21/8/2018 0 Comments
Well I went to a potluck the other day, but it waren't like any kind of potluck I'd been to before.
Last Monday, a group of flower growers came from all around Southern Ontario to meet up at beautiful Country Cut Flowers and construct a large-scale, foam-free floral installation.
Yup, foam-free! While those dusty, green blocks of floral foam are undeniably effective, their convenience comes at great cost to the environment. So, more and more of us are doing our best to move away from the stuff. Suffice it to say, if UK florist Phillippa Craddock can rig up a giant arch and multiple hedgerows for the recent royal wedding without using an ounce of foam, surely we can get there too. That was the thinking behind this workshop, anyway, as envisioned by the amazing Louise Warner from Unicorn Blooms and Wild Imagination Flower Co. and taught by flower mavens Jordana Masi and Amira Shabason.
And now for the final product.....................
It is incredibly exciting to be pushing forward together on such an important front. In general, foam-free design requires more labour and is therefore more expensive, but the hope is that we'll be able to use some of the techniques we learned to make our own installations during the upcoming inaugural Canadian Flowers Week, September 13-19, 2018. It is a VERY exciting time for flowers, folks.
Will I be doing something that week? Yup....... and I can't wait to tell you about it soon!
In the meantime, thanks forever to Louise, Amira, Jordana, and Janet for bringing us all together!!! I regret I was to shy too ask everyone to stand for a group photo - so let's just have one more of Amira and Jordana.
What do you get when you bring together one happy bride-to-be, several of her sweetest and most flower-loving friends, and a whole lotta flowers in an amazingly chic party room? A Posy Gang bachelorette party flower crown workshop!!!! This happened a couple of weeks ago, and I could hardly wait to share this album with you all. So without further ado:
After a brief demonstration of flower crown mechanics, I set the ladies loose upon the flower bar. This pic in particular makes me very happy - I think the bride's smile says it all. How amazing to be surrounded and celebrated by one's nearest and dearest! This woman's pretty awesome, though, so it's little wonder that she's so well-loved by friends from every stage of her life.
Thanks again, ladies!! You made my week.
Until next time, Gang --
Years ago when I was living downtown in Toronto, I used to make up all sorts of reasons to visit The Room at the Bay. Sometimes I'd bide my time and browse other stores first - a warm up of sorts - while other times I'd head straight there.
Reliably, as soon as I stepped off the escalator and glimpsed those gorgeous mannequins arranged on the far side of the floor -- pouf! -- a sense of euphoria would billow up from my feet like a cloud of smoke and expand to fill my chest. It would lift me up, clear off the ground, the better to haunt the racks of ready-to-wear, enveloped in a warm, dreamy cloud. Then I would paw helplessly at treasures I couldn't take home with me, all the while ignoring heart palpitations.
I get that giddy feeling over food too, but these days, I most frequently have it around the flowers I grow and the photos I take of them. They're intense, these dopamine explosions that happen when I cut an exquisite stem or capture something delicious on camera. So it was with these irises, with their flirty skirts and naughty beards.
All of this picture-making feels so good, in fact, that I sometimes worry I'm losing myself in a beautiful but maladaptive dreamworld of my own making. I mean, to reassure you (and me), relatively speaking, I'm probably quite firmly tethered to the earth, even if it's only with a longish piece of twine and a rusty ground staple... I just worry a lot.
Gang, if any of you have somehow achieved a good balance between your sensuous and intellectual minds, please do let me know how you did it. For now, watch me give in and indulge the former:
Hello my Posy Gang!
Excuse me if I sound a bit breathless. I’m still coming down from the high of participating in the Fleurs de Villes Spring 2018 Mannequin Series!
Fleurs de Villes is a Vancouver-based event company that stages one-of-a-kind floral art events, most notably their annual Mannequin Series. This year, they're bringing their 5 day long, eye-popping installations to 6 malls in 4 provinces. Each mall showcases 15 local designers who create fresh floral dresses for their own mannequins.
