notes from an autumn gone wild

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.  ~Albert Camus

packing up the car to the gills for a fall wedding w peicha

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. ~ Henry David Thoreau

pumpkin scouting at linvilla

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.  ~George Eliot

wreath by peicha of falls flowers

The fall has been a busy one, with big changes in my personal life, a scary family illness, my very first independent floral job, and competing at a national sporting event. I’ve also been working with Peicha of falls flowers on the weekends, helping her do wedding designs, and it’s really been very eye-opening and fun.

Peicha creates a bridal bouquet using garden roses, white dahlias, lady’s mantle, hydrangea, and eryngium

This particular wedding reception was in a bride’s home, which made it very special.  Here bride Gillian is holding her bouquet.  She was calm and happy, and totally stunning!

I had the most excellent time creating a garland for the railing in the foyer using a multitude of beautiful materials, like amaranth, dahlia, eryngium, roses, hydrangea, kiwi vine, and more.  They are little bowers or bundles of flowers that I wired together, then attached to the leaf garland which we wound with large ribbon.

This was so fun to make!

Check out the falls flower blog post on this beautiful wedding!  Somehow a picture of me doing disco got included.  Cuz you should be having fun in life.

I’ve also been back at Longwood Gardens, taking floral design classes in order to complete my certificate.  I was so excited to finally take a class from the impeccably organized Cres Motzi…this class was Creating a Statement – Grand Designs. In this class Cres really showed us some great ideas especially for how the mechanics of large arrangements work.

Cres Motzi creates a grid using tape over the mouth of this large glass container, then adds branches

It’s great to create these large arrangements – but how on earth do you transport them? Cres had a good idea about using 2 milk crates, with the bottom cut out of one and then zip tied together to transport this big guy.

Cres adds greens, rose hips and kale. it’s getting grander by the minute!

When it comes our turn to play, we are arranged in groups of 3 since there are 2 large designs to make.  I was more than lucky to find myself alongside Melissa, a wonderful person I met back at Lilies and Lavender.  This year is a very exciting one for her as she creates a floral business at her home.  More developments on this to come, because obviously we get along really well.

melissa is in my group creating some grand designs

melissa and i having fun together

Our Grand Design – atriplex, italian ruscus, amaranth, hydrangea, peach stock, leucodendron, safflower, alstromeria, etc

Okay, so the Grand design we created had an intended recipient – my dad at the hospital.  He was having issues with his innards and would require surgery a few days later.  But after really looking at the above design I felt that it was too funereal.  So, I ripped it apart, and using other materials both from the garden and from the extra flowers we got at class, I created this little fall basket full of love.  I wasn’t able to snap a great picture of it, too much in a hurry to see my dad.

‘get well’ basket for dad – roses, lilies, nandina berries, atriplex, hydrangea, stock, amaranth, some anemone from the garden (oh these don’t last by the way), fennel seed from garden, alstro, and grass flower heads

After he recovered and was on his way out of the hospital, I was glad to hear that he gave the basket to his excellent team of nurses as a thank you! (Next, I created floral awards for a sporting ceremony…that need to be blogged in their own separate post coming right up.)

Surrounded by flowers…a good thing to be

Through all of the craziness of moving, worrying about my dad, driving all over tarnation, flowers have kept me sane.  I believe that creating/designing with flowers is part of my recipe for personal success.  I am somewhere between avocation and vocation…where will this path lead?

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fall table design

I’m back at Longwood, taking floral design electives until some of the meatier courses resume in October.  Everything is happening in October.  Well, and November too.

Anyway, it was so nice to be back in Jane Godshalk’s classroom, where everything is right with the world.  Jane is a phenomenal teacher, and I can’t say enough lovely things about her without seeming like a gushing fool…but really.  Jane does it right.  Her ability to select materials that create foolproof combinations is spot on, and her directions are easy to follow and inspiring.  It’s not just “boom, put it in the container, you’re done.” There is a thoughtfulness and precision to floral design; and if your materials become unwieldy, Jane will help you tame them with such a grace, you almost want to simply watch her do all the floral design. But, it is too fun not to play yourself, especially with all the Fall Bounty in front of us!

