Monday, December 28, 2009

Tournament of Roses

What is New Year's Day without the Tournament of Roses Parade? I never miss it. Though the other acts are interesting, the floats are everyone's favorites, not just for the fanciful designs, but for the sheer volume of flowers used to achieve those designs! I especially like this past winner for it's use of roses.

I once read that the parade floats utilize so many flowers, they are responsible for two-thirds of Holland's GDP!

The first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 in Pasadena, CA., by transplanted Easterners who were eager to showcase the mild weather of their adopted home. (In other words, they were bragging that they weren't knee-deep in snow!). In those first few years, it expanded to include such oddities as ostrich races and bronco busting.

Today's floats now feature high-tech computerized animation and use exotic materials from all over the world. A few floats are still made by volunteers working to benefit their organization, but most are now made by professional float building companies, and can take up to a year to reach completion.

It's not the only parade on New Year's Day, but it's surely the reason this one is called "The Granddaddy of Them All"!

At Bloomers, we can't build you a float, but we can definitely create something beautiful for your New Year!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A New Florist for the White House

I can't imagine a more exciting, or more stressful job than being the head florist at the White House. After 30 years, Nancy Clarke retired earlier this year, and Laura Dowling was tapped to become the new White House Florist. Her job will surely be a much different one than that of past Official Florists.

The White House has employed a 'bouquet maker' since the time of President Buchanan, in the 1850's. However, it was 1961 before Jackie Kennedy arrived and created the Office of the White House Florist. A bit of trivia: Jackie's oddest request of her florist was that strongly-scented flowers be used, to help combat the smell of tobacco prevalent throughout the White House!

Before taking over White House duties, Laura owned her own floral studio in Virginia where she specialized in designs that leaned towards French-country style. She regularly traveled to Paris to study with top floral designers and has been featured on tv and in magazines. Clearly, she is no slouch, and will no doubt bring a much needed freshness to the White House!

Having a younger, more modern President and First Lady in office means even the flower arrangements need to be of the moment. Michelle Obama favors hot colors, and for a recent dinner with Indian guests, even included produce in some of the designs. She is also fond of dogwood branches and white orchids.

Before you cry out that the government is 'wasting' money on flowers everywhere, know that to cut expenses, long-lasting ferns are now used throughout the White House, especially in areas that are not generally seen by the public.

Typically, the White House florist will 'get by' with a staff of 3, but that number is augmented with special helpers when needed. Nancy is charged with creating floral arrangements for the Oval Office, the private residence, public rooms, workspaces, hallways, and when in use, Camp David and Air Force One.

You may not need quite as many arrangements as the White House, but it's not too late to call Bloomers for beautiful flowers in your home this holiday!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy reading this one.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pleasing Poinsettia

It's that time of year again...when a trip to any grocery store, discount store or garden center yields giant displays of that ubiquitous holiday plant-the Poinsettia. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are here to stay. Fortunately, great strides have been made in the cultivation of the Poinsettia, and we no longer have to 'settle' for just red. Instead, we now have mottled, bi-color, salmon, peach, white, ivory and pink to choose from. (Sometimes they are even blue, or sprayed with glitter!).

By decree of Congress, December 12 is National Poinsettia Day, marking the death of Joel Robert Poinsett, who was US Ambassador to Mexico. He took cuttings of the plant and shipped them to his greenhouse in Greenville, South Carolina, propagating them and distributing throughout the country.

The name Poinsettia means "Very Beautiful", and when grown properly, they certainly are! Native to Southern Mexico and Central America, they often grow to 10 feet high. In Mexico, they are known as "Flores de la Noche Buena", or "Flower of the Holy Night". Though the bracts do make a lovely flower, they don't work well as a cut flower because of the milky sap.

Remember that Poinsettia is poisonous-so it's important to find a home for it out of the prying hands of children or curious Rover. If your specimen arrived wrapped in foil, be sure to either remove the foil entirely, or punch holes in the bottom, to assure drainage. Nothing will assure a quick death like sitting in water! Otherwise, give your plant full sun during the day, but total darkness at night. The leaves shouldn't come into contact with cold windowpanes, and keep your plant away from hot or cold drafts.

