Booking 2015 Weddings with Dahlia Love

I thought I would offer up Dahlias as today's fantastic Fleur du Jour as both a way to really make us miss, I MEAN LOOK FORWARD TO, summer and as a way to say I AM NOW TAKING BOOKINGS FOR 2015 WEDDINGS.  

While many people think of Dahlias as fall flowers, which they most certainly are, Dahlias here start blooming at the tail end of June and early July. Different varieties are earlier or later by nature in showing off their remarkable blooms. Some variability also results from how early or late spring arrives and from how "on time" I am with putting the tubers in the field. Last year it was cold longer and I was later. That said, I cut the first flower on July 7. If you are planning a wedding before July, no need to worry as plenty of amazing flowers bloom before the dahlias!

For couples looking for late summer and fall weddings, Dahlias can be a lovely addition to bouquets, centerpieces and other floral designs. As a rule, I like to limit my full service weddings to one a day so as to give the best of myself and my flowers. I will add bulk flower orders for DIY brides who are making their own arrangements and will put together bouquets or other wear and carry pieces for the same day for my "Something In Between" brides if I feel I can do so with the quality I demand.  So, as we wait for dahlias together, please contact me soon if you, or someone you know, are looking for your 2015 wedding florist. Congratulations to all the BEAUTIFUL  wedding couples and their families.

Fleur du Jour - Dutch Iris

Hardly subtle!

Hardly subtle!

Fleur du Jour is my way of bringing the beauty of fresh cut flowers into our lives as we feel, perhaps, a bit grey to match the winter weather, although today was a real sparkler around here.  Yesterday I offered up a marvelous subtle spring tulip. Today a very different approach - vibrant Dutch Iris with equally vibrant tulips, columbines and allium. Dutch Iris are planted every fall. Although I do get some repeat bloomers in following springs, I  could not depend on them for the number of blooms I require (or desire). Based on last year's first cut date of May 20, only 119 days to go to those gorgeous deep purple iris. I know that sounds like longer than we want, but that's why we have the likes of anemone, ranunculus and poppies, which burst open even earlier!Enjoy.

Fabulous Brooklyn wedding at 26 Bridge Street

Three galvanized vessels with wrought iron patina were a perfect choice for a fall harvest look of broom corn, hydrangea, and lilies in soft bronze colors in the stunning front window. Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Three galvanized vessels with wrought iron patina were a perfect choice for a fall harvest look of broom corn, hydrangea, and lilies in soft bronze colors in the stunning front window. Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Autumn colors were perfect for Barbara and Jimmy's gorgeous, love-filled wedding shared with so many wonderful family members and friends in early September.

The venue, 26 Bridge Street in Brooklyn, is a 

magnificantly-renovated open loft-space in a

former foundry nearly the water. With steel

beams, wood floor, brick walls, glass ceiling

windows and authentic foundry doors,

26 Bridge Street was perfectly prepared for a

ceremony amid the Butternut Gardens' birch

chuppah and family style dining at twenty-six

farm tables.


Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.


How often does one chance a glimpse out such a perfectly simple, yet utterly awesome window as this? Each window frame is 1' x 1 1/2' in size!

Such a marvelous backdrop for a light beverage and conversation before the ceremony, and champagne and cocktails following.


Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.


If I do say, the Butternut Gardens birch chuppah is in and of itself truly beautiful.  

I literally have been known to press my hand against the black-speckled white bark of the birch poles, just because.

Something about it just touches me inside.

On this September afternoon, the chuppah was especially beautiful because we had the wonderful good fortune to drape across it a lace-fringed antique family heirloom from the groom's family. Thank you.


Gorgeous! Isn't the embroidery and fringe spectacular in the light of the ceiling's glass openings to the sky? Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY

Gorgeous! Isn't the embroidery and fringe spectacular in the light of the ceiling's glass openings to the sky? Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY


We know that beyond its physical beauty, it was enriched with an entire fabric of memories from others dear to this lovely couple.

Boy, was that ever special. I can't even begin to describe how that made me feel. Humbled and privileged just for starters. (I guess I had to begin somewhere, after all.)


Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.



Farm tables seemed to run forever; flowers too. 

A sprig of Rosemary graced each place setting. 


Such a nice welcoming touch. 


I loved using six different colors of raffia to encircle different sprigs.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington D.C.



