Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some Christmas Flowers

A festive centerpiece for an oblong holiday table, this bouquet contains roses, miniature carnations, lilies, pepperberries, silver dollar eucalyptus, ming fern, douglas fir, pine and birch twigs.  Some nuts and cones have been added for interest.
A basket arrangement of blooming cyclamen plants accented with douglas fir, pine, ming fern and birch branches, opulent red roses, fragrant miniature carnations lily buds and gold french-wired ribbon.  I call this a "Welcome Home for the Holidays" basket, and like to suggest keeping one near the front door welcome mat, to cheer visitors as they arrive to your home. 
A fragrant swag of evergreen branches, topped with a trio of fresh red roses.  Intertwined in the swag are garlands of mixed nuts, large pinecones, pepperberries , birch branches and shimmering gold mesh ribbon. 
This modern centerpiece in a square moss planter features coiled bronze art-wire, a moss orb, red roses, white hydrangea agonis foliage, equisetum, and hypericum berries.
 A simple centerpiece for a bistro table-- noble fir, green hypericum, hydrangea, gardenia leaves, and a red rose arranged in a crimson mercury glass lantern, accented with gold ribbon.
These are just a few of the designs I've created this December, for corporate events, holiday parties, and homes.  I hope you enjoy them.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Summer's gone. And it was awesome!

It's generally accepted that in the Pacific Northwest, Summer is wedding season.  If you're "from around here," you know that we don't give up on Summer on September 21st.  It's not Fall until the the leaves go orange and the heat turns itself on during the night!

Here at the Miller Farmhouse, it's official.  Les and Lisa's wedding yesterday was my last of the season.  With the exception of one week in San Francisco, I've had weddings each weekend since the 19th of June.  Oh, and that sure proof of Summer's last gasp-- first frost last night, and our thermostat went on in the off position.  I woke up to the sound of the furnace fan blowing.

Here are a few of my favorite wedding flower images of the Summer of 2010:
My favorite boutonniere of the season

Lisa's organic and original bouquet, built within an armature of curly willow

Emily and her bridesmaids carried these bouquets, waiting on a side table at Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, WA.

Kelly's bridesmaids hold their bouquets, and hers too, during vow time.

Kelly's ultra-feminine bouquet of garden roses and ranunculus, adorned with Swarovski crystals and fastened with her Grandmother's old lace & pearl shoe-clip, will be a forever favorite of mine.

Kelly's most adorable flower girl

Dina couldn't choose just one flowergirl, so she had three!

Kristen's bouquet was light and sweet like a Summer cocktail.

A montage of images from Dina & John's wedding

Julie's family's backyard , dressed up for her wedding reception

I love that brides are getting colorful and stylish with their shoes.  I wore plain old white leather pumps back in 1983.

Mallorie let me have fun with these centerpieces, so I suspended flowers on lime organza ribbon.

How often do flowergirls get to carry petals in orchid-festooned beach buckets?

Mallorie and her bridesmaids in the reception pavilion at Trophy Lake Golf & Casting in Port Orchard

Justine's bodacious bouquet of bountiful summer flowers

Dear friend Kelley renewed her marriage vows with Brad, carrying this sweet, romantic bouquet.

Justine's bridesmaids bouquets, in vases on the grass

Mikael and his men wore these orchids with fiddlehead fern, wrapped in purple bouillion wire.

Christine and John gave me the chance to create "flower jewelry" for their moms.

Christine, awash in flowers

Tiffany carried hydrangeas, stock, dahlias and waxflower , wrapped with gorgeous blue satin.

Katie and her bridesmaids carried these bold, organic designs featuring Black Baccara and Green Fashion roses.

It was all red for Jennifer.  She wanted a bold bright mix, and let me choose the flowers for her.

Jerame wore this balck calla lily so well.  Super-dignified!

Katie's bridesmaids quickly struck a pose for me, before venturing into downtown Seattle for their informal shots.

I love the look of this cake, emerging triumphantly out of a sea of red at Jacki and Erik's wedding.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Living the florist-relative's dream -- in the last minute!

