Flowers For Cutting

I arrange lots of cut flowers for clients intended as Mother’s Day gifts. It may be old fashioned or expected, but I do believe the gift of flowers or plants is so appropriate for a Mom.  My Mom was a scientist.  Her view of the world had to do with experiments, statistics, dispassionate reasoning and disbelief without solid verification.  But she did in her own special way nurture me.  We had a very long and very intense relationship over the garden-once I got old enough to understand that gardening, and a love for nature and all growing things was a way of life-not always so pretty or stylish, but genuine and connected.

cut-flowers.jpgJulia died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2001.  For 2 months, I turned every light on in the house before I went to bed.  I could not sleep, unless the house was ablaze with light. I finally went to see my doctor-she told me everyone expresses their grief differently-I should not be concerned.  I eventually turned the lights off.  As much as everyone expresses their grief differently, everyone expresses their joy and appreciation differently.  The shop was jammed over Mother’s Day weekend-we did our best to help every person express their feelings in a way that satisfied them. Mother's Day flowers.jpg

I also do cut flower arrangements for clients.  Any orders I have for Mother’s Day flowers, I take seriously.  There is a son, a daughter, a husband, a niece, a friend, wanting to express their feelings via the flowers.  I order flowers in season, and fresh for these arrangements.

cut-flowers.jpgThe Dutch do a vastly better job of growing Dutch iris than I ever could.  A California farm has delphinium belladonna available.  The white sweet peas-I confess I do not know where they came from.  The white tulips-from my own garden. The mix says spring. Hello, and Happy Mother’s Day.  Thank you for all you have done for me.  All my love to you.  The arrangement is densely flowery, in a fairly formal shape .

cut-flowers.jpgThe arranging of the floral orders for Mother’s Day-I spend a fair amount of time with them.  Why so?  My clients are asking that I interpret their caring in a way that accurately represents them.  I understand they are entrusting me with an important message.  I take the time.  And I enjoy it.  Working with cut flowers is time well spent.

Mother's DayWhether the arrangement is big or small, formal or casual, subdued or bright and sassy in color, the message is fairly universal.  Thanks for helping me to bloom, Mom.

Mother's DayTulips, Dutch iris, and bupleurum

pink vaseLisianthus, white dendrobiums, pale yellow gerbera daisies, and lavender freesia

cut flowerswhite ranunculus, iris, and bupleurum

May flowerstulips, ranunculus, and orlaya

Mother's Daywhite Dutch iris, yellow and white ranunculus, belladonna delphinium

white cut flowersIf you arrange your own flowers for your home, or as a gift, proper conditioning is really important.  I recut every stem on a steep slant, and put them in fairly deep water which is lukewarm.  I try to find a very cool spot to set my buckets for 24 hours.  This treatment gives the stems time to take up water.  Cut flowers are delivered to me in boxes-they need to take a deep drink.  This step is especially important if the flowers are arranged in floral foam, as opposed to a vase filled with water.  The foam will quickly obstruct the pores of the stems, and impede the uptake of water.  The stem and flower should be juicy.

anniversary flowers I cut each stem again, as it is arranged.  Taking the time to condition the flowers will give them the longest possible life in the vase.  This is true whether you buy flowers from a florist, the grocery store-or if you cut flowers from your own garden.  A bouquet from fresh flowers from the garden makes a very personal and thoughtful gift.  What spring garden flowers make great cuts?  tulips, grape hyacinths, spring flowering branches as in dogwood or viburnum,, hellebores, peonies, iris, delphinium, sweet peas, early clematis, trollius- the list is plenty long.

flowers from the gardenIt is not only a pleasure to be able to bring the garden indoors, it is a pleasure to share it with someone near and dear.




At A Glance: A Winter Party


I so welcome a chance to do cut flower arrangements for a party in the winter.  Flowers-who would elect to do without them!  At the moment,  I am a gardener without a garden.  This means I am wringing my hands over the dormant season.  I welcome any chance to step out of the gray.  This occasion-a 70th birthday.  The clients-their viewpoint is decidedly contemporary.  This rubber vase of theirs-astonishing in scale, material, and color.


