flowers by valerie

Last week I had the pleasure of helping a friend out with her Prom Flower orders.  Since I’ve never really done bouquets and boutonnieres in the traditional sense I wanted to see how they’re created firsthand, and so Valerie let me observe (and play a little) in exchange for some pictures of her designs, which we hope someday grace her glorious website.

Valerie McLaughlin, in her floral studio

Valerie McLaughlin is a freelance floral designer working out of her home in Wallingford, PA, where she lives with her five sons and husband.  The flower business suits her, adding a bit of femininity to an otherwise masculine household.  Even Rudy the dog is a boy.  Her home is a friendly, warm place, where neighbors and friends constantly stop by, and everyone knows each other.  And when it comes to pricing, there really is no such thing as a ‘stranger rate’ with her.

Bouquet with bling and matching boutonniere

Valerie creates custom arrangements within a budget.  Sometimes the only direction given is the color of the dress the bouquet is to match, and that can be a challenge.  Her designs reflect her own joy and passion for living.

A successful pairing, don’t you think? – photo courtesy of Jackie Massey Cormican

Gerber Bouquet with Bling

Matching cute boutonniere

One of my favorites, love the ribbon color (it’s the Martha in me)

When the kids start stopping by to pick up their flowers for the big night, that’s when Valerie really shines, instructing them on floral details and cautioning them to have a good time but to ‘be careful.’

Boys get special instruction on how to present flowers to their dates.

Valerie is also preparing for her AIFD test this summer in Miami.  The American Institute of Floral Designers is a “non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the art of floral design as a professional career,” and once you’re a member, you belong to an elite group of talented people who are devoted to the industry (membership also costs a pretty penny.) Lucky for Valerie, she knows AIFD members like Jane Godshalk and Tim Farrell, of Farrell’s Florist, who are willing to judge her test designs and coach her for the big day.  I wish her all the best of luck this July as she heads to Miami to spend 4 hours creating 5 designs. You can do it, Val!

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winter wedding

wedding cake

white hydrangea skirts the tiered cake

This week at the shop, we prepared for Saturday’s wedding, a floral event conceived back in June 2011.  The couple approached proprietor and lead designer Peicha Chang, asking for “bright” flowers within a certain budget.  Peicha met with them throughout the months to get to know their style, the colors they preferred, the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, and the types of different floral selections they needed: from centerpieces to wrist corsages.  The week before the event, she purchased all the beautiful blooms for the big day.  On Thursday, she began making the centerpieces for the tables…starting with the greens (salaal and umbrella fern) as a base.

the stunning umbrella fern

After she was happy with the first centerpiece, using bright purples, dark pinks and solid reds coupled with light and dark greens; she cranked out the others (I think there were around 25.) Each centerpiece is slightly different when you look closer; some have darker tulips, some have hypericum berries, etc. But you’ll have to wait until they’re in their proper setting to really see them.  I watched her work, as miraculous creation took place, one beautiful arrangement after the next.

creating the centerpiece arrangements

ivy wrapped around the stems adds another layer of interest to the centerpieces...cool!

While Peicha did her thing, I was doing mine.  I was given a BIG job this day – making two wreaths of fresh white hydrangeas!  I really had a great time doing it.  Using a pre-made form filled with floral foam which had already been soaked, I cut down the hydrangea stems (my knife skills are getting better!) and poked each stem in, being careful to place the blooms in an alternating pattern.  You get big bang for your buck with these guys!

creating the hydrangea wreath

my first creation! thanks for trusting me with this, Peicha!

Okay so after the first one was done, then I did the second, and guess what, they were slightly different. So I had to go back to the first and press some blooms in a little farther to create a more uniform appearance.  While I was working, these wreaths were quietly dripping away – the reason behind doing this job a few days in advance of the big day.  You sure don’t want your product dripping onto wedding guests!

bouquets and personal flowers for bride's side- some wrapped in rosaries! beautiful!

Now for Saturday, the big day…I arrived at work very excited to see what was in store.  While Peicha finished the bouquets for the ladies, I was given a surprising task – delivering the personal flowers to the groom’s side of the family.  The groom was calm and happy as I showed him how to pin his flowers on.  Here, the best man models his boutinnière comprised of red ranunculus, waxflower and ivy.

the word boutinnière is french for "buttonhole" - ooh la la!

Back at the shop, my new colleague Emily packed up the centerpieces for delivery. Each vase is wrapped carefully in plastic air packets and put into a crate.

Then Peicha and I hit the road to deliver the bridal flowers.  Arriving at the Omni Hotel, everyone right down to the valet was happy to see us…well, maybe it was the flowers they were happy to see.   And after all her intense hours of labor, this is payoff day for Peicha – will the bride be happy? Will everything go off without a hitch?

elevator moment

Methinks the bride was more than happy.  Her exact words were “I’ve never seen more beautiful flowers.”  And Peicha and I both, upon leaving the bridal suite, began tearing up a little.  This is what it’s all about!

Next, we stopped off at the church to hang “my” wreaths on the front doors, and to add floral accents to the front pews meant for the bride and groom’s families.  (I had to do some guerilla bow-making on the steps of the church – thank God Peicha had taught me some rudimentary bow skills last Thursday!)

St Francis of Xavier - a beautiful church!

Alrighty, this day was moving right along! Let’s get going over to the Down Town Club to set up the flowers for the reception.

Jerome helps us - great guy with a great handshake

the Down Town club was founded in 1897 - i'm having a 'shining' moment

Peicha "fluffing" the centerpieces

Here they are in all their stunning glory! Amazing work, Peicha.

centerpiece in jewel tones: rose, anemone, waxflower, tulip, astrantia, umbrella fern

peony tulip centerstage

all white for the bridal table - gosh look at those anemones with dark purple centers!

I had such a great day – from witnessing Peicha’s grace under pressure and exceptional designing talent, to meeting all the ‘behind-the-scenes’ folks, and most importantly, seeing how flowers really touch the people whose event you’re involved in – I cherished every part of this new experience, and hope that there will be many more to follow.  Best wishes to the bride and groom!