Most exciting was being given the go-ahead to mix and match the table arrangements and to use herbs, vegetables, and any other fun amenities, as well as flowers.



Mix and match is usually quite welcome, allowing for significant creativity and added interest on the tables.

Vases of deep green and blue colored glass, ivory china, and mercury glass juleps and pedestals worked beautifully together! 

Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY

Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY

One of my favorite clear glass vases is this one.



It seems to offer the stems the perfect angle for repose. 

I think what I like most about it is it is a rather thin glass, which, up close, has a slight tinge of green/blue coloration. I think it is its more delicate, thin quality which most appeals. Gives it such a vintage look and feel. 

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington D.C.


Herbs have universal appeal.





A number of tables paired cut flower arrangements with herbs potted in light terra cotta bowls or rectangle planters. Potted strawberry plants snuck their way in as well! So refreshing.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.

Photo: KanKan Yu, Washington, D.C.


Fall is a great time of year to incorporate a whole bounty of lush botanicals.

Cabbages and kales come in so many varieties.  Do you want flat or rippled leaves? Soft green leaves?  Or bicolor white and green or pink and green?

Such gifts.

Once I opted for this oversized ornamental kale, how could I say no to the white dinner plate dahlia? Broom corn, arching Baptisia foliage and aster accents completed this particular design.

Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY.

Photo: Yne Leal Still Photography, Brooklyn, NY.


Also showcasing seasonal vegetables were a series of hurricane lanterns.

Around the base sat kale, peppers, tomatillas, green beans and more amidst our mixture of blooms.

What glowed from within the lanterns? Sprigs of cut herbs, of course!

Photo credit: Emily Lee, NYC

Photo credit: Emily Lee, NYC



An extra special member of the wedding party made my day as he showed off his floral attire.


Throughout the design process, my underlying thought was, "How will this color bloom match his natural color?" I couldn't wait to see.


Thank you, Barbara and Jimmy, for allowing me to be part of this beautiful day. The love of family and friends was all-encompassing. 26 Bridge Street is awesome. Thank you to Yne Leal Still Photography in Brooklyn, NY for sharing such lovely photos of the day. Thank you also to KanKan Yu, of Washington, D.C., for her spectacular photographic skills. I loved working with my New York-based team of "family" - Emily, Dorothy, Kristen and KanKan - who made it all sparkle, and brought the vision to fruition. Love to all. A special day it was. 

Instagram! Such a great way to see our flowers and designs

My second Instagram post.  Such a great dahlia display! Just love it!

My second Instagram post.  Such a great dahlia display! Just love it!

I am super happy to report that Butternut Gardens now has an Instagram account.

This is a new social media format that seems extremely well-suited to share the many beautiful flowers and designs, which come off my farm and design studio.  

To find Butternut Gardens on Instagram, look for user name butternutgardensflowers.

I first heard of Instagram back in May. Knowing the speed with which I seek out social media (slower than a snail's pace) it has taken until now for me to sign up and get started. I think I am going to love it! For those of you not familiar, Instagram lets you take photos with your phone, or use photos from your phone, add a caption if you wish, edit the photo (or not)  and post.  The beauty of Instagram is how easy it is to use and how quickly you can share and view photos. You can also add hashtags, which help categorize your photo, and you can like other photos and comment on other photos. 

I am looking forward to using Instagram frequently as a way to share pix of flowers, designs, the  gardens, farmers' markets, specific plants, you name it. The sky is the limit.

For a direct link to the Butternut Gardens Instagram site, just click on the camera icon on the Butternut Gardens homepage:




Tuberose is here!

A singleTuberose stem.

A singleTuberose stem.

To those of you who have waited so patiently for this year's crop of Tuberose, it is time to celebrate!

The 2014 Tuberose is a-bloomin'.

Many of you have said the fragrance of this beauty reminds you of Jasmine.  

Many have said it reminds you of Hawaii.

Others think Gardenia.

For those of you who do not know Tuberose or its allure, prepare to fall in love! 

Though not large in size, each of the waxy flowers packs quite a wallop of a scent as the blooms spiral open up the stalk. 

Some have called this the secret lily, owing to the fact that a number of lily varieties also have such a strong fragrance.

Tuberose is not a rose and not related to roses. Tuberose is related to Agave plants.


