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!

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!