.  She’s ‘into’ it.  

A garden bouquet with interesting colors and texture.

A garden bouquet with interesting colors and texture.

You get the idea that she’s got the bug and is into flowers as art, big time.  Beautiful bouquets have been designed and gone to her hair stylist, the neighbors, the dinner party, the handy man for his wife.  All super cool and interesting designs, lots of stuff from her garden augmented by a little from the markets.  So it just blew me away when she described what she wanted to gift them for the holidays--------

mini carnations, mums and berries with traditional greens, in a traditional Teleflora/FTD centerpiece style in red, white and green.

Knock me over with a feather!  I have nothing against these classic blast from the past centerpieces, you can still buy them in the shop in her town where I worked for a couple of years.  In fact, there’s prolly a few greened up centerpieces just waiting for those flowers in the cooler right now.  It’s assembly line work meant to go out the door at a moment’s notice when the order comes over the wire.  

So why does a funky cool budding garden flower designer suddenly turn trad roundy moundy copy-the-design girl?  And what the heck does this have to do with wedding flowers?  Here’s what I think Ms. Gardener is thinking:  I’ll play it safe and make everyone happy.  Something designed with super traditional colors in a super traditional style won’t make anyone uncomfortable.  It’ll be fine with any decor, and everyone loves red/white/green around the holidays.  It’ll be fine.  

On the flip side of that, it won’t make anyone take notice either.  It will sit on the table and anyone who sees it will think the family in California sent a nice FTD design for the holidays.  Point, click, purchase, done.

When you decide to invest dollars into your wedding flowers, don’t settle for fine.  You’ve taken the time to find the perfect venue, the perfect DJ, the photographer you think will capture your personality and style.  Find a designer who will take your funky cool self and reflect that in blooms.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of brides out there who are Costco/Sam’s Club/internet purchased wedding flower gals, and good for them, they’ll have fine flowers.  But if you’re here, reading this, you aren’t one of those.  Let’s talk about how special we can make your event or wedding with some fantastic better-than-fine flowers.

Photo courtesy of Jessica Smith Photography

Photo courtesy of Jessica Smith Photography

Black Friday Prices

It’s Black Friday!  Last night, after pie and coffee, I took one last turn through my Inbox replying to friends and family who couldn’t be with us for food and gratitude.  I had a clean Inbox at 11pm.  This morning, I have 240 emails, all begging for attention.  What could possibly cause such a ruckus?  Sales!!!  Best prices of the season, from 7-9am only, doorbusters, hurry hurry hurry!  And it hit me, I have something to sell.  I’d love to sell out my calendar for next year on Black Friday.  But I won’t, because our event flowers are not On Sale, and in fact, never can go On Sale.  Why?  We’ll get to that answer shortly, let’s look at why and how products and services go on sale.

If you make widgets, and by widget I mean any mass produced product, it’s easy to see how you might have a sale.  You negotiated a better price on the raw materials, you were able to take advantage of economies of scale and make more for less, you have a surplus of widgets that are taking up space and you need to move them fast.  Any number of reasons could cause you to offer a better price, including that you were asking too much in the first place (hello Apple, I’m talking to you!).

If you offer a service: you create, repair, monitor, clean, what evs, you generally can offer a sale price if you expect to earn a repeat customer.  You expect to sell another design, tires and oil change, contract for monthly security monitoring or house’re expecting a repeat customer to over time cover the gap in cost for the Sale Price you extended to get the customer.  It’s a marketing cost.  

Why can’t I offer a Sale on event flowers?  My number one reason is:  I will always give you my absolute best price the first time.  I’m not going to inflate my prices to offer you a discount, I’m not going to offer ‘free delivery and setup’ and secretly add the cost back into the flowers, I’m not going to be less than 100% honest and above board when it comes to your, or my, pocketbook.  The absolute best I can do at the best price I can offer, that’s my promise to you.  

***This post will probably hit on Small Business Saturday - don’t forget most Independent Florists are small business owners, buy local and support your community.***

on becoming a Chapel Designer

Continuing education, the conscious act of always improving yourself and your skills, is a personality trait of every great problem solver.  The curiosity of knowing why always leads to knowing how, and knowing how solves problems and helps you to be as creative as you can possibly be.  Toward that end, everyone at Design In Bloom has an annual requirement of at attending at least one class or workshop to improve themselves.  I typically manage at least two or three, but then I'm the ringleader here and should be setting a good example.  

One of the workshops I was able to attend this year was the Flora & Fauna Fashion Show, hosted by Virginia's own Holly Heider Chapple at her farm just north of Leesburg, Hope Flower Farm.  When I first moved to Virginia in 2008, I didn't know a soul in the floral business south of the Mason-Dixon.  Nowadays it may seem intuitive to Google the area and see what's what, but 10 years ago, it was still kind of a new thing to have that kind of access to who's who.  My first hit was Holly - and I was blown away by her website and photos.  When you see someone else designing from the heart with passion, you have an immediate affinity for that person.  It's like seeing someone riding the same motorcycle, wearing the same shoes, ordering the same drink, you just know you have something special in common.  Having followed her for years on social media, I finally got to meet the woman who had become a heroine to me, and not just meet her, but be welcomed into the fold as one of her own.  Our industry wouldn't be the same without her.  

