What a satisfaction to admire your blooming plants in the garden and bring them indoors as well…especially when some plants, like hydrangeas, can offer a myriad of shades, tints, and tones for personal color schemes!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
What a satisfaction to admire your blooming plants in the garden and bring them indoors as well…especially when some plants, like hydrangeas, can offer a myriad of shades, tints, and tones for personal color schemes!
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Are you a fall bride, a spring bride, a color my world girl, or a classically green and white gal? Whatever your wedding scheme, let your flowers speak of your style, your personality, and as the natural reflections of your big day!
So, this Farmer has had his share of wedding flower fun. Rich, bold colors to soft palettes to all those in between have been requested from bridal clients of mine. Whether you are just engaged, jetting down to city hall for a nuptial drive by, or still a little girl dreaming of that special day, keep in mind some tips and pointers on wedding flowers for your bridal debut.
Think about the season. Money is always a factor with flowers, but sometimes Mother Nature can help out the pocket book. Greenery, fall leaves, winter limbs, summer blooms can all enhance the wedding flower collection for next to nothing. All those flowers from the florist were grown somewhere, so utilize some garden blossoms for filler or a showstopper! To me, some of the most beautiful arrangements are those that mix florist and garden flowers. Keep the season in mind to fill in with natural elements for your celebration.
Fall…what a time for rich colors and a bounty to cut right out of the garden! Pyracantha, grasses, dried flowers, fall foliage and limbs, and feathers are so beautiful this time of year. Make awesome accents with beauty berry, wheat, pumpkins, lilies, and sunflowers too!
Winter…something romantic and complementary about a winter mix of flowers with bare sticks and limbs. Candlelight too adds warmth to the chilly season as well as ambiance.
Spring…this season almost dictates its color palette. Fresh hues of pinks, greens, blues, and shades in between are so much fun for this time of year. This is also a great time for wonderful potted arrangements and plantings too.
Summer…the classic time for weddings! Cool themes, like blue and yellow and white and green, bring some coolness to this heated time. Even late summer, with its plethora of ferns, drying hydrangeas, limbs of greenery, and full grown gardens is a super time to get married.
· Living arrangements…I know I’ve touched on this before, but don’t forget that planted compositions can sometimes outlast cut arrangements and be planted in the garden after the wedding. These make a nice break from cut arrangements placed on everything that sits still.
· Remember the three “F’s” for your wedding…food, flowers, and fotos! Guests always remember what they eat and see, and YOU need to remember the event too…good photography is the key to capturing this momentous occasion. Make a statement with quality, not necessarily quantity, flower arrangements. Amazing arrangements at crucial spots make such a statement and keep an air of elegant restraint to a big event.
· When in doubt, green and white is the way to go. Classy and elegant any time of the year, this combo is always fresh, cool, and totally appropriate for a wedding. Highlights of something blue makes a delightful scene and just seems to fit right in a wedding theme. If pink or lavender or any other color is your favorite, then incorporate it as your “signature color” into this neutral scheme for a punch.
· Flowers and plants can be great gifts for the guests as well. Seeds, bulbs, and herbs make wonderful favors and most herbs have a meaning…rosemary for remembrance, basil for love, sage for wisdom, lavender for devotion. Incorporating these into your ensemble is quite thoughtful and enjoyable for your guests. I even did the flowers for a rehearsal dinner with all herbs as the centerpieces…mounds of the herbs were the planted in dish gardens and provided meaning and fragrance for the evening.
· Bouquets…this is one of those places I encourage brides to spend some thought and money on. These will be seen for years in your pictures and these will be the most personal flowers of the day. If the bouquet has a lovely scent, then how special will it be for you to smell lilies, freesias, roses, or gardenias and be transported by memory right back to your wedding. The bridesmaids’ bouquets can serve double duty as additional centerpieces or table decorations at the reception too.
· “My colors are blush and bashful…I have chosen two shades of pink, one is much deeper than the other…” (Steel Magnolias) If you have a color scheme in mind and it makes you happy, go for it! Uber trendy themes may be schematics to steer clear from, but if you are set on blush and bashful, it is your wedding, honey, and your prerogative…at least for this day!
· Regardless of the time of year, be honest with your floral designer about your needs, wants, and wishes and open to interpretation on those. There is nothing more satisfying than a happy bride enjoying her day surrounded by her favorite flowers, and, like the marriage itself, the relationship between bride and florist is paved with communication. Enjoy your bridal days and make a lifetime of memories graced by the beauty of nature!