If you’re just learning about the Fleurs de Villes Mannequin Series now, bookmark it for next year. There’s nothing quite like turning a corner in the mall and coming upon a forest of these gorgeous figures all dressed in flowers. Those of you in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary – you still have a chance to see it this year! Find out more at fleursdevilles.com and spread the word.
My own mannequin adventure began just seven weeks ago, when a last minute call for submissions to the Vaughan Mills show came across my desk. As soon as I read the e-mail, I knew I wanted to do it. So I rifled through my mind’s eye for something I’d want to wear, put together a quick plan, and pressed send.
Thankfully the fantastic organizers of Fleurs de Villes didn’t keep me waiting long for an answer. In what felt like a flash, I was a part of the show, and then the real planning began.
As the April 19 opening night approached, I found myself staring into the distance a lot, designing and re-designing dress underpinnings that would allow fresh flowers to last for 5 whole days in a mall environment with bright lights and an abundance of airflow. Gang, this had to be good. Most weddings don’t demand so much of flowers!
My mannequin was delivered a week before the show. I named her Viola in honour of one of spring’s first flowers. Watch her get dressed:
Of course, sometime between the second and third pictures, the ice storm happened. Then, as the ice melted, the basement flooded. Haha! I'm thankful the water only flowed for one day and I was there to do something about it. I also got the good news that my mannequin was going to be sponsored by the Korean beauty and skincare giant, The Face Shop. Cool!
With the dress finished on Wednesday night, the biggest challenge still lay ahead. Everyone wants to know how we got Viola and her dress to Vaughan Mills. Good question! I too wondered how it would be done. In short, we were very careful. And I should have rented a cargo van. The trickiest element (because it was heaviest with flowers and had to remain upright) - and the one photo I didn’t get - was Viola’s legs, sewn into the bottom half of her skirt. A full week has passed since this all happened, and I’m still experiencing waves of relief that the skirt arrived at the mall intact. Thank you, my magical clown car, and thank you, my superhuman husband.
On opening night, after all the set up was done, the floral designers and their supporters gathered again to marvel giddily at each other’s work and celebrate a job well done. Champagne flowed and hors d’oeuvres were nibbled (inhaled). Know this: Fleurs de Villes throws a great party!
Not surprisingly, as much as I enjoyed the party, the most rewarding part of this experience was returning to the Vaughan Mills over the next few days and chatting with mallgoers as I tended to my flowers. As people wandered among the mannequins trying to decide which was their favourite, I frequently overheard, “Oh the flowers are real?!” “Omigosh it smells so good in here!” “<sharp intake of breath>”.
And then, five days after Viola and her 14 friends made their debut, it was all over. I dismantled my mannequin, brought the dress back to the workshop to recycle and compost what I could, and sat down to write to you.
Is it crazy that I’m already planning for next year’s Fleurs de Villes? I’m thinking more seasonal, more Ontario-grown, more fantastic for 2019...
In the meantime, it’s back to seeding and transplanting. Out in the garden, I’m starting to get plants into the ground (and fighting with the squirrels to keep them there), the narcissus patch is about ready to burst, and the tulips are doing their very best to make it to the May 12 Toronto Flower Market season opener!
Yes! This year I’ll be back at Shaw Park with the TFM gang on May 12, May 26, and October 6! Get excited.
When I write to you again, my post will be full of SPRING. Until then, thanks for reading, Gang!
For about a year when I was seven or eight my mom took me to Chinese brush-painting lessons every Saturday morning at a strip mall in Scarborough. I can't recall my teacher's face anymore but I remember she was about my mom's age, and gentle and patient. I remember the smells of bottled India ink and cracked tubes of rainbow paints; the dread of having to wash my brushes under a tap that only ever ran icy cold; the sound of my teacher's knife slicing through rice paper to cut sheets to size; and my frustration when I produced only clumsy-looking compositions. Perfectionist at seven years old, sigh.
