Jane’s New Floral Design Book! (featuring some of my photos)

cover photo by Tom Weishaar (all other photos in this post by me, most of which appear in the book)

Jane Godshalk, AIFD floral designer and instructor at Longwood Gardens, is now also an author!  Her new book, titled Flower Arranging Secrets: Natural Designs for Everyday Living, offers tips and tricks acquired throughout Jane’s decades of floral design experience. Some of my photographs are featured throughout the book, and I feel lucky to have been a small part of Jane’s incredible floral world.

Jane makes it look easy.

Jane makes it look easy. Buy her book, and it will be easy for you too! Here she is making an early spring parallel design using sand to hold the stems in place.

Jane has studied floral design internationally, is a longtime faculty member at Longwood Gardens, and is an award-winning floral designer whose work has been featured in publications such as the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Green Scene magazine.

A lunchtime spring flower fiesta

A lunchtime spring flower fiesta Jane created using chicken wire to secure stems

At the heart of Jane’s book is the idea that floral design is for everyone, and the book aims to “demystify the process of arranging flowers for your home.”  Jane gives advice on how to select material and where to find it, how to care for stems once you’ve purchased them, which vases and containers to use, and design tactics such as color, stem placement, and rules of proportion.

Jane shows you where to find materials and how to prepare them for arranging

Jane shows you where to find materials and how to prepare them for arranging

Spring Design by Jane using chicken wire for mechanic, featuring peonies and materials from her garden

Spring Design by Jane using chicken wire for mechanic, featuring peonies and materials from her garden. Behind the scenes shot.

Jane empowers everyday floral designers by giving us the “how to” in a clear, simple fashion – and all the design mechanics she uses in the book are sustainable (can be reused or recycled.) In other words, no floral foam!  One of her tried-and-true methods of anchoring flowers is by using chicken wire. She also shows us how to use branches, bark, grapevine, and even sand as the mechanic for holding stems in place.

Using bark and branches to hold stems in place

Using bark and branches to secure stems

Jane shares many other secrets, such as the proper use of a kenzan or frog, how to create a hand-tied bouquet (a personal favorite!) and how to successfully incorporate fruits and vegetables into your design.  There is also a handy flower identification chart included. Jane’s new book showcases beautiful, eco-friendly and easy floral designs for everyone from beginners to experts. I highly recommend it. Congratulations, Jane.  It was so thrilling to work with you, and I am continually inspired by your knowledge and talent.

Jane's hand-tied bouquets are to die for! (photo not featured in book but concept is)

Jane’s hand-tied bouquets are to die for! (photo not featured in book but concept is)

Want the book? Buy it from Jane’s website for $24.99. Or, take a class from Jane at Longwood Gardens!

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Reflecting on the Past Year in Flowers

It’s been many moons since I’ve blogged, but recently I was inspired by an email from Mary in Mumbai.  She writes, “…I really appreciate the time and efforts you have taken to provide information for your love for flowers, gardening and other activities. I hope you do carry on the good work. Your blog somehow has inspired me too and I will definitely try some of the stuff you have posted…I really look forward to hear about your new adventures in floral designing and your love for gardening.”  Thanks, Mary!

Golf Cart full of Autumnal Arrangements for Merion Golf Club

Golf Cart full of Autumnal Arrangements I created for Merion Golf Club

A lot has happened in the past year.  Back in February 2013, I was lucky enough to be hired by Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA to create floral designs throughout their clubhouse as well as maintain the surrounding gardens.  A big job, especially considering the work I did in June during the U.S. Open, an annual championship where the best and brightest golfers duke it out.

I maintained many container herbs and flowers throughout the year.

I maintained many container herbs and flowers throughout the year.

The style at Merion is “Farmhouse Elegance,” a style which is already very much my own.  So I would like to think that I took to it like a duck to water, but of course there are always speed bumps as you learn anything new.  I look back on some of my beginning designs and think, “yuck;” or how I’ve learned so much since then and would never put so much material into one arrangement.  I think simplicity is one of the hardest things to learn in floral design.  My temptation is to use a lot of different material, colors, and textures because it’s just all so pretty.  But using more pretty things doesn’t always equal an even more beautiful design.

