Bzzzz March 31st, 2008

At the risk of flogging a dead horse (a hideous expression, don’t you think?)…

I want to make an appeal to those well-meaning but misguided folks who assemble the bouquets at our corner florist shops. And I especially appeal to the corporate creative department at FTD, which fuels and/or dictates much of the design aesthetics for these small business owners.

You know the people. They make things that look like this…


Or this…


Or even this…


In the name of God, please STOP!

What you are doing is an abomination. It is a blasphemy against the laws of nature and how God intended plants to grow. Have you ever visited a garden? If so, did you EVER see all of these plants lined up uniformly in a symmetrical orb with no stems, leaves or branches–resembling a basketball? Must you reduce Baby’s Breath and ferns to an afterthought? And why must containers be so very sweet? Do we really need flower arrangements that look like ice cream sundaes? Carnations colored into fluorescent hues of green or orange? Teddy bears hugging our tulips?

Mr. or Ms. Florist, can you please pick up a couple of design magazines and see what is au courant? It’s not this tightly packed, overly-colorful, cheap flower arrangement that are the equivalent of the super-tight permanent wave cranked out at smelly “beauty parlors” in small towns in our fair land.

We have a local florist that my husband, until recently, faithfully visited for my birthday, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day and other important occasions, including when he was in the Dog Haus. I dropped by recently because they had a sign advertising a good deal on tulips. Frankly, I can only conclude that these people do not actually LIKE flowers.

As I entered, I had to pass all manner of “arrangements” that would make the average weekend gardener convulse. It was like entering a flower torture chamber. They were packed, crammed, twisted and contorted into every manner of unnatural pose imaginable. When I finally made it to the bargain tulips, I could hardly breath.

“Let me out of here. You’re hurting me!”

To be sure, the FTD folks seemed to have hired at least one younger-than-80 creative person. They now offer minimalist arrangements by Todd Oldham and Vera Wang. But, really. $110 for an orchid that I can buy at Lowe’s for $20? There is a way to go before you’re there, FTD.

Let me recommend a book for your education and edification. It’s called Zen Flowers, by Brenda Berkley and Anulka Kitamura. It is filled with examples of airy, simple and tasteful arrangements that honor the original plants and do not involve torture devices or demeaning containers.


And guess what? The author actually owns–a FLOWER SHOP! And she makes a living selling designs such as this…


And imagine a home with flower that look like this…


I know that Ikebana may not be for everyone. And I acknowledge the commenter from my previous post on the topic who said that there are some flower-buyers who expect quantity rather than quality. But I also believe that it is incumbent on florists to help educate their customers on nature and taste. Do you reall WANT to torture all those tulips? Pervert those petunias? Wrestle those roses?

But I am hoping that someday we can banish mounds of ice cream sundae flower arrangements or flowers in yellow smiley face cups. I hope that as gardeners we can help educate our friends and families that a simple arrangement in a humble, but natural container, is more aesthetically pleasing than a tacky ceramic container made in China. I would prefer some spring daffodils in a recyclable aluminum can to the overly-wrought arrangements that contort and distort nature.

Please, oh please. Let’s make the pledge now. No more hideous and unnatural flower arrangements…

(Okay, I acknowledge that I seem to be a wee bit cranky right now. Mi dispiace. I seem to be time-stressed, which is completely contrary to my continuous improvement efforts to simplify and slow down. That said, in the way of excuses, I have a lot of travel ahead in April–my prime gardening month. I am heading to Austin for the garden bloggers Spring Fling after which I head directly to San Francisco for some focus groups. I land home for barely a week before heading off to Geneva, Switzerland, for more focus groups. I know…sounds great until you contemplate my client’s coach-fare policy and the fact that my garden needs some serious remedial work in April. Oh, quit it with your tiny little violins…I’m serious here. This time.)