Every few weeks my teacher would demonstrate a new form - either flora or fauna - and then I'd practice the brushstrokes in their particular order. I worked my way through grasses, daisies, helenia, goldfish and various seaweeds - but chrysanthemum blooms were my very favourite to paint. Starting with the two innermost petals and working outward from there, each incurve petal was its own study in brush control.
Sadly, when my teacher moved away, the lessons stopped and I never thought much about chrysanthemums again except to doodle them in pencil from time to time. I always appreciated the giant potted mums that show up each year in October (so robust, so showy!), but I didn't equate them with the elegant specimens I'd learned to paint as a child. Also I didn't know any gardeners growing up - and heirloom chrysanthemums aren't regular garden fare anyway - so it wasn't till I interned at Floralora Flowers that I realized they existed beyond the realm of Chinese paintings. I could grow them myself!
I got my first heirloom chrysanthemum plants in May and promptly lost all their labels, oh well. My chrysanthemum supplier had suggested I grow them on in containers so I could move them indoors if they hadn't bloomed by the time frost came. Well, about half of my varieties flowered before the frost and the other half afterward, so I'm glad I followed her advice. Here are the very last ones to bloom (they're still sitting on my table - I'm so impressed with their vase life):
My chrysanthemum memories are all the sweeter because my dad's mother practiced Chinese brush-painting too, in her later life. I never got to watch my grandmother work, but she'd tape her studies to her bedroom wall. Every Saturday afternoon when we visited, I'd examine them closely.
My grandmother died a few years ago, and my grandfather this past spring. I helped a little to sort through their things, and I made it my mission to find the paintings I remembered. It's not lost upon me how lucky I am to have found them:
What are your flower memories?
My final garden harvest of the year was giant brussels sprouts, ten purple and blue beasts that I'd tucked into various holes in my perennial beds. I lay them all in a row and marveled at them like I'd just returned from a prehistoric plant safari. I was hoping to store the stalks whole (with the sprouts still attached), but the sprouts were so tiny that I just harvested them all and we had a particularly sprouty dinner that night.
I considered including a recipe here, but I don't know the quantities of anything I used - I'm turning into my mom, haha! Briefly, I sauteed the sprouts with caramelized onions that I'd made in the slow-cooker and frozen in ice cube trays last week. Besides salt and pepper, I like to add a tiny bit of sugar to my sprouts, tho these ones weren't bitter at all to begin with. Next time I must add some bacon/prosciutto/pancetta...
If I grow these again I'll have to seed them much earlier and give them more sun - but I don't know if I can spare the space! For better or worse, my list of flowers to grow in 2018 is almost double that of 2017. Still, these purple-green gems are hard to resist, no?
Until next time, Gang.
Though it's been a warm October and I'm still waiting for frost, autumn's here, alright. I've been in the garden most of the afternoon, tromping rather listlessly from patch to patch, caught up in a cycle of starting and abandoning tasks, distracted all the time by moments of beauty, a raucous wind, and sporadic but heavy rain.
In my travels across the yard I'm seeing all kinds of bees and wasps and I'm very admiring of them. They work, work, work until the cold gums up their muscles, so that they lay nestled inside a cosmos bloom, or belly-flopped on a nasturtium blossom. I'm suddenly struck by the idea to dress up as a sleeping bumblebee for Halloween - and then I remember that the only Halloween costumes I've ever been good at are the ones that require a paragraph of explanation...
Hey, when did the cicadas stop buzzing?
To be honest, I can't wait for a hard frost to come. There's a long list of things to do to prepare for winter and next spring, and I can't help putting them off while there are still dahlias begging to be cut and arranged. How can I argue with the value of practicing and building my design portfolio? Plus, the prospect of rediscovering a big cache of pretty images over the winter is delicious, no? Like opening up a cupboard full of fruit jams - which I am also working on.
