persian zinnias

arrangement of dahlias, orange cockscomb, persian zinnias, blackberries and grasses

i'm infatuated with summer flowers this year, more so than before.  and while i'm away from the garden this weekend, i've managed to fill my time with flowers from the river garden at the union square farmers market.

the garden is humming along.  wish i had some pictures to show you (i'm too embarrassed of how i looked in the most recent pictures that pete took -- it was early and i was tired and hell bent on picking and tossing japanese beetles into soapy water).  we're heading up there next weekend and fingers-crossed that a few dahlias will be in bloom.

summer nights

cosmos, cockscomb, firework gomphrena, scabiosa and fern

summer nights during the week find a way of being filled with rose (the drinking kind, not the flower kind), oysters and evening strolls.  and summer time brings the farmers market to life with local fruit, veggie and floral goodies such as the flowers in this arrangement (i'm having a brief obsession with cockscomb and cosmos and bright colors right now).  

c + e wedding

pete and i were way up in maine a few weeks ago to flower up an intimate outdoor wedding complete with beautiful couple, gracious parents (and hosts), a barn, hand-made bars and signs, a few horses and some of the cutest dogs i've ever met (perhaps i say that about all friendly dogs).  this wedding was simply gorgeous!  congrats, c + e!

how so did i ever agree to go from nyc to maine (total trip time is 8 hours each way)?  it wasn't a hard choice, really.  i love outdoor weddings.  i'm a new england girl at heart.  doing weddings outside the normal nyc wedding scene is quite enjoyable.  i have a place to work right outside boston with relatively easy access to the market.  and the bride really wanted to use summer flowers which i could largely source from local growers (NJ, NY and MA).  

the wedding took some work to figure out logistics with ordering, buying and storing flowers outside my normal home base.  we stuffed our little volvo c30 with 12 buckets full of flowers on wednesday night for 4 hour ride to boston.  next day, i went to the boston flower market for more pick-ups and met up with a flower friend, julie of bittersweet gardens, for some of her beautiful poppies.  and later that day, i visited another flower friend, grace of five fork farms, for more poppies, grasses and some of the most amazing sweet peas i've seen grown locally.  dare i say that the quality rivals that of sweet peas from japan?  i met both lovely ladies via instagram (kind of love social media that way) and i hope to have new opportunities to work with them.

and i made flowers standing in my parents' kitchen.  i completely took over the space so we had to order domino's pizza -- yeah, i know, but my parents live in the 'burbs.  we took over a spare bedroom with an old ac unit and blasted that thing until no end (my dad referred to the room as the "cooler" which it totally became).  and there was lots of running back and forth with flowers and finished arrangements.  the behind the scenes pictures are below.

at five fork farms

and a tired florist....

evening lit bouquet

leftovers from my blue arrangement and carnations from two weekends ago.  i'm starting to think that the recipe for a good looking bouquet is some inky tones combined with some muted tones as the base and then you're free to pick either a bright or subtle tone.

sunday blues

i wanted to do a little color study on blue, mostly inspired by the japanese delphinium that i found in the market.  i'm somewhat sad the peony season is over, but relieved as well.  peonies can distract me from using other flowers and it's nice to move on... particularly to some blushing bride proteas!  there are winners every season.

i tried to do a step-by-step for you, but i failed.  it's hard to do solo and i tend to get carried away (excuses, i know).  i did capture the backbones to the arrangement -- chicken wire (bent to an 's' shape) and some clear floral tape to hold it down.  bending the chicken wire into an 's' form provides two layers to hold the stems.  i find that top heavy stems tend to fall out if held in place only at the top, which, for example would happen with a simple tape grid.  floral frogs can do the trick, but are costly and i hate dealing with floral putty.  another cheaper option is to get some chicken wire and bend it.

can you see the two layers of chicken wire?