My interpretation speaks to the vase, as it should.  Lots and lots of dianthus Green Trick, and 100 stems of copper willow make something of this extraordinary vase.


The honoree of this particular birthday is a man.  He stands every inch of 6′ 6″, and has a heart many times this size.  What would I do for him?


The choice of flowers had everything to do with what might delight him.  The color choices-entirely about the environment in which they live.


My part in this is but a very small part of the celebration.  Many friends and family would attend.  The occasion, the environment, the food-the community-all of these elements would provide atmosphere for a very special and important occasion.


As for me, it was a shock and a delight to have an occasion to have flowers in sight.  Flowers in hand.  Flowers to arrange.  How I miss the flowers!  The long standing relationship with my clients-memories accompanied this work.  Garden oriented work in February-I treasure this, given this desolate part of the year.  Arranging flowers for this party, these particular people, did me a world of good.


Gardeners, florists, and farmers-none of us are so far apart.  This is my read,  on this February day.

A Vase Full Of Flowers

I would imagine that there are lots of gifts, in the form of cut flower arrangements, exchanging hands today.  Though a vase full of flowers is a traditional Mother’s Day gift, it is a thoughtful and appropriate choice.  In the interest of keeping those fresh cuts fresh as long as possible, I take the time to condition them.  These Matsumoto asters have very long, tough, and woody stems.  I cut them down to the approximate length I well need, and then strip off any foliage that might be below the water line.    

I do like cut flower arrangements that are more about the flowers than the foliage, but there are other good reasons to remove most of it.  any leaves below water will immediately begine to deteriorate.  Bacteria proliferate under such circumstances.  Eventually it will interfere with the stem’s ability to take up water.  That uptake is essential to a vase of flowers that lasts. A flower flush with water will stay fresh longer.

The cut flowers I buy from a wholesale flower house may be local, or they may come from a long ways away.  Though modern transportation means that a cut flower spends as little time as possible in a box, there is an immediate need to get them a drink of water.  After stripping the low foliage, I recut every stem on a slant.  This maximizes the stem surface that can absorb water.  The asters, ranunculus, and grape hyacinths in these arrangements have a naturally good shelf life.  The purple campanula, white phlox, and orlaya (this is the Queen Anne’s lace like flower)  need 24 hours of conditioning-meaning immersion deep lukewarm water in a cool spot- before they are arranged.  

Dutch iris are fleeting in a vase under the best of circumstances, so I buy them in tight bud.  Making sure the flowers you buy are fresh to begin with is important.  If you are buying flowers from a grocery store, find out what day their fresh flowers come in.  Check for any browning.  Whether you are picking tomatoes or fresh flowers, the same rules apply.  Even if those buds of iris are not showing color, once the stems absorb water they will pop overnight.  Roses in tight bud, showing no color, may never open. 

Ranunculus have an amazing long vase life.  They are readily available in the spring season.  Buying cut flowers that are in season means they are readily available at a reasonable price.  Long stemmed red roses available at Valentine’s Day in February are hot house grown, or shipped into my area from California, or South America-an out of season luxury. 

The giant long stemmed Pacific hybrid blue delphiniums are indeed a sight to behold, but they are difficult and awkward to arrange.  The shorter growing belladonna delphinium is every bit as beautiful a blue, and much more graceful in a vase. The delphiniums were arranged in this vase first.  The larger flowered tulips and iris came next.  The dashes of white sweet peas-last.  Trumpet shaped vases help give a cut flower arrangement a graceful overall appearance.  Cylinders can be tough.  Every flower wants to be upright. 

 Tulips are long lasting in a vase too.  But as their stems tend to be wobbly, they like a little existing structure to lean up against.  I try to condition tulips with plenty of natural light.  They look to the light.  I like them to be upright while they are taking up water that first day out of the box.  The flower heads are heavy, and the stems slight- inevitably the stems will swoop.  Conditioning will make them much easier to arrange. 