Aside from making jam (mostly for a select group of aunties who flatter me into making them more each year) the main jobs ahead include planting a thousand or so bulbs before the ground freezes, and setting up a webshop so I can sell my antique vases alongside the first annual Posy Gang calendar, which I am very proud of. Most excitingly, I'm already booking 2018 weddings!
So, even though I sometimes feel like I'm just walking around in a flowery dream, today I've gotta cultivate my focus and decisiveness if I'm to get everything done.
The day is slipping away and my sense of urgency intensifies. I put down my camera, dig out four clumps of a dahlia variety that I didn't end up liking (I will practice dividing tubers on them), and I tear out the whole scabiosa patch.
I feel better having done these things and head inside just as it gets too dark to see.
Talk to you after the frost,
October 7: market morning! Ours is a two-hatchback household, for good reason. The tent is up in the roof box which, to date, is our best curbside find ever :D
My lovely mama was my assistant this time around. We wore jean jackets without trying to match; if I wore glasses everyday I'd wear hers. Husby was essential too, but despite my best efforts I haven't been able to obtain his consent to publish his likeness on the internet, lol.
The best part about market was the surprise visits from friends and family, reuniting with Flower Friends, and getting to meet so many nice people! This smiling pair took away whole handfuls of my dried bouquets and northern sea oats to decorate the newly-opened restaurant Hello123. EEK! I can't wait to have supper at Hello 123.
And I got to meet Spring, a super talented photographer, who sent me a photo of my bunches of nasturtium, shoulder to shoulder. I can smell their perfume from here, can you? Mm, there's nothing better than leaning in, sniffing a flower, and finding that it actually has a scent. Anyway, go to Spring's website, cause she's really good at what she does.
Rachel sent me a picture of the cake she baked for Thanksgiving dinner. That frosting................ drool.
And THEN, Divya sends me this photo of her maple pecan loaf. Come ON! Divya's obviously multi-talented - check out her blog here.
The way to my heart is definitely through my stomach. And my eyes. We eat with our eyes!
Okay, I'll end with a slideshow (please sit tight - I want it to move about twice as fast as it does, but it won't!). So I was able to bring home a handful of mason jar arrangements leftover from the market. And exactly 7 days later, they still had so much life in them that I couldn't throw them out just yet. There was even a cosmos bud just about to open (white dot under the big yellow dahlia on the left). Yeah fresh cut flowers! So I made this for you. Enjoy <3
Getting anything done in the garden is difficult when the roses are in bloom. This past week, it's been a treat to roam around with my camera at the end of the day and pass over every bloom with an admiring eye.
Did my care of them make any difference? Aphids loved the wet and chilly spring and queued up in grotesque formation to suck the juices from growing shoots. I did my best to wash them off with soapy water and it kind of worked, but maybe I harmed beneficial insects in the process. Leaf-rolling caterpillars settled into their comfy nooks, laying there eating and making frass; I cut off dozens, leaf and all. I don't know if my actions resulted in more roses or better blooms. There was no time to set up any kind of scientific study, nor was I willing to risk doing nothing. I made biased observations and moved on. Every decision has its trade-offs.
My thorniest rose bush produces the most fragrant and intensely-coloured flowers. They last in a vase for about 72 heavenly hours before shattering into a pile of perfect petals. I'm not surprised. Again, trade-offs.
Yesterday evening, taking these pictures was my very last task (I'd already told myself "just one more thing" too many times). When I was done, I slumped down into a patio chair missing its cushion, holding my camera in one hand, and a pair of clippers in the other. I knew then how mindlessly I'd been going about my day, as I suddenly became aware of my body again and how incredibly tired it was. It's not an unpleasant feeling unless you know you have to be somewhere, doing something else. I asked my husband to take a picture of me like that, out of curiosity. If you've ever looked at yourself in the mirror while ugly-crying, the motivation was similar (I'm not ashamed, I bet plenty of people have done it... although if you think it's vain and dumb, my husband agrees with you). Anyway, the picture was not worth posting here, but I'll tell you I was wearing a dirty, sweaty sun hat, an oily face, and red socks pulled up over the cuffs of my saggy-bum pants (the socks help keep the top edge of my rubber boots from chafing against my shins). Wait, I had a point to make... oh yeah: trade-offs. I had worked outside all day, and probably didn't take enough breaks or eat enough, so today I'm indoors with so much to do, but feeling catatonic. And nobody to blame but my own damn self.