i used 42 stems for this arrangement:
- 6 hydrangeas
- 5 gardenia leaves
- 5 ageratums
- 4 white garden spray roses
- 5 blushing bride proteas
- 4 black pearl lisianthus (i'm not a huge lisianthus fan, but these are so pretty!)
- 7 white lysimachia
- 1 japanese delphinium
- 5 proteus clematis

my first layers were the hydrangeas and gardenia leaves for the overall structure and then added the ageratums for pops of blue.  spray roses went next; i opted for spray roses rather than full on garden roses because the heads are smaller.  then filled with lisianthus and blushing bride protea.  for both fill and whimsy, i added the japanese delphinium and lysimachia.  finally, for movement, i added the clematis vines. and then went back to fill in with some more gardenia leaves.  i think i could have done with less but this arrangement was for me.

maybe next time, i'll get a photographer to take pictures as i make.

garden june 2014

peony garden planted last year with a dozen peonies

garden update of the season.  dahlias are in, all 235 of them across 60 or so varieties.  the bleeding hearts and lilies of the valley came and went in a short-lived but glorious burst.  the poppies are reaching peak.  zinnias and cosmos are coming up.  peonies are about to open.  clematis are climbing and blooming.

'bourbon' clematis

the clematis are having a great time, with bourbon being the most vigorous out of my 6 varieties.  but a few others are really trying to put on a good show.  i've been drenching them with an aerated tea of compost, kelp and fish.  my fingers smell like fish for days afterwards, but worth it.  the plants seem to love it.

my strawberries that i planted yesterday are definitely bearing the fruits of my labor (quite literally).  they were pitiful little things but look at them now!  i think i messed up with planting them last year; buried the crowns too deeply.  perhaps that delayed fruiting last year; no matter, this year's crop seems to be making up for it.

yeah, it's a constant struggle with sweet peas.  really i need a cold frame to properly raise the seedlings.  these don't look bad but it's a gamble as to whether they'll bloom before it gets too hot.

i have poppies on the left and cosmos on the right.  well, next year i've decided to do an entire bed of poppies.  i bought pint size 'champagne bubble' poppy plants from a wholesale grower in town.  plan to do the same thing next year, but this time i hope to snag a pink one.  this year, i seem to have only white, yellow and orange, which are great and all but a little more color variety would be nice.  the cosmos are doing well.  not much to say other than they're fairly easy to germinate.

close up of the peony garden.  they're about to blow!!!

dahlia beds 1 and 2, same ones as last year.  the weeding shouldn't be so bad this time around.

dahlia beds 3 and 4, new ones.  our plan is to wait until the weeds get a little taller and then start yanking them out and cover with mulch.

sensation lilacs

sensation lilacs with champagne roses, mock orange, ninebark and parrot tulips

spring in nyc seems to turn into summer within a few weeks time and the transition feels even faster now that i'm older.  i suppose that's the benefit of having a garden further north; at least we get to hold onto spring for a bit longer.

i was perusing the flower market over the weekend, mostly to prepare for a wedding later this month.  with my eyes full of hope, i stopped shop after shop asking whether flowering branches (any other than mountain laurel -- color doesn't work) would be around.  give me something, people -- viburnum, spirea, lilacs (no hope of that)!  all i got is check in two weeks beforehand.  boo!  i have a back-up plan but flowering branches make large arrangements so effortless and so good.

i couldn't walk away empty-handed though.  there were bales and bales of beautiful lilacs from canada and i had to grab a bunch.  and then i had a moment with my lilacs.  i pressed them against my nose and i took a deep yoga-style inhale.  their perfume is so perfect.  these sensation lilacs are sensational.

mother's day 2014 and upcoming garden work

another year, another mother's day.  unlike last year, i was in the city to make and deliver arrangements.  we are thoroughly exhausted and will spend the rest of the week saving our energy for garden work this weekend.

our garden is in western mass and the climate there seems to be 2-4 weeks behind nyc (it's a very cold zone 5a).  i hear that my hellebores from last year are in bloom and perhaps some of the other ones i planted earlier produced a second flush of blooms.  and i'm excited to see how the poppies, foxgloves, bleeding hearts and columbines are faring.  back in march i trimmed back and re-tied my clematises; i think one will bloom earlier this year.  it's my third year for these clematises and two of the three are going really strong.

