Five Tips for Fabulous Homemade Bouquets

Those of you that read on a regular basis know that I love growing flowers just as much as I enjoy growing vegetables.  In fact, I don’t really separate the two in my mind.  Each year my gardens contain both edibles and ornamentals.  While I love watching my flowers grow and bloom, the thing that really excites me is cutting those flowers and turning them into homemade bouquets that I can share with my family and friends.

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This lovely arrangement is comprised of roses, yarrow, dill, mint and salvia — all from my garden

Now I will be the first to admit that I am NOT a talented floral designer.  However, my youngest daughter Whitney is and she loves sharing her tips for creating beautiful homemade floral arrangements with me.  Below are what I believe are her best tips to date.

Tip 1 – Floral arrangements don’t have to be made up of just flowers.  In fact, some of her favorite arrangements have no flowers in them at all in them.  Whitney loves to make homemade bouquets that incorporate branches, grasses and even vegetables.  She also loves using herbs as fillers.  Things like rosemary, thyme and basil add structure and scent to your arrangements.  Plus they last forever in the vase.  In fact, if you leave these herbs in the water long enough many of them will root!  In season, don’t forget to incorporate things from the garden like honeysuckle and fresh fruits and vegetables.

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This late season arrangement uses zinnias, love lies bleeding, wax myrtle foliage and a tatume’ squash!

Tip 2 – Forget the rules.  Don’t worry if the height of your arrangement is not one and a half times as tall as your vase.  In fact, you don’t even have to use a vase.  Don’t worry too much about color either.  While complimentary color schemes are nice, they are not necessary.  Just look around nature, you will see that just about every color is used and they all look fabulous together.  Also, do not be afraid to use just a single variety and color of flower in your arrangements.  Also, vases don’t have to be vases.  A cute container like an old tin can, teacup or sugar bowl can make a good arrangement great.  Whitney also likes to cut the top out of gourds, squash and pumpkins in season.

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I threw this together last month. Notice the weeds? The purple globes are thistle heads from our wildflower meadow.

Tip 3 – Add more flowers.  Your arrangements should be pleasing to the eye.  According to Whitney, most DIYers use too few flowers and not enough fillers in their arrangements.  As you build your arrangement step back several steps and look at it from every angle.  If you see spots that need a little something, add it!  Since you grew the flowers and fillers at home they are free – use them with abandon!

homemade-arrangement-5 Tip 4 – If you want your fresh cut floral products to last as long as possible, cut them early in the morning and get them into cool, clean water ASAP.  When you cut, use sharp clippers and cut the stems on an angle and then drop them into a plastic or glass container.  Metal containers and fresh cut flowers do not play well together.  Also, change the water in your vase daily.

Tip 5 – Probably the best tip Whitney ever gave me was “If you can’t create –copy!”  Like I said, I am just not a talented designer.  However, I am a pretty good copier.  Pinterest and Google give us access to thousands of pictures of beautiful floral arrangements every day.  Look at these pictures.  Find things you like and then copy them!

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Cut flowers early in the morning to extend their vase life. Also change your water daily once they are arranged

I hope these tips give you the encouragement you need to get busy cutting and arranging your homegrown flowers!  Even though I don’t feel like I have a gift in this area I have learned that when using beautiful things it is hard to create something unattractive!

Best Wedding Flowers Ever

A stunning bridal bouquet created by my daughter Whitney. See the rest of her creations on the Ruffled wedding blog.

I am so happy to be able to share with you some truly fabulous wedding flowers.  These pictures are courtesy of the Ruffled wedding blog.  Now it is not uncommon for Ruffled to showcase truly stunning wedding flowers, its what they do.  However, what makes these arrangements better than most is the fact that they were created by a young Master of Horticulture named Whitney White.

Whitney is my daughter and I am very proud of her.  I know where she got her love of flowers but I have no idea where she got her ability to arrange them into such beautiful designs.  I am truly in awe of her talents.

Whitney works for the hippest floral design firm in Dallas.  Bows and Arrows is a small Dallas design firm (voted best in DFW last year) that is getting a lot of big press.  They have been featured in Martha Stewart’s Wedding magazine, several other local and national publications, and on the largest wedding blogs on the web.  This video is from today’s post on Ruffled.  Ruffled is one of the top ten wedding blogs and it receives thousands of hits per day.

Whitney came up with the theme for this shoot, found the location, arranged all of the participants and did all of the floral work.  As you can see from this link the results were amazing (click the link to see the full shoot at “Ruffled” http://ruffledblog.com/midsummer-nights-dream-wedding-inspiration/).

I am very proud of Whitney.  She has worked very hard for very long to get to this point.  She had a dream and she did what it took to see it through.  I love you Whit and I am so proud of you!

“A Year in Flowers” by Debra Prinzing

This is the second post on MOH by a guest blogger.  This one is by another of my incredibly smart, talented and beautiful daughters.  Whitney White is an incredibly talented floral designer in Dallas, Texas.  She is currently employed by “Bows and Arrows”. Bows and Arrows is a truly awesome design shop in downtown Dallas.  Their awesomeness was recently recognized when they were named the Best Florist in Dallas.  Their work is often featured in Martha Stewart and Style Me Pretty as well as in countless other local, state and national blogs and publications.

Whitney recently spent a Saturday with best selling author Debra Prinzing.  Debra is a true Master of Horticulture.  Not only is she a very accomplished author, she finds time to support other garden writers by serving as the current President of the Garden Writer’s Association.  Below is my daughter’s account of a day that was truly life changing to her.

