Monday, October 10, 2016

Easy Succulent Centerpiece

 Happy Friday, friends!  Succulents are all the rage right now and with good reason.
They're easy to plant, easy to care for and they make even the brownest thumb gardener feel successful inspiring a whole new generation of indoor gardeners. They're finding their way into bridal bouquets, driftwood planters, wall gardens, office buildings, and home and garden centers. Even our local grocery store is selling them.

The most important thing to remember when caring for succulents is not to over water. They store water in their leaves not their roots so don't drown them or they'll wilt, shrivel, then die. They love lots of natural light too.

 Do you shop at Savers? I love scavenging there for interesting vessels for floral arrangements and centerpieces. They always seem to have a good selection of vintage silver plated platters, bowls, tea pots and candy dishes for low cost.  My nursery manager picked up this pretty footed bowl a while back and it's been calling my name for months! I personally think vessels with an aged silver patina are perfect for the softer, more muted greens and grays of succulents and cactus. This footed candy/compote dish was crying out for something fun and we just happened to have some left over succulents at the garden shop to play with.

The pretty scalloped edges of the dish inspired me to select succulents with similar shapes and texture.

I like to use Horticultural Charcoal in the bottom of my succulent containers without drainage holes to aid in air circulation.

This footed dish isn't deep at all in the center which makes it perfect for succulents because they don't have a deep root system and they require very little water on a weekly basis. Just a mist every week or so is all they need to keep them happy.

You can use regular potting soil to plant succulents but I prefer Organic Cactus and Succulent Soil Mix because it's lighter and provides the proper drainage and nutritional needs that are specific to succulents and cacti.

Once you cover the charcoal bits in soil you can start placing your succulents.

I only filled the center of the dish, leaving plenty of space for design flexibility.

Starting with the largest succulent, remove some of the excess soil from the bottom of the plant and lay it on it's side where you want it to go. Build your design with the remaining succulents and cactus in this fashion ( removing soil as needed and tweaking the placement) until you like the finished design. You'll find as you finish edging the dish with plants there will be a hole in the center of the arrangement. This is a perfect place to add something taller. A little bit of height in a low centerpiece  creates drama and interest.

Succulent Centerpiece
See how it stands up just a smidgen higher than the others? Once you have your placement completed, fill in around the plants with soil a little at a time until the plant base is covered. Dust off any remaining soil with a pastry brush or small paint brush

 For a centerpiece this size water with about 1/4 cup of water at the soil level then give it a fine mist with a spray bottle. Ta DA!

 Now go raid your basement, grannies attic or local Savers for some fun vases and vessels.

Oh, and you can read my other post about succulents, here.

Just keep growing...

The Rusty, Dusty Blogger

 ( 54 year old me)  Dahlia Diva and Late Bloomer
 Howdy friends!  How on earth has it been three months since my last posting? Isn't that equal to an eternity in blog land? In all honesty, I think that having an Instagram account ( @dandelion_house ) has made a lazy blogger ( and blog reader ) of me and I miss it! I love IG, but it's time for me to dust off this online journal of mine and get my thoughts out to you in words AND pictures! 

 Each growing season teaches me something new and as always, I'm excited to share it with you. I hope ( and pray) you're still there dear friends, for fall and winter are upon us and we have loads to catch up on! 

Early August Zinnias
 Let's start with summer.  I hope you were able to squeeze out some time to make some fine summer memories with family, friends, and FLOWERS. It's a fine balancing act I know!  Our summer started slow with a cool June that seemed to linger into mid-July. I got most of my tubers and seeds in on Memorial Day Weekend and continued sowing seeds for few more weeks with a late sowing of Sun Flowers and Cactus Zinnia at the end of July. Hopeful as always for heaps of flowers, by late July reality set in that we were experiencing an extreme drought in coastal Massachusetts. A water ban went into effect for anyone on town water. We have a well, but that didn't make it any easier. I still felt it was necessary to be conservative, but if you grow dahlias ( and most other cut flowers) you know they need consistent watering to set blooms.