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sticking with eastern exposures, pockets of sun beneath high tree canopies, those little spots of light receiving a few hours of sun per day, and enough water will reward you and your garden with blooms.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
This old English nursery rhyme is always revolving around the crazy record player in my mind when thinking of lavender.
I love lavender and the ranges it casts from blue to violet. Sunsets, clouds, sky, flowers, and even bark have lavender hues and winter reveals these tints with gusto. I guess it’s the grayness of the sky and tree trunks, but the faintest amethyst hues keep popping into mind during this season.
The center of some ornamental cabbages and kale inspired this tableau. A gorgeous shade of purple and the yet to bolt inner leaves of these attractive winter annuals display ranges of lilac, lavender, and blue greens that inspired me to set a table with all lavender dishes. The veins of these cabbages are even purple, now tracing a lavender vein through this tablescape.
A flaxy linen grain bag served as my cavalier or runner for the horizontal break on the table - an inspiration from Italy. Cabbages mounded in a blue/gray/lavender tinted urn were quite complementary to the tableware as the “off centerpiece” that balanced the pitchers and stemware on the serving piece.
Silver pitchers, muted a bit and unpolished, were hearty and harmonizing with the lavender dishes. And a collection of mismatched silver flatware contributed a degree of relaxed elegance and some provenance to the table as well.
Simple brown linen napkins kept the earthen tones grounded with this scheme, picking up the pecans and pine cones stacked in lavender bowls I had scattered around. Also, brown in the rusty birds and urn kept with the brown accents as well.
Lavender, brown, and silver were the resounding theme for this setting. Shades of each kept the natural tones of these colors in check with the inspiration. When taking inspiration from nature, I never know the end destination my inspiration will take me. The center of a cabbage led to a fun tablescape of mainly lavender with highlights of rust and silver. Totally appropriate for this time of year, this theme could also fair well through the other seasons with right accoutrements. I’m already dreaming of an all lavender setting with hydrangeas this summer and Mexican salvia this fall.
Keep your eyes and imagination sharpened and honed for where natural inspirations will take you. Plan a party or dinner and have some friends over for a lunch or night of fellowship and good times. Lavender’s blue…lavender’s green…such a lovely song!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I believe every host and hostess should have a great neutral dinnerware. Whites, creams, and bone colored dishes are easy to mix with other pieces. Even a fun color, such as lavender, can be a great neutral, complementing so many colors found throughout nature. Take a “color challenge” and look for the tints, shades, and hues of a color you love within nature…it is amazing how the shades of a color will come forth from your studying of your surroundings. Lavender is my color I always find in the sky and other natural canvases.
So, white, gray, green, brown, and crystal clear stemware set the tone for a winter tablescape. A walk through the woods inspired this scheme… antlers, gathered pecans, branches of quintessential magnolia and pine… the elements from my walkabout were now a part of my table top!
White plates and bowls, placemats made of sticks, gray linen napkins, pewter brown flatware, and a rusty iron planter billowing with branches of magnolia and pine became the characters for this table setting. I then garnished with pine cones, pecans, and antlers. The day was a beautiful winter day and the tablescape was reminiscent of winter’s colors and textures.
Silver rimmed chargers juxtapositoned with the bone white plates and woven stick placemats were complementary in texture, visually and tactilely. Remember candlelight is the key to atmosphere - I used some antlers that have been converted into candelabras to continue the natural, woodland feel. Pine cones etched on the glasses also gave a nod to the natural vibe.
If you still need a splash of color, try mixing some green and white transferware, china, or stemware within your scheme. Green is still natural and quite neutral.
This Farmer took inspiration straight out of nature…do the same for your tableau and wow your guests with your congruence with nature. Here are a few tips from my table to yours…
· With nature as your inspiration, keep natural materials on hand. Terra cotta dinnerware, silver flatware, linen napkins, fresh greenery and stems…all natural materials for your nature infused event.
· Your sideboard can be the springboard for your table’s palette. Stack your plates, flatware, and stemware to amass your theme in a central locale, setting the tone for your event.
· Garden urns make wonderful centerpieces and dividers between table settings. If your table is large and your crowd is not, make double use of your table. A large centerpiece can separate dining and serving ends of the table, and keep the dinner party warm and intimate. Also, little arrangements down the table is a great conduit to keep a theme flowing.
· Take an inspiration point, such as a color or a certain element, and thread it through the schematics of your table design. The grayish, toupee brown of pecans lead to thoughts of pine cones and antlers... the antlers lead to dinnerware color and brown kept appearing in various and sundry shades, even on the back on the magnolia leaves. Rust on the planter just fit right in!
