Tuesday, December 27, 2016


The house is still in partial Christmas disarray. Usually the wrapping paper is quickly recycled and all manner of chairs pulled out for our big Christmas dinner are put back. This year I don't want to put all the this and that away, just yet.. I've had the week after Christmas blues. Frankly I'm usually relieved that this overly commercialized, emotionally charged holiday is over. But maybe in the past few years  I'm finally, finally getting the hang of it. Bookstores, the kitchen, and my studio supply most of my presents. Fancy gifts forgone, the thing that brings us the most joy is hosting the annual big dinner at our house. I spend a lot of time decorating the house, though this year I decided to let go of putting up a tree. With a lot of floral commitments up to the week before, it was just way tooo much. Part of getting the hang of this holiday for me is figuring out how much is enjoyable and meaningful. Yeah, those fully loaded, exhaustion melt downs in the final hours before the dinners had to go. The self permission to forgo the tree (combined with Jon's yearly cringing of cutting down trees, anyway) turned out to be very liberating. I had some beautiful greens and flowers left over from events, giving the freedom to make the festive background up. And that special evening came and went all too quickly. This year, anyway, got the pacing right.

Well okay; there is no denying that my second reason for the post Christmas blues is apprehension about what next year will bring under the helm of "the man who would be king", my name for our president elect. That prospect chased me right back under the covers the morning after the night of Christmas, fearing the Grinch and his elves who may be about to steal decency, women's rights, environmental protections... etc., etc. 
Waiting, watching, and ready to be a lot more involved in some way.

Some snippets of flowers that appeared around the house-

     Gold leaf from Max

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Wreath Workshop

Yes, the Annual Wreath Workshop commenced! We all took note of how wreath making is rather unique in the Floral Design Family of Techniques, with it's sculptural aspect of creating mass with bundles, wire wrapping, negotiating the bulk of greens, the detailing, etc.

Many were surprised by how many greens are required to make a wreath. The large pile that awaited each of them was used up in short order. After the initial terror for newcomers, they got into the grove and return participants noted making the second and third wreath gives a certain ease, practice, practice!

Lastly we had a run on traditional red bows this year. The prior year, no bows were used. Hmmm...which gives me some ideas for mixing it up next year....

Everyone did a great job creating textural, lush creations!  Thanks everyone. What a fun morning.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Flowers of Our Labor

In 2012  Debra Prinzing, author and spokeswoman for the Slow Flower Movement http://slowflowers.com/ wrote a short photo filled book about the rebirth of flower farming on American soil titled "The 50 Mile Bouquet".

Up until the 70's California was the leading supplier of cut flowers for the US of A. Now the vast majority- around 80%, are grown thousands of miles away on different continents. The message set forth in the "The 50 Mile Bouquet" was a call to action: Buy locally grown flowers! Design with local flowers! Support local flower farmers ! Grow your own flowers! Become a flower farmer! The bounty of mouth watering blossoms pictured sold the concept handily- okay, okay!  If you lived in the Pacific Northwest, ground zero for this movement, you were in luck. But sadly those flowers weren't available here in Marin County, CA just a bit further south. And when I looked northward to agriculturally inclined Sonoma County, I found little. So it seemed that the book had a a catchy title, a good marketing idea- but wasn't this a Portanlandia pipe dream? 

Like a seed it took awhile for this new idea (following behind the Slow Food movement) of buying/growing local flowers to germinate across the country. Floral Designers became designer/growers. Farmer's expanded their crops. Specialty growers who had been there all along found renewed interest and and people wanting to be mentored. People want in on it, though the time, money, and learning curve will cull out all but the truly dedicated.

For any of you in the thick of all this, this is old, old news. But as I post this photo, it dawns on me how much has changed in only 4 years in my neck of the woods. 

The flowers in this arrangement are not your standard fare. They are grown by a wave of  flower farmers wanting to bring a whole selection of new and heritage flowers practically to our doors.

This year has brought a big shift in my purchasing patterns. I'm now buying the majority of my flowers, most of the year within 50 Miles! I know this is still not the case everywhere in this country, but slowly, slowly......

Thursday, October 6, 2016

For the Roses- again

Last night my friend Max asked me what my favorite flower was (ah, the question that keeps on keeping on). Hers are/have been peonies, though there are flowers one is smitten with for a day or season.

Hmm... what will it be -martogon lilies, frittalaria, scabiosa, scented snapdragons, hellebore, violets in bunches, foliage of any kind, the variety of peonies that finally turn the color of slightly steeped tea, one sprig of some wild weedy thing .....??

It only took a second to say "roses". 
Not standard roses, but blown open, multi- layered old fashioned garden variety roses. They have been on my mind recently. One day I realized that I had showered with a moisturizing, rose scented soap, drank rose tea, and was treating with good results-  vaginal dryness with a specialized rose oil 
( I mean, come on- how did roses know?)  

What a reciprocal relationship we have with them. We keep their species going by hybridizing the heck out of them (and keeping the old species varieties going) and they serve us with food, healing benefits, and beauty for the soul.They have for centuries been a symbol of love.

But wait. In pondering the favorite flower question I had to ponder the orchid. What did I do for ten recent years but study and make painting of orchids in a series called "Orchid Dreams".

They are completely compelling and other worldly. I loved studying and painting them, but I didn't love them. But when I think of roses, I associate them with puppies and Mom's manicotti and all things dear and familiar. Maybe if I grew up in a tropical climate and picked orchids to put in a jelly jar, my feelings towards them would be different.

