Ladies Hat Day at the Devon Horse Show

Ladies Hat Day competitors and winners with Carson Kressley (judge) photo by Brenda Carpenter

Ladies Hat Day winners with Carson Kressley (judge) photo by Brenda Carpenter

Heard of the Devon Horse Show? If you’re from the Philadelphia area, you have!  It’s been around since 1896, when it began as a way for the newly migrated wealthy business men of the Main Line to discuss the need of better horses for their vehicles.  In 1919, it was decided a Country Fair should be held in conjunction with the horse show, and that the event should benefit Bryn Mawr Hospital.  Women were gaining their rights all over the country and with the Country Fair, they proved their strength and organizational skills with a successful fundraiser that to date has raised almost 14 million dollars!

Ms. Betty Moran at Information booth, one of the many volunteers

Ms. Betty Moran at Information booth, one of the many volunteers, photo by Devon Horse Show on Facebook

To this day, the Devon Horse show still raises money for Bryn Mawr Hospital, and one of the Country Fair Special Events that contributes to that donation is the Ladies Day event, where elegant ladies don their best hats to compete for Best of Devon, Most Fascinating, Best Hat to Toe, and Best in Show.  This year’s theme was “Ribbons and Pearls,” and was held on May 28th.

But wait, where's the lady?

But wait, where’s the lady?

In addition to all the voluminous chapeaus, the Ladies Day event features floral centerpieces donated by area floral designers such as VF Flowers, Beautiful Blooms, Robertsons, Cottage Flowers, Fleur, and…Roots to Blooms! (That’s me.)  Our centerpieces would be displayed in the preferred seating tent with a luncheon included, and then moved to the blue room where the box holders have dinner.

Preferred seating and Luncheon area displaying floral centerpieces in hat boxes

Preferred seating and Luncheon area displaying floral centerpieces in hat boxes

I was contacted by the lovely and energetic Karen Meehan to be a part of this event, and was thrilled to participate in the hat box challenge.  Here were a few of the other hat box designs:

Robertson's design

Robertson’s design

Heather, from Cottage Gardens

Heather, from Cottage Flowers in Malvern, chose delphiniums, clematis, and peonies; and mossed the hat box herself.  This was my favorite design as I love the more ‘gardeny’ feel.

Juliet roses in this peachy display

‘Juliet’ garden roses in this peachy display!

I chose to visit my local Peony grower, Eleanor Tickner, for the bulk of my floral material, as it is peak peony season and not only was this a cost effective choice, but an eco-friendly one as well.  You just show up with a bucket and get your stems ($1.50/stem and up.) Everything is in full swing right now at A Peony Garden in Glen Mills, and with the help of Eleanor’s daughter Butch, I was able to cut many varieties including Red Charm, Raspberry Charm, Battle Flag, Coral Charm, Do Tell, and Festiva Maxima, to name a few. The peonies are well grown, well loved, and enchanting to say the least!

Me with my peony design (thanks Heather!)

Me with my peony design (thanks for snapping this, Heather!)

My design using peonies with a little hat netting

Mine got to sit at the judges’ table!

First, I lined the hat box (bought from Amazon) with plastic, added a thicker plastic liner, and yes, I had to use floral foam for this.  There was no way around it.  After doweling together my foam, which rose three to four inches higher than the lip of the box, I added the base foliage of dusty miller and variegated pittosporum… and then I just kept adding peonies.  It was a delicious experience to work with so many peonies (the white peony edged with pinky/red ‘Festiva Maxima’ has the most wonderful fragrance!) I added filler such as nigella, blue cornflower, Queen Anne’s lace, some spray rose and a few fronds of maidenhair fern.  I tucked a few black feathers in for accent, as well as some lacey hat netting and some black bows and a few pearl thingamabobs.

25 peonies all in one hat box, with pittosporum, nigella, cornflower, waxflower, dusty miller and queen anne's lace

My design used twenty five peonies all in one hat box

All in all, I was pleased with the result and think I will definitely do more hat box designing in the future!  I couldn’t have done it without my trusty assistant Julie, and wouldn’t have been included if it hadn’t been for Karen.  Thanks, you guys! I hope to participate next year.  It was so much fun, and all for a good cause!  Three cheers for Ladies Hat Day.

