Crazy for Pansies {The Pansy Ring}

001This is the time of year in the South where copious amounts of little Pansy plants are purchased and incorporate into landscapes outside business and homes across the region. They are adorable, edible, tougher than they look, cold loving, and come in a rainbow of colors and combinations. I started collecting them  a few weeks ago and could not stop. But that’s just part of the story here. You see, I’ve been waiting for pansy season because of a dear friend named Kevin. This summer I purchased from him the most curious little doughnut shaped vase. It was only two inches tall, from Germany, and almost looked like a circular ceramic frog. It turns out, in essence that is what the vase was. Kevin is a man well versed in antiques and oddities. If one needs to know what antique grape scissors look like, he knows and likely has a pair. He and his partner sell antiques and much more here in Memphis through a company named Posh Design Group. They are talented in many mediums, but getting back to the curious vase story, Kevin told me it was specifically designed for pansy flowers, known as a ‘pansy ring’  because obviously the stems are too short and blooms too flat to stand in a traditional vase. My mind was blown and ever since that moment I have been waiting to try this beauty out! Here are the results: I loaded the ring with flowers took some photos, then thinned them out, and took more photos.  I also gathered all of the smallest vases I could find and began to sort them out into the vignettes below.

Being up close to pansy flowers is not something I do often so I also learned that they have a very sweet and enchanting fragrance. What a unique decoration for any occasion or day of the week and lovely way to bring color into one’s home during those darker colder months of the year in which the pansy thrives. For all of these reasons I would highly encourage the ownership and use of such a fun vase. The color combinations are endless. This precious pansy ring has also continues to fuel my interest in flower specific products and frogs. I have quite a collection mounting for future features!

About this pansy ring: It is from a German company named Ulmer Keramik and dated sometime in between 1949 and 1960. The waterproof glazed ring has three little round feet and a blue stamp on the backside.

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Colors from the Earth (Natural Fabric Dye} Part 2

1212Dying fabric with my hands and products derived from the earth was an experience I will not forget. Each new dye product and the color created gave me just a small insight to the methods in use long before dye was mass produced. The turmeric was especially vibrant and so rewarding to use on every material I chose. The day of the flower dye shoot a sweet little moth came up and rested on a Marigold the same orange as its wings. It was a glorious afternoon. I encourage anyone with curiosity on the subject to try something as simple as using the typically discarded water that comes from soaking black beans (the dark blueish water) and boiling or even sun dying any fabric in a jar for a day or several. I actually put the beans in the ground after boiling them and they sprouted immediately and thrived.

The natural products used for dying were:

Coffee, turmeric, paprika, orange Marigold, Queen Anne’s Lace, Black Eyed Susan, blueberry, blackberry, black bean, Chamomile flower, and Stock flower in both magenta and purple.

Some of the fabric colors you see here were created with various mordants to seal in the color.  The mordant combinations were different for each color batch, but were primarily one of either salt, alum, vinegar, and cream of tartar. These are the safer of the mordants and can all be found in the spice section of the grocery store. Some can change the color of the dye significantly. Research is key for selecting the right mordant for the color effect desired.

Photographs By: Annabella Charles

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Dying with Flowers {and other Naturals} Part 1

1In August there was a lot of activity in the studio. Our intern Annaliese brought something magical with her and a large part of that was the fact that to teach, I had to stretch my mind and imagine what it was like to learn something completely new. The atmosphere was alive with ideas and many art mediums colliding. Her love of pottery mixed with my love of botanicals was an explosion of creativity that resulted in spending a week of obsessive study on the art of dying fabric with natural materials. Humans these days are really reaching back out to nature and I must admit that after the extremely satisfying results of a few test recipe batches, I was hooked. I spent every spare minute boiling and sun dying fabrics in jars, big pots, copper basins, and the porch pretty much looked like an alchemists paradise. I talked about it constantly, spent hours online reading natural blogs for recipes and my hands were purple and blue. One night after leaving a bowl of Turmeric outside next to a bowl of blackberry dye, a racoon came and dug through the yellow powder and then the blue water making green stripes on my fabric! After the mania of creating every color I could in less than a week, Annabella Charles brought her camera and the three of us had an incredible 2 day summer session. The results were so perfect in telling the story that it is split into three posts:

