Monday, August 31, 2009

Gorgeous Gardenia

With so many brides asking for Gardenias lately, I thought this would be a good time to look into the history of this lovely "Southern" flower.

Gardenia was named for Dr. Alexander Garden, a friend of Linnaeus (who invented the system of ranking living organisms). Originally known in Europe as Cape Jasmine, the Gardenia was never an American plant. Instead, its roots travel back to South Africa, and is a member of the Rubiaceae family. Discovered in 1754 by Captain Hutcheson of the ship Godolphin, who noted that while walking on shore, a sweet heavy scent led him to find the huge double white flowers of the Cape Jasmine. Hutcheson dug it up and took it back to London with him, where it was propagated and later sent to the U.S, and its name changed.

Dr. Garden was English but settled in Charleston, SC in 1751. A physician and plant collector, he was also a Tory, a fact that eventually forced him to leave America during the Revolution. A sad footnote is that his granddaughter Gardenia was never allowed to meet him.

As a garden plant, Gardenias are notorious difficult to grow. As a cut flower, they require very particular handling, since their delicate petals brown easily. To ship Gardenias successfully, they must be packaged carefully, again to avoid bruising.

This photo shows how beautifully they mix with other flowers in a bouquet.

Brides are again slowly turning to cascade bouquets, and in this photo, (below) they are beautifully mixed with Stephanotis and jewel pins- a very elegant look. Note that the Gardenias have a slight blush color, which was applied.

And I haven't even mentioned the Gardenia's intoxicating fragrance!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Royal Florals

Royal Wedding Flowers.

I recently came across a beautiful coffee-table book by Elizabeth and David Emanuel: A Dress for Diana. While I've admired Princess Diana from the start, and was fascinated with her fairy tale wedding, I never gave much thought to her wedding bouquet! This book opened my eyes to the myriad of details that went into just this one show-stopping bouquet.

David and Elizabeth were then-unknown designers who were chosen by Lady Diana Spencer to design her wedding dress, for her 1981 wedding to HRH The Prince of Wales, the heir to the British throne. No doubt the 19 year old Diana was unaware of the hundreds of hours of planning and labor that went into designing her dress, shoes and flowers. Everything was done under the utmost of secrecy.

With an elaborate silk dress and a train fully 25 feet long to complement, this bouquet had to be able to hold it's own-and it would be seen by millions all over the world. (No pressure on that florist, I'm sure!). The renowned florist Longman's was selected for the project, and they were no strangers to designing for royal weddings, having done the flowers for Princess Elizabeth's and Ann's weddings, for a start.

The first mock-up was done in silk, and was in a 'shower' design, unusual at the time, and it certainly was responsible for the trend of cascading bouquets for some time thereafter. Once the design was decided, three bouquets were made: one for the practice the night before the wedding, which was then displayed in Longman's window. The second was made early the next morning, for the big event. And the third was taken to Buckingham Palace for the formal photos. All were escorted by police motorcycles on closed roads.

It's dimensions were large: 42" long and 15" wide, a far cry from today's 'clutch' style bouquets. The palace had requested that the gorgeous yellow Mountbatten rose be included, to honor Prince Charles' uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, who had been killed. This color is what inspired the flowergirls' dresses.

Along with the yellow rose, this beautifully fragrant bouquet was otherwise all white and cream, and composed of Gardenia, Stephanotis, Lily of the Valley, Odontoglossum orchids, Freesia, Veronica, and Myrtle. The last two from bushes started with cuttings from Queen Victoria's bouquet; the rest were sourced from all over England. The Gardenias were provided on bushes to assure freshness. Because it was so heavy, (estimates vary between 4 and 6 pounds) it was important that the bouquet be properly weighted, requiring a very skilled florist indeed!

Monday, August 17, 2009

More Flower Arranging Ideas

Now that summer is in full bloom, so to speak, you may be running out of ideas for displaying the bounty from your flower garden, especially if you are fortunate to have a large cutting garden.