It may sound as though the Poinsettia is a high-maintenance plant, but it's really not.
Though we usually treat Poinsettia as a toss-it-after-the-holidays plant, given the right circumstances, you could have bloom well into March or longer. (My giant salmon-colored beauty lasted until October of this year!)

Check out this Poinsettia bush found in Hawaii!

Remember to call Bloomers early and order your holiday floral gifts, such as Poinsettias!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Wreaths

The Holiday season has arrived, as has the yearly race to decorate everything that doesn't move. Downtown Wilmington was quick to install festive street wreaths the first of November!

The wreath is a popular and traditional decoration, generally fashioned from evergreens, which appropriately enough, stand for "strength of life".

A wreath hung on your home's door is a welcoming touch for visitors, and your style can be as simple or as elaborate as you'd like.

I'm particularly fond of the fragrant balsam wreath, and since moving here from New England a few years ago, have made it a yearly tradition to order one from L.L. Bean in Maine. As soon as it lands on my doorstep and that fresh scent wafts up around me, the holidays have arrived and I am transported back to a time when Christmas meant cold and snow and long drives to be with family.

Wreaths made completely of berries are attractive, too. But a caution: if your wreath is made of particularly tasty berries and is accessible to birds, it will be snacked upon! Best to display it in a protected area instead.

If you'd like to do something a bit different than a traditional wreath, consider a Kissing Ball. These have become very popular in the last few years as porch decorations, and adding lights makes them even more festive. Originally made only of holly, they were hung from the center of a doorway, and tradition called for every person passing underneath to be kissed. Now they can be made from anything: evergreens of all kinds, ivy, berries, even nuts!

Magnolia wreaths are traditional in the South. I love how this one has incorporated pomegranates, musical instruments and sheetmusic ribbon to accent the two-tone magnolia leaves. So elegant!

Coincidentally, my home state of Maine is also the home of the world's largest wreath maker- the Worcester Wreath Company of Harrington. For years, Merrill Worcester and his crew have made the trek to Washington DC to lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery on Wreath Laying Day, December 12. During this holiday season, let's not forget to take a moment and remember the men and women who have given their lives for us all.

And when you're out scouting holiday decorations, remember to support the merchants of Historic Downtown Wilmington and the 3/50 Project.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blooming X-Rays

I was intrigued recently when I heard about an artist and her novel approach to recycling. Julia Barello first starting out making jewelry and displaying it on an X-ray attached to a light box. But before long, she had moved on to turning the X-ray film itself into sculpture.

Mounted on steel pins as multi-piece installations, these works are not immediately recognizable for what they are...but closer inspection reveals the shading, and the change between opaque and translucent areas. These are real X-rays!

Initially, every piece was cut by hand, with Xacto knives, and fittingly, scalpels. Now they are laser-cut especially for her at a special facility.

Julia could easily have used acetate sheets and achieved a similar effect, but she felt it was important to 'see' the body on the X-rays. Once you realize what you are looking at, you're at once fascinated, and perhaps even a bit awed, that someone would turn this particular medium into art.

The installations measure from a few feet up to 15 feet across, and Julia uses varying lengths of pins to achieve a layered effect. Attaching each 'flower" at only one point causes them to move gently when people pass.

Now that hospitals are moving towards digital imaging, Julia's concern is that at some point, she will no longer have access to her medium. But for now, we can all enjoy her new way of recycling...and a great way to permanently add flowers to your environment!

Here's one of her great jewelry pieces...

See some of Bloomers Floral Designs real florals here

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hydrangea Memories

When I was a kid, it seemed like every friend's grandmother had fussy bunches of preserved Hydrangea in the house- faded and usually covered in dust.

So for years, there was no love lost between me and Hydrangea. Until the first year I vacationed in Chatham, Massachusettes on Cape Cod and was surrounded by masses of gorgeous blue Hydrangea blooms. Let me tell you, I was smitten from that point on! I even bought a bush while I was there, in a vain attempt to get the same effect at my home in Vermont.

I say "in vain", because back then, I was unaware that the PH of the soil was responsible for the blue (or pink) color of the blooms. Now that I have more gardening experience under my belt it's not a mystery anymore, though I can't say I have much more luck with Hydrangea bushes in general. Their water needs are just more than I can manage.