Karen, Devon volunteer extraordinaire, and my trusty drop-off assistant Julie

Karen, Devon volunteer extraordinaire, and my trusty drop-off assistant Julie

The Devon Horse Show and Country fair will continue throughout the rest of the weekend and there are lots of cool exhibitions and vendors to check out.

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Mother’s Day Jars Of Love

This Mother’s Day was a real miracle, from the moment I was commissioned to create these “Jars of Love,” to the hour we spent delivering them.  To all those who donated your money or time, you are part of this incredible story of giving!

A couple weeks ago, Emily Malloy of falls flowers was contacted by the Little Sisters of the Poor.  They were looking to get Mother’s Day floral designs for the low-income, high-risk residents of Holy Family Home, an assisted living facility in Philadelphia, PA.  When the shop was unable to accommodate the request due to the high volume of Mother’s Day, Peicha, the owner of falls flowers, contacted me. (I used to work there and do freelance work now.)  A few email chains later, and we realized that there really was not enough money in the budget for what they were asking for.  So – sitting at home on my couch later that night, wishing I really could do this work, an idea came to me:  we could just raise the money through social networking, and then the residents would get their flowers for Mother’s Day!  Peicha and Emily pitched in, and with the help of our families and friends, we ended up raising $988 – more than what was needed for the wrist corsages they wanted!! So the plan changed to create 50 mason jars filled with a lovely assortment of floral material.  And I had a lot of work to do.

Finished "jars of love" ready to be delivered

Finished “jars of love” ready to be delivered: lilies, larkspur, ranunculus, roses, waxflower

After picking up materials through Peicha’s wholesale connection, the 50 Jars of Love were completed over two days.  When it was nearing time to deliver, I got a call from the home – there was a miscommunication along the way, and they needed 80 designs, not 50!  Uh oh.  I had been meditating earlier that morning and decided my mantra for the day was to “be in the moment.”  Well, for the next hour while I divided materials out of the completed designs to create 30 more, there was nowhere else to be!  This is where some angels came in and made the rest of the story happen.

Todd and his son Ryan flew in from above to help load and deliver designs

Todd and his son Ryan flew in from above to help load and deliver designs – THANK YOU!!!

Captain Mac (my Dad) lent his car, his strength, and his support

Captain Mac (my Dad) lent his car, his strength, and his smiling support

Riding in our little caravan on the way to Holy Family Home, my Dad and I singing along to old songs, with Todd and his son Ryan following behind us in their fabulously huge vehicle, I knew the best part of all was about to happen.

Riding the elevator to give out the Mother's Day flowers

Riding the elevator to give out the Mother’s Day flowers

When we arrived we were greeted by the smiling faces of the Sisters of the Poor, including Elizabeth Ann who hails from the Boston area.  She got us carts and we made the trip up the elevator to stop at every floor and give out our floral jars to the residents while they were eating lunch.

Sister Elizabeth Ann distributing arrangements

Sister Elizabeth Ann distributing arrangements

You will not believe how tickled the female residents of Holy Family Home were when they received their flowers!  Here are a few pictures from the delivery:

 

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Dad chatting up the ladies

Dad chatting up the ladies

The last woman I handed an arrangement to was Margie.  She is 102 years old.  When I asked her the secret to her longevity, she replied, “It’s all in God’s hands.”

Margie, 102 years young

Margie, 102 years young

There are many people to thank for their generosity in making our charity project happen, including Todd, Ryan, my Dad, Peicha, Emily, and all of our donors (last names omitted for privacy): Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Joseph K., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M., Penny B., Julie S., Dan B., Eunice F, Elvira G., and Sandy F. I should also thank my own mother who was an example of giving.  I think she would be happy that we did good for the ladies at Holy Family Home.

Sister Elizabeth Ann and her garden - come back and visit!

Sister Elizabeth Ann and her “gah-den” – COME VISIT ANYTIME!

