January 29, 2010

Decorative Foliage


I'm a big fan of Maurice Pillard Verneuil (1869-1942),  whose 1908 treatise, L'Etude de la plante et ses applications aux industries d'art, demonstrated the vast potential of "common" plants to inspire rich and original motifs suitable for nearly every medium of the decorative arts.

Here's William Wheeler, commenting on Verneuil (and cyclamens) in his book, Decorative Flowers:
"As a faithful observer of European flora, the artist could not overlook the cyclamen, which grows in cool underwoods. Every element of this plant is decorative, beginning with the foliage."
I followed suit and placed the focus on these beautifully patterned, heart-shaped leaves in some refreshingly simple and unusual boutonnieres (above) and bouquets (below).

Foliage arrangements are an excellent choice for individuals looking to convey a more subdued, tailored, or somewhat less feminine aesthetic at their wedding, commitment ceremony, or event.

January 23, 2010



Today two houseplants (a cymbidium orchid and a begonia, above) combine in a sticky-sweet and adorable little arrangement- just the thing to start off the St. Valentine's Day season.

January 18, 2010

Compost Lackey by Day . . .

Floral Designer by . . . Other Days.

As you can see (above), my day job at Intervale Compost Products is pretty hot and steamy. Even in the dead of winter, the thousands of bacteria that turn carefully blended foodscraps,  yardwaste, and manures into rich, black soil are cranking out enough heat to bring these piles' internal temperature up as high as 170F (below left). To replenish the bacteria's oxygen supply, a very talented  and knowledgeable gentleman turns the piles regularly (below right). This also cools things off a bit, thereby keeping average temperatures at more bacteria-friendly levels.


After about two weeks of cooking and turning, the compost is removed to a larger pile to cure for many months (below). Then it is screened and sent off to enrich the lawns, potted plants, and gardens of Chittenden County and beyond.



Composting is a great way to keep valuable organic materials out of landfills, where anaerobic decay releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. If you are unable to compost at home, contact your municipality to find out if a composting facility exists in your area.

January 15, 2010

Hothouse Therapy

Like Miss Rumphius in Barbara Cooney's lovely book,  I take great pleasure in visiting hothouses in the dead of winter when the rest of the world (or at least this part of the world) is covered in ice and snow.


In Gardener's Supply Company's hothouse on Intervale Road in Burlington, lady's slipper orchid (top), begonia (above), pitcher plant (below left), and oncidium orchid (below right) combine to create a restful and magical atmosphere.


January 14, 2010

Rhododendrons Revisted

As a young'un I dismissed rhododendrons as mildly undesirable plants that alternated between a pretty ho-hum (not blooming) state and a really gaudy (blooming) state.  But since moving to colder climes, I've gained a new appreciation for this huge group of plants. In the winter, their early buds and leathery leaves provide interest and hope. In the spring, their shockingly bright crepe paper blooms provide a much-needed jolt of color,  tiding us over until things begin to green up a bit.

We'll revisit these guys again in just a few months.

January 10, 2010

Poised for Take-Off

If I lived in the upper right hand corner of this country, which I do, and it were the beginning of the longest part of the winter, which it is, the last place I'd think to look for promises of spring would be the frozen, dead and mildewy remains of a poisonous plant.

But there they are, poised for take-off. Come May, at least some of these little milkweed seeds will be on their way to blooming into less gaudy versions of the increasingly popular florist's flower, Asclepias 'Beatrix', and feeding a host of humming insects (including Vermont's state butterfly).

I know it's probably mostly just for catching the breeze, but doesn't all that fluff look reassuringly warm?

January 9, 2010

Growing Up/Down

What a pleasure to return to our cozy apartment in Burlington, Vermont to find the plants not only alive and well, but all grown up!

Ben's philodendron (top) is looking more handsome than ever. The bromeliad pup (above left) is steadily gaining height, the money tree (above right) is a veritable canopy of greenness, and the geranium (below left) is unfurling verdant, fuzzy leaves. Even our pathetically stunted "lucky" bamboo (below right) put on a bit of new growth.

Out on the eaves, things have been growing down, not up. Now we are enclosed on all sides by a sparkling ice castle.

It's amazing what can happen in a month.

January 7, 2010

Flowers on Ice

The windows of Ben's St. Paul home are canvases for the most remarkable ice patterns I have ever encountered. Perhaps I have a one track mind, but to me they evoke curling leaves (above), frilly tulips (below), a field of poppies (bottom left), and dandelion puffs (bottom right).


Inside the house, real live plants (French lavender and philodendron) thrive in sunny, albeit very frosty, windows.

Keep it up, little guys. The days are getting longer.

January 6, 2010

Flowers in the House

I'm visiting Ben's wonderful family in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the winter outdoor floral foraging situation is rather bleak. Never fear! Botanical motifs and shapes abound inside their lovely home, which turns 100 this year.

Happy birthday, House! You look great.

January 5, 2010

January Floral Medley

Behold the bounty of Grandma's and Mom's gardens in January: cymbidium orchids, manzanita, crown of thorn, rabbit's foot fern, and Pacific madrone. It's not a combination of flowers or colors I would typically choose to put together, but since the gardens suggested it I went out on a limb . . . and am pleased with the outcome.

I love working with foraged materials. They keep things exciting by encouraging me to attempt more unusual palettes and challenging compositions. The resulting arrangements are interesting and tangible little snapshots of the day.

January 3, 2010

Meet My Elizabeth


Please allow me to introduce Elizabeth, my preferred model for floral photo shoots. Incidentally, Liz is also (in no particular order):

1) My bosom friend of schoolgirl days
2) An aspiring tugboat captain
3) One classy babe

Here she makes her blog debut in a pretty little event The Monkey Flower Group produced just after Christmas in Napa, California.


Above: Local paperwhites, manzanita bells, privet berries, and rosemary combine in a subtle bridal bouquet to capture the feel of a calm winter day in Northern California.

Below: A sphere of fragrant paperwhites makes a fresh, simple, and lush attendant's bouquet.


Thanks, Liz!