1) Dying with Flowers

2) The Colors of Nature

3) A Potter’s Journey

The recipes are not exact. The best way to learn to dye with naturals, flowers, spices, beans, vegetables, and fruits is really in the trial and journal of your methods. It’s a lot of chemistry but the variables are your water source composition, pot metals, nature of the materials, fabrics, and mordants; none of which are going to be exactly the same as what I used in the photos.  I was able to get multiple colors out of a single fruit like blackberry using different pots, heat sources, mordants, and fabrics. The best way to document your dying recipes is in a journal with samples put right into the page. I created a sample journal, but would recommend at least one page per color or dye method. This was incredibly fun! If I weren’t so consumed with flowers in my life I would enjoy the life of some of the premier natural ribbon and fabric dying companies of our time. The one that is on every bouquet these days being Silk and Willow because of their gorgeous natural colors and safe dying methods. Silk and Willow is known to collect Avocado pits from restaurants just to recycle a bit more and make some of the most earthly yet ethereal colors from them. They are worth every penny to wrap that bouquet that makes you want to weep over its beauty, the extra finishing touch with perfect imperfections no factory could manufacture.

The steps to dying are simple once you get the hand of the process.

  • Create the dye by boiling your dye product and water.
  • Strain out any large particles.
  • In a separate pan boil your fabric in water and add the mordant.
  • Boil mordant and fabric for at least and hour and allow to cool.
  • Remove the fabric from the mordant and wring it.
  • Some mordants may need an additional water rinse.
  • Add the fabric to the strained dye and boil for an hour or desired color saturation time.
  • Remove the fabric from the dye, rinse, and air dry.
  • NOTE: Colorfastness is not guaranteed so please don’t wash hand dyed fabrics with other clothing until certain it will not bleed. I typically hand dye items I wash alone such as table cloths or ribbons (for bouquets) that are hand washed only and ironed.
  • Here is a link to a more utilitarian tutorial

This concept and all of the lessons were a complete indulgence in creation. Please enjoy the work of our team and photographs by Annabella Charles Photography!

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{Click here to see Part 2 of this post}

We Love: Fresh From the Field Wedding Flowers {By Erin Benzakein and Lynn Byczynski}

We love the book Fresh From the Field Wedding Flowers written and photographed by Lynn Byczynski and Erin Benzakein for many reasons. First and foremost would be the approachable nature of the context and photos. This is a book for everyone and an honest look at wedding designs during the recent desire to turn back the pages to a simple more natural style of arranging flowers. There is even a companion tutorial DVD included which is perfect for those who want more than a static page can offer.  Lynn Byczynski is widely known in the community of flower farming and farming local product. Her book, The Flower Farmer, is one of the best to read on the subject, especially when starting out and is also worthy of a feature here on our blog so stay tuned! Lynn also is the editor/publisher of Growing For Market, established in 1992. These women know their field!

fresh 1The tutorials and photos in this collaborative book are useful for beginners and for veterans, as we believe there is never enough experience in seeing how things are created by others. Erin Benzakein’s story is enchanting, her farm amazing, and her gifts to the world of sharing flower farming and arranging knowledge is quickly making her a household name and the darling cover of many magazines. We adore her just as much and the glimpse into her true thoughts an family life in the Floret Flower Blog. Here is Erin’s blog post on the book. Below are some of our favorite arrangements as well as photos of Erin and her daughter working together.

fresh 2 Fresh 3There really is so much to love about the people living their dreams and sharing them with the rest of us who consider joining them. For new designers and the budding bride, there is  so much to learn and see in Fresh From the Field Wedding Flowers ; a book that gives a great appreciation for the time and skill it takes to arrange flowers for a gathering and event and realistic expectations on all fronts. This book is not physically large, yet is full of well crafted advice on the why, where, when, and how of every subject from local flower finding and use to why certain flowers will not work or whether one is truly meant for DIY wedding flowers and what that enormous commitment entails. We believe if one is to attempt DIY, this is a must read for the truth about what works and what will cause stress and delay and what options are best to achieve the look. Kudos to the authors!

fresh 5fresh 6This photo in particular has been a personal favorite for over a year and was printed and taped on the wall of the studio for a long time. All photos are from the website


Inspiration Recharge

I was recently fortunate enough to be taken to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (lacma) and it was exactly what I needed to renew my creativity. There was too much to see in a few short hours, but I think any longer would have been overwhelming. I have to thank Sam, Alex, and Paula for the idea and accompaniment on a perfect visit that made the most of a little spare time in such a big city. These are just a few of my favorites (I really do lean toward still life) and photography was allowed unless noted next to each piece; which was awesome! I know I cannot do these works full justice, but I can at least look at them until I travel to see the brush strokes in person. Check out the site and internet images for past exhibits and visitor photos of the wondrous exhibits.