This could be an annual tradition, don’t you think? Let’s do it again next year.  Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Mother’s Day, Here We Come

Well I’m so excited…thanks to all of your kind donations, I was able to order some lovely materials, and Peicha of falls flowers helped me procure them.  As you know, I’m creating 50 Mother’s Day designs for the ladies over at Holy Family Home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia.  The nuns didn’t have enough money in the kitty for flowers this year, so we raised it ourselves, and you guys came through bigtime.  I can’t wait to get started!

Peicha and her lovely daughter Naima get the positive vibes going!

Peicha and her lovely daughter Naima get the positive Mother’s Day vibes going!

It was great to be back at falls flowers today, picking up our materials for this weekend.  I got: lilies, larkspur, ranunculus, stock, waxflower, rose, and artemisia, to name a few.

Mother's Day Flowers after processing - condition for a day

Mother’s Day Flowers after processing – conditioning for a day on my enclosed porch

I processed them (re-cut the stems, took off any leaves below the water line) and stored them on my enclosed porch.  I’ll make the designs over the next few days, hopefully with some help from my dog Larry.

King Larry presides over the floral realm

King Larry presides over the floral realm

Did I tell you, we raised at total of $988!!  Here’s our most updated Hero List of awesome donors (last names omitted for privacy): Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Joseph K., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M., Penny B., Julie S., Dan B., Eunice F, Elvira G., and Sandy F.  Thank you everyone.  You’re the best.

Ranunculus Smiles

I’ll leave you with some ranunculus smiles xoxoxoxo

Mother’s Day Will Rock This Year!

I am speechless. Stunned.  What an outpouring of support for our little idea!  This Mother’s Day, the 50 residents at Holy Family Home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia are going to be receiving some gorgeous designs, thanks to all 24 of you who found it in your hearts to donate.  We received donations from $10 up to $200, and each one counts!  Our total amount raised is $938.  Can you believe it???

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Our Donation Hero List (last names omitted for privacy): Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Joseph K., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M., Penny B., Julie S., Dan B., and Eunice F. 

'Do Tell' Peony

I can’t wait to get started ordering materials (extravagant wonderful things) and planning the designs with our ladies over at falls flowers!  If there are those out there who still want to be a part of our project, feel free to click this link:  DONATE.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity. However, we do have enough to make some lovely things!  I am so touched by the generosity of others.  Stay tuned for the next update, and thank you again.

Mother’s Day Flowers – Donations Update

Thank you to the 19 people who have donated to our Mother’s Day Flower Project so far. Your generosity is stunning, and will make a big statement to the 50 elderly residents of Holy Family Home, run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Philadelphia. We’ve received Paypal donations from family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances we’ve only met a few times.    It was my sister Amy and her husband John who brought us over the $500 mark! Right now, at $563, we have enough to make some simple wrist corsages.  If we get more, we can give these elderly residents something really over-the-top!

combos2Our Donations Hero List, last names omitted for privacy:  Motria L., Aaron B., Elizabeth C., Shannon O., Jen S., Amy K., Walter B., Emily M., Carolyn D., Josh L., Lise N., Mandy G., Mary F., Emily M., Vincent T., Jason H., Michael B., Joseph K., Amy K. (2nd time!), and Rebecca M.

We are still accepting donations! Please visit the Paypal site by clicking this link: DONATE.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity.  Even just a few dollars will go continue a long way.  

I’ll leave you with some quotes on mothers, who all deserve flowers on Mother’s Day:

  • A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.  –Tenneva Jordan
  • All mothers are working mothers. –Author Unknown
  • Sweater, n.: garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly. –Ambrose Bierce
  • Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. –Oprah Winfrey
  • Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met. –Marguerite Duras
  • There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids. –Stephen King
  • Most mothers are instinctive philosophers. –Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. — Abraham Lincoln

Help Give Elderly Residents a Great Mother’s Day

The Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home in Philadelphia does something special for each of their 50 elderly residents each year: they purchase wrist corsages in celebration of Mother’s Day.  But this year, they don’t have the money to do it.

