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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label floral design. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label floral design. Show all posts

      Friday, March 22, 2013


      Author/Photog Debra Prinzing invites us to slow down and use the flowers, foliage and branches we have on hand to create fabulous indoor arrangements. In her charming new book Slow Flowers  she creates 52 arrangements in season, using her own flowers and those she begs, borrows and.... buys from local growers.

      Debra is a dear friend, so when she came to NYC with her son for a few days to enjoy all the city has to offer, I invited her to try her slow hand on my roof garden. Long ago she was a student here at FIT so she understands what New York is about, knows that garden space is scarce and we have to make do with what we have.
      I have nothing of my own but since I tend the 18th story roof garden for my building, I need to cut back rampant herbs when they threaten to take over a mixed container, prune a barberry branch when it reaches out to grab a passing child, remove stems of caladium foliage that are drowning the coleus in the treewell.
       Debra was game to try anything I could throw at her. She selected the celadon glass vase from my container collection. Note that the only flowers I could justify picking were some black-eyed Susans which popped up as volunteers in my garden one year and which bloom happily in over-abundance all summer, threatening to become invasive. Other materials are stems of bi-colored sage, coleus, caladeum,  sumac 'Tiger Eye', basil going to seed. Deb writes that the "rosy barberry sprigs repeated the green and dark pink caladium colors."
       We are kindred spirits in floral design. Grab what you have in every season; love what's around you; spend little money; use branches and foliage; edit carefully; throw it all in the perfect vase; enjoy your garden indoors every time you walk by your arrangement. Groom your arrangement so it will last longest. Here the black-eyed Susans were the first to be discarded.
      All photos © Debra Prinzing except the two just below in my living room.
       Eventually you'll pare it down to it's most long-lasting element, the caladium leaves. Since at the end you'll have relatively few stems looking good, select a new, smaller container like a bud vase or as here, a pair of green glass candle sticks.
      See the other fabulous 51 arrangements in Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing, (St. Lynn's Press, 2013).
      Here Debra uses just three elements, hydrangeas, dusty miller, and sea oats to great effect. Lucky for me another garden writer friend and two-blocks-away-neighbor  Linda Yang had to dig and divide hers at the end of last summer and I was the proud recipient. I'll surely be copying Debra's arrangement this autumn.

      Monday, April 16, 2012

      The 50 Mile Bouquet

      An inspiring new book written by Debra Prinzing and gloriously photographed by David E. Perry has just crossed my desk. Well O.K., I asked for a free copy to review but the first statement sounds so much more professional.
      Prinzing interviewed small organic and sustainable growers and florists, mostly in the Northwest California and Colorado as they strive to sell their crops and their floral designs. She's captured their individual stories allowing personal voices to shine through.©David E. Perry, all rights reserved
      We learn how the flowers are grown and harvested, and can smell the aromas and see how the natural look of the flowers please the eye.
      It's an unusual bride who carries a mixed bouquet of local dahlias for her wedding bouquet, but Prinzing found one and Perry shoots her in her best running form. I wonder if she's wearing sneakers. ©David E. Perry, all rights reserved.
      The author makes a strong case for buying local; one reason, the flowers will last days longer. When I had my own flower and herb farm I was astonished to find that my cut tulips often lasted two weeks, whereas those I had always purchased from florists or the super market looked good for no more than five days.
      And the flowers look different, more individualistic, less perfect and manufactured. You can appreciate the heady aroma of the garden roses on the photographer's kitchen windowsill. © David E. Perry, all rights reserved
      roses never smell or have the charm of these.
      I love the tips Prinzing offers that home gardeners can use in their own arrangements. In fact I was so inspired that after finishing the book I ordered and planted 15 large dahlia tubers in my roof top containers, way too many for the space I had available. Prinzing and Perry are both to blame.

      When I was growing for local resale using organic and sustainable practices, despite my care an occasional bug would wander out of the flowers onto the table top. I still wonder how other people prevent that in field-grown flowers without spraying. A lady bug is cute, but no bride wants a Japanese beetle crawling down her arm. Debra, care to weigh in?

      For more on my own local and organic floral designs see post just below this one.

      The 50 Mile Bouquet:Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, St. Lynn's Press, April 2012 @$17.95

      Sunday, April 15, 2012

      The 18th Story Bouquet

      Inspired by Prinzing and Perry's delightful new book, "The 50 Mile Bouquet" ( St . Lynn's Press, 2012) I surveyed some of my own bouquets, created since I moved to a 15th floor apartment in Manhattan; the building has an 18th floor roof garden that I tend. No longer having my flower and herb farm to feed my floral design habit, I buy in season from local green markets, or gather by the armload from Jen's NH cutting garden to bring home. I retrieve a few spring branches that have fallen on the street near my apartment (above), or I prune two stems from the crimson bark Japanese maple on my roof. Well... I have to prune don't I?Later in the summer I cut three branches of barberry and a few stems from the laden hydrangea from the roof garden, and cut five stems of Caladium from the tree wells in front of the building. Placed in front of the mirror in the lobby of my building, a modest, local, organic bouquet looks huge.Back to the streets in fall for Osage oranges, locust pods and horse chestnuts for a centerpiece.
      Riverside Park is sort of local for me; it's within long-walking distance. or I find a few stems of green foxtail, a common weed grass. or another bare branch blown from a street tree. You can see I'm not very picky, but if I want something fresh and green, one stem from any conifer with cones, looks like an arrangement. I don't prune regularly but bide my time all year 'til I want something for my own use. Why just trash branches when I can have my own 18th story bouquet, local and organic? And finally, another arrangement for the lobby selecting from plethora of flowers and berries I've grown on the 18th floor.