Posted In: Flower Arranging, Flowers


Bzzzz March 16th, 2008

One of the advantages of signing up for the early morning tour of the Philadelphia Flower Show, aside from being able to see the displays without having to jostle, stand on tippy toe and elbow my way through the hoards—was that the guide was a seasoned flower show volunteer. Our guide was a charming older fellow who seemed to know everyone on the floor and lots of stories that won’t necessarily make the official news. Here are some stories you won’t read about in the newspapers about the Philadelphia Flower Show…some his and some from my own observations.

One exhibitor at this year’s show, a nursery, didn’t win any of the judges’ prizes but did win the several of the popular vote awards among visitors, the People’s Choice Awards determined by written votes each day. The display was a music instrument repair shop, in keeping with the show’s New Orleans and jazz theme. A wildly popular fountain of repurposed brass instruments was a focal point, as was an old upright piano remade into a waterfall and a tuba fountain.


I was amused to hear the booth representative explain not once, not twice, but three times how no instruments were harmed in the making of the display—they were all old and useless anyway! It seems that some people had been complaining about how the nursery had destroyed instruments for the purpose of the display.


Our guide told us about one exhibitor in the nursery class, the J. Franklin Styer Nurseries Inc, a Philadelphia-area nursery that was recently purchased by Urban Outfitters as part of its quest to launch its outdoor chain Terrain. (If you haven’t heard about it, the goal of Terrain is to “to transform the local garden center into an experience that celebrates the beauty and abundance of nature while offering an eclectic mix of garden-inspired products tailored for the contemporary customer.” Watch out Smith & Hawken.) The purchase occurred just three weeks before the Philadelphia Flower Show, where the nursery has for years had a major display area. The nursery’s designer and flower show coordinator promptly quit, leaving the nursery—and Urban Outfitters—with just three weeks to fill a big hole that other companies spend months and months designing and planning.

Well, don’t underestimate Urban Outfitters and their desire for an untarnished reputation and a smashing 2008 launch for Terrain. Within a week they had hired a Hollywood set designer and came up with a stunning display that won Best of Show for the nursery division. Sadly, my photos don’t to justice to the display, which included a stunning Bougainvillea with vines as thick as my arm winding up on to a porch. It was breathtaking.


Our guide is also a member of the Philadelphia Men’s Garden Club. He said the club was formed because years ago there were only ladies clubs and the fellows felt outnumbered and misunderstood. With their own club, he said, “We can break all the rules and drink beer while putting up our display.”

Their display, in the by-invitation division, was a men’s private club in a swampy setting, complete with alligators swimming in the waters around the clubhouse and a porch sign that warns, “Beware! Poker Players and Loose Women.” I gave them high marks for creating a display appropriate to the group.

Our charming guide pointed out one nursery display that was heavy on salvaged pine trees. It seems that a while back the nursery owner broke his hip, lost is wife and his business. It was a very bad year. The Philadelphia Men’s Garden Club swung into action, passed the hat and collected some money to help with the doctor bills. They found a surgeon to do the hip replacement for free and even pitched in to complete some of the unfinished nursery work. Now, our guide proudly pointed out, the nursery owner was back in business and once again exhibiting at the flower show—an example of the camaraderie and support among the show folks.


The Best in Show award for the best florist went to the entrant who decided to suspend their display from the ceiling—the first time for such a “daring display.” Thousands and thousands of individual flowers in florist vials were arranged into a kind of chandelier cum mobile. Painted footprints on the floor indicated where visitors could stand to hear music under one of the three suspended floral arrangements.

Although he was an entertaining guide, his enthusiasm for the show is better than his hearing because he seemed to think the music was on when only the electric lights were buzzing. “Isn’t that fabulous?!? It’s beautiful!!! Listen!” I had to smile, but a young woman in our tour group kept yelling in his ear, “It’s the LIGHTS! It’s the LIGHTS!” Aren’t people funny?

Here are a few more photos from the show…




Okay, that’s it for the Philadelphia Flower Show stories except for a few choice finds that I found in the vendor area. Coming up!

Posted In: Flower Arranging, Flowers, Gardening, Travel

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