A few from this year: A spring rose, a late autumn rose and some standard spray roses leftover from an event.


Thursday, September 22, 2016


Sad to say, our families are scattered over the US of A. Given a ruler, pencil and a paper map I could draw a pretty straight latitudinal across America marking our family homes in Maryland, Colorado, and Northern California. It takes longer than we want to drive to Maryland and it's not exactly a short jaunt to Colorado Springs, Co by car, but we enjoy the drive so much we've made it many times over the years. It was time to go home.

East of the Sierras, we face a couple of long road days across high desert, the True West. It is a rugged, spare landscape. Home of Big Sky, country music, a high ratio of cheerful cashiers, ranchers, geologists, Mormons, Right Wing Politics, casinos, and if you hit the right mark on the map you will come across  some spectacular Red Rock Country.

We usually take Highway 50, called the Loneliest Highway in the country.

To me it's some of the most beautiful nowhere; long expanses of sage and rock and dirt. Dry mountain ranges in the distance with towns few and far between. It's a real change for a lush flower lover. Where are they? Out here there they are a rarity; mainly wild, small, and subtle. Which frankly is a jarring, but appreciated change. Sometimes it's good to take a break from the abundance and recharge. I like the way it forces me to slow down and find the beauty in what first appears to be an inhospitable environment.The design elements are light, shape, color, and weather. So grateful these huge expanses of our American landscape are still here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Window Box Arrangements

It was a happy day when window boxes decided to jump off the house and join the party. I was 5 years old when my parents bought two window boxes that happened to be attached to our new house in a recently built housing development. The development was carved out of beautiful, rural farm land in Baltimore County. It's embarrassing to admit this, but that purchase was part of a white exodus that began when the black population of Baltimore began migrating from the inner city to neighborhoods like the one we were about to leave. Baltimore was very segregated at that time. My five year old mind knew that segregation was wrong and didn't jive as my friend, Elizbeth's wood desk sat right in front of mine at St. Bernadine's. 

But I digress. On this property every spanking new home came with two empty window boxes. While a homey touch,  they seemed more appropriate in the narrow streets of Europe flanked by shutters painted a regional color. There, they  were close enough to admire on foot rather than a blurry drive by in a decidedly car oriented way of life.

The contemporary cut flower take on this traditional form of outdoor planting is extraordinarily variable. It's a long, horizontally oriented arrangement. It seems a fitting aesthetic with modern decor, rustic or contemporary. The flowers can be much more relaxed than a traditional arrangement. The container for my first one was made out of chicken wire. No chickens were harmed in the making of this arrangement.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A tuberose by any other name is a Nardo

 A few years back someone told me that the name 'Nardo" is the name of a white flower that grows in Spain. Feeling such a long and profound connection with plants, this felt like an affirmation of the latest evolution of my life with plants as a floral designer. It didn't matter that I personally wasn't Spanish, but Sicilian. Spain was but one of the myriad countries that invaded and occupied Sicily throughout it's history, so I come up with this little scenario...

Perhaps some of the little tubers were carried across the sea in the corset of a courtesan. Once established in the newly acquired royal garden on Sicilian soil, the tubers were thus entrusted to a peasant, well known in the land for their talent in growing. The flowers grew so abundantly in the familiar hot summer conditions that great bouquets of Nardos filled the church on Worship Days. Henceforth, the gardeners that were charged with growing the seed - oops, little tubers were also called Nardos and thus.....therefore, thou....

Fantasy aside, (plus my brother, the family historian, tells me that our surname is not derived from a flower), plants often were transported from one Continent to other as another form of extreme souvenir collecting. This was sometimes benign; in others thorough enough to decimate entire plant populations. A little online delving reveals the tuberose was subject to this form of collecting as it is native to Central America. While the Spaniards were  conquering in the Southern Hemisphere they must have found this new flower with it's heady perfume and long lasting waxy flowers quite appealing; surely a discovery to impress a queen. It could have taken many lost tubers to learn how to keep them viable from the journey from the New World to back to the Old World.

It was only slightly disappointing to learn that the white flower was the tuberose, a flower I've avoided using the past few years, because the double blossomed, cultivated variety is just awkward and clumpy, somehow. The scent was sometimes too overpowering. However the native single blossomed variety is a different creature for me, each flower separate on stems that have curves, movement, and a delicacy it's much hybridized relatives lack.

Two weeks ago, this flower became available from my favorite grower at Front Porch Farms in Healdsburg:

As Zoe relates, "the tubers were given to me by an old man from North Carolina who's been farming for 40 years. They were given to him by a woman who was old when he was young. These things are special, that's all I'm getting at". After a week, the scent is still going strong and the flowers continue to bloom with a little clipping of the spent blossoms. I couldn't agree more Zoe!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Chicken Wire Workshop

Yes siree, by gum; it was an emergency. Time and time again I've gone to our local Marin County Farmer's Market this summer to be seduced by bucket after bucket of one amazing flower after another to choose from. 

The wet winter allowed a particular abundance of flowers, but more than that; growers have been listening to designers and growing flowers that are more nuanced in color and shape. This year the selection has been outstanding.

I knew better than to hold a class during the summer when everyone was sunning and eating barbecue or jetting off to Iceland, but yet again- the flowers were flowing. It couldn't be helped.

So time to call an Emergency Chicken Wire Workshop! Yes, a few fell to the siren call of other summer activities, but these women knew where the real action was taking place. Here is their fine work.