Debra Prinzing with her team in Dallas. On the left is Joy Ijams, Education Director at the Dallas Arboretum. Debra Prinzing holds the bucket. Next to Debra is Cynthia Alexander of Quarry Farms. She grew and provided most of the floral material we used in the class. And finally there is me!

This past weekend I got to meet one of my heroes.  Debra Prinzing (http://www.debraprinzing.com/) is a pioneer and advocate for the “locally grown and sustainable fresh flower market”.  As a floral designer that dreams of one day owning my own business that creates the finest floral designs using locally grown fresh cut flowers, hearing Debra speak about this movement was truly a rewarding experience.  Debra is highly respected author and expert in the locally and sustainably grown fresh cut flower movement.  Her latest book, “The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers” visits with many of the pioneers that are redefining the way the American public buys flowers.  By growing seasonal crops that are appropriate for the region in an ecologically sustainable way and then selling them locally (often the same day they are harvested), these pioneers are reinventing an industry that has traditionally relied on homogenous product grown overseas at great cost to the environment.

A slightly fuzzy pic of an arrangement I made for my Dad with only things from his yard. How local is that?

I attended Debra’s lecture entitled “A Year in Flowers” at the Dallas Arboretum.  During this talk, she encouraged people to rethink the way they look at floral bouquets.  Her lecture encouraged us to ask the following questions when buying or making a fresh bouquet for our home, office or event.

1.  Must a bouquet always contain flowers?

2.  Why not use many stems of one kind of flower?

3.  Is the arrangement full of life?

4. Does it shine at the end of its blooming season?

5. Is it fleeting?

6. Does it borrow from the orchard?

Debra’s mantra is “Buy flowers in season, locally and often”.  This was a common thread throughout her lecture.  “A Year in Flowers” educates participants on what she calls the “field to vase movement”. The “field to vase” philosophy states that environmentalism and ethical buying choices should apply as much to the floral world as it does to the food movement.  Just because we are not eating the flowers (at least I hope not) we should still be concerned with the chemicals we are bringing into our homes and dispensing to our loved ones.  Besides, buying from your local flower farmer is not just good for you; it is also good for the environment.  Local growers care about more than producing the highest quality flowers at the lowest possible cost.  They want to do this while still caring for the earth.  Because of these, the flowers they grow have been produced with a lot of love and very few, if any, chemicals.  Their organic methods ensure that when the time comes for them to allow the next generation to produce flowers, the earth will actually be in better shape than when they started.

Another local arrangement I made for my Dad

After the lecture, Debra gave a demonstration on how to build beautiful bouquets using locally grown floral products.  You cannot imagine how thrilled I was when Debra asked me to stay and be her assistant in this demonstration.

Debra discussed many of the benefits that come from buying your flowers from local producers.  First, you can develop a relationship with the grower.  This relationship allows you to see the face of the farmer you are supporting in every daffodil.  You can smell the generations of care in every garden rose and you can appreciate the bounty of the seasons when you see blooming branches at the first of spring.  On more than one occasion an elderly man or woman has wandered into my work place to ask me why roses don’t smell any more. This is depressing. Most flowers don’t smell good anymore because they are grown by people in lands far away that don’t care how they smell.  They only care about how well they ship from where they are to the U.S.  While it may sound simple, the ability to actually stick your nose in a flower and smell it the way it is supposed is a huge reason to buy local!

You can order Debra's new book by clicking on the link in the sidebar of this blog

What is a florist anyway?

One point that Debra made during the presentation is that a florist used to be someone who raised their own plants and flowers for the arranging. Wouldn’t it be nice if that were a rule for being a florist now? If the floral designers and florists of today acted like they did in the past, we would live in a much prettier place and takes much less of a toll on mother earth. This is why I am now completely enamored with “My Luscious Backyard”, a Toronto based florist (in every sense of the word) who plants and maintains urban flower gardens in other people’s back yards. It doesn’t get any better than that folks. This lady even bicycles her deliveries (Learn more about “My Lucious Backyard” at  http://www.mylusciousbackyard.ca/about.php ).

Another thing I learned in Debra’s lecture was how bad Oasis flower foam is for the environment.  I had no idea up until this lecture that Oasis (floral foam) is plastic based.  Because of this, it never completely decomposes in a landfill. This is big news since I use it almost every day and have been using it for almost a decade. Great…..

But lucky for all of us, Debra has gathered tips of the trade from all over to use in place of Oasis. This video shows most of the techniques she demonstrated to us in the class this weekend (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLKacMtjJUY). I was happy to be sent home with the left over wood fibers to play with in my own designs.

The 50 Mile Bouquet

“My Luscious Back Yard” is one of the many talented and forward thinking florists Debra highlights in her newest book, “The 50 Mile Bouquet: Discovering the World of Local, Seasonal, Sustainable Flowers”.  Debra teamed up with photographer David Perry to showcase some of the nation’s hard working ladies and gents in the flower farm industry that are dedicated to producing the most gorgeous hand grown, handpicked, flowers you have ever seen. The book comes out April 1st.  I haven’t been this excited for a book release since the last Harry Potter novel had its midnight debut.

I truly love Debra Prinzing.  She is so sweet and so very, very talented.  It was a huge thrill for me when she called me “friend” when introducing me to the class.  I will always treasure that moment. Even though we had just met, her open and gracious personality allowed us to become fast friends. This simple act sums up my entire impression of Debra: utterly genuine and full of gumption.  Debra is a woman with a passion for farmers, the environment and an eye for design.  She is destined to be the face of the field to vase movement just like she is already the face of smart garden design. Even with her vast repertoire of knowledge and publications, she is so down to earth.  I truly look forward to working with Debra again and hope that you will use your voice to demand locally grown flowers. Go local!