· With a simple, natural palette, simple arrangements work best. Pine, magnolia, and cherry laurel – all picked right off the property – were all this table setting needed. Embellishments from and for the said greenery are quite apropos i.e. pine cones.
· With a winter tablescape, it could be challenging to make it not look like Christmas…avoid red, stick to a green, gray, white, and brown, and your winter theme dinner will be non Noel.
· Keeping with neutrals for your tableware allows you to change the feel of the whole setting with what’s in bloom. This same theme could be filled with hydrangeas and shells in summer or gourds and pumpkins in the fall… basically the bones would stay the same and the accents would lend the seasonal touch.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Drying hydrangeas may be accomplished with ease. Improper and premature cutting are most always the culprits as to why hydrangeas do not dry. So many times, folks have their cherished blooms crimp, shrivel, and wilt. Timing is everything with drying flowers, and hydrangea drying is of no exception.
Follow this tip for triumph with drying hydrangeas: By allowing the flowers to dry naturally on the bush, the need to preserve them with silicone gel or hanging them upside down becomes null and void. Clipping the blossoms once they no longer feel too “fleshy” but rather thicker and somewhat “papery,” rustling when you touch them, is a key to drying hydrangea success. Once your skilled “garden eye” has been honed, you will be able to scope out hydrangeas ready to be cut, arranged, and dried in place from twenty paces.
Share your garden treasures inside the home with arrangements of dried hydrangeas as wonderful accents on mantelpieces and atop shelves and cabinets.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Thinly sliced in a salad, fried in rings, sweated and sweetened, or adding zing to a burger or hotdog, these powerhouse bulbs have flavored meals and dishes for centuries. No other vegetable brings tears to my eyes as these subterranean roots do…I digress.
Synonymous with onion across the Deep South and country is the Vidalia – a sweet, crisp member of the genus Allium. Soil conditions in that part of South Georgia create an anomaly for these surprisingly sweet onions to grow and flourish. Yet, even if you and your garden are not in the legislatively approved section of Georgia to produce quote Vidalias unquote, growing onions and other members of their family in your home garden is easy and quite rewarding.
Here in the Deep South, zones 7 and 8 especially, onions can be planted in the winter garden for spring and summer harvesting. I like to buy bulbs and onion plants from good sources such as Bonnie Plants which can be found from hardware stores to big box stores across the South.
Onions need a loamy, rich soil that can be easily broken, prodded, and dug into for planting and harvesting onions. An old adage with planting onions in winter is “if you can poke a pencil into the soil and move it around, then you can plant onions.”
Plant your onion plants about an inch or so deep, four inches apart… just don’t plant them too deep. As the plant “bulbs” or becomes much fatter, even emerging from its mounded planting site, and develops a hearty topping of greenery, loosen the soil around the bulb for easy harvesting. Don’t forget to water and fertilize your onions with a good fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or 10-20-10. Bonnie Plants’ site and Wikipedia have awesome tips and history on onions…does this officially make me a plant nerd? Oh well…
If your garden space is limited, try gardening and growing onions and other veggies in half barrels, large pots, or raised beds; or grow smaller varieties of Alium such as chives. The onion is totally edible in its various growing stages, but those fat, tasty bulbs are the punch of flavor most desired. Leeks, shallots, and garlic are all cousins to the onion and each have a place in the garden and kitchen. A few tips on cooking with onions from this Farmer’s kitchen:
· Invest in a good chopper…crying rivers of tears over onions can be avoided with these contraptions. Plus, the tiny bits of the finely chipped and chopped onions brown fast and easily, adding amazing flavor to most any dish.
· If chopping and slicing with a knife, light a candle nearby to help reduce the fumes that cause our eyes to tear up. A fan and good air flow help too!
· Roasted onions are incredible! A red onion with carrots and potatoes is a simply elegant dish or a bed of these purple hued onions for your meat is delicious and beautiful.
· “Sweating” onions, or using heat to bring out the onion’s sweetness, is highly recommended for tasty additions to dishes or as a side in and of themselves. Butter, oil, and beer are all great vehicles to “sweat” your onions in and remember to add a dash of salt to bring out the moisture too. A lower heat and covered dish is the ticket to sweet sweated onions. Oil for temperature and butter for flavor – a cardinal rule in the kitchen!
