Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dahlia 101 Workshop at Aztec Dahlias

Welcome to 7petals Design's first destination workshop at Aztec Dahlias in Petaluma! It's been a dream to bring together flower lovers with the farmers who grow them. Thanks to all who attended and created such beautiful and heartfelt arrangements. The dahlias were incredible and Kate is powerhouse, full of growing and culture information. Looking forward to creating more of these 
unique adventures. See below for more on Kate and Omar.

Amazingly, this is Kate Rowe and Omar Duran's first full year farming Aztec Dahlias. The farm had been owned for 15 years by a couple who wanted to move on - and rather quickly as it turns out.
You can read Kate and Omar's story here:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chapter 2 Flower Growing 101

When we last met, I was lamenting my flower-less garden, a garden Jon and I have been working on for years. We have added trees, shrubs, fences and paths. But it's a curious omission, given such a flower centric life. Flowers, purchased and foraged, flow through the doors continually for use as subject matter for paintings and bounty for floral creations. An oversight -oops I forgot to plant flowers!

Well, it wasn't for lack of trying. I just wasn't very good at flower growing. It seemed that anything smaller than a hardy shrub or tree either grew feebly or died. Despite all the research I did about the specific conditions a particular plant liked, I was just stabbing in the dark without more comprehensive knowledge of soil, water, feeding and it's kissing cousin; weeding.


The land our house sits on is close to the bay and was the bay historically. The soil is porous and sandy and seems to have few nutrients, despite yearly compost additions. It floods periodically some winters and the garden is knee deep in water from hills running down and overflowing a creek nearby. This water is also given a boost from a high tide from the bay. I know, it's complicated! So it is wet, wet wet, till the soil become bones dry in two weeks, come early summer. During the rainy season all manner of weeds including my constant unwelcome companion, sour grass grow abundantly. Then everything dries up and it's the Sahara. Whew!

Over the years I have been learning the limitations and potential for this garden. But this year, come hell or high water I needed to grow some flowers!

 Major inspiration and information has come from a book released this year by Floret Farms in WA. Erin Benzakein is a full time flower grower, author, and teacher. She is revered by flower farmers and designers alike for learning growing techniques for hundreds of cut flowers and showing people how to do it. She has grown a little empire selling not only incredible cut flowers and floral design services but also offers highly sought after and wildly expensive workshops,(mainly for those in the trade) seeds, bulbs, and products.


While Erin's beautifully photographed book is geared for flower farming, her information on individual flowers good for cutting is invaluable. She also includes some great floral design techniques. It will inspire you to rip out your entire garden and plant rows. I haven't done that and my garden is not the lush eden she has on her farm. But I grew some flowers this year. And what a feeling of joy and accomplishment it's been.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chapter 1: Making of a Garden Chapter 2: Flower Growing 101


"What did they get this time?" I yelled to Jon, arms full of sleeping bags and cooler, unloading the car from our return camping/ reunion trip up north. He made it into the garden first. We saw a mamma and baby deer hop lightly over the fence and hightail it around the corner. "Roses, tomatoes",....he started, doing the inventory. Drat! My first real year growing flowers and the deer had come to dinner. We thought we had deer-proofed, but evidently not. I didn't know prior to this season how much deer love roses- and a lot of other garden delights.


Prior to this year, I didn't grow roses- or hardly any flowers. People sometimes ask me if I've  grown the flowers in my bouquets and all I can say is "I wish!". While my garden  contributes  interesting foliage to the bouquets, I'm sadly lacking cutting garden quantities of flowers. Truth is, it has sorely been lacking any flowers. How did that happen?

When we moved into the house as renters almost 20 years ago, it came with a yard full of really awkward garden decisions that fulfilled the desires of prior renters who wanted to get their hands in the soil. The original owners built this bungalow/duplex in 1915. They were an Italian family who stomped grapes where I now have my studio. They had the desire for shade where we wanted sun, and gravel where we wanted soil. When we showed up, fences were falling down, trees were in strange places  and we wanted a curved path where there was a straight one - not to mention a very healthy crop of Bermuda grass sprouting up from any place there was soil.

Our landlord eventually sold the house to us, just when we were on the verge of buying a condo with no yard. Yay, we were in! We made a to scale sketch of the property and started planning big changes. No weekend makeovers for us. As a compulsive DIY couple, my husband and I are really loath to turn over anything to someone else so consequently the evolution of our garden has taken years and lots of self help books that graduated into U-Tube videos. 

Those years were devoted to the infrastructure of gates, fences, paths and planting trees and shrubs.We now have a very private space in a fairly dense urban area. There is seasonal interest with foliage and large flowering shrubs. I'm not so unhappy with this still evolving garden, but as many gardeners will lament, they want many gardens: 

The farmey looking one for food and chickens
A flower cutting garden with rows of seasonal blooms
An outdoor living room with a comfortable/ magazine spread seating area
A flexible work area 

And Flowers!  The flourish, icing on the cake- aka, summer blooming flowers was missing.

Floret Farms to the rescue!
To be continued......