In the field, I leave a number of flowers so I can enjoy the scent for quite a few weeks in late summer and early fall. These few flowers send off fragrance, which wafts through the entire front garden. During the heat of the day, I smell very little of it. Come late afternoon and dusk, however, the fragrance is intense. This is because Tuberose is a night bloomer. In its native Mexican habitat, the Tuberose is pollinated by nocturnal moths. 

Tuberose in bloom. Also showing are the relatively short leaves, which form the bulk of the plant for the better part of the season.

Tuberose in bloom. Also showing are the relatively short leaves, which form the bulk of the plant for the better part of the season.

Tuberose is not hardy here, but it is quite easy to dig each year and store. So, that is what I do. I plant in the spring in late April or May.  To allow for the best drainage, I mound the soil a bit so as to actually plant the tuberose very close to the natural soil level. I add a dash of bone meal. Then I cover it with only an inch or two of soil. After watering in, I wait. Fortunately, I do not have to wait as long as one waits on tulips or other spring-flowering bulbs. For the bulk of the summer - some 90 to 120 days - the Tuberoses remain as tufts of light green foliage less than 6 inches tall. Then the magic happens. Flower stalks grow to 3-4 feet tall. I could extend the bloom time by staggering plantings in the spring, but I generally find some variability in bloom time from plant to plant. 

August 23, 2012.10.JPG

Many of my Farmers' Market customers line up for bunches of Tuberose 'straight up' - no other flowers needed. For several weeks these customers return faithfully for the fragrance, which they report fills their entire apartment or home.  My weekly subscription customers can look forward to either a bunch of Tuberose added to their order or a few stems mixed into their bouquets. As you can see here, I also enjoy tucking Tuberose into arrangements.  Their clear white flowers and sweet fragrance are highlights of each growing season.

When the season comes to a close, I cut back the foliage and dig the Tuberose. For several weeks I let them dry in the sun on sunny days, and bring them inside if precipitation is on the way. Once fully dry, they will be good to go until next spring. Gems! Absolute gems!

Ageratum - my go-to blue for summer and fall

Now that we are into August, one of my favorites - Ageratum - is hitting the bouquets big-time. I just love this soft, powdery grey-blue gem. What a heart it has! Keeps on blooming until frost, but makes a very immediate departure at that time. My mother used to grow Ageratum. Every summer, to complement her beautiful perennial beds and rock garden, she also planted an annual garden around our grass courtyards.  Every summer she went with a red, white and blue theme, using the low-growing white Alyssum, the medium-sized blue Ageratum, and the taller spikes of red salvia. Lots of planting. Lots of summer color. No mulch. At the time, mulch was not used nearly so much as it is today.  I cringe at the thought, but she was from Iowa, and whoever mulches their acres of corn?

The Ageratum I grow is hardly my mother's Ageratum. While puffy mounds of color were perfect for her garden beds, what I am looking for is far greater height.

My varieties of choice are either 'Blue Horizon' or 'Blue Planet.'

Every year I have roughly 300 Ageratum plants, from which i cut thousands of gorgeous stems of flowers. The touch of blue is a wonderful accent for the many bright summer - blooming flowers, but also goes beautifully with the softer tones, such as the rose, peach, and white zinnias.  It looks equally nice with some lime green zinnias.




As we move later into August, and on into September, Ageratum adds a lovely touch to many dahlia-centric arrangements and bouqets.

It looks fabulous with white, lavender, peach, and almost any color at all.


Come fall, when we find the gardens moving into the more bronzy tones, I find Ageratum continues to shine.  It so very often adds just the right touch of contrasting color to make everything else really pop to life. From October Dahlia bouquets and arrangements into November Chrysanthemum presentations, Ageratum makes a welcome splash. While this gathering of autumn color would be marvelous on its own, doesn't it gain from the little hints of blue afforded by a sprig or lavender statice and some of that powdery blue Ageraturm?



No, dear, those aren't wildflowers

I am happy to share the following, which appeared in the national Field To Vase website, for which I am proud to be a guest contributor. Field to Vase is dedicated to helping the public better understand "Slow Flowers", or the growing movement of localizing the flower industry. 

Please view the website at  and see the June 6, 2014 blog posting.

Early spring bouquet of daffodils, andromeda and magnolia.

Early spring bouquet of daffodils, andromeda and magnolia.

I hear it all the time - “Wow, I love how natural your bouquets look with all those wildflowers in them,” and I think to myself, “Ah, the sorcery!”