Residents at Holy Family HOme

Residents at Holy Family Home, from their website

Peicha and Emily of falls flowers, the fabulous flower shop in East Falls where I used to work, wanted to collaborate with me on making them since their shop is already so busy. Because the Sisters don’t have the budget to commission us at a regular price, or even enough to cover the flowers, we decided to raise money and give these residents a great Mother’s Day!  And that’s where you come in.  We only have two weeks until Mother’s Day, and depending upon how much you’re able to share, we can give them small or large wrist corsages dripping with roses, ranunculus, and other accent flowers.  If we raise even more, they could each get a small bouquet!

bouquet created by peicha chang of falls flowers

Won’t you share your generosity and give some low-income elderly women a great Mother’s Day?

DONATE ON PAYPAL TO CREATE ONE-OF-A-KIND FLORAL DESIGNS FOR THE RESIDENTS AT LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR ON MOTHER’S DAY!

We need donations in the next week so we can then plan the acquisition of materials and do the labor.  We will only use these funds to create floral designs for these residents, and if we receive excess of what we need to do so, the money will be contributed directly to Holy Family Home via me, Ann MacMullan.  You will receive a Paypal receipt that can be used as a tax deductible donation to charity.  Even just a few dollars will go a long way.

The blog will feature updates, how much we raise and how much we spend, photos of the process/making the flowers, and then the delivery of the flowers and hopefully the delighted residents receiving them!  Lend a hand, and spread some beauty!

Art in Bloom

Imagine a work of art that’s come to life…in flowers.  The colors, textures, lines, and emotional energy of the painting or sculpture are all interpreted in the floral design, displayed next to the artwork itself.

Warning by Jimmy Ernst, 1960

A spot-on floral translation of the painting Warning by Jimmy Ernst, 1960                                 Photo by Laura Blanchard

That was the challenge for 45 national floral designers and 15 garden clubs during the first weekend in April at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts – and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

This floral designer showed unbelievable mastery over her material.

This floral designer showed unbelievable mastery over her material.

With the inaugural PAFA in Bloom event, a breath of fresh air blew into the 138-year old Historic Landmark Building.  Sixty diverse floral designs, from the diminutive to the dominating, were placed carefully throughout the building, and an echo was sounded between paint and bloom.  (Or in some cases, marble.)

Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii

One of my favorite floral designs, depicting Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompeii by Randolph Rogers c.1853 – Marble

So, how does one go about tackling a floral interpretation?  This was the question I asked myself months before the exhibit.  It was my first time doing something like this and I was more than a little intimidated by the scope of the project.  First I had to study the work of art, which in my case was a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman done by Thomas Eakins in 1887.  

My lovely sister-in-law Juliet and I took a trip to PAFA to get an idea of how large a space I'd have to fill and see Walt close up.

My lovely sister-in-law Juliet and I took a trip to PAFA to get an idea of how large a space I’d have to fill and see Walt close up.  Here, she shows how large the pedestal will be.

I started thinking about colors: brown, sage, slate; white, grey; peach. I decided I wanted the container to represent his body, and the design to be symbolic of the painting’s content rather than a recreation.  There were some very specific rules about what materials we could and could not use, with the emphasis on using fresh material as opposed to wood and fabrics like wool which could harbor damaging insects.  You could still use those items, if you fumigated and/or dry-cleaned them, but I didn’t really want to add any steps to the process, and wanted to keep my design as simple as possible.  To me, the energy of the painting is male, vital, and merry; and with that white collar my mind went instantly to calla lilies; a perfect representation of Walt’s joie de vivre.  His gnarled quality might be echoed by a branch of some kind.  The greys and whites of his beard could be items like spanish moss, dusty miller, and I loved the idea of using a big air plant – Tillandsia xerographica – as a focal point.

I ended up picking out my Calla lilies personally at Del Val Wholesale, with the help of Carol Taylor. These were locally grown and the most deliciously huge callas you will ever find!!

I ended up picking out my Calla lilies personally at Del Val Wholesale, with the help of Carol Taylor. These were locally grown and the most deliciously huge callas you will ever find!!