{The photos in order are de Grollier, Van Huysum, and Cezanne – All on display at lacma}

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Flowerwild Workshop


Maycamas Ranch is nestled deep in the heart of Napa, California. It was there that Kate Holt of Flowerwild greeted us (attendees of her workshop) with open arms. It was also there, surrounded by beauty, that we formed new friends and learned from a pioneer in the shift of floral design in our changing world. Kate was so lovely to meet because she is simply and authentically Kate. She cares about our craft, our world, and our community. As I moved through each new day at the ranch I began to see the simplest principles that get lost in the every day event industry: quality over volume, honing one’s specific style, the true value of one’s time and creativity. If those elements are missing from the business of an artist it can cause a ripple of unwanted changes that lead one to stray away from why they chose flowers in the first place (or any career/passion for that matter). Floral design is rarely extremely profitable, but there must be a balance between making soulful designs that are commissioned by people who appreciate its value, and the ‘copy and paste’ rampant in today’s creative industry.

The sights and sounds, mixed with my photo journal and notebook, are so precious to me. I am sharing just a piece because like any soulful journey it is meant to be kept close to your heart. Jose Villa was there on the final day taking photos of our work. Once we all got past being a little star struck by watching Jose and Kate work together, the entire group had the most fun. It was the perfect retreat and Kate was an ambassador of change to us all. By sharing her world, she inspired us to go home and find our niche, find our community, and thrive. Making romantic garden style arrnagements is very fulfilling, but if you find yourself interested in a workshop you may want to ask yourself, “What is it I am trying to learn? Will this help to be more in touch with a style that speaks to me?”. The more we do this kind of introspection, the easier it is to find our place and the best people to help guide us along the way.

{The photographs were taken by me and the lovely logo work on fabric was by the talented Pitbulls and Posies}

Thank you so much Kate!

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We Love: The Flower Recipe Book {By Studio Choo}

The Flower Recipe Book is a great read for starters and professionals alike with stunning visuals and both common and unusual flowers for every taste. Well done from start to finish, its simple and clean format is just perfect to unclutter your mind and only think about flowers.

The company is Studio Choo.

The book can be found here among other places. {Amazon}

The authors are Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo.

Amazing photography: Paige Green

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We Love: The 50 Mile Bouquet {Book and Blog}

The 50 Mile Bouquet is a journey alongside author Debra Prinzing and photographer David E. Perry in their documentary of growers who don’t follow the modern unhealthy methods of mass flower production. These stories and photos give hope to those of us who feel torn to be a part of such a business that is seemingly about nature and beauty, yet unknown to many consumers, leaving a giant footprint of pollution by both pesticides and fuels. After reading this we are  inspired to reach out to local vendors more and even try a hand at producing some of the goods ourselves when possible; as this book is all about possibilities and creating a new normal for floristry and floral farming in America. The 50 Mile Bouquet will open your eyes to what floral resources are best used close by and are far more responsible than taking the “cost” of air shipped products for granted. The 50 Mile Bouquet Website

Debra Prinzing’s Books

David E. Perry’s Blog: A Photographer’s Garden

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We Love: Dogwood {a flowering tree}

Flowering Dogwood trees are truly magnificent. We love them so much they are a part of the Haute Horticulture logo.

There exist a few common varieties that all put on a spectacular flower show in the Spring. The white, pink, and red varieties are all a member of the flowering North American Dogwood group Cornus Florida and each has the distinct four rounded bracts (what people commonly see as flower petals). The group of Asian Dogwoods has pointed bracts and blooms only creamy white flowers a little later in the Spring. These Kousa Dogwoods (Cornus Kousa) are often referred to as Japanese, Korean, or Chinese Dogwood Trees. Most of these tree variteites, and many others are available through the Arbor Day Foundation for a very fair price to plant in your own yard, which is exactly what we plan to do this Spring.