· Browning your onions before adding them into other dishes, such as squash, meatloaf, chicken salad, or pasta, gives these bulbous veggies a sweet and salty combo that escalates any dish to top notch. The main difference between browning and sweating is temperature. Chopped onions in hot oil and flavored with butter, salt, and pepper, is a step that will make a good cook a better cook quickly!
· Your centerpieces can even be accented with onions. A bowl of peeled red onions is stunning on their own or mixed with cabbage or kales. Tiny seedlings banded with raffia make great party favors too.
· Experiment with different cousins of this fun family for different flavors and dishes. Whether you garnish with chives, sauté with shallots, or roast with Vidalias, keep onions as a main player in your cooking repertoire. Growing and harvesting and then cooking your onions are fun ways to meld the garden and home together.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Hydrangeas, hydrangeas, hydrangeas…a garden must have hydrangeas. Alone in an arrangement or mixed with other trappings from the garden, hydrangeas are a staple for the garden and the home. Many folks think of the “blue mop heads” in summer, but with the right selection, you can have hydrangeas from May through October. Let me introduce you my friend LEONA…that’s the acronym for the five types of hydrangeas that will give you blooms to arrange and enjoy for half the year or more! Limelight, Endless Summer, Oak Leaf, Nikko Blue, and Annabelle planted in the garden will provide buckets of blooms for your home and table for months.Here in the Deep South, zones 7 and 8 especially, this acronym for the names of these five hydrangea cultivars is an easy way of remembering how to maximize the bloom times of these magnificent flowers. For those of us in zones 7 and 8, the Oak Leaf hydrangeas will start blooming first in May. Keep in mind different varieties of each hydrangea can bloom at different times as well, so you can even have a succession of successive blooms during the season. After the Oak Leaf, Nikko Blue and Endless Summer kick in along with Annabelle. Though all three bloom very close together, the Nikko’s turn green and shades of aqua after their classic blue shade and even turn shades of coral, rust, and chartreuse. Endless Summer blooms multicolored on each plant, with blues, pinks, and lavenders harmoniously covering the shrub. After their initial bloom, Endless Summer will jump start again with blossoms well into summer and finish up in the fall. I count on their russet, coral, and aubergine colored fall blooms for my autumn arrangements. Annabelle blooms hard through June and then the snowball white flowers turn chartreuse green for added summer color well into July and August. Finally, the grand finale is with Limelight. This new offspring of the
h. paniculata species kicks into high gear in July and goes strong well into August and September. The creamy white panicles or blooms turn lime green, almost like a high light from a stage, thus the name. Coral pink edging will occur and these flowers will provide your late summer and autumnal bouquets with body and texture.
Become acquainted with LEONA for May through October blooms. The back bone of your own personal floral shop, these amazing flowers can even be enjoyed year round once they are dried. When planning your garden, plan on inviting LEONA. The blossoms from this delightful new friend will fill your home and garden with multitudes of blooms.
photograph by Delaney Holliman
photograph by Delaney Holliman
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Simple yet rustically elegant, this little meal came together in a flash. Good ingredients, fresh herbs, and an infused olive layered upon a crispy crust hit the spot. Since I always have rosemary and parsley on hand, they were the top candidates for this pizza. The latter herb is highly underrated – parsley has a wonderfully unsullied flavor and tastes somewhat like it looks… green, crisp, and fresh.
The bakery section of my grocery store has pizza dough for sale and it’s delicious. This dough is one I say to cheat with, since they’ve already made it and it’s just waiting for you to bake it. The canned versions aren’t bad either.
For my olive oil, I used infused oil that has a mix of garlic, salt, white and red pepper, thyme, bay leaves, some coriander, and fennel. Making your own infused oil is easy…just mix up a grouping of your favorite herbs and spices, about a teaspoon of each, and let the mix “steep” in some olive oil for a bit…the longer this assembly melds together, the better it gets! Specialty food stores also carry great selections of infused oils.
Cheese, please…ricotta for the base (then the oil splashed on top), shredded mozzarella, romano, provolone, and fontina make up the lactose body of this pizza with a sprinkling of parmesan for good measure. If buying a gaggle of cheeses isn’t your cup of tea, use a blend from the grocery.
I baked it until I thought it looked done and the cheese was toasted and completely melted. As soon as I took the pizza from the oven, I sprinkled the fresh herbs on top and let the heat wilt them perfectly, adding that fresh layer only herbs can add. My rustic cutting board provided the perfect spot to serve the pizza from, and my simple little meal was served. A fine little meal I might say, and from my little pizzeria to yours, Buon appetito!