Cafe Au Lait Dahlia ( Eden Brothers )
 This was the year of  the Pan-tone color pallet. Soft pinks and aged ivories reigned again for the top wedding colors. As the desire for local wedding flowers increases, I've added more of these soothing shades of dusty pink and white to my collection. The Cafe Au Lait dahlias rocked it as usual and they're still blooming. Bright yellows and solid whites with pretty true greens are coming in hot for 2017 which is a bold and exciting change, but as a grower first, my passion is about growing healthy plants that thrive in my zone. As farmer/florists we have an opportunity to introduce people to flowers and foliage's that are truly seasonal. Doing so helps us establish a signature style which reflects the region we live in.

Bridal Bouquet Mix Eden Brothers
Flowers for an August wedding.
My kitchen island becomes a temporary floral studio the night before a wedding. Doing weddings are stressful. Not because growing and designing is so hard, but because so much is on the line. I only get one chance to get it right. Luckily I've had the pleasure of working with such sweet brides ( and mother of the brides). It's been my experience that people who choose local flowers understand there is a need for flexibility and seem to enjoy an element of  surprise. After all, we growers are at the mercy of mother nature which only enhances our creativity. I thrive on that pressure. It often means running around my gardens finding interesting foliage and textures to add to the mix last minute. 

Happy bride and mother of the bride.
This was the first year I grew specific flowers for specific weddings. Anna's romantic vintage inspired wedding called for a casual, loose feeling with lots of soft pinks and greens with small pops of bright pinks and corals.

Bridesmaids bouquets.

 Dahlias and zinnias were the feature flowers paired with aged hydrangea, sedum, dusty miller and amaranth for texture. All sourced from my cut flower gardens and borders.

Sweetheart Table

Mason Jar Centerpieces
I enjoy all the hard work that goes into growing and designing with flowers. But when the bride and motb cry at the "first look" of the flowers,  that's when I know my flowers and I have done our job. My bucket run'th over!

 I love being part of the local flowers movement. I'm lucky that the nursery where I work part-time supports my efforts by letting me sell my grab n go mason jar bouquets there. The nursery has 18 greenhouses where they grow most of the garden shop inventory. These hardworking growers are passionate, hardworking folks who walk the local talk.

Kati, the crafty DIY bride.
 My backyard blooms found their way to hospitals, nursing homes and were given as hostess gifts too. Another batch of early October blooms will appear in an article for Early Homes Magazine.  We're getting around in a good way!

September Splendor!
In between work at the nursery, tending my gardens here at home I try to find time to create bouquets just for fun. This arrangement was inspired by the splendor of September. It features dahlias, hydrangea, zinnias, amaranth, cone flower seed pods, ornamental grass plumes, cosmos, coleus, sunflowers, nine bark, and a pretty weed that I don't know the name of but I loved the texture. ( top left of the arrangement) Maybe you can identify it for me!

August and September Blooms
 Raised cut flower beds in late July ( 2017)
While I always love sharing my progress with you, it is my ultimate wish that you'll be inspired to start small just like me. If you're like I was in 2012 and have BIG DREAMS of being a flower farmer, but aren't planted on what you would consider your ideal plot, start small and get growing in your own backyard. I started with 8 4x12 raised beds and added 5 more last year. Think of it as your micro-flower farm experiment. Your backyard is the perfect training ground for when you put on your big flower farm-HER pants and move on up to field grown or hoop house flower production. 

To sum up this season I'd like to say there were more happy surprises than set backs. From the farming aspect, I was able to keep pests at bay on the dahlias, but powdery mildew got the better of my zinnias after the first flowering. Good thing I planted a late crop of them for insurance. The long drought and heat stressed the dahlias but they didn't succumb. I hand watered them regularly, treated for pests, and harvested enough blooms to satisfy a variety of occasions and clients. I tried several new plants including, cleome, amaranth, scented geranium, several coleus varieties. I'm most excited about the Kings Mums I planted. They are finally beginning to bloom. I promise to share more as I learn more about them. The best part of this season are the wonderful people that I never would have met if it weren't for flowers.