Last year we got together with Annabella Charles Photography, Everbloom Designs, with dresses from Barefoot Bride (worn by model Alicia) and Linens from Studio 1524.  We created a lovely inspiration photo session paying homage to the Dogwood. We waited until the branches were perfectly in bloom and assembled a team of quite a few behind the scenes favors in the form of: the location (a private residence), monogramming (K. Young), cake making,  and lovely paper goods by the talented Natalie Chang. We fused style elements that could be incorporated into a garden party or wedding complete with hair accessories by Kristin of Everbloom Designs. The result was just as we had hoped and even made a prompt appearance in The Wedding Chicks Blog. Now a year later, we yearn to work with those branches again and hope they make their debut soon!

Photography: Annabella Charles

Fabric Flowers and Styling : Everbloom Designs

Ring pillows/ hair and Mua : Tasha Rick

Cake and Petite fours : Cindy DeBoard

Stationary and Calligraphy : Natalie Chang

linens : Studio1524

Dresses provided by : The Barefoot Bride

Model : Alicia Nash with ETA


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The Cheery Cherries {Using Fruit in Bouquets}

1cherry 2cherry 3cherry 4cherry There is nothing more delicious than using berries and various edible fruits in bouquets, but what is truly safe and what is fantasy? We have worked a great deal with fruits and unusual bouquet content recent years and here is the true advice we have to give customers and aspiring floral designers alike. When it comes to bridal bouquets these are our 7 best tips to avoid complications and gain peace of mind:

1) If you are using real fruit with clear juices make sure it is under-ripe and very hard.

2) If you wire fruits that are larger and heavier the test is simple, if you hold the wire only and the fruit does not stand erect, the gague is not heavy enough or the fruit needs more wires through it. You can also combine wooden picks but make sure the fruit is anchored with some wire or the fruit may fall off the pick alone when the bouquet is held upside down (which does happen).

3) If you use real fruits it is safest to nest them into the flowers so that they are not on the outside of the bouquet where they can get bruised or start to weep.

4) Never use real fruits with extremely dark juices. It may look appealing in magazines (yes we have published a few ourselves) but the secret is that there are some very convincing faux fruits and veggies out there,  and no floral designer or bride should have to worry about this when there are lightweight fauxs that can be tucked (wired) into the bouquet. Make sure the client understands that these concerns are for clothing safety and the reason a real plum is probably not ideal for a bouquet; give them the truth about the risks of real fruits and vegetables and they will respect you for thinking ahead.

5) Peppers and fruits like Mangos can be very irritating to skin and eyes if the oils come off onto the designer’s hands or onto the client’s hands. The best thing to do is use faux or very small ornamentals that are grown specifically for arrangements. It may seem tempting to use that cute little jalapeno pepper from the garden, but it could potentially get an irritant all over everything that it touches.

6) Be smart, if you aren’t going to be there to watch over the bouquet for the entire ceremony and reception and all photographs, then our best advice is play it safe rather than risk disaster. There are so many usable low risk berries and ornamentals to use and the options are getting better each year with the demand. If you must go outside the box, practice and see how well the fruit holds up outside the cooler and in a bouquet for a day.

7) Be creative! If the customer needs a certain color or look, there are probably alternatives that can be used instead. For example, Hypericum berries look a lot like little strawberries when used with strawberry foliage and not bunched together.

All photos by Annabella Charles Photography

Photo Shoot seen in Mag Rouge

We Love: The Book Bringing Nature Home {Flowers by Nicolette Owen}

 The book Bringing Nature Home : Floral Arrangements Inspired by Nature with designs and by Nicolette Owen and photographed by Ngoc Minh Ngo is a delight for flower enthusaists as well as designers who crave examples of modern natural arrangements in a beautiful home setting. The arrangements may seem simple, but the placements of the seasonal branches and garden treasures are designed to pay homage to the beauty of each flower. We are so excited to see a rise in popularity of the natural flower arranging and this beautiful book definitely has a respected place on our shelves!

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