While it might look like this farmer just goes out and grabs whatever she finds, and in a sense I do, it is only there for the taking through very careful planning and planting.  Ready to find out more about how YOUR “wildflower bouquet” came to be? 

In the suburban area where I farm, my biggest limitation is space.  I know a good number of local, small-scale flower farmers, and every winter, as we assess the previous year and look forward to a new growing season, we face the same daunting task: how do we fit everything we need, for each and every bouquet or wedding piece needed for every week of the growing season, into our growing space? If I need a specific flower, or more like twenty or so specific flowers and greens for YOUR bouquet on June 24th and your best friend’s bouquet on September 15th, I had better have them planted so I can cut them when needed.  Step 1 of your bouquet is called PLANNING.

When I say planning, I mean mega-planning. Spreadsheets like you wouldn’t believe.  How many of each flower needed for a bouquet? Make that every bouquet. How many seeds to plant?  Is it a sunflower or lily that gives me one bloom each? A snapdragon that might give me two? Ageratum, dahlias or zinnias that give me even more, but won’t bring their blooms until a bit later in the season? How many square feet needed per plant? How many plants and how much space needed for an expected bouquet count? Now let’s talk timing and color. How long from seed to flower, or seed to seedpod if I choose to use some of our other botanical elements? Am I planting for some pastel beauties or some amazing “summer brights” as I call them?  Do you want bright red in June, or would you prefer peachy tones, pink, dusky rose?  What matches terrifically, and what is a near muddy miss?

Dissecting your bouquet a bit, we will likely find one focal flower.  It’s the one that I usually put facing you in the center of the bouquet – a sunflower, lily, peony or hydrangea, for example.  It is often the largest, but sometimes it is not the single flower that truly grabs your attention. More on those little goodies in a bit.  For now, think a minute about you as a gardener. Spring comes. You excitedly plant a few sunflower seeds, which, in time, move into your garden. Each gives you one dazzling sunflower. All is great. Not so for me. 

Because of its one flower limitation, and because I cut the flowers, when it comes to finding that focal flower for your bouquet, as a matter of course, I must plant several varieties of sunflowers, lilies and the likes every few weeks from spring to midsummer, say mid-July.  To make life more efficient for myself, I often plant two or three different varieties at once, but I plant varieties, which take slightly more or less time to bloom.  If all goes to plan, a one-time planting will eventually supply focal flowers, in succession, for two or three weeks. Seeing the beauty of spreadsheets now, are we?  So, Step 2 of your bouquet, as just described, is called SUCCESSION PLANTING. It’s making sure I have the flowers I need when I need them, each and every week. 

In each bouquet, I next add a handful of secondary blooms, such as zinnias, dahlias, black-eyed-Susans, phlox or daisies, for example.  These give unlimited combinations of substance, texture and color. For some of these I’ll succession plant. For others I rely on plants that come up every year but might flower in a particular window of time. Many of these blooms have their own particular cultural needs. Where I live, for example, dahlias do not quite survive the winter. So, every fall, after frost, I dig the dahlia tubers out of the ground, cut them, clean them and store them for the winter. Come spring, planting the dahlias is just another task that goes into making your bouquet.  Anemones thrive in the cool season and love water, but watch out so they don’t rot. Perennial plants, such as phlox, black-eyed-Susans and daisies eventually need to be dug up and divided. Just another task and how many do I have for which weeks? Stock likes to grow in cooler conditions; let’s cue the succession planting to give me soft bronzy colors for my fall bouquets. So, Step 3 might be called INDIVIDUALIZED CULTURAL CARE for the tremendous number of plant types I use to make different and interesting bouquets from April to November.  Translate “seasonally fresh” into “ever-changing, well-planned, and a lot of juggling and individualized work.” 

A mixed bouquet benefits from a little height for interest.  Here’s where the delphinium, snapdragons, plumed celosias and the likes come into play.  As with the other flowers, planning and succession planting are critical.  Step 3 – individual cultural care- is paramount with many of the spiky flowers.  Adding support netting to some of these stars, like snapdragons and delphinium, is crucial.  Without it, they love to bend over. The thing about snaps is, even if they start to bend over, as the tips of the plants continue to grow, the tips grow upward again.  Sometimes a curved stem is an absolute dream come true for design work, but not in your mixed bouquet.  For you, I’d like a straight stem.

Lots of varieties of scented geraniums have wonderful foliage.

Lots of varieties of scented geraniums have wonderful foliage.