Monday, June 12, 2017

Hand Tied Bouquet Workshop featuring Roses and other seasonal delights

Here are the results of a most delightful investigation of hand tied bouquets featuring roses and other additions in this late May workshop. It was amazing how different each was, using approximately the same flowers. Yet they all related beautifully. Well done!


Monday, May 15, 2017

Flower Jam for Center for Domestic Peace!


Yesterday this team of creative, organized,  and energetic women joined 7petals Design in making small centerpieces for the Center for Domestic Peace Annual Luncheon. This incredible organization, based in San Rafael, CA has spent 40 years helping survivors of domestic abuse with protection, housing, and support. It takes a lot of courage and  community support to break the cycle of abuse.

I have donated leftover flowers to CDP for a number of years and was delighted that the timing worked out to participate on 24 hour notice! The flower community responded to a call for help with great enthusiasm.

We used donated flowers from Cypress Farms and Whole Foods to make 40 something small centerpieces in 2 hours for 400 attendees that attended this fundraising luncheon.  Fatima Hansia,my contact and pal at CDP told me that they never were able to make the donated flowers go around for all the tables. I told her that we were going to attempt a "loaves and fishes" miracle to make that happen; a success thanks to  interesting foliage the team donated and a few composing techniques!

Women really know how to get the job done! Again, thanks to the Flower Jam Team. We will ride again!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

All creatures Great and Small/ or Meet my Manager

"Where did that little cat come from?" I was washing dishes and staring out the window. A petite grey cat came walking along and stopped on the side of our house. The kitchen window gives a bird's eye view looking down from the second floor of our duplex. It shows a narrow, picturesque side street laden with plantings to either side. The street continues to the back corner of the property and makes a right turn onto another little side street. These two streets provide a quaint atmosphere away from all the hub bub of dense urban living. Those of us who live along this backwater of Gertsle Park affectionately call the two colliding streets the "L". We keep protective watch over this little sanctuary and this interloper was in our territory.

Suddenly a butterfly flew by and she lept up off the ground, her body fully elongating and arching in an attempt to snag it. Luckily for the butterfly she missed but I was entranced by the effort of  her young, extravagant expenditure of energy. Enter Aurora Bell into my life.

This young cat was newly adopted by a neighbor and was exploring the territory. She became a regular visitor to our yard and gradually worked her way into our house and hearts. About a year later, after many conversations with her mother, we all decided that perhaps Aurora Bell should try living here. It appears that she had that in mind all along. But she is a young, opinionated girl; hyperactive and one who still loves to roam. 

We didn't get to have kids, but have lots of them in our lives in the form of nieces, nephews and godaughters.....Somehow this very small being feels closest to having a child of all the animals that have come and gone in our lives. Ah, the Agony and the Ecstasy. ...Despite her roaming, she is a dear and  keeps a close watch on the comings and goings of the studio. She lets me know when I need to stop and take a break to smell those just stripped roses.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Store Bought Bouquets Redux

What a fun, spirited group! I asked you to take a "before "photo of your Store Bought Bouquets, and now realize I need to do it as well, to show you, dear readers.

Because the transformation is so wonderfully startling.

It was a spirited group. And I asked them to take a "before " photo of their Store Bought Bouquets, but then I forgot to do so to show you, dear listeners.  Because the transformation is so wonderfully startling.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Is it a bird...Is it a plane????

Tulips are surging into the Farmer's Market and our venerable San Francisco Flower Mart. Have the Dutch, intimately tied to the flower industry since the 15th century and tulips in particular, been up to some mischief in the breeding department? These are double tulips or peony tulips. Double tulips breeds have been around for awhile and have long lasting flowers. This makes them very desirable for the cut flower trade, though the colors were geared more for the outdoor garden. In recent years there has been more emphasis to breed them in colors more suited to the wedding industry. This one fits the popular peach, pink, and magenta palette, though it is so riotous and rather artificial looking that I'm not sure... It's as though an entire Dutch Masters painting was contained in one Dutch tulip. I do see remnants of the austere tulip that was derived from; though this variation completely left the ball park, save the tell-tale leaves. But there was a high amazement factor watching it open as it was relatively closed when I bought it. Every day it's like a different flower.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Daily Vase or Two



Dear Journal,

I'm sorry to have been so remiss of late. It's not that I haven't been thinking of you. There are many unfinished entries waiting in the wings. Life feels rather more complicated right now and not so flower friendly- exactly the time when we need more flowers, art and music! They are soul food. The creative force that allows these expressions through is born from a well of  inspiration and compassion and we need to stay in touch with this. We need this  replenishment as we stay active and vigilant. So I will try to be better about contributing a soul snack from my flower world.

Here are some of the first locally grown flowers coming out of the Bay Area. The wet and cold gave way and the local blooms will be prolific this year and aren't they something.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pave' Workshop/ 2017

Year after year, I am still amazed by the creative potential of Pave'. Someone in our group compared it to quilting. It reminds me of modern painting. We had an adventurous group this year. One participant took off and I was thinking it was a rather long bathroom break. A different call to nature; he had gone outside to do a little foraging to add to the mix. Others returned to delve more deeply into this format and the group created wonderful compositions that always had a little touch of magic; hard to plan, but really a delight.