for this coming weekend, we have to dig new beds, order compost, buy more plants (perennials and annuals) and plant some of my seedlings that i've been doting on in my apartment.  i have some sweet peas that needed to go in a month ago but obligations have kept me from doing so.  so they will be a complete experiment as to how long they'll last into summer.  my zinnias are suffering from aphids and i'm picking them off and killing by hand.  ugh.  it was going so well until it wasn't.

but anyways, more mother day arrangements below filled with loads of peonies.  peonies get me every eff-ing time.

heck yeah, carnations!

hand-tied bouquet of carnations, fritillaries, sweet peas, tres chic tulips, foxgloves,
hellebores, pistachio foliage and lemon leaf

i had some extra flowers left over and a whole bunch of carnations and somehow the perfect ribbon to go with the color palette.  

i used to be a carnation hater way back when they only came in garish colors of pinks, reds and purples.  and let's not mention the whites ones that asians use for funerals.  uh huh.  once flowers go there, it's hard to mentally come back.  but plant breeders got smart and developed delicate muted hues that's so irresistible.  and so easy to fall in love with.

spring flowers

arrangement of hellebores, clematis, peonies, lilacs and viburnum

i seem to do a post every april featuring peonies, so this is my 2014 contribution.  we're doing a wedding this weekend and our very tiny studio apartment is getting pretty full with loveliness.  sigh -- flower problems.  they're really the only type of problems to have.  should we include more peonies or sweet peas or poppies?  terrible decisions, really.  honestly, if the world stopped to smell the roses, perhaps there would finally be peace.  funny how nature can do that….

for you, Q, photos taken with mamiya 645AFD (i can't justify the expense of a contax 645, hence with a very used model from ebay) and some fuji 400H film.  the results aren't bad either.

arrangement of coral peonies, ranunculus, hellebores and viburnum

bouquet of lilacs, hellebores, ranunculus and viburnum

peonies and lilacs from last year

coral peonies accompanied by purple lilac, spirea, pink hawthorn, pennycress and astrantia

combing through the archives the other day and found these.  i arranged this same time last year.

growing and wedding season is now hitting me at full force, with a wedding in the coming weeks and another trip to massachusetts to plant hellebores, sweet peas, etc.  i now have stuff growing in my parents backyard and this weekend invading pete's parents home too.  we're trying to get a place of our own (now searching for 2+ years), but nothing and more of nothing.

so my family and friends can tell you that i can get single-minded about stuff (i.e., obsessive compulsive, and i'm not ashamed).  i've decided that my next skill is to bake really good cakes.  pete and i have been indulging ourselves in old episodes of the mind of a chef and just finished an episode of christina tosi and her cakes.  and now i'm inspired.  watch out, waistlines of my friends and family!

yay, pink hawthorn!


i tend to have flowers around pretty much all the time, sometimes freshly cut, other times not so much (but as any florist would say, even flowers a few days old are still worth hanging onto).  a few of my very loyal customers asked me about doing seasonal arrangements on a monthly basis.  deal is any flower combo my heart desires and any time that works for me.  are you kidding me?  i feel like people are paying me to run around and be a kid all over again (actually, that is what's happening).  so here's the first in the series -- poppies, bleeding hearts, columbines, ranunculus, andromeda and viburnum.


sometime around now, i get my sister a whole lot of flowers for her birthday.  i'm never in massachusetts on the exact date but am there usually a few weeks before or after with the best early spring product i can find in the market.  this year, she requested blush anemones.  i could have just bought those, but i'm sort of a flower-shopaholic.  i played along a little bit with a lighter color palette (above), but i soon went from blush to bright with a ton of foliage thrown in there -- sword fern, spirea, penny cress, camellia foliage and salal leaves.  and those pleated, cupcake holder looking flowers?  ranunculus from japan!


arrangement of 'mysterious' parrot tulips, bearded irises, 'combo' roses, japanese ranunculus,
hyacinths and viburnum berries

with cube vases or standard florist vases, i always feel more restrained with my designs.  it's not necessarily a bad thing.  some arrangements are more wild and others more conventional.  vessels are pretty important for a design -- after all, a vase can take up to 1/3 - 1/2 of the arrangement.  so when a cube is involved, i think of symmetry in the overall shape.  but symmetry doesn't mean boring.  the flowers don't need to be showing at the same plane and that allows for visual interest.  and you need crazy flowers, such parrot tulips (they open wide and are ruffly, like sweet peas), a variety of shapes, a nice color palette and lots of greenery.  love greenery.  so underrated but it can bring everything together.