Sometimes it looks for all the world that your fondest wishes won't come true.

As a floral designer, why wouldn't I want nothing more than to use my skills to bless my family?  So six weeks before my nephew, Andrew, marries Lizzy in Redwood City, California, I give word through his mother--

"I'm so sorry, I know it's late, but it's been nagging on my heart.  PLEASE let the bride's family know that if they need ANYTHING having to do with flowers, I will do it!  Whatever that may be!" 

A serious offer, indeed.  Well, nobody gets back to me.  At all.

The day before the wedding, John & I arrive in sunny California. 

"Honey, I don't know how I'm going to get through this.  What if I don't like their flowers?  I can't say a thing, and I can't do anything -- but I could have, if only..."  

My dear Husby understands all too well.  It's hard for me to exercise control not to straighten other people's pictures, even.  Flowers?  Oh, man.  Every honest florist will tell you that we're the worst critics of each others' work.  We don't mean to be.  I think it comes from our own inner desires to always improve in our craft, so we analyze the work of others.  Not always benevolently.  What can you expect from a bunch of artists?  Happy for Lizzy and Andrew, I was secretly dreading Saturday, but only because of the flowers, and my own perfectionistic sense of helplessness.

I meet the mother of the bride at the rehearsal dinner.  Her name is also Julia.  We chat friendly-like for about thirty seconds and then I blurt, "You know, Julia, I was totally prepared to be your Floral-Love-Slave.  If you still need help, I'm happy to pitch in." 

Visibly surprised, she asks, "Is that offer still on the table?"  Julia tells me how she purchased bachelors buttons for the boutonnieres, blue hydrangeas, veronica and white miniature calla lilies for the girls' bouquets, gardenias for hair, and baby's breath to fill in, ALL from vendors at the San Francisco Flower Mart (Dang!  I missed the chance to shop at the world-reknown Flower Mart?!  The Florist's Mecca?!).  She and her small crew of sisters were planning to do the flowers in the morning.

In the next minutes I remember arranging for a 9 a.m. ride to the bride's family home, where the celebration would take place in the afternoon.  I'm excited, and still a little nervous.  But a love slave is a love slave, nonetheless.

The temperature in the morning shade is cool and comfortable, so I set up a small work station on the back porch, with Julia's flowers and supplies close at hand.  She is not just busy, but crazy-busy, so I pick her brain for "who needs what for flowers," and with a hand-scrawled checklist, I dive in, freeing her to direct the last-minute decorating in the back yard

In short order, I'm struck with how sweet, good natured and helpful are Julia's sisters, Charlotte and Barbara.  They agree to let me do "the things that are a little more difficult," while they work on the centerpieces.  Juila's daughters, Lizzy and Becky, work on cupcake-frosting, and decorating the buffet area-- all-the-while closely attending to any little thing I needed, like a dish to float & hydrate the gardenias, a box to put the finished corsages & boutonnieres in, and a pen & paper to write the flower tags.

You don't need a play-by-play of the entire morning, but I'll tell you my favorite moments:

I'm wiring and taping the bachelors buttons, so that they will hold up all day. It's standard procedure.

1).  "You're WIRING the bachelor buttons?"  Julia and her sisters stare in amazement.  "Wow, that's so professional!" 

I giggled to myself.

2).  This is a fabulous back yard.  I can't get over the great plant material.  Spider plants, ivy leaves, jasmine vine, agapanthus in full and perfect bloom, climbing roses, variegated pittosporum, and some really cool, sizeable, striped grass.  Would they mind if I used some of this stuff?  After awhile I stopped asking, because the answer simply became, "Whatever You  Want to Do!!"

That was so fun!  The yard's the limit!!

Here are the photos.  What a joy to be able to serve my nephew and his new family.  And to make forever memories, too!
Andrew and Lizzy
Lizzy's sister, Becky
A close-up of Lizzy's Bouquet

Monday, July 26, 2010

Why I'm so happy today...