Still, I love them as a cut flower, and brides do too, as they are at the very top of the wish list, from casual to formal weddings. This is one versatile bloom! Hydrangea is available year-round, and in a range of colors. In the language of flowers, Hydrangea means 'perseverance'- how appropriate for a wedding flower!

If you are fortunate enough to have a big bush of Hydrangea at home, take time to bring some inside and let them dry slowly. Every one of them will dry to a different color, some to a rusty brown, some retaining a bit of the blue, but all will be gorgeous. Once dry, you can use artificial flower foam to construct a wreath, like this one.

Or if you have a great weathered urn like this, fill it simply, and let the Hydrangea act as an accent to the container, rather than being the star of the show.

On a recent trip to Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina, I was introduced to Hydrangea "Big Daddy".-and I was hooked all over again!

Thinking of Hydrangea for your upcoming wedding? Call Bloomers for more ideas!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Flowers

Have you noticed? It's November already and Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Along with travel plans or menu planning, you no doubt have a hundred other things to think about besides flowers. Let's see if I can answer some of the most common questions that I receive at Bloomers.

Why do I need flowers on my Thanksgiving table? Flowers add a note of luxury to any event, no matter how large or small your gathering. Flowers convey to your guests that you cared enough to make this event extra special.

Which flowers are appropriate for my Thanksgiving table? Your particular style will come into play here. Casual? Formal? Country? Victorian? This time of year allows for so many great floral choices! Mums, fall-toned roses and calla lilies, berries of all colors and types, hydrangea, sunflowers, ornamental kale- all would make great additions to your table decorations. You could tailor the colors to your dishes and linens, or let the centerpiece stand alone as a focal point.

How large should my Thanksgiving centerpiece be? Some things to consider: Will your centerpiece be on the main table or perhaps on a sideboard? How large is your table? How many people will be seated at it? Size matters. Too small and it will be lost; too large and your guests won't be able to chat.

This large basket is great for an outdoor gathering where it can have pride of place.

How early should I order Thanksgiving flowers? Your florist will be busy at least a week before Thanksgiving, not just for centerpieces, but with holiday events in general. Be kind! Call as far in advance as possible, to assure we can order just the right flowers for you. Having your centerpiece arrive a few days ahead will help you plan your table layout, as well as allow the flowers to 'settle in" and look just perfect on the big day!

How long can I expect my Thanksgiving flowers to last?
As with any flower arrangement, lifespan depends on many things, such as freshness of flowers when purchased, conditions in your home, and varieties of flowers used. Some are just naturally longer lasting than others. But in general, you can expect at least 5-7 days for most centerpieces from a quality florist. That's longer than your turkey leftovers will last!

Are candles in my centerpiece a must?
Not at all! A traditional Horn of Plenty centerpiece is always appropriate, as are simple wreaths, perhaps filled with small gourds. Candles do add a certain something, and if you don't have room for a true centerpiece, consider making your candlesticks the star of the show, worked with flowers, like this pretty pair.

Why not make a Bloomers floral creation part of your holiday this year? Remember we can also send flowers anywhere!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Florist Fun in the Movies

I recently saw the new Jennifer Anniston movie, Love Happens. She plays Eloise, a lovelorn florist who's bad experience with men forms the basis of the story with her co-star Aaron Eckhart.

Don't worry- there are no spoiler alerts here! But I thought it might be fun to find out how the movie was made. I was pleased that the film made note of the artistry involved in being a florist. So many people imagine that owning a flower shop is all fun and roses, (so to speak), that we're all just playing with flowers daily. They don't consider the hours of backbreaking work involved: lifting heavy water buckets, the thousands of thorns your hands are subjected to, the worry that your nice fresh product won't sell. Burke (Aaron Eckhart) says to Eloise: “This is so much more than arranging flowers – it’s art.” He should have added that it's also just plain hard work! We never see Eloise actually doing much hard work.

Some fun facts: Anniston's shop did have fully operational floral coolers built for it, but because of the noise they emit, they weren't turned on during filming. And glass was removed from one cooler because it reflected back into the camera.