But since we've got these pictures of roses to look at now, and since I'm really good at rationalizing my choices, I say - totally worth it.
Till next time, Posy Gang.
May is my favourite month. The season is still in flux, but can you feel it starting to gain momentum?
It poured yesterday, and all the weather websites are calling for more rain in an hour or so. I'm only halfway through my garden chores but I want to take pictures. I run in to grab the camera and begin stalking the grounds for subjects.
The scent of wet earth is on the air.
I have many memories tied to this scent, but what comes to mind first is a school-aged Allison, hastily shutting the front door and running out to the car in the morning just after it's rained. There is no time to take in my surroundings but that lovely muddy smell hits me anyway. It's 8:11 AM and homeroom begins at 8:50, several stop signs and ten subway stations away. I can see through the windshield that my mom is already gripping the wheel with both hands. I feel a little guilty. She always seems to be in more of a hurry to get me and my brother to the subway than we are...
If somebody is selling this scent of mud, I'll take a few bottles. FYI my chemist friend tells me the scent is called petrichor and is made up mostly of geosmin molecules. Hm...!
Suddenly another scent hits me. It's lilac season. I'm delighted to host a white-flowered tree in my space, but my neighbour's mauve flowers have the heavier fragrance. I inhale deeply while casting longing looks at those luscious blooms just on the other side of the hedge.
Loud rustling from within my compost pile breaks my reverie. A robin emerges with a long piece of straw in her beak. If this is the robin I think it is, then I'm cheered to know she's building again. She made her first nest under my eaves, but she abandoned it last week, around the time I found a blue, broken egg on the ground. Did I disturb her too much?
A grackle lands on the roof, hops to the edge, and peers down at me.
The compost heap looks rather inviting today. I feel compelled to lay down upon it and recite The Lady of Shalott. LOL. I think I have Anne of Green Gables on my mind. See how nostalgic I get, enveloped in a cloud of petrichor and lilac perfume?! That said, even if I were eleven again, the thought of slug slime and sowbugs all up in my hair would probably be too much to overcome.
By the way, that hosta growing at the top of the pile came from a yard waste bag I filled last fall while dividing perennials. Hostas are tanks.
Okay, let's go look at what I'm growing now.
The roses are leafing out and aphids have been snacking on their tender shoots. I've been trying out Ed Lawrence's spray bottle remedy. It seems to have worked. The aphids are not completely gone, but I think I can keep their numbers low this way. Recipe: 1 part liquid soap in 40 parts water sprayed all over; left on for 10 minutes; rinsed and repeated 3 times over 10 days.
More hostas. The one on the left is a giant. I love them best now, as they unfurl, and before the slugs begin their season-long feast.
Oooh, these are hybrid and tiger lilies. New soundtrack for the remainder of this post: Eye of the Tiger (the Jenn Grant cover, not the original).
I was in the middle of planting these dahlias when I started taking pictures.
It's getting a bit dark and drizzly out here now - let's finish up quickly on the far side of the house.
Holly bushes make flowers! I'd never thought about it before, but of course they do! And based on those central green nubbins (ovaries?), I think this one's a female. Despite having no space for anything else, I consider finding her a mate so she'll bear those bright red berries. They would certainly make my winter wreaths more colourful...
Oh no, rain's falling heavier.
Decision to buy male holly deferred.
Okay, gotta run inside now to save my camera..............!
Japanese maple, how do you stay so zen?
Talk soon, Gang!