Picking up materials from DV Flora was an exciting part of the process, because I got to see behind-the-scenes of the largest wholesale floral operation in our area, and meet some of the friendly and helpful staff who were topnotch to work with. Thanks, DV! After gathering all my materials, I did a mock design first; borrowing the perfect container from my friend Jane (her basement is a designer’s dream come true)! I was really happy with the outcome, but could I replicate my design on the spot, at PAFA, on the day of the installation? I was incredibly nervous about that part, but luckily I had a huge help from my sister-in-law Juliet (who is a talented architect.)  This short video shot by Juliet shows the scene at PAFA the morning of the preview party.  There was also a cameraman from FOX news there, to add to the excitement!  

Then it was time to place the design upstairs on the pedestal.  We wheeled Walt’s floral counterpart up to see if it stacked up next to the real Walt.

Making some last minute tweaks to my design...having trouble 'walking away'...photo by Juliet

Making some last minute tweaks to my design…having trouble ‘walking away’…photo by Juliet

In the end, I was pleased with our efficiency in getting in and out of PAFA, because my design really only had a few materials in it (I had created the base of galax and some spanish moss the day before.)  Thank you Juliet for rocking this day with me!  

Getting friendly with Walt

Getting friendly with Walt

Then, it was on to the Preview Party, a gala affair attended by those in support of PAFA in Bloom.  It was so exciting to see all the fresh faced designers and my floral friends Peicha, Valerie and Jane in one place..and to watch people looking at my design!  Here are some photos from the evening:

Jane takes a closer look at an intriguing design

Jane takes a closer look at an intriguing design

Peicha is in the house! With Naima, quite a masterpiece herself.

Peicha is in the house! With Naima, quite a masterpiece herself.

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos as interpreted by Peicha Chang of falls flowers

Ariadne Asleep on the Island of Naxos as interpreted by Peicha Chang of falls flowers.  Simply sensual!

Valerie's magnificent "hand-tied" bouquet

Valerie McLaughlin’s magnificent “hand-tied” bouquet.  Thanks Valerie, for making me aware of this event!

Take a look at Death on the Pale Horse, a Benjamin West painting, which at 176 x 301 inches is one of the largest oil paintings in PAFA’s collection.  The floral designer who interpreted this one was a genius in my opinion…

Benjamin West's Death on The Pale Horse 1817

Benjamin West’s Death on the Pale Horse 1817

This floral translation of Death on The Pale Horse knocked our socks off!

This floral translation of Death on the Pale Horse was astounding.

It was intimidating to be in the same room with the works of so many great artists, and then great floral designers as well, but it was an experience I will never forget. Thanks to Schaffer Designs for including me and for organizing this very successful event, and for maintaining my design over the course of the exhibit…I hope this will be the first of many!

Walt and my design

After the show, I got some great feedback from George Hubner, right here in Swarthmore:  “I saw the PAFA in Bloom exhibit this afternoon, and your arrangement stood out in particular among the 60 others! I didn’t go around paying any attention to the names of the arrangers, but I noted yours. I have noticed that in the US when someone makes a flower arrangement, the more flowers they can cram in the better. Why use just three flowers then you can stuff in 30 in the bowl instead. The Japanese will use three to great effect, but in the US more is preferred (or as Mae West is supposed to have said “too much is not enough”).  Your arrangement stood out for your use of only three flowers. It looks like a Sogetsu to me. And it seems to me that your using calla lilies was referencing Whitman’s calamus poems too. There must have been thousands of flowers used in the arrangements!  The masses were impressive, but your arrangement was simplicity itself and refreshing to see in the middle of all the other over-the-top arrangements.”  Thanks, George!

Getting Ready for Art in Bloom

Oh, this is exciting!

I am one of 45 floral designers from around the country creating a work of floral art that will interpret a painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in the Historic Landmark Building in Philadelphia, PA. I’ve been working on a mock draft of my design (can’t show you now,) and will be installing the real thing tomorrow morning!