Wire each leaf onto two wires which will become a garland that you drape throughout the design

For this class, we’re creating a natural table design in a woven basket with a plastic liner.  One of the main ingredients is a garland made of preserved oak leaves that we wire together ourselves while Jane shows us the rest.  It’s busy work you can do while you’re watching TV, and it gets my creative juices flowing, thinking about all the cool autumn possibilities (can you say: Thanksgiving table-scaping?!) We have our choice with the mechanics – either use floral foam (no thanks) or balled up chicken wire in which the stems will rest. While the floral foam is easier to work with – you just stick your stem in and you’re done – the chicken wire is re-usable.  It’s worth the extra effort in my opinion. Just be sure to fill it up with water!

Jane begins by adding greens – I have to apologize for my bad camerawork during this class, I was too mesmerized by all the floral treasures.

Jane starts by adding greens, making a nice, natural base, using Italian ruscus, olive and even some fragrant bay leaf if you like.  (Note to self: I love bay.  Maybe this is something I could use for the NAOC award head garlands.  More on this later!!)  She then adds the bigger flowers like hydrangeas.  Some of our hydrangeas are so huge, we can divide them and have more.  Hydrangeas are a really important flower in floral design, I’m learning, because not only do they come in such great colors (and change color as well,) they help take up some real estate while actually adding a certain lightness to your design.  They really help tie everything together, especially this variety in the light green color with some muted rose to the edges of it, it’s just delicious.

She adds ‘Coffee Break’ Roses, ‘Red Rover’ mums, and then it’s time for the sunflowers.  Sunflowers are hard to work with – they are just so singular, they pop out so much, that they really need to be placed just perfectly.  If you put them side by side, and they have the dark centers, they look like eyes staring out of your design.  Not good.  So play with the way you angle them, group them together but have the heads pointing slightly different directions…or just watch Jane and learn from the master.  We also have millet, amaranth, broom corn, bittersweet, and asclepias to play with!  Our designs are overflowing with possibility, and the colors are so autumnal.

Hey! Isn’t that Kate Sparks from Lilies and Lavender?? Yes it is…and she’s a natural at this…

Patti’s design incorporates bittersweet vine beautifully

A newcomer to the floral design world leaves with a smile on her face

I was a little out of practice, I’ll admit! It took me a little while to get going.  I ended up giving this natural fall table design to my brother and sister-in-law for a party they were hosting, so it went to good use.  However I neglected to get pictures with my ‘good camera.’

My fall table design

My fall table design at home

It’s so great to be back in class!

the meaning of floral design?

roses in for VDAY at falls flowers shop

“In floral design, there is no better teacher than the flower itself.  This is the essential maxim.  In a flower’s perfection, we instinctively recognize the infinite creativity and wisdom of nature.  By looking closely at each flower, we take the first step in discovering how best to display its beauty, arrange its placement, and find possible companions in a floral design.” – Alisa A. de Jong-Stout, in A Master Guide to The Art of Floral Design, a book I checked out of the Swarthmore library.  The book our Longwood teacher recommends is $180…so, I think I’ll wait on that one.

helleborus 'snow bunting' at scott arboretum mmmmmmm

I think in picking up this book, I was hoping to get some answers on what floral design really means.  I want it to be meaningful.  I think I struggle with its meaning somewhat because I know plants better as they are growing, alive, with roots in the ground.  For me, plants/flowers take on an almost spiritual cast while in their natural state – they are to be observed, identified and photographed, in a worshipful way.  Before I read this book and started this learning program, I had this somewhat disdainful view of the floral industry – that floral design is just nature’s wannabe imitation, that making bouquets is sort of cheating when the real work is in growing things.  But now I think I feel differently – we can learn from the flower whether it’s in the ground or in the vase – marvel at its patterns and form and color.  You can respect the biological side of things and at the same time appreciate the art of the flower while its in a jar.   And I’m loving the artiness of it all!  Because, you know, according to Ms. de Jong-Stout, “cutting a flower outdoors to display indoors was conceivably the first and most basic of all artistic impulses.”

parrot tulips

“Abstraction is the defining quality of floral design.  Even botanical compositions, which emphasize the specific identities of the plant material involved, contain an element of abstraction. Simply taking a bloom out of its original environment dilutes its botanical purity, which is why a floral design can never completely duplicate nature. As abstraction increases, inherent qualities of shape, form, or color, independent of floral identity come forward.  Yet a design can never be purely abstract because its foundation is a living flower.  …Success can only come to those who take the time to read the flower and benefit from its incredible wisdom in design.  Respect for the natural essence and character of our medium assures its identity will be preserved, even in abstract compositions.”

bouquet by Peicha

Happy Valentine’s Day!