So Saturday was my first Toronto Flower Market, and I really want to tell you about it.
Two words come to mind: intense and incredible. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the whole market such a success! A bunch of vendors sold out - I know I was down to my last bouquet by 1pm! It's a good thing I physically couldn't have made or stored more, else I would have been mad.
I think my favourite thing about the market was how I got to give many people their first experience of scented geraniums. Strawberry, apricot, and chocolate mint, yes please! I love how people put their heads together and leaned in to sniff - then looked up with delight when they'd caught the scent. It never got old. "How did you DO that?!" was a common refrain. It wasn't me, I swear! I really wish I'd caught one of these exchanges on camera. I'll have to make do with my mental snapshots.
My other favourite thing was when my family and friends - some of whom I hadn't seen in years - came to visit me. I felt so loved! My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to visit any of the other vendors. I was suffering from a major case of tunnel vision.
The hours passed in a flash. Sometimes I'd look up and there would be a wall of people in front of us where there had been none just the moment before. Truthfully, I often feel very shy, and there's no doubt I'm an introvert who likes to spend lots of time alone. But when I'm facing happy strangers and I've got flowers to show off, then I sure do relish a performance. I think it's my Cancer-Leo cusp showing.
When it was all over, I was giddy with relief and fatigue, feelings which were quickly supplanted by weepy gratitude, for all the help and encouragement I've been so privileged to receive. Hey, while I've got your eyeballs here for another moment I'm going to take the opportunity to name a few very important people.
Sas of Floralora Flowers, who gave me my first taste of flower farming last spring and who continues to be an inspiration and great support. Also, as far as I'm concerned, she is the Tulip Queen of the world, and she supplied me with gorgeous blooms when I ran out of my own.
My parents, who mostly took it in stride when I told them I was going to start a flower business, and who I know just want me to be happy and healthy and safe.
My husby, who routinely gives up his days off to help me dig soil and transport fridges, and who indulges my dreams and generally takes good care of me (of course, I take care of him too).
And perhaps most of all, my sister-in-law who said yes without a second thought when I asked her to help me sell bouquets and plants alllll day long. She memorized every selling point and morsel of plant info I gave her. She is such a pro salesman, and a very, very good Unni indeed. When I think about it, I suppose many sisters are game for at least one flowery labour of love, but I don't think I will ask her to do it again. It was a lot. So now watch me pamper her real good.
I'm also realizing that even though I was able to pump out several dozen wrapped bouquets all by myself (super proud; also thank you roster of podcasts and entire seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix), I'm going to need even more help soon. Cuz I heard my business is supposed to be "sustainable" or something. The only alternative is that I keep trying to do everything myself, turn into a flower supernova, and flame out in a big burst of colour and fragrance. Just imagine, nothing left of me but a slow-mo shower of singed petal confetti and smoke.
Actually, that sounds like it would be worth seeing.
Okay I'll do my best to avoid it.
So... that was the only Toronto Flower Market I signed up for in advance. As this is my first season I didn't want to commit to more before I'd been tested, but man, I hope I'm able to go to market again. It was fun! And very stressful. But at least now I have my set up ready to go. I even dyed my own tablecloths and display drapes! The resist effect wasn't a complete success, but I guess it's nice to remember that time I spent an entire afternoon crawling around my kitchen floor, writing out Posy Gang over and over again on a bedsheet with white glue, haha.
Epilogue: I'd planned to take off all of Sunday, but it didn't happen. Tulips wait for nobody! And I made my mama flowers for Mother's Day. I mean, I worked, but it was pleasant, so I guess it was okay.
What's next? Back to seeding, planting, and waiting for the last frost so I can plant out my dahlias and tomatoes. Looking forward to the fruits of those labours! And wedding planning of course - bring it on. Till next time, dears!
I am Allison, intrepid leader of Posy Gang. Let's have a conversation about flowers and weddings and small business and everything else! I'll start with my thoughts...