The Dutch iris are very stiff and set, once they open.  I like to pair them with other flowers that have a more relaxed habit in the vase.  Multiflowered double yellow tulips and sweet peas loosen things up a little.  This arrangement went to a Mom with great grandchildren.  Pastel flowers are easier to see that dark colored ones.  A bouquet of fragrant flowers adds a whole other dimension to the enjoyment of those flowers.

A mix of all white flowers is always a beautiful choice.  Veronica, lisianthis, phlox, campanula and orlaya in a vase suggests the profusion of the garden.  For a thoroughly modern Mom, a vase full of one kind of flower may be more appealing. 

I like mixed flowers in a vase for one practical reason.  If the campanula wilts and fades, it can be removed.  Clean water, and a little fluffing means the arrangement it there to enjoy for a few more days. 

There are those circumstances when arranging flowers in oasis, or floral foam is a necessity.  But flowers arranged in water that is kept fresh will last.  All of those green stems in clean water is a pretty look.

A smaller scale arrangement will be easier to handle.  Recutting the stems every other day, and clean water will help with their longevity.  If you buy cut flowers that routinely come with buds-such as lisianthus and ranunculus, making those buds part of the arrangement becomes part of the charm. 

The lavender and purple veined freesia in this vase-wonderfully fragrant.  The feverfew-very garden like.  The ranunculus-like little peonies. 


Cut flowers from the garden make lovely arrangements, but I have little in bloom right now.  What’s available in my yard and maybe yours right now-lily of the valley. Given that they are usually in bloom on Mother’s Day might be just enough of a good reason to grow them.   


Party Pink

sills_part_ii_45Occasionally I get garden requests that are out of the mainstream. The brother of one of my clients called and asked if I would be willing to host a birthday party for his sister at my store; so why not?  She loves her garden, and anything  flower-related, so it wasn’t hard to imagine this place dolled up and ready for party guests. Though he lives in California, he was able to plan with the local help of Fran Gross; her events are always well choreographed and beautiful.  Arranging the store for guests, and doing the flowers would be my part.  As the party was a surprise, we lined our iron gates with fabric. Douglas had told her he wanted her to look at something he was thinking of getting her for her birthday-little did she know.  She had ten seconds to process that her initials were in fact on the gates, framed in gerbera daisies, before she walked into a crowd of guests.  What fun for her-and her guests.

sills_part_ii_391We did lots of flowers-all in variations of a her favorite color-pink.  This vase placed outside the front door -a flowery ice cream cone with pink nerines, pink spray roses and a tutu of La Reve lilies. Yummy.

81Pink and gold were the colors of the day. Table cloths, and napkins,  the gold chairs and clear glass plates edged in gold set a very festive, and very feminine tone. I thought the flowers should be tall-in the airspace.  This not only makes conversation easy at the table top level, it creates interest at eye level when people walk into a room.  More than anything, a party should be designed such to put the idea of celebration in the air.

sills_part_ii_23These party favors are the work of my client. He knew his sister not only as very feminine and vibrant woman, but also as a very successful and high powered business woman.  She successfully balances being a woman, and a boss; this is not easy to do.  The flower coated hammer is his wry and supportive gesture.  The personal element celebrates the relationship of friends and family; the party is for everyone.

43The flowers set on top of twig stands are primarily every version and form of pink I could find.  But some contrasting color showcases that pink.  The brown amaranthus, yellow freesia and roses are a nod to the gold table accessories.

71The arrangements are shaped such that most of the blossoms are visible from a seated position; the oval overall shape is like a friendly umbrella over each table.

52I I think the room looks lovely.

91The flowers brought life to the room.  All it needed was company-and company she got.  What an incredibly thoughtful brother.  What fun it was to be a part of what is such a good memory for her.

62Garden spaces are at their best, filled with people.