      Monday, December 20, 2010


      My first boyfriend, age 10, went with me to empty lots to help me cut 'free' flowers to bring home. I loved him.
      Last week when the SunflowerGuy.com offered me a free bouquet of my choice in exchange for a review, I jumped. I've grown about 20 varieties of sunflowers from seed; used them for seed snacks, for drying, for cut arrangements and in the garden. Can you tell I love them?

      SunflowerGuy says that through their parent company Dos Gringos, they are the largest grower of ornamental sunflowers in the world; I'm the smallest, so it's a match.
      The overnight flower delivery from SunflowerGuy came on the date requested, in an ingenious shipping box that included a simple, tasteful container and the stems wrapped in rubber bands to keep the bouquet intact. See above.I followed all of the instructions for removing and discarding the wet flower foam that kept flowers healthy during shipping, cutting the bottom of the stems, adding the cut flower food. I smiled even without the instructions at the cleverness of the packaging and the cheery sunflowers within. Then I spied the red-painted seeded eucalyptus. The online catalog had said nothing about painted flowers. ugh! It was probably because the red pepperberry was still green and some designer thought the red element was necessary. Not for me.
      One Makes Four
      While many people, if not most, love an arrangement that is complete, fun for me is doing my own. In fact most florist designed arrangements have enough flowers & foliage for 4-6 arrangements, so I always divide them up and scatter them around the apartment, even the bathroom.
      Having fresh flowers wherever I turn is a wondrous thing. When you scroll to the bottom of the post you'll see how I handled the dreaded painted eucalyptus.The five sunflowers went in a collection of glass vases made from recycled soda bottles, one or two stems to a vase. How easy is that? The good looking container that came with the arrangement will not languish but will become part of my varied collection of useful vases.The St. John's wart and a tiny bit of pepper berry went in two small bud vases on a bathroom shelf.These three stems lean gracefully in a contemporary vase in the living room. They look like they'll last well beyond the guaranteed 8 days.In the tree wells in front on my building (this one where the dead tree was chopped down) I lay fresh greens, with additional prunings from the roof garden, including some stems of aronia berries, dried sorghum seed heads and the red painted eucalyptus that even I have to admit doesn't look half bad there. I hope The Sunflowerguy approves.
      As I write this post I'm on my seventh day and all flowers are still in excellent condition. If you need an overnight flower delivery, especially for sunflowers I think you'll be well satisfied.

      Sunday, November 14, 2010


      Rosa 'Crown Princess Margareta' in my container garden, a David Austin climbing rose in her first year.

      On my roof garden, I demand roses that need no spraying, that can tolerate neglect, and will winter-over with no wrapping or other extraordinary measures. I want roses that match my romantic ideal, many-petaled and fragrant. The David Austin's English roses that I've tried meet these criteria.

      I want the same characteristics in cut roses, so when I volunteered to help with the centerpieces at the District Rose Convention of the American Rose Society I approached David Austin Rose LTD. for 36 of their finest peach and cream cut roses. Instead they sent me 48 and told me to keep the extras. They were gorgeous and fragrant. What's a girl to do?'Patience' in cream, 'Juliet' in pale peach.
      They were shipped overnight from the grower in California, packed to perfection in cellophane, newspaper, frozen packets of coolant and moist foam around the cut stems. The roses were timed to arrive in the open bud stage two days before the event, needing to be recut underwater and to stand in deep tepid water to rehydrate .

      Confession #1

      Rather than use my regular bucket for this conditioning, I felt I deserved a treat, so stood them in my livingroom in vases, until we made the actual centerpieces.I knew I'd need short stems in the centerpieces so I cut some to condition and kept them in my office to admire.Two that I had broken by accident, I plunked individually in tiny copper pots, and used three other stems in glass candle holders. I had fragrant roses all over my home, albeit most on borrowed time. The impromptu greens are snippets from a large house plant.Diane Grinnell and I made the centerpieces in the corner of the banquet room, away from prying eyes. When completed, the table centerpieces were greatly admired by the enthusiastic members of the Rose Society. Members couldn't believe how different the roses looked from the typical cheap grocery store roses.Confession #2
      The Japanese maple foliage was 'pruned' from the tree on my roof. Regular readers know that I save my pruning tasks for when I need branches for some design project. Other elements:real pumpkin cleaned of seeds and pulp, a piece of moist floral foam stuffed in a baggie holding a little extra water, a few more stems purchased that day at the Greenmarket at Union Sq. All stems cut short and stuff in the foam.
      Confession #3
      Regular readers also know that I hang flowers to dry deep in the basement of my building, behind a locked door with a sign that says no admittance, staff only. There it's hot and dark, and roses will dry in three days.
      I also dry flowers by burying them in silica gel, a sandy desiccant that holds the shape of the dried rose. Back at home, this is what I did with a few of the roses I could keep for myself; there's still a tiny whiff of fragrance.Readers with deep pockets who want fabulous roses for a special occasion (or because they deserve it), contact David Austin Limited online or by phone at 800-328-8893, or check the back of the DA catalog, USA 2010 edition. If fragrance is important, make sure your selection mentions fragrance.
      Below, risking life and limb for her blog partner, Ellen Z. climbs to hang a bunch of David Austin cut roses from the ceiling sprinkler of our hotel room at the Garden Writer's Symposium in Dallas. I hoped they'd have time to dry fully before they had to be stowed in my bag for the plane. Alas, despite the warmth at ceiling height, they were fit only for potpourri by the time they arrived home in The Big Apple.

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