It's a Monday, and I'm giddy with joy --  the joy and satisfaction which comes from hard work, deliberately, thoughtfully, and lovingly done, with the help, support and understanding of many dear people.  I have survived the biggest wedding weekend of my summer.  The end result?  Success!!

I didn't intend to book four weddings.  Julie, the beloved niece of Bellarmine Prep's Admissions director (my kids' school), chose me for her Friday wedding.  Dina, a new friend who takes part in my do-it-yourself flower arranger's Meetup, asked me to create the floral designs for her Saturday wedding.  And I was sure Kristin, referred to me by a banquet professional that I love, was actually a June bride.  Yep.  A little mix-up.

Already feeling "full plate" syndrome, Jode ("Jo-dee") called me.  She'd found me in a web search and jumped for joy!  I designed for her daughter, Kari, six years ago, and she now wanted me to do Amanda's Sunday wedding flowers, too.  Oh boy.  How do I turn her away?
Well-- I tried to send her away.  Fearing I couldn't make everyone happy, I shared my misgivings with Jode in an e-mail:  "Would your heart sink beyond the depths if I told you I think that you deserve 100% of another florist's attention? I'm feeling pretty darn overwhelmed about that particular weekend, and I don't want your daughter's wedding flowers to suffer because of me being over-the-top busy. I'm so sorry, Jode, and I really hope you understand."

Her insistent answer, although panicky, contained this kernel of beauty which surprised me, and which I believe was instrumental to my success:  "I will be praying for you for supernatural peace, energy, and for His joy to cover you as you fulfill all of your orders. You are truly blessed and gifted...and though you may feel that you are not able to give us 100%, I assure you that your 75% is probably more than most people's 100%."

Looking back on the last week, and all the ways things could have gone wrong, and the countless ways things went "just right," I have to point to prayer.  God hears us.  And Jode was super patient, too.  I had forgotten to wire & tape three little dendrobium blossoms for Amanda's hair, even though I sent them along with lots of extras for the cake and everywhere else.  (My "75%" lapse in attention).  Jode was so nice about it-- and said they just worked some of those loose orchids into Amanda's hair and she looked beautiful!

How often we think that our efforts alone equal our success.  Even when I do my very best, prayer, and patience, add more to a successful result than I understand.  And I believe this extra measure of grace leads to joy beyond words.

Here are the bridal bouquets for the weekend of July 23, 24, 25, 2010.  Enjoy!!
Julie's Bouquet
Kristin's Bouquet

Dina's Bouquet

Amanda's Bouquet

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rest in Peace, Nick Hodgins - 10/14/91 - 6/10/10

As you know, I specialize in wedding and event flowers.  Significant life events are times when "saying it with flowers" seems the only fitting language.

This past week, my creative energy went toward designing memorial flowers for a unique and wonderful young man.

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, on the night of June 9th, Nick Hodgins and his two best friends, Derek King and Anthony Beaver, were making their way home to Federal Way from a senior class celebration activity.

While stopped on I-5 due to car trouble, a drunk driver crashed his SUV into Anthony's car, instantly killing Derek, and injuring the other two friends.  Nick's injuries proved fatal, and he passed away at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle the next day.  Anthony will recover physically.

When I learned about this, my heart hurt for the boys, the moms and the families.  We used to live in that area and I thought-- "I know people who know them."  Sure enough, my friend Dawn knew Nick's mom, Mary, who'd been the daycare provider for her little boy. 

Dawn asked me to create a bouquet for Mary.  For their peacefulness, I selected all white flowers in a clear vase with green marbles, and added a couple of soft, sage green fluffs of feathers wired onto little branches, in the center of the bouquet.  I sent the bouquet off with Dawn, along with a prayer and my card, which says, "exquisite wedding & event flowers, sensibly priced."

The next Wednesday I got a call from Nick's sister.  "Do you do funeral flowers?  My brother died..."

Mom, sister, and sister's best friend came to my farmhouse to talk about Nick, the upcoming services, and what flowers they needed and wanted.  My job is always to listen, interpret, and offer ideas, options and solutions, using flowers, of course, and also logistics.