  There's so much inspiration out there to keep you juiced up. One of my favorite places to visit for motivation is Debra Prinzings Slow Flowers Podcasts. I Love her live interviews with local growers. Each one unique and inspiring. You'll hear direct from the farm about all things growing, designing, and teaching with local flowers from talented established and up and coming farmer/florists. 

Be sure to visit Eden Brothers for their preseason sale on seeds and tubers going on right now.

The Flower Farm Renaissance is here to stay and there's is room for everyone!

Here's a little flower-food for thought.

A flower does not thing to compete with the flower next to it, it just blooms.  ~ unknown

That's what I want you to do. Put down some roots and BLOOM!

Please stay tuned! I promise not to go away forever again!
Hugs and Happy Harvest Season.

Friday, July 8, 2016

What Every Bride Should Know About Choosing Local Flowers

My sweet husband and I will celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary this year ( I still can't believe it's been that long). Every time I meet with a new wedding client I can't help but be transported back to our wedding day and all the planning we did to create a special day for ourselves and our guests. We chose a small country venue for our old-fashioned Vintage Victorian theme ( who knew we were ahead of the trend by about 25 years? ) If I was wearing a flower crown instead of a wide brimmed hat I just might pass for a modern vintage bride today. The roses for my bouquet were local ( but most likely not in season in September) but I do recall having simple small wild flower arrangements on the banquet tables.

Happily Married me! (circa 1991)
 The 2016 Wedding season is here and locally sourced wedding flowers are more popular than ever before. Whether you're going the DIY rt.or having your flowers designed by a farmer/florist there are a few things you should know about choosing local flowers for your wedding day.  

  • I  recommend an in-person or at a minimum a phone consultation to find out what kind of farm/garden or other local sources your flowers will be coming from. This is also the best time for the farmer/florist to get to know you and find out about your venue, wedding theme, the types of flowers you would like as well as any personal details in the wedding flowers you wish to include. 

  • Local and seasonal flowers aren't always cheaper than imports. When comparing costs, remember that your local farmer/florist has been married ( so to speak) to your flowers since the day they placed their first corm/seed and tuber order for the season. From that moment on they are committed to bringing you fresh, lush and vibrant blooms for your special day. Local flowers are almost always 100% sustainably grown and have been given lots of TLC before they come to you, so they come with love and beauty.

  •  Seasonal flowers means, just that, seasonal. June, July, August and September are brimming with beautiful blooms so be sure to ask your farmer/florist what will be blooming the week of your wedding. Some may have pinterest boards, and/or websites with lists of the flowers they offer each month.

  • It's always a good idea to visit the farm or garden where your flowers are coming from. I love to have couples over to see the flowers. This is a good time to bring any vases, ribbons, trays, etc that will be incorporated into any design work your florist will be doing for you. 

  • If you're working with a local florist and want to use local flowers, just ask. It's possible they have a network of local flower farmers to source seasonal flowers from. 

  • Some farmer/florists also deliver and set up a venue, others do not. Expect a delivery and set up fee to be added on to the cost of the flowers.  Be sure to iron out those details from the very beginning. You don't want any extra stress tacked on to your wedding day. If the grower is also your designer, expect a design fee to be added to the cost of the flowers. 

  • Local flowers can also mean plants, trees and flowers from your local garden shop. Some nurseries offer design services which can be a great fit for romantic garden themed bridal showers and weddings.
 Find local flower farmers, florists, and designers, on the Slow Flowers Directory Website.

As always, thanks for reading! 

I wish you a wonderful gardening ( and Wedding ) season. 

Only ' natural ' green gasses were used to drive us to our reception hall.

Put down some roots and BLOOM!

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