First, think outside the box. (Or in this case, outside the vase!) Any kind of watertight container works. Really! Even if it's not watertight, you can slip a glass inside to hold water. Just be sure to test first.

Then, refer back to my past BloomersBlog, "How to be a Kitchen Sink Florist", outlining simple care and handling steps to assure long vase life for your blooms.

Next, start looking around! A bottle of wine makes a quick, casual vase, especially if the label is particularly attractive.

I have a collection of old pottery and stoneware...dishes, pots, containers of all sorts. I've kept them for just this reason. An old teapot, too chipped for it's intended use, makes a pretty vase; even nicer if you can coordinate the colors of the blooms to the container, as in this pretty-in-pink composition.

Just can't find a suitable container? Raid your fridge! You probably have a gorgeous watermelon in there, and it would make a fantastic container!

Cans of all sorts always make interesting containers, with their colorful labels and sometimes quirky artwork. The ethnic section of the grocery store is a great place to find these.

And of course, the very best thing to do with your flowers it to give them to friends for no reason at all! Why not leave a pretty posy on someone's doorknob-a nice surprise to come home to!

Need help with your arrangement? Call Bloomers for FREE advice!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Floral Philately

I've loved flowers for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I also had fun paging through my uncle's stamp albums, and my favorites were always the ones with gorgeous blooms, usually from countries whose names I could barely pronounce. Little did I know that years later, I would be working with the renowned British philatelist Stephen Osborne!

During those years, I handled probably millions of stamps and continued to be fascinated by the floral ones. Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service alone has issued over 100 postage stamps with different featured flowers?

The famous 'Love" stamp, issued in 1982 is a classic. That same year, the Postal Service also issued the State Birds and Flowers stamps, for all of the 50 states.

You can design your own valid postage stamp on Here's one I found there recently, designed especially for someone's birthday. What a lovely way to celebrate an event!

Great idea: design your own stamp for mailing out your wedding invitations.

The British Red Poppies stamp, interesting because of it's use of barbed wire rather than stem, was voted the most popular stamp of 2006 In Great Britain. Note that Queen Elizabeth's image is always somewhere on the stamp.

Thailand's stamp for 2009 is this gorgeous white rose, stunning in its simplicity.

A flower can be found in even the smallest of unexpected spaces!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Flowers in Crystal: Swarovski Silver Crystal

Flowers done in crystal! I've been a big fan of Swarovski Crystal for decades, but once they began introducing flowers, I was really smitten! Here's their story.

In 1892 Daniel Swarovski patented a machine to cut crystal and the industry was never the same again. He moved his company from what is now the Czech Republic to Wattens, Austria, so that he could harness the power of water there. In the 1950's, working with the designer Christian Dior, the Aurora Borealis effect in crystal was invented. No red carpet event is complete without some Pretty Young Thing wearing Swarovski, either their fabulous jewelry, or a crystal-adorned gown or bag.

The Silver Crystal Collection began in 1976. It was shortly after this time that I discovered them, seeing the famous Silver Crystal Mouse somewhere in my travels. He was composed of chandelier parts, and created especially for the Innsbruck Winter Olympics. From that point on, I never took a trip without buying a piece of Swarovski for my collection. Though his little ear is broken, I still have that original mouse.

An exciting new introduction this year is the Rocking Flowers collection, which have a rounded crystal base that allows the flower to gently sway back and forth.

The Swarovski Collectors Society was founded in 1987 and I was excited to be in the first wave of members, as I continue to be today. Over the years, I've attended Members Only events, met some of the designers, (most from Austria), and had some of my pieces signed by them. Every year, Swarovski sends a new piece as a gift for membership.

Many brides are familiar with Swarovski, as their tiaras are true standouts. This year Swarovski has again designed the tiara for the 53th Vienna Opera Ball, named the "Super Nature Tiara".

If you plan to visit Austria, no visit is complete without a stop at Kristallwelten, the official site of Swarovski. It sparkles night and day!