My philosophy for memorial flowers (I call them "Tribute Flowers") is this -- Between all of the incredible flowers and botanical elements God created, and the artistic inspiration He gives, when guests look at memorial flowers, they ought to be able to "see" the person those flowers represent.  If not, then the flowers are not a tribute, just a decoration.  Here are some images of pieces I created for Nick Hodgins. Thank you to Maida Romaine for your behind-the-scenes help.
These are Nick's favorite shoes-- Always thrifty & practical, he rarely asked for new shoes, instead wore out each pair.  My son Ian thought that the Pac-Man drawings were really "cool."  Planted into the shoes are a Prayer plant, a Turtle plant, some Chinese millet, grasses, a few mini calla lilies and a Black Baccara rose.  Oh, and a duck feather, because ducks always appear happy, no matter what's going on under the surface of the water.

(Above) Casket Spray, with lots of red flowers of many varieties, from tropical to domestic, and strong, masculine-looking foliage. Did you know that tulips keep growing after you arrange them?

Mary, Nick's Mom, wanted a garland of red flowers to be affixed to the inside of the open casket lid, so there would be some flowers near Nick during the viewing.  I used some of the same materials as in the casket spry, and added deep burgundy miniature calla lilies, because they're Mary's favorite flower.

(Below)  The foyer of Bonney-Watson Funeral Home in Federal Way, filled with photos to autograph, a huge poster with thoughts of love, Nick's portrait, the "planted" shoes, and 36-inch tall white floral tribute cross. 

Many of Nick's favorite things surrounded him at the viewing-- his skates and floor hocky uniform & gear, the Decatur graduation cap & gown he had earned the right to wear, and his guitars and amp.

Mark Twain wrote in Puddnhead Wilson, "Let us endeavor to live in such a way that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry."  
As his Mom, Mary Bobbit tells me, Nick Hodgins -- with kindness, gentleness, tolerance, and good humor -- genuinely cared about people. He lived life as the kind of soul who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. This is the life of no regrets.
(Below) The stage in Decatur High School's auditorium, where people gathered to celebrate Nick Hodgins' life, on Saturday, June 19th, 2010.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Good Florist is like a Boy Scout (Be Prepared!)

Yesterday's wedding was to be a pretty basic set up.  Drop off the flowers at the church at 2 p.m., in time for photos.  Set up the altar bouquets, pass out the bridal party flowers, pin on assorted corsages & boutonnieres. 

A contingent of family members from "the greatest generation" waited patiently in the vestibule of the church, while the bridal party were still donning their clothes.  To pin on the 5 groomsmen's boutonnieres meant hunting down bodies -- wait, the bodies weren't dressed.  Hunting down tuxedo jackets.  That's more like it.  Gradually checking off the list, and pinning on parents' and grandparents' flowers as they arrived, I'd soon finish this task. 

Then the groom presented "another" groomsman to me, fully dressed and ready for his boutonniere.  Umm.  Did I make a pinning mistake?  No.  Did someone forget to tell me something?  Yes.

"Are there six groomsmen?"  Yes.
"Does this mean that there are also six bridesmaids?"  Yes.

The groom turned white, then red.  "Oh no.  Leah asked me to call you and order another boutonniere and bouquet.  This is my fault.  I added a groomsman, so she added a bridesmaid, and I forgot to tell you."


Luckily this family did add a bouquet for the sign in table-- And with a little time off to the side where nobody could see me, I re-fashioned it into the Maid of Honor's bouquet.  And I fixed a basic "extra" boutonniere with some bling, perfectly suited for the Best Man.

I may be able to add photos of the entire bridal party later, including those pieces I had to "rush."  Unfortunately, when my mind is focused on work, I sometimes forget to snap the photos.
I did get a few images of other pieces from this wedding.  Find them at Facebook's Fan Page for Julia's Floral. -- enjoy!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lead with heart -- People will notice!

What does my son's Sophomore Class Award have to do with floristry?  I'll get to that in a minute.  In the meantime, here's background.

