floral offerings from falls flowers

Walking into falls flowers last week, I was greeted by many hues, shapes, sizes and textures, all standing at perfect attention in their containers filled with fresh clear water. No flower food is needed for the display, because we change the water and cut fresh stems fairly regularly.

selection of goodies

So you want to dive in a little closer??? The first thing I noticed was this pincushion Protea – totally out of this world! Also known as Leucospermum cordifolium, the alien flower heads probably come alive at night and party at the shop. They probably like to dance to Bjork.

pincushion Protea

Eager to join the party are the orange Ornithogalum, or Sun Stars, a perennial bulb native to S. Africa.

Orange Ornithogalum starting to bloom

But during the day, the shop is mostly quiet. The flowers stop their dancing and become still enough for us to admire them. In fact, Peicha and I were talking about the cycles of life and death, when a few calls came in for sympathy arrangements. I think it’s nice to send flowers to someone when their loved one dies. It is a vase of life right before you, to remind you: we are not here long, but while we’re here we’ll do our best and brightest work. I chose the flowers and Peicha made the arrangements. We were very in tune on this day.

arrangement using: Finesse roses, hyacinth, pincushion protea, scabiosa seed pod, astrantia

arrangement using: eryngium (thistle), agapanthus (purple) white kale, white hyacinth, blue lace flower, tweedia (light blue)

sympathy arrangements ready for delivery (pussy willow added to the blue/white one!)

And then I got to deliver these. Neither recipient was home, so I left them with doormen or got instructions directly from the client about where they wanted them left. Funny thing, talking about cycles of life, I drove past the house I grew up in as a little girl getting to one of the deliveries!

Tweedia. You're blue, and your leaves are soft to the touch. I love you.

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the Valentine’s day haze of 2012

I close my eyes and see…flowers.  Soft pink tulips tinged with veins of green, the cheery pom-poms of chartreuse snowball viburnums, light lavender sweet peas so papery thin, luscious flesh-colored stock that exudes a sweet-spicy scent, a stab of bright blue-purple delphinium, and roses upon roses…roses the color of a wild sunset or a rosy tangerine, roses the color of peaches edged with soft green, lipstick red roses, and Deja Vu roses standing at attention on their 3-ft long stems, a clear concise yellow that says, Hello You.

check out the scabiosa seedpod amidst the garden roses, tulips, viburnum, and rice flower

peachy green roses, astrantia, calla lily, viburnum, seeded eucalyptus mmm

Yesterday turned out to be one of my favorite days of all time, and I’m not much into Valentine’s Day.  Well that was BF…Before Flowers.  I went into the shop on Monday to help prep the roses (oh yeah, like 700 of them!) and to get some bouquet-making lessons from my beautiful boss lady Peicha.  I left with a price list to study and a sour ball of nervousness percolating in my stomach.  Would I be able to arrange quickly and confidently and add up prices in my head at the same time?  Would I choose the right “color stories?”  Would the stress of a lot of retail interaction be too much for me?  (The needy masses hungry for brilliant arrangements queuing up to watch me fail.)

wake up and smell the roses!

Valentine’s Day 2012 arrived with the Tarot Card of Death in an email. I don’t know why I subject myself to these emails that are supposed to tell me how my day will go.  Like somehow getting the Knave of Wands randomly generated  by a computer means I’ll have an adventurous day.  But the Death Card…uh oh…how is that interpreted at 7am? Maybe I’ll impale myself with a rose and die…or get in a car accident on that Big Road called City Ave…or simply die of shame.  I dressed in what my brother calls my ‘riding boots’ and a bright red blazer (Anthro of course) and hoped that this geranium red would give me some kind of confidence.

smooches from emily!


When I arrived the ladies were in full swing, in fact Peicha had been there since the crack of the ass of dawn, making the pre-ordered bouquets and arrangements (in vases.) She was feeling ‘ahead of the game.’  Dear Emily, an ever-bubbling font of positivity, set our mood to Happy.  Go Team Falls Flowers! Give me an R…O…S…E!  We set into motion together, taking orders from customers, creating bouquets, answering the phone, tying ribbons around the pink tissue that gets wrapped around all the bouquets, and saying “Here you go.  These are your flowers, your Valentine will be so pleased.”

flesh pink stock, rice flower, beigey garden rose, viburnum, lisianthus

Earlier in the day, I took a phone order from a gent who was on business out West.  He and his family live right down the street from Falls Flowers.  He was scared he wasn’t going to get his order in on time, and wanted 4 arrangements (in vases): 2 for his little girls, one for his wife, and one for his mom.  AW.  Peicha let me choose all the flowers for these, and I had a ball doing it.