Spring arrangement using larkspurs

Spring arrangement using lilies and larkspurs

Easter Tree with homemade eggs

Easter “Tree” I created with hand-blown, hand-dyed eggs

Spring Containers

Spring Containers

Lavender I love you

Lavender I love you

Working there during the US Open was a life experience I’ll never forget.  I created almost 200 designs from julep cup sized to large urn sized arrangements that had to last for an entire week.  Challenging, to say the least, but I learned so much and was able to utilitize my television production background to organize the “pre-production” part of the event, and plan everything to a tee (no pun intended!) Here are some of my planning documents:  The Open – Floral Setup; The Open: Floral Timeline.

Centerpiece for Golfers area

Centerpiece for Golfers area

Winner of US Open Justin Rose...finding out he won, my flowers in background.

Winner of US Open Justin Rose…finding out he won, my flowers in background. 😉

The result was something that I look back on and truly cherish, especially getting to know a lot of the wonderful staff at Merion much better during that week.

Sheena, my wonderful helper during the U.S. Open, keeps things in line

Sheena, my wonderful helper during the U.S. Open, keeps things in line

Chicken Wire 'Frog' held in place with floral tape

Chicken Wire ‘Frog’ held in place with floral tape

Base Layer of Mountain Mint

Base Layer of Mountain Mint

One of many centerpieces for Champions Dinner

Finished: one of many centerpieces for Champions Dinner

Here is a sampling of some of the other moments captured during the Open:

After the Open, we all breathed a sigh of relief.  But life carried on, and Merion bustled with other summer functions, basking in the glow of the highly successful event.  I was so impressed by the staff coming together and working so hard during that time, and also so proud to be a member of that team. Everyone did such a great job.

Mandy, one of the friends I made at Merion and a great golfer too!

Mandy, one of the friends I made at Merion and a great golfer too!

An interesting floral challenge!

An interesting floral challenge using a small version of Merion’s famous ‘Wickers’

Other challenges included being budget conscious, and of course I was also committed to being as environmentally conscious as possible, something that can be quite difficult in the floral design business.  Firstly, I was composting all vegetative matter.  I tried to source materials as responsibly as possible, using locally grown flowers when possible, cutting materials from the gardens themselves, using materials that were in season, and buying from farms that use sustainable growing practices. This was a big lesson for me.  I used Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist and had a great rapport with their wonderful sales rep, Susan, who helped me through thick and thin.  But it just wasn’t always possible to stick to my guns about responsible sourcing when there was so much to order and without much lead time to do, so I did end up ordering a lot of stuff that was flown in from other countries (mostly South America.)  But, as I said, a lot of it was grown sustainably so that made me feel a little better.

Locally Grown Hand tied bouquet

Locally Grown Hand tied bouquet – Flowers from Red Earth Farm

I also wanted to use eco-friendly mechanics instead of relying on floral foam, and with large arrangements I found the best method to be creating a ‘frog’ out of chicken wire, adding water, and then adding the stems.  The chicken wire did a great job of keeping stems in place, but still giving it a natural feel.

Fall Design using gold hurricane vase with a decorative mesh wire net holding stems in place

Fall Design using gold hurricane vase with a decorative mesh wire net holding stems in place

Pumpkin Containers for Fall Luncheon

Pumpkin Containers for Fall Luncheon

For large arrangements, and with most in general, it was helpful to add a layer of greens first, then the linear elements, the form flowers, and finally filler.  And if I was using branches, sometimes more branches would go in at the very end.  These large urns filled with seasonal materials really ended up being the workhouses at Merion for me, used in 2 or 3 rooms and then for special events on the buffet tables.  They would last almost a week, but needed water to be refreshed along the way.  I did mix flower food in with the water, and that made a difference not only for the life of the flowers, but cut down on icky looking water (if using clear glass) as well as icky smelling water.

Large urn with a lot of locally grown flowers

Large urn with a lot of locally grown flowers

Unfortunately I injured my back a few times during the course of my employment there, and finally had to seek medical attention and take a leave to deal with my injury.  My doctor banned me from heavy lifting, and so Merion had to let me go.  It’s been a bittersweet parting, because I really did love so many aspects of my job there, and so many of the people too.  But they deserve to have a worker who can do everything independently, managing the gardens as well as producing all the floral designs.  I wish them the best of luck, and hope that I can transition to a situation that will allow me to continue doing floral design with less impact to my lower back.  I have a few interesting floral opportunities on the horizon that I’ll blog about next!

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!