Picture this kid, 16 years-old, practically born smiling.  Throughout his life, he's known first-hand what it's like to live as the youngest of five siblings in a self-employed family.  Sometimes you have to wait a few months before you get new shoes -- that kind of thing.  Get in line.  Yes, you're adorable, but life is not all about you, all the time.

Intuitively, he discovered the sublime art of getting what he wanted.  Smile, ask, be patient, smile, ask, wait, smile, ask and smile some more.  Be respectful.  Apply your efforts.  And lead with heart.

He changed schools a couple of years ago.  Just two of his classmates moved along with him from the public school to a private high school.  If he wanted to have school friends, he would have to make them.  Smile and ask.  Be patient.  Be respectful.  I can't count the friends now.

Football and Wrestling are his favorite sports.  His winning ways of cheeful, respect and patience, with effort and heart have already produced awards for these sports. 

He sings all over the house.  With cheerful respect and effort, he became one of the only underclassmen in the Vocal Ensemble.  I believe he will become a leader here, too, because his smile continually shows the joy and passion in his heart. 

Last week I got a computer-generated postcard invitation to a school awards assembly-- well, due to a conflict with a wedding consultation, I didn't attend.  Ian thought it would be just an academic certificate or something-- His brother Joe said, "I bet you're Mr. Sophomore."  Now, if I could go back & change my appointment, that's an assembly I wouldn't have missed.

As a mom with faith in a loving God, I believe that our kids are gifts from Heaven.  It's my job to love them guide them, and show them how to live in this world by using their natural talents and abilities. 

Ian's got a natural gift for making people happy, among other things.  Mine is artistic, plus I adore flowers.  I feel most myself, at peace and happy when I'm designing flowers and serving my brides & business clients.  And my faith informs me of this truth as well:  You've got great gifts, too! 

What we do with these gifts is another thing altogether.  Ideally, I think when we are all using our particular gifts, with joy, effort, patience, generosity and a whole heart, people will notice.  And awards will follow.   

Thursday, May 20, 2010

National Association of Catering Executives

Do you belong to a professional association of any kind?  Out of the blue, I find myself a member of a fabulous one!  The Tacoma and Seattle chapters of NACE - the National Association of Catering Executives.  This Spring NACE's membership drive gave me $100 off, so I jumped in!!

(Huge thanks to Nems Scarim of Three Chicks Catering, and Monica Newby of A Grand Affaire Catering for inspiring me to join.  Plus the many members I've come to love in the meantime.)

Although not a caterer in the traditional sense, as a floral designer, I "cater" to brides.  I cater flowers, custom-designed for their special day, using fresh ingredients (flowers & foliages), and creative recipes to blend those ingredients (designs), all in a deadline-oriented environment. 

Consequently, of the many wedding pros I've known over the years, caterers are my best "front desk" people, because we identify with each other.  When we do our jobs well, it's all about the love.

Caterers work SOOOO hard for their brides!!  Every wedding setup I see, these people are working diligently, to earn every penny of their freight.  So when they recommend me, I take it as a sacred trust.  Caterers could risk their hard-earned reputations referring me.  And I don't have the freedom to damage anyone's professional image.

I created these designs for the Tacoma NACE chapter meeting, May 18, 2010, at Indian Summer Golf & Country Club in Olympia, and shot the images with my purse camera. 
All I knew in advance was that the tables seated 8, and would be draped in white & light green linens. I brought 3 vases per table, plus the glass blocks & all the gems & marbles.

The "covered porch" room at Indian Summer Golf & Country Club is delightful, inviting and open to lovely views.  Erin's Linens provided the icy celedon diamond pleated table covers & accents.  In the background left to right are Grady, rockstar server (bending to put finishing touches on the buffet), Christina, awesome server & bartender, Adam Tiegs, Adam's DJ Service and Tacoma NACE Membership Chair, and Susan Aaron, catering manager at Indian Summer and Tacoma NACE First Vice President.
Glass cubes, glass blocks and lime green gel-marbles, mix with a cool, fun blend of Polo and Jade roses, bupleurum, mini green hydrangea, hanging amaranthus, yellow limonium and aspidistra leaves.