The Farmer’s White Pizza
- 1 Grocer’s bakery pizza dough…thin crust preferably.
- About 4 tablespoons of infused olive oil
- ¾ cup of ricotta cheese
- 2 cups of mixed cheeses (mozzarella, provolone, fontina, and romano)
- ¾ cup of shredded or grated parmesan
- Handful of curly leaf parsley and rosemary leaves…basil or thyme would be great in the Summertime!
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Layout the dough on a greased baking sheet and Spread the ricotta across the dough and then drizzle with the oil.
Sprinkle the mixed cheeses evenly across and bake for about 12-15 minutes…remove from oven when the dough is crispy and the cheese is toasted.
toss on some fresh herbs and servd hot with a good cold white wine…maybe even a nice little salad, too!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
But then, there is that moment when your sister is actually getting married - marrying one of your best friends - and you, are not only the floral designer but brother and groomsman, pulling a triple shift to turn your sister’s dream for her wedding into a reality.
Maggie, Meredith, and I are a very close set of chickadees and I could tell anyone what Miss Sarah Margaret would want for her wedding flowers since we were little…YELLOW roses and BLUE hydrangeas - basically summing Maggie up with flowers! So, a June wedding would be no problem to cut these flowers right out of the garden and decorate the church and tent with every blue and yellow blossom on this end of Dixie! March 15…the date was set…NOT the opportune time for either of the flowers, but thank God for greenhouses and forsythia!
Maggie wanted a garden themed, elegantly Southern wedding and reception. Our home church was a given and a tented reception at our Aunt and Uncle’s was perfectly apropos! Yellow and blue, her signature colors, and shades in and around, were used from the programs to the tables to the altar. Hundreds of Nikko Blue hydrangeas were specially grown for the wedding along with yellow Sweetheart roses, variegated shell ginger, palms (it was Palm Sunday weekend), maiden hair ferns, and a myriad of other floral wonders.
Rather than numerous cut arrangements, I planted “living arrangements” or compositions of plants mixed with some cut stems for additional interest and drama. The plus side of these floral symposiums is that we could plant the hydrangeas, roses, ferns, and ivy in the garden and have perennial reminders of that happy day!
For her bouquet, Maggie wanted yellow and cream roses, in various shades, in a mounded spray accented with seeded eucalyptus. Vintage lace wrapped the stems and carried her laced dress theme as well. As for the bridesmaids’ bouquets, she wanted to look as if we’d just gathered them from the garden and tied a bit of lacey ribbon around…so we did! Rosemary, which stands for remembrance, was the perfect garden greenery, and yellow roses and blue larkspur added to the garden feel.
Hydrangea blossoms on the cake and cascades of the blue flowers tumbling out of every urn and pot kept the blue theme in motion. Even the dinnerware and serving pieces – mixes of silver and porcelain from family collections – were a part of the theme. Our aunt’s line of dinnerware, Provista, proved to be the perfect complement in hues of lavender, cream, and green. All in all, the color, floral, and garden theme carried through quite well… making for one very tired yet very happy brother!
A few tips on garden weddings, events, and outdoor entertaining ventures…
- Use nature’s provisions! Forsythia, agarista, aspidistra, azalea, and budding spring limbs worked well for this early spring wedding.
- Planted compositions…they last longer than cut arrangements and can be planted in the garden after the wedding. Hydrangeas, fern, and ivy…simply elegant and stunning. Stems of cut flowers and sticks add drama too!
- Use urns, pots, baskets, and garden furniture as props, containers, and serving ware for that “touch from the garden” feel. Maggie’s cake table was the door from an old grain elevator and two iron stands. An urn with maidenhair fern, some rusty iron birds, and an urn base for the cake kept the alfresco theme in high gear.
- Lanterns…use lots of lanterns and even torches for added light, romance, and charm. Everyone always looks great in candlelight!
- Remember the season with your food…fruits and flavors of the season make a lovely statement!
- Garnishing the food with flowers keeps the theme on track too - blossoms on the cake or herbs and flowers tethered to serving pieces is a charming detail.
- If you have time ahead to plan your event, plan your plantings and pots. Fill your color beds and containers with seasonal accents and allow them to be fun parts of the outdoor décor! Plus, planting ahead allows them to grow and fill out before the event.
- Think scale…outdoor scale is larger than indoor scale…pots and containers should be big enough to make a statement and not get lost in the crowd.
- As with any party, have fun! Roll with the flow and entertain with confidence!