The pedestals that will hold our designs are in place! Photo courtesy of Bill Shaffer Designs

The pedestals that will hold our designs are in place! Photo courtesy of Bill Schaffer Designs

The painting I will be interpreting is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman done by Thomas Eakins in 1887. I’m trying to capture the emotional content in the painting, as well as echo the color palette and some of the lines, using materials that are symbolic. I think of Walt as a very visceral, life-loving person, so I’m using some calla lilies to represent his almost perverse love of nature; they also mimic the white of his collar perfectly. Materials like Artemisia, Tillandsia xerographica, and fresh spanish moss will represent his beard.

The painting I'm interpreting florally is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman!

The painting I’m interpreting florally is a portrait of the poet Walt Whitman!

The show opens to the public on Friday, April 4th and goes until Sunday, April 6th. A Big Thanks to Bill Schaffer designs for organizing the event and giving me this opportunity, and to my friend Valerie who forwarded the application info along to me – she is also in the show. So is the ultra talented Peicha Chang of falls flowers! If you’re in the area, come check it out!

I’ll leave you with some Walt Whitman:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.


52. The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

from ‘Song of Myself’ in Leaves of Grass

 

magic at cairnwood

I spent the day helping Peicha Chang of falls flowers, and my what a lovely day it was.  We set up for a wedding at Cairnwood, a magical place that beckons you to “experience the grandeur of the Gilded Age.”

This country estate in Bryn Athyn, 16 miles from center city Philadelphia, was constructed in 1895 and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Looks like a great place to get married!

mason jars filled with blooms cap the end of every other row

rustic chandelier is hung in the gnarled conifer, with roses in place of candles

Inside the estate, we had 14 tables to cover with centerpiece “collections” in three different rooms, a mantle to hang with vintage bottles filled with buds, a cake cupboard to strew with loose flowers, and a greeting table to bedeck with more vintage bottles filled with blooms.  The palette features grays and creams and peachy pinks, which echo the colors in some of the rooms of Cairnwood.

Peicha’s centerpiece collections include the clever use of succulents as table number holders

the mantle, covered with old pictures, is hung with vintage bottles filled with buds

a glimpse of the bride

Juliet roses, peachy stock, white anemones, brunia and succulents on display

I couldn’t help myself, while taking pictures of the bouquets wrapped and ready to go, I had to capture the bridesmaid’s room.  People are so interesting.

bridesmaids getting ready

awaiting fresh cakes

groomsman with boutonniere

I am feeling a little like a maidservant in Downton Abbey at this point, trying to be silent and unobtrusive and graceful.  Peicha infuses the day with positivity and humor.

On our way out, we discover a great photo op…the very gorgeous bride and groom!  Best wishes to you both for a beautiful life together.

Bridal bouquet designed by Peicha

spread the love

I’m referring to Jennie Love, of course! She’s the Eco-Queen of cut flowers, and the owner of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers – “a petite, sustainably managed, urban flower farm and full service event floral design studio in Philadelphia dedicated to creating fresh textural arrangements exclusively with locally grown flowers.” She is really doing it right, growing everything herself and utilizing those organically grown materials to create stunning designs! Please read her page on “Why Local,” it explains why sourcing local floral materials is the right choice in this global trade, and she says it better than I could…

I’ve been dying to meet Jennie for some time. Here she finally is in her cute vintage apron! I’m holding the hand-tied bouquet I made in class.

Today, she is our teacher for a Floral Fun class at Longwood Gardens, where we’ll be creating a hand-tied bouquet; and she should feel right at home here because Jennie got her training in both growing and floral design at Longwood.

hand tied bouquets from spring months – Jennie Love’s designs – photo courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers

Jennie Love spring design, photo courtesy of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers

Why create a hand-tied bouquet? They are very fast to make, they eliminate the need for carcinogenic floral foam, and they’re lovely in their loose, organic, country garden feel. They make a great simple gift, too, and it’s easy to create one out of the flowers right from your own garden, especially when you have great plants to work with and a teacher like Jennie to show you how.