3 vday arrangements for lucky ladies down the block


grandma's arrangement: tangerine roses, hot pink hyacinth, brunia, waxflower, hypericum berry, frilly orange tulips

And at the end of the day, after all the madness and yes, making a few mistakes here and there and having to use a calculator as I chose blooms, I got to deliver the 4 completed arrangements with Peicha’s husband Mark, who god love him was out all day delivering our product all over tarnation.  The door opens, and a little girl holding a Hello Kitty doll answers.  There we are, with flowers popping out of our heads, what must we look like to her? Her face lights up.  Delivery for Lila! I say.  Mom/Wife comes to the door to see what the ruckus is.  HER face lights up.  We enter, placing the arrangements around the room, and Grandmom/Mom sees the goods and HER face lights up.   I say that Dave/Daddy wanted all of his Valentines to have a very special day and that’s why we made each of you your own special arrangement.  Shock and awe.  This guy just racked up points that will last him all year.  As we’re leaving, little Lila says, “Hello Kitty says Goodbye!” And that’s the end of Valentine’s Day.

me with RED ROSES mixed with waxflower bouquet...POW! photo courtesy FF and emily

Or is it?  After spending the day in nonstop motion, working in tandem with 2 very talented and delightful creatures, and using my head heart and hands, I feel fulfilled on so many levels.  But a little sad, because where is MY Valentine?  Who loves ME enough to give me flowers? When I get home (well my parent’s house because that’s where I’m staying right now) my 2-yr old niece is there for dinner.  She is all smiles, sitting in her big girl chair and gobbling up her dinner.  We jokingly eat each leaf of the salad separately pretending to be Peter Rabbit.  Fun.  And after dinner, a very special surprise for Auntie Ann.  My very own Valentine with dragonflies, frogs, caterpillars and lady bugs made especially for me by niece.  She gives me big hugs and giggly Eskimo kisses to top it all off.  L…O…V…E!

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!

heaven scent

Another Thursday spent at Falls Flowers with Peicha Chang. We processed flowers for display, did some arranging, and even talked about the meaning of life.  Guess what, there is none!  No but really, I’m here at the shop because I’m trying to bring some meaning to my life by learning new things.  That, and the aromatherapy!  This Stock flower was super fragrant…and smelled exactly like cloves.  The white variety was much stronger smelling than the lavender one.

Me sniffing some stock ... mm mmm!

Stock, or Matthiola incana - Lavender and White - so fragrant!

We started by processing some MUMS, first removing most of their foliage and cutting them at a 45 degree angle (so their stems don’t butt up against the bottom of the container – for maximum drinking potential.)

remove the mum's net gently, up and over

 

These big chartreuse babies are Spider Mums and like other blooms with fat heads, they come with their own mini nets to secure and protect them.  DON’T JUST TEAR THE NETS OFF WILLY NILLY.  I learned that taking the nets off should be the last step before you set them into their container, and don’t rush it.  BE GENTLE – just peel the net up and over the bloom so your mum isn’t decapitated and the petals remain intact.

Chrysanthemum aka 'spider mum' free of net - POW!

When these huge Chrysanthemums are set free of their nets they span 4-6″ across and put on quite a show! They are a really intense green, so green and so big that rather than being considered “neutral,” like most other greens, they count as their own color family.  When creating a bouquet or arrangement, Peicha says to choose 2 color families to work with, and you can add neutral greens like this Grevillea to the mix.

Grevillea for greens

Interestingly enough, WHITE is NOT a neutral color in arranging.  I learned this the hard way in a lesson towards the end of the day when I created my own bouquet…uh oh…no picture means it wasn’t too great! If you’re using whites, Peicha says choose only one other color family.  I used the green mums, some pinky-yellows, some deep rosy reds, AND white…too much! But I’m learning, I’m learning.  I think I just couldn’t resist using the Queen Anne’s lace, because though it’s a European introduction and considered a weed by many, it’s a wildflower at the very top of my list.  I love it’s lacy umbels of green and white – these had just come in and were so tight  (come back later when they’re fully opened!)

Queen Anne's Lace, or Daucus carota (Wild Carrot) - lovely lacy umbels

Speaking of WHITE and FILLER…there is a scourge sweeping across the nation as we speak.  This plant is the go-to airy fairy filler of most florists, and you’ll see a LOT of it at Valentine’s Day.  Yes, it’s Baby’s Breath or Gypsophila, and it may be pretty, but when it’s the only filler ever used it loses it’s charm, doesn’t it? Peicha “doesn’t do Baby’s Breath,” but she also doesn’t rule it out entirely.  She does caution clients against using it for events for a pretty specific reason (aside from the fact that it’s boring.) And here it is: do you know WHY it’s called Baby’s Breath? Because it SMELLS like baby’s breath.  Sweet, milky, powdery, and slightly rotten! Not my cup of tea, for sure, and probably not something you want to smell at your wedding.

you won't see anything like THIS come out of Falls Flowers

Instead of Baby’s Breath, Peicha prefers the lemon pledge scent of the Waxflower, a lovely shrub from the Myrtle family endemic to Western Australia.  And I can see why: it’s darling bell-like waxy flowers are borne on woody stems so brittle one can simply break them off between your fingers (translation: quick and easy for the florist to use.)  That, combined with it’s needle-like dark green leaves, and clean, citrusy scent make the Waxflower a much better choice for filler.  Expect to see a lot of this used during Valentine’s Day – only 2 weeks away!

Waxflower, or Chamalaucium uncinatum - GREAT choice for filler smells citrusy

Okay, want to see how it’s done? Check out what Peicha did here for this bright and cheerful birthday arrangement.  Oh it happened pretty quickly, her hands darting in and out of the display vases, measuring the stems against the container, and knifing the stems down to size so fast I couldn’t even capture the process.  The final result, a delight in reds and yellows, is here:

Birthday arrangement by Peicha

Birthday arrangement: Ranunculus, Roses, Mums, Dusty Miller, Salaal

That’s it for now, from my messy mind.  More this week – we have a wedding on Saturday!