Teleflora's Marie Ackerman, AIFD, served as the on-set consultant. Though set in Seattle, much of the movie was shot in Vancouver. Marie notes that it was a challenge keeping flower arrangements looking good, as well as consistent, through 9 days of shooting. A few of the larger arrangements had to look good from all sides, such as this beauty, which was seen in a hotel lobby shot.

Anniston's flowershop van was right in step with her quirky personality, and Seattle's hippie-vibe. In one shot, product placement was evident in the obvious Teleflora sticker on the van's back door.

This gorgeous arrangement, which Eloise was shown casually throwing together, would retail for over $500! It is quite large and filled with premium blooms such as orchids, lilies and Hydrangea, massed in a carved wood container.

I did spot a few errors and wondered why Teleflora's on-set consultant didn't pick up on it. The most blatant? Eloise chides her shop assistant for not 'cauterizing' the roses. Eeks! The dictionary definition of cauterize: "to burn or sear"- this is not something you would want to do to roses!

In another scene, Eloise pours corn syrup into a vase, then stabs a few stems of flowers into the goo. This was wrong on so many fronts!

The flower arrangements we did get to see were lovely, as was the visual tour of Seattle. For that reason, I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Halloween Florals

Halloween is almost upon us, and that means entertaining friends and family. Don't despair if you aren't Martha Stewart! A few well-chosen floral designs can enhance your Fright Night decor. This carnation pumpkin is relatively easy to construct and your guests will wonder how you did it!

Of course, the most common decorative element is the pumpkin, and much can be done to or with it, both the real versions and the artificial ones. In this arrangement, don't you love how the holly is made to look like little bats? As for the blooms, mums are a popular and economical choice, but if you're throwing a big bash, why not splash out with some gorgeous fall-hued roses and calla lilies? I particularly love this one-the creamy color of the pumpkin perfectly compliments the different tones of yellow and orange of the flowers. Add some candles and you're 'good to glow!'For spooky elements, long branches of curly willow are a fun choice. And almost any leaf can be painted black with floral spray paint. (hint: only attempt this outdoors!) Then add Halloween-themed decorative elements, like this cute little broom. Though this is a structured arrangement, the orange and yellow gerbera daisies give it a whimsical feel. To accomplish the look of this centerpiece (below), use a soaked floral foam wreath for the flowers and fall leaves; then set a carved pumpkin in the center, using it as the candle holder.
If you'd like help with your Halloween floral designs, call Bloomers anytime! 910-815-8585

Monday, October 12, 2009

Truly Green Flowers

Browsing a bookstore recently, I came across an intriguing book called Green Flowers: Unexpected Beauty for the Garden, Container or Vase, by Alison Hoblyn. It may change the way you look at green!

The color green has always been an expected color in gardens and containers. The range of greens available is mind boggling, and there is one to complement every hue, from hot orange to palest pinks, from white to deepest burgundy. Green can be energizing, or neutral and restful
On the color wheel, it unifies blue and red.

As a florist, not a day goes by that I don't utilize something green in an arrangement, and that may not always be 'greenery"! Don't you just love this acid-green Fuji Mum? Here are a few other true green flowers you may not be familiar with.

Bells of Ireland: Contrary to the name, is a native of Turkey and not Ireland. Related to mint, which you'll recognize from the tiny leaves that sprout out of the top.

Midori Anthurium: The name means 'flower tail'-the long protrusion is covered with tiny florets. The back pad is really not the flower at all! Anthuriums, whether in this eye-popping green shade, or the more common red, are a prized, long-lasting Hawaiian tropical.

Super Green, Jade and Limbo roses-an unusual choice for any bride, and one that is sure to elicit ooh's and aaah's! A bouquet of this color is a beautiful compliment to pinks and aquas.

Dianthus' soft natural color will never be confused with those garish dyed carnations that make an appearance every St. Paddy's Day.

Green Hydrangea. A favorite with brides. This fluffy head of delicate color plays well with others.

Hanging Amaranthus. With long soft bracts of green florets, Amaranthus can look positively prehistoric, but in reality, they feel like velvety chenille.

Next time you are thinking of a bouquet or arrangement, think Green!