Marigold ‘Jedi Orange’ gets very tall

Jennie has brought freshly harvested materials from her farm, and as you can see, these flowers are vibrating with health and beauty. She has two acres in the Roxborough section of Philly, where everything is grown organically – no chemical ever touches her sweet blooms. “But watch out for bugs and spiders,” she warns.

Jennie’s buckets of goodness

Here’s our plant list for the class – it’s also a good guide for easy to grow cut flowers. Jennie uses Renee’s Garden seeds and Johnny’s Selected Seeds in her garden. (And then I bet she saves seeds – I didn’t ask, but she just seems like a seedsaver to me!)

  • Hydrangea ‘Little Lamb’ a Pee Gee Hydrangea to be cut within the first year
  • Zinnia ‘Benary Series’ – easy to direct sow
  • Marigold ‘Jedi Orange’ – good variety for cutting, get very tall (6′!!)
  • Celosia or Cockscomb- small light purple variety…can’t remember name
  • Foxtail Grass or Setaria – grows by roadside, don’t be shy to collect it yourself, it will lend great drama to your bouquet
  • Baptisia – perennial shrub – great texture, blue-green foliage can add tendril effect, this time of year nice pods too
  • Caryopteris ‘Longwood Blue’ – perennial shrub – how appropriate, and gorgeous
  • Queen Anne’s Lace, Ammi majus ‘Green Mist’
  • Dill ‘Bouquet’ – grows extra big flower heads – I love this!
  • Gomphrena ‘Audray Series’ – cute cute cute little strawberry heads “like twinkling stars” within the framework of a bouquet
  • Bronze fennel
  • False sunflower, Heliopsis helianthoides

Snow-on-the-Mountain, or Euphorbia marginata, emits a milky sap that when cut can cause dermatitis. We are given gloves in case we want to work with this – so gorgeous!

We begin by stripping the leaves and side stems off of all our materials, and making neat, organized piles of each material. To start the hand-tied bouquet, Jennie recommends taking foliage/flower that will create the inner column – in this case we use hydrangea. The first set of stems is to be kept straight, but as you add to your hand-tied, you should be constantly turning the whole bouquet and then adding your sets of stems at an angle, and it will eventually look like a spiral of stems, beautiful. We hold the stems in a relaxed manner in our non-dominant hands, pinching the index or middle finger and thumb together loosely to keep our angles intact.

As you build your hand-tied bouquet, keep turning and adding stems at an angle. As you build bigger, the angles will get more dramatic!

After the first set of stems, add sets of stems to develop texture and contrast. A zinnia or two here, some filler flower or foliage there. Do a 1/4 turn after each set of stems to create fullness and a balanced design. Here, Jennie apologizes for sounding like a hippy, as she advises us to really just “let the flowers speak to you.” You can add things to the center by dropping them down into the bouquet if you feel it needs more of something. “Don’t be afraid to get wild,” she imparts, adding her foxtail grass which erupts in green flame from the bouquet, which is growing ever larger, fuller, and more beautiful by the minute. Yes, she makes it look easy. That’s because hand-tieds are the bulk of what she does. She does many, many weddings (I think she said she’s already done 72 in this year alone?!) and these bouquets are central to her work. She’s developed the hand strength to whip right through them, and her eye guides the design as she goes.

Hand tied bouquets look good in round mouthed containers. No square vases please.

Then, when you’re all done, take the rubber band you have cleverly put around your wrist and work it around your stems. Cut stems evenly and at the height you want – measure against your container before you cut, and leave a bit longer so you can always cut more. Once inside the container, you can fuss and let things breathe a bit. So, how did we do?

Julie’s design is gorgeous and sits upright on it’s own after completion! Balance is perfection!

Kevin had no problem with his design, great job!

The next morning, I find a container for mine and a little patch of morning light to set it in.

My hand tied bouquet loosened up in a metal pitcher. Zinnia, baptisia foliage and pod, dill, foxtail grass, gomphrena, celosia, hydrangea, caroypteris, fennel, queen anne’s lace…

Thanks, Jennie Love. I really enjoyed meeting you! And I feel really good about this Philly-grown bouquet – no packaging, no shipping, no floral foam – spread the love!