A BEAUTIFUL GREEN AND WHITE WEDDING IN NORTHERN VIRGINIA HUNT COUNTRYRead More
JOY on your wedding dayRead More
Our recent work at The Piedmont Club Private Events Open HouseRead More
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.
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.
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 cleaning...you’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.***
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 ChapelDesigners.com. 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
The Power of the Peony
|©2015 Cynthia Damico|
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|
|©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|
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
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.
In bloom today in my garden:
|'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)|
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.
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.
Centerpiece containers were ceramic pumpkins with lids - a perfect find for this beautiful day.
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!
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|
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!
The “B” Word
Disclaimer: my talents do not run to photography (I'm taking a class to fix that) so unless otherwise noted, all pictures have been taken by myself or one of my fabulous co-conspirators.