The Chapel Designers are a like minded bunch of floral designers from around the globe.  Core values of superior design through education, strong businesses through best practices, and fellowship through flowers tie all of us together, we're kindred spirits.  In a time where there is so much divisiveness in the world, Chapel Designers bring the best and the brightest together to celebrate our industry.  

The Flora and Fauna Workshop and Fashion Show was held over 4 days this past spring at Hope Flower Farm and included a roster of first rate instructors.  You can find the names and biographies by heading to  Over the course of the workshop I acquired new skills and found new ways to look at materials, adding more tools to the big old case I carry around with me (metaphorically speaking).  It's so incredibly delightful to be with so many kindred spirits and work toward a common goal, this builds friendships, which builds networks.  What an amazing way to reimagine an industry!!!

Photos!  I am sure you want a peek at what we created during that week.  We'll get to that, but first, you should know this event culminated in a charity luncheon to benefit cancer charities Along Comes Hope and Team Mathias.  The event took place in Holly's old dairy barn on the property, complete with feed troughs down the runway and hayracks on the walls.  It was a magical event, with cancer patients and survivors wearing the designs and walking the runway.  Here's a small glimpse of what happened in those magical 4 days.  Enjoy!


Click on each photo to magnify in a new window.

bouquets in sherbert flavors

Three sherbert-y bouquets, tangerine, lemon and passionfruit.  Each of these has a mitigating factor of white and/or ivory, and just a touch of clear green to add definition.  While they are all designed in relatively the same style:  hand-tied with a bit of the garden, I think the designs get a little more interesting as you go down the line, the last bouquet being my favorite of the three, as I think it shows the most personality.  The change in texture from the Cafe au Lait dahlia to the snowberries does it for me - the dinner plate dahlia against the clusters of symphoricarpos, a native shrub to our garden in Virginia, although the shrubs in the wild part of my garden bear no resemblance to the cultivated white beauties you see here.  

Ice, Ice Baby

If you're a pop music fan, you'll recognize the title rip off from the infamous Vanilla Ice rap song from the 80's, who ripped off the baseline from Queen and David I don't feel any guilt using it here.  Thanks Rob Van Winkle, for the catchy phrase. (Apologies to those of you who now have the dunn dunn dunn danah dun dah ear worm.)

I say Ice Ice Baby as this bouquet is all about a quiet white heat; a full base of locally grown peonies and feathery astilbe with Escimo roses, made all the more textured with double white freesia and the oh so charming bells of leucojum, aka summer snowflake.  Leucojum is one of my favorite blooms to design with - only available when they're blooming in our garden, not a single commercial wholesaler sells them.  Beautiful clean pure white, and if you look closely you can see small spring green dots on their tips, which my Nana used to tell me were from the fairies marking each one as they harvested the nectar.

The greens in this bouquet are a nice backdrop to the profusion of white.  The hosta 'June, also grown in our garden, forms a solid base of color that allows the white to pop.  Judicious use of variegated pittosporum and the natural leaves of the astilbe are the only other greens.

It's one of my favorite bouquets, so one more photo, just because I can.  Aren't those leucojum charming?

Summer Garden Bouquet

Bouquet No.2, another Emily Bouquet - keeping to our garden rose start, here's a continuation on the theme - 

Peach Shimmer and Romantic Antike garden roses are the focal of this bouquet, their delightful peachy pinkness highlighted by accents of white and ivory.  A bouquet for another Emily, it's full of texture and interest, alluding to deeper depths.  Orlaya, the lacey white umbel just peeking out here and there, is one of my favorite flowers to use to add a bitter of summer garden to a bouquet.  

The orlaya in this bouquet was grown in our gardens here at the studio, as was the pennycress (the little round disks of green), the white peonies, and the white wands of gooseneck loosestrife.  The loosestrife is a bit of fun, the spikes rising above and curling a bit to give some movement in the bouquet.  Little bits of parviflora eucalyptus also move when the bride walks or a breeze blows.  Dusty miller, white spray roses and white waxflower are also in this bouquet.

31 Bouquets in 31 Days - January 2018

Happy New Year!

It occurred to me it might be great to train myself to start blogging again, so the plan is to post 31 bouquets in 31 days on Facebook and Instagram, then chat a bit about the bouquet here on the blog, perhaps post another photo or two.  Keeping up with social media has not been my forté - it may be a throw back to my upbringing with the 'always be humble' rule drummed into my personality.  Posting photos then telling you I love them and they're special seems the antithesis of humble, but I do love what I do passionately, so I shall look at it as though I'm sharing my joy in flowers with you-  and so to Photo #1!

Emily's bouquet - Aspen Dale Winery, Delaplane, VA for the ceremony.  Yves Piaget, Juliet and Augusta Louise garden roses were the backbone of this bouquet, hot pink peonies and soft pink sweet peas played supporting roles and looking all the more delicate for the deeper rich burgundy ranunculus dotted throughout. A hint of white jasmine in pink bud that you can just make out in the middle of the bouquet really adds a bit of whimsy and fun to this bouquet, and we have to talk about the foliage.  All that foliage!  Italian ruscus, willow leaf eucalyptus, sea star ferns from Australia and Moon & Stars aspidistra combined beautifully - all the different textures, shapes and sizes creating a pleasing whole.

Aspen Dale is a beautiful spot to get married, an 18th century farm in the rolling hills of Virginia's horse country.  The ceremony site was surrounded by stone walls and cherry trees, which were just starting to lose their perfect pink petals to the spring breeze.

The Pinterest Perception Problem

I love Pinterest.  I think it's wonderful tool to inspire creativity.  But I dislike Pinterest too, as so many of my brides and grooms seem to get caught up in someone else's story and forget about their own.  

Recently, I had the opportunity to try a little experiment.  I asked one of my brides to post a pic up to her Pinterest account.  It was a pretty, simple bouquet in pinks, and the question for her friends following her Wedding Board was:  do you think this would be right for our bouquets?  (She has 10 (ten!) bridesmaids.)   Everyone chimed in unanimously that would indeed be perfect and they'd be happy to carry it down the aisle.  Here's that photo:

Pretty, right?  Lovely shades of pink, who wouldn't want a bouquet like this?  Well, only one problem.  The bouquet is actually a miniature bouquet made out of spray roses and is not a lot bigger than a tube of lipstick:

Surprised?  So were all the bridesmaids and the brides Mom - the photo without any context totally fooled them into thinking the bouquet was a perfect size and shape. 

When it comes to Pinterest, and Instagram and all the other avenues of adventure for inspiration out there, use them, but don't forget to make your day your own.   Not every Pin is what it seems!  In this case, use these pinks and the styling to create beautiful designs that are clean lines and simple, but timeless and elegant.  I can easily see these small designs in a cluster in the center of a table too - what an amazing favor for each guest to bring home a miniature bouquet. 

If you use Pinterest as true inspiration, you're on your way to Power instead of Problem.  And wouldn't we much rather have Pinterest Power!   

To DIY or not to DIY, that may be your question!

I am an enabler. Or maybe I should say, I am an Enabler.  When a client comes to me with a project, whether it’s a wedding, rehearsal dinner, corporate dinner for the Board of Directors, or a holiday party, my first inclination is to always find a way to enable their vision for flowers and decor.  Mirriam Webster, the dictionary people, define enable as ‘to make something possible, practical or easy.’  There are other definitions, and although they relate to different industries, I think they can easily apply  as well - for example, when you’re working with computers, you enable something to make it active or available for use.  Yes!  That’s what I do!  I help you tap into your inner design diva and think inside, outside, around and through the box.  To help you visualize all the possibilities and then help choose the one that best matches your vision, budget and capabilities.  It’s that last one that I’d like to talk about today:  capabilities.  

Capability has absolutely everything to do with DIY.  Everyone is capable, given enough time to learn and practice.  Some of the most beautiful weddings I’ve worked on/attended have been very personal to the bride and groom with lots of wonderful little details that made the occasion all theirs.  Not every one of those little details were handmade or designed by them, but they were nevertheless all them.  But quite a few were designed/created by the couple.  What makes the difference?  Balance.  Knowing what you’re capable of, and knowing when you need someone with more experience to help.

Are you crafty?  Good with your hands?  Like to paint, nail, glue?  Did you, like me, ask for a reciprocating saw for Christmas (not kidding!)?  Do you have a good sense of proportion, working knowledge of a color wheel, and can you tell me what rhythm is in relation to floral design?  Then you may be a perfect candidate for designing your own flowers!!!  It will only take some classes and reading to get you into the game.  If you’re not quite that advanced, there are quite a few internet companies out there who will sell you their pre-designed kits with everything you need to make the bouquets.  I’m not a fan, in my humble opinion, it’s like calling 1-800-you-know-what for your wedding flowers.  And since you’re here, reading this blog, I know you care more about your wedding flowers than that!  

So how’s a couple to handle wanting to save the money and yet make their mark on the flowers?  Talk to a professional.  Most of us will meet with you at no cost or obligation, and can help you determine if you’re the right candidate for a DIY wedding, and give you pretty accurate estimates of what it will cost you, both on your own and if you hire a pro.  You may want to create your own centerpieces and leave the bouquets and personal flowers to us.  You may want to handle the cake flowers and leave the arch or chuppah to us.  Any last minute decor is not something you want to be fussing with right before your hair stylist arrives. Sunburn is not a good wedding photo look.

At Design In Bloom, we love helping our brides and grooms be as involved as they want to be.   We can create a custom wedding flower design plan for you to DIY, help you find flowers, and even host a Bridal Party Design Riot the week of your wedding!  So get involved, whether it’s leading your chosen professionals through your vision and allowing them to create for you, or getting off the bench and doing it yourself.  Either way, it’s always a team effort that make the best marriages!

If you do decide to DIY, here’s a down and dirty timeline of how you’ll need to prepare:

One Year Before:
Create a budget.  Typically, wedding flowers are 8-15% of your total budget.
Start creating a mood and style for your wedding by choosing a venue and staying true to its roots - formal or informal, indoors or out, country or city.

9 to 12 Months:
Choose a style or theme and start thinking about tying your details together.  Color plays an important role, and your wedding dress may be your jumping off point for choosing your style.  Is it formal and elaborate?  Loose and airy?  Very simple?  This of course should tie in with your overall scheme - a very formal dress looks best in a very formal location.  

Start researching skills training.  If you have minimal or no experience with floral design, now is the time to search out classes and/or teachers to help.  Read some books, checkout some YouTube videos.  It goes without saying that if you aren’t crafty, get thee to a professional for help and guidance, you shouldn’t be attempting your own flowers.

6 to 8 Months:
Your gown and the bridesmaids’ dresses should be chosen.  These decisions often play a huge role in the avenue your flowers take.  Spend some time with a color wheel and learn how to use it.  

Start working on a tally of the flowers you’d like to have at your wedding.  Bouquets for you and your bridesmaids, boutonnieres for the groom, groomsmen and dads, corsages for moms, ceremony decor, centerpieces for the reception, detail pieces for the bar, cake, even the ladies room - fresh flowers make a huge difference and make an event special, even if it’s just a bud vase in the ladies.

Tap your crafty friends and family for help.  Unless your floral needs are uber minimal, you’re going to be needing some help on The Day.  Start talking to people now. Most people are thrilled to be asked.

4-5 Months:
This is a nice rest period for flowers - you don’t need to do anything here but keep up with skills training.  If you’re considering a collected look for reception centerpieces (using vintage vases and containers), you should be in full tag sale/antique store/GoodWill hunting mode.

2-3 Months:
Now is when we get to nitty gritty.  You are going to have to come up with a recipe for each floral design that includes every little thing going into each piece.  Anything non-perishable should already be in storage.  Containers should be cleaned and ready for flowers, including vases for the bouquets.  

Once you have a working list of the flowers you’ll need, start looking for the best place to buy them.  Ask for a quote at florists and supermarkets, look online, check out what’s growing in your yard, in your Moms, and your future Mother-In-Laws.  Check out local farms and go to farmer’s markets.  Place orders with suppliers as far out as you can.

Logistics should be discussed.  Where are you going to keep the flowers when they arrive?  Where are you going to design?  Who’s going to help?  Where are the designs going when they’re finished?  Do you have adequate refrigeration? Who is delivering and setting up?

4 Weeks Before:
Trial run.  Create at least one of everything you’re planning on.  You don’t want any surprises the day of your wedding.

2 Weeks Before:
Timeline.  You must create a timeline that includes where, when and who.  

Double check and confirm your flower orders.

3 to 4 Days Before:
Take delivery of all flowers and begin the conditioning process.  

2 to 3 Days Before:
Once properly conditioned, begin the design process, leaving any flowers that won’t have a water source (like corsages and boutonnieres) until the day before the wedding.  

The Day Before:
Finishing touches on all bouquets, ceremony and reception decor.  

Create corsages and boutonnieres and refrigerate until ready to use.

The Day Of:
Here’s when your logistics timeline comes into play.  Flowers need to go the ceremony and reception sites, bouquets to where the bride and her attendants are getting ready, boutonnieres to the guys, corsages to be pinned.  

Having just written and considered this brief outline, I think you not only have to be crafty to create your own wedding florals, but a force of nature when it comes to organization.  

Posh Peonies

The Power of the Peony

©2015 Cynthia Damico
Throughout history, the peony has captivated gardeners and artists alike.  The Chinese and Japanese cultures have revered the lush blossoms for centuries, and it is prominently figured in many of their art mediums - ceramics, painting, and ikebana, the traditional Japanese floral design.  In fact, peony and pine is the traditional way to begin the new year:


Why is this flower so popular?  Why do brides love it so?  I think the reasons are many, but first and foremost is the flower shape and style - it’s full and lush, both delicate in its tissuey petals and ripe in its rotund beauty.  This is not a flower for the faint of heart, it’s big and full and in your face.  It’s also almost always scented as well, a clean fresh flowery scent that is rarely cloying or crass. Peonies are widely regarded as a ‘special’ flower, one that isn’t available the year round and only blooms locally in Virginia from late April through the end of June, if we’re lucky.   Tree peonies (there are several types of peonies) bloom first, and these are woody perennial shrubs.  Herbaceous (the most commonly grown for the wholesale market at this point, and the best cuts) bloom next, and come in a wide variety of colors, whites and ivorys, pinks and corals, fuchsias and scarlets.  Our best availability in my zone 7 garden is mid-May.  Overlapping the bloom of the herbaceous peonies are the intersectional peonies, or Itoh hybrids.  This cross between a tree and a herbaceous is a relative newcomer to market, with single plants fetching as much as $150.  They’re amazing in form, with the best of both the herb and tree, and a mature plant can put out as many as 50 blooms the size of dinner plates.  Yellows and golds can be found in the Itohs, a color range missing in straight herbaceous.  These will be the Most Special peonies in coming years, and will command the price tag to prove it.  Since I mentioned price, why are peonies so expensive?  Waiting for three years for plants to produce sellable flowers will cause any grower to add that first three years of no sale onto all the remaining years of sale.  Can you imagine working hard on something for three years before you get reimbursement on your expenses?  

And they’re not the easiest flower to ship - they must be caught just when there’s a bit of color showing in the bud, not too open or they’ll bruise, not too closed or they’ll never open, but just right.  And then swaddled and coddled until they’re shipped/flown to a wholesaler, who in turn swaddles and coddles.  Then to your designer, who unwraps, de-bunches, cuts and rehydrates before designing with them, then to you.  It’s the same for any flower save those that may be cut from your designer/growers garden, but the difference with peonies is they do not like to be handled so much.  Like a prima ballerina, it’s all got to be very gentle and delicate like.  Too much knocking about and she’s going to sulk, and perhaps not perform for you.  Roses are used to the handling and varieties have been bred to handle a little bit of rough and tumble without ill effect.  Not so with peonies, the nature of the blossom prevents it.  So when you see a perfect peony in a bouquet, you should applaud all those in the chain of life that went the extra mile and took extra care to insure your perfect bloom.  
©2015 Cynthia Damico
“But Cynthia,” you say, “I have seen peonies for sale at the supermarket, and in January!”  And so you have, but a little secret:  somewhere in the world, all the time, it’s Spring.  And growers in Chile and Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand, are willing to try and fly those peonies to you.  The Dutch have greenhouses that produce amazing flowers all year.  Those peonies we get out of season are very typically the side shoots and not at all the main peony on the stem.  They’re the buds they cut off to allow the main peony to grow larger.  You may have noticed they’re not the same size as a peony you’ll find in May.  Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you. 

©2015 Cynthia Damico

The absolute best flowers you can ever acquire are from your local gardeners and growers.  There is no flower shipped from across the planet that can hold a candle to one that is grown down the street, they haven’t had the stress of waiting at the airport in a box without water or light.  Don’t get me wrong, I use flowers shipped from all over the world, but would I if I didn’t have to?  Would you?  I’m not such a stickler for using only local ingredients, but I do prefer to use them whenever possible.  

©2015 Cynthia Damico 

Enjoy your peonies whenever they're in bloom, but remember the best are almost always local.

©2015 Cynthia Damico

Looking back to leap ahead - 2015 trends in wedding florals

Happy New Year!  It seems like yesterday I wrote my last blog post, but when I look back at the date, it was March of last year.  Now that is truly a sad thing - so much happens during 'wedding season' and I have failed to keep up with the action.  Not this year!  My resolution this year is to keep a better blog, posting often with things that inspire me, designs I've created, and hopefully some tips and tricks to make your wedding or event flowers perfectly suited to your personality.

2014 was one terrific year at Design In Bloom, with dozens of brides who inspired me.  I very often get asked where my inspiration comes from, and I can unequivocally say it always comes from my brides.  Whether it's a scrap of lace from her Mom's wedding dress, a favorite flower that she shared with her Grandmother, or the color of the sunset from the deck of a battleship on her last tour of duty (no kidding! We love our brides in uniform!), it's always a piece of the life of a bride that gets the creative juices flowing around here.  And while a groom certainly can and very often does have a say in what happens in the design studio, very often it is a tweak on the colors or the finish on his boutonniere that is important to him.  But what most everyone absolutely agrees upon is that fresh flowers create an atmosphere that says something magical is going to happen here.  And isn't that what we strive to create when we plan a wedding?  Something as magical as two people finding each other, falling in love and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.  Talk about inspiration!

Ann & Zan

Hobnail milk glass vases and coral peonies were Ann & Zan's inspiration in April at The Woodlands at Algonkian Park.  The bright crisp colors were perfect for a spring day in Northern Virginia.

Tables were covered with blue linen and an overlay of white lace.  Ann had collected enough milk glass over the years to have several pieces on every table,  each filled with a flower in her color scheme.

David & Jackie

Blue was a hot hot color last spring, and Jacqueline and David used to pop white flowers for their May wedding.  Not wanting to leave a sense of the sacred our of their ceremony, they built a cross to use at the focal point for their lovely ceremony overlooking the 18th hole at The Piedmont Club in Haymarket.

Cindy & Chris
Blush pink and ivory never seem to go out of favor, and for good reason!  It's a classic combination that always looks fresh and bridal.  My bride Cindy loved the juxtaposition of rustic with sparkle, so we created two centerpieces for her - one in a rustic birch box and another with lots of glass and crystal.  

Those are just a few of the weddings we designed for last year, hopefully in the next couple of weeks I will add more of last years' work to perhaps inspire you, and keep me in step with my New Years' Resolution to post!  Some of the most beautiful weddings are yet to come - brides who really stepped outside their comfort zones and took a chance, and it paid off with gorgeous wedding flowers.  

So having meandered a bit back in the past, let's leap ahead to this year - the Pantone Color of the Year is Marsala, a deep rich warm shade of red, tempered with earthy brown and a bit of pomegranate.  I know, I have a tendency to wax a bit poetic when talking about color, but did you get the image?  Think beautiful cordovan Italian made boots, and you've got it.  

How is this affecting weddings???  BERRY!  Berry is bursting onto the scene - in combination with pale pinks and blushes, ivories and greens.  We've always looked to eggplant/aubergine for some richness, but that tends to be a very fall color.  Adding a bit of pink makes it more of an all around color, one that isn't out of place at any time of year.  

GOLD, and all the opulence it denotes, is also making a comeback.  We've been in silver mode for so long, I think it took the reintroduction of mercury glass to really get old, soft gold back into the spotlight.  It is elegant but can be fresh, especially when paired with creamy ivory, or paired with lace.

BLUSH PINK and SILVERY GREENS are nothing new, but they're proving to have real staying power.  Lush and romantic, blush hints at just a bit of naughtiness, it's not quite white, but it's not quite pink.  Silvery greens, like dusty miller and lambs ear, blend colors together nicely, creating harmony in otherwise complicated designs.  I always like to add a bit of this grey green to designs, it leaves your eye with a nice soft place to rest and appreciate the bouquet.  

As for accoutrements, I'm hoping the mason jar has finally made its last appearance.  While I love designing in and for them, I have never felt that they give proper respect to a wedding that is anywhere but in a field or a barn.  They're just not special enough.  Want a nice collected combination of vases on your table?  Let me use something that is a little bit sexier than a jar we use to preserve tomatoes.  How about these?

Same cost as a canning jar (yes, I can work miracles with a budget)…let's use the canning jars for your engagement party or rehearsal dinner.  And we'll wrap them in burlap too.

Hope you're still with me, it's been rather a long blog.  I resolutely resolve to keep on writing, stay tuned for more inspiration, but in the mean time, buy yourself a bunch of flowers!


Using 'seasonal' flowers for your event - pros and cons

It's the most wonderful time of the year for a flowerista!  Spring is when the earth wakes from a long slumber, and the first signs of life are already with us - the witch hazels are done blooming, the first crocus are here, the miniature iris in full swing, and the hellebores just starting to show buds.  And love is in the air!  Engagement season is here, with holiday brides beginning to search for venues and photographers, and bridal shows every weekend.  Inevitably, almost every single one of my potential brides asks, "What flowers will be in season for my wedding?" and "Can I save money using local and seasonal flowers?"

In bloom today in my garden:

'Tutu' hellebore

'Spring Beauty' crocus
'Gordon' iris reticulata

Because of the miraculous network of transportation in place around the world, the concept of 'seasonal' flowers is almost non-existent.  We can get tulips in July and peonies in December.  The question to ask yourself is what those flowers will look like having flown from the other side of the planet, where they are in season since it's summer there.  And will the cost of that plane ride fit into your budget?

Using local and seasonal flowers is a wonderful idea, but it may require a readjustment in your expectations.   For example, December through February, brides in Northern Virginia might expect to carry a bouquet of magnolia leaves and holly berry, with pine and spruce, coral colored dogwood branches and perhaps an anemone or two from a greenhouse.  Blossoms this time of year are small and delicate, not lending themselves to use in any but the smallest and most delicate of bouquets.

March sees the first daffodils and tulips, April is the month of more blooming bulbs, ranunculus, poppy,  and then WHAM! May hits and the world of flowers opens up its arms and wants to hug you.  Peonies, lilacs, alliums, the first roses, early bloom perennials are everywhere, and the party continues into June. When our heat really gets going in July, the sunflowers and zinnias heat up as well, and the herbs come online, rosemary for remembrance, basil for warm thoughts, feverfew for cheerfulness.  August and September through frost sees a second flush of perennials and the dahlias.  Oh the dahlias!  October and November see grasses and other dried materials boosting bouquets, and the hoop houses come back into production to extend the season.

Some of the most beautiful designs I've ever assembled have been products of seasonal flowers that I grew, or picked up at one of our local farms.

Duchess de Nemours peony, feathery astilbe, the bells of leucojum, and freesia all framed                                               with June hosta leaves and all from local gardens,  with variegated pittosporum from Florida

blue bachelor's button and 'Cosmopolitan' miscanthus grass from my garden and                                                                     the common weed, peppergrass, from the rocky strip in front of our house

local zinnias, dahlias, gomphrena, craspedia, northern sea oats and St. John's wort, with a touch of California roses in a beautiful orange and clear yellow (Tropical Amazon and Skyline)
Isn't local beautiful?

So what are the pros?  Supporting local growers, unbelievably fresh and bright product, lower overall cost (you're not paying for the plane ride!), and the ability to have an organic and sustainably produced material.  Does anything taste better than a tomato pulled from your own garden?  It's the same with flowers.  **A note about lower cost**  Most locally grown seasonal product is a less expensive alternative than something shipped from California or South America, but high cost flowers, peonies for example, are a more expensive product whether flown in or grown here.

Cons?  The biggest is your choice of flowers and greens is limited to what's in season and available.  But if you want the freshest, most vibrant flowers with a completely natural feel, choose local and seasonal.  If you're not willing to completely hand over your flower plan to what's seasonal where you are, mix and match with what's commercially available, combining the best of both worlds.

Colors of Autumn

Happy Holidays!  It's true - another year has gone by and we're again facing the most wonderful time of the year.  In honor of the timing of this post, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I thought a little autumn was in order before we completely turn things over to the red and green, silver and gold of the Christmas season.

Molly & Scott were a terrific couple to work with, and their late October wedding was a beautiful testament to the season.  The backdrop was The Piedmont Club in Haymarket, which was particularly glorious on that fall day.

The bridal bouquet was a blend of sherbet-y orange and smokey peaches, Free Spirit and Freedom roses with a rich mango red mini calla, green hypericum, dark red dahlias and a little curly willow for accent.  The dahlias and curly willow were both grown at local farms.

The boutonnieres and corsages were a mix of the best the season had to offer, including panicum grass seed plumes and locally grown wheat.  Pearls and preserved oak leaves added a bit of class and whimsy.

The ceremony took place on the back patio overlooking the 18th hole.  The sky was incredibly blue that day and the grass amazingly green. 

This ceremony setup is a perfect example of not needing to spend a ton of cash to get a special look.  The designs, mums and pumpkins were re-used during the reception as well.

The cake was a beautiful confection and done so well with fall detail.  We supplied the pumpkins and topper - isn't it amazing how a little bit of attention to detail can tell a story?

Centerpiece containers were ceramic pumpkins with lids - a perfect find for this beautiful day.

 My clever couple loves dogs, and their dogs were with them on their big table numbers!  What a lovely was to personalize the centerpieces.

Any time you can coordinate the colors of your event with the timing of natural season surrounding you, it's almost impossible not to hit a home run, it just feels like a celebration.

From our family to yours, hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  Don't forget the flowers!

Inspirational Spring

As a gardener and one who makes her living with flowers, Spring is my favorite time of year.  The promise of another gardening season filled with a riot of color, fragrance and work!  Yes, it's true, I look forward to the work as much as I look forward to reaping the rewards.  It's very soul satisfying when you uncover a bunch of bouquets you're delivering and the Mother of the Bride quickly and loudly takes a breath in surprise and delight, and starts to tear up a little (true story, happened this weekend).  It's just as satisfying, but in a more earthy all-about-me way when I can sit with a beverage after that delivery, in my garden, and appreciate a job well done (while noticing the edging, weeding, and planting that still has to happen).  Spring is a time of promise, when the entire wedding and gardening year is before you, and you just know it's going to be a great year!

Here's some of the work we've already accomplished this year, starting early in February, when the hellebores were just starting to bloom..... 

First of the garden bloom, the hellebore 'Tutu

bridesmaids bouquets, ready for delivery
a wild spring wedding

Doesn't Kristy look gorgeous on her wedding day?

beautiful combination of green spider mums, hypericum, pink spray roses, pink and orange gerbera and standard orange and hot pink roses  

lovely table number, designed by the bride - the perfect compliment to her centerpieces!

Easter flowers at River Creek Club

Ceremony flowers for Andrea and Drew

boutonnieres of Malibu and Tangerine, ready for action

bridesmaid bouquets were select blue hydrangea, white and orange germini with Orange Unique roses

the bridal bouquet - Orange Unique and Escimo roses with white and orange germinis, thistle, and amazing blue hydrangea from Holland

The Martha Effect

I love Martha Stewart and reading the newest issue of Weddings very often inspires and informs.  She’s so crafty!  BUT, she’s also not at all interested in keeping within a reasonable budget for your wedding.  One of the recent issues has Blake Lively’s bouquet on it from her wedding to Ryan Reynolds.  Oo la la!  It’s masterpiece - lush garden blooms in pale colors accented by jasmine vines and a beautiful duchesse satin vintage ribbon.  $300, easy, probably more.  If this is your budget, great!  I’d love to re-create this for you.  If you want to avoid the Martha Effect, be open to floral substitutions that will mimic the design, without costing a fortune.  Your bouquet is one area where you should get what you want, but you shouldn’t need a second mortgage to do it.  
I found this similar bouquet while Googling for Images.  Its design is attributed to Flowers by Fudgie out of Sarasota, Florida.  You’ll notice the same overall feel and texture to the bouquet, colors are pretty close, and some ‘gourmet’ blooms are used, but it’s not all about them.  Pale pink lisianthus, white freesia, pink spray roses and pink hydrangea are at its base, the texture comes from spray of waxflower, seeded eucalyptus and bupleurum.  At somewhere between $125 and $150, it’s half the price as well.  
One thing I'd add to help 'ritz' up this bouquet is a few fully opened roses in a rich color that compliments, but doesn't match the pink, the same way the Martha staff has.  One of my favorite roses to use that opens fully in this color is 'Finesse :

Simply popping in a few of these lovelies would add interest and a little warmth, not to mention your photographer will thank you for adding a contrast in color.  

So the next time you've picked up a copy of Weddings, or Brides, or any other publication with a nice fat floral bouquet on the cover, remember they probably didn't have a budget for the photo shoot.  If you're smart and work with a flower expert, you can have that same look, without the huge price tag.  

Open House at The Piedmont Club

This past Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the Private Event Open House at The Piedmont Club in Haymarket, Virginia.  It's a lovely venue with the Clubhouse overlooking the golf course and multiple patios that make ceremonies and cocktail hours special (you should see their new patio sets, gorgeous!  Fire pits included!).  I love to participate in these 'bridal shows' as they give me a chance to meet so many brides and talk about my favorite subject for hours.  It's always inspiring to hear what brides are planning, and perhaps interject a thought or two to help them along with the process.

Since the budget for flowers and decor can be so daunting - I put together a little handout of the designs we brought to the party, and the cost for them as designed.  This was handed out to anyone who came to have a chat with me (and some couples that I foisted it upon!) with the caveat that these prices are variable - as with most things in life, we can scale it back and make it fit your budget, or we can pimp that design!

Say hello and welcome!  The perfect spot to splurge a little and set the tone for your event is the entry or foyer.  Crystals and white dendrobium orchids adorn silver curly willow with iridescent butterfly accents.  (With this picture, I sincerely wish I were a better photographer as my angle does not do the design any justice.)  This design $125, with rentals.

Blush & Ivory
A soft and romantic design full of hydrangea and mini gerbera daisies.  A classic.  Notice the marabou collar and the tufts of white feather with aurora borealis rhinestone detail.  This design $110.


Soft Copper & Navy
The elegance of champagne is never lost and this design speaks to that.  Hand turned copper wire accents and big ole sparkly broach round out the design.  This design $65.

Gold & Aubergine
Recalling crisp autumn days, this color combination is perfect for an event during the harvest season or change up the colors and go any season!  Butterfly detail is sweet and a nice unexpected touch. This design $100.

Pure & Peacock
Drama always occurs when you have a bold color and white.  Uplight the room in teal and get the party started!  This design $85.


The “B” Word

Understanding the cost of wedding flowers can be difficult, especially when you see beautiful bouquets in the grocery store for $10!  Here are some insights on why the cost is what it is, and how you can best utilize your floral budget.
Fresh flowers add a special touch to any occasion, and  are perhaps seen the ultimate expression of extravagance when planning an event.  
Use One Flower for Savings
You love hydrangea?  Roses?  Great!  The more blooms you use of one type of flower, the greater your cost savings in the long run.  Bulk discounts come to your florist when she/he uses cases and boxes of blooms, so be savvy and get those savings passed on to you.  Every time you add one more different type of flower to an event, you don’t buy just one bloom, you very often buy an entire bunch.  If all those blooms can be used, great!  If not, you’ve just paid for something you’re not using.  Not great.
Be Reasonable About Color
If I had a nickel for every discussion on ‘pink’ I’ve ever had, I could retire today.  Flowers are living things and their growing conditions very often influence their final shade.  If you absolutely have to have a particular color, like your shoes, you’re going to have to dye it and hope for the best.  Of course, this comes at a price.  To avoid the must match problem, use different tones and shades within one color to have designs that ‘go’ rather than ‘match.’
Don’t be a Flower Snob
Carnations have come a long way, baby!  The underdog workhorse of the flower world is back and bigger (and more colorful!) than ever.  Designed with an eye toward modern trends, they can be a wonderfully budget friendly flower.  Mums can also add a full and glamorous feel to a design if used well, and again, budget friendly!  
Most Importantly.....
Work with a reputable local floral designer, hopefully one specializing in events and one who is a Certified Wedding Specialist <hint, hint>, to come up with a reasonable and workable floral plan for your event, and then....the hard part...stick to it!