also no floral foam for this arrangement.  i try to avoid foam whenever possibly.  foam is environmentally unfriendly and frankly i don't want to breathe in green foam particles as i cut it up (can't be good for you).  i taped up a 4 x 4 grid of squares as my floral frog and built layer upon layer of greens, then flowers and finally filled up the empty spaces with more greens.  i find taping a grid works best for cubes.  and when the flowers pass their prime, there's only a little bit of tape to pull off and the vase can be passed back to me for re-use.

arrangement of 'mysterious' parrot tulips, bearded irises, 'combo' roses, japanese ranunculus,
hyacinths and viburnum berries

arrangement of 'mysterious' parrot tulips, bearded irises, 'combo' roses, japanese ranunculus,
hyacinths and viburnum berries

arrangement of 'mysterious' parrot tulips, bearded irises, 'combo' roses, japanese ranunculus,
hyacinths and viburnum berries

arrangement of 'mysterious' parrot tulips, bearded irises, 'combo' roses, japanese ranunculus,
hyacinths and viburnum berries

salted butter

no reason why this post is called salted butter other than i dropped $$$ on butter this morning in preparation for my salted caramel macrons.  i wanted to do yellow for a change up.  my go-to's are generally peach/coral, pink and purple so why not give yellow a try.  it's certainly cheery and i love that i was able to sneak in a whole bunch of goldenrod ranunculus.

i'm watching the oscars right now so perhaps a yellow bouquet is serendipitous, golden man, golden flowers.

tropical colors

a few weeks ago we squeezed a bunch of valentine's day arrangements right before jetting off to lisbon, portugal for an extended long weekend.  i think everything went off successfully.  my only regret is not having really nice shots of the arrangements -- oh well.

i spent our trip lugging around and shooting with my film camera, a used mamiya 645D.  i've been trying film more.  returning home to process 500+ digital images is not fun (i've done that a lot) and likely those images would sit untouched in my hard drive.  so with 16 pics and $25+ to process and scan each roll, i came back with only 3 rolls shot and 200 or so digital files.  the whole "think-through-the-shot-before-hitting-the-shutter" on my mamiya certainly carried through to our digital work.  i say "our" because pete used the digital camera most of the time and i borrowed it for a few shots here and there.  hopefully, i can post my lisbon pictures by the end of the week.

but here are some flowers to bridge the wait.  i've been doing a lot of purple work lately and thought a lively palette would provide a nice change for you and me.

juliet garden roses, cappuccino roses, sweet peas, icelandic poppies, leucothoe and fern  

hand-tied bouquet of tycoon yellow roses, icelandic poppies, sweet peas, leucothoe and fern

macaron update

yeah, so, it turns out that my oven thermomenter was completely broken.  i thought that my oven was overheating by 25-30 degrees, but it turns out that it under-heats by 5 degrees (oops)!

accordingly the original laduree macaron recipe seems to work as printed.  300 degrees for 15-18 minutes.  yup and no hollow macarons.  i made black cherry ones and it's pretty eff-ing good.

blue astilbe

local lavender anemones, local cream ranunculus, japanese purple sweet peas,
 japanese lavender/blue astilbe and japanese spirea

yeah, so i spotted these blue astilbe at the wholesale market.  stopped me dead in my tracks.  they're japanese and dyed -- i wish they came blue.  true blue flowers are a rare thing indeed.  


oh hellebores.  these are from holland and my best estimate of vase life is 2-3 days without the assistance of a cooler.  i need my own hellebore patch but in the meantime these will do.

i'm trying to get this blog post done for the week before the start of the Super Bowl commercials.  i'm rooting for the seahawks (can't stand peyton and wes welker is a traitor).  but at the end of the day (game), i only care about the score.  i put $20 into two squares with 7 and 7.  i need these guys to score, perhaps 7-17 and the end of the first quarter.  hold it there and i'll be $1000 richer come monday.