Greens, or foliage, are unspoken heroes of your bouquet.  They add volume and offer fabulous color contrast to strengthen the colors of the blooms.  Foliage also offers astounding variations in texture, color and growth habit, holding its own in the desirable design elements category. It is also a treat to work with scented foliage. Sigh. This highlights Step 4 of your bouquet -VARIETY.  Local flower farmers offer an ever-changing variety of bouquets.  The offerings are seasonal.  They have many unusual blooms and leaves.  Some of the blooms are unique farm to farm.  Some are grown by many, but might not ship well and are therefore not common in the general flower markets. When I put together a mixed bouquet, I commonly have six or seven types of flowers and greens. 

This brings me to Step 5 of your bouquet – FINAL TOUCHES AND ACCENTS.  This is what, in my mind, transforms your bouquet from present day to “vintage, old-fashioned wildflower feel” and is what I believe is the biggest reason people must wonder if I am pilfering wildflowers from my entire neighborhood!  It only takes a little – even one bloom of millet, one sprig of grass, or a few green goldenrod branches (yes there are cultivated varieties) arching out in multiple directions to lend a totally different look and feel to your bouquet. Back to spreadsheet central.  Back to space planning to provide the room and plants needed to make this happen and set YOUR bouquet apart from the rest. Back to local flower farming.

Finally, we land at Step 6- MASTERFUL DESIGN. Here we circle back to the ‘little goodies” mentioned above. Although the sunflower in your bouquet is noticeable and noteworthy, sometimes it is the deep purple aster that I use as an even more noticeable accent to YOUR sunflower that implores you to take these particular flowers home as YOURS.  Sometimes, it is the single stem of sorghum you have never seen before that calls to you.  Maybe it is holding five stems of dahlias, each with different but complementary colors or a couple of tuberose tucked in with alluring fragrance, which many say reminds them of Hawaii.  You see, your wildflower bouquet is no willy-nilly hodgepodge of growth. Far from it. In fact, when I say, “masterful design” let’s do the drum roll for the double entendre because I speak not only of the actual crafting and construction of the finished bouquet you hold in YOUR hands and make YOUR OWN, but also the masterful design that was put into motion mid-January and followed throughout the growing season, which allowed the actual crafting when the time came to make YOUR bouquet.  Even though YOUR “wildflower” bouquet was never created on a whim, it was, by design, my plan all along to make you think it was.

Taken together, this is what makes local flower farming so exciting. Having, at my fingertips, an absolutely amazing supply of plants with which to work and create on a daily basis and to share with you in YOUR bouquet is Heaven. As to the other steps that go into your bouquet, I figure you might already be familiar with them if you have done any bit of gardening.  Need I mention weeds, water, compost, and mulch? There is that, too, on a daily basis, but I must say the joy of flowers is worth it every second of the growing season AND the offseason!



Summer means Sunflowers

My grand dog is proud of her gorgeous bunches of sunflowers.

My grand dog is proud of her gorgeous bunches of sunflowers.

Summer is here.  

It is sunny and hot (sort of).

The beach gear is ready.  

You are turning your sights to summer entertaining.

All you want to see is a sunflower! 

For many, sunflowers are the go-to summer flower.

With their bright yellow flower heads, they brighten your day in an instant.



In the early summer, and for nice contrast in the fall bouquets, the light-centered sunflowers are quite popular.  In the heat of the summer, in July and August, the dark-centered suns are a favorite year after year.

I sow sunflowers from spring to about mid-summer to ensure I have them available from about July to almost up to frost. Different varieties have different light requirements for optimal growth, so I change varieties as the season progresses.

This week I had both dark-centered suns and light-centered suns. They were grown with the goal of having large heads for sunflower-only bunches. For bouquets, I like to grow smaller-sized sunflowers instead.




Here's a nice close-up of a couple of light-centered suns...





... and here is one of the dark-centered varieties.




This one I'll leave in the field.  

Once a bee pollinates a sunflower, I leave it to develop seeds for birds and little ground critters, and that's just fine by me. 

As a general rule, I strive to cut sunflowers before they are fully open to ensure the longest vase life. 


For bouquets and arrangements, my goal is to grow smaller sunflowers, rather than larger ones. They seem to work better because they do not take over the whole bouquet. Don't these look great in this bouquet of bright summer colors?

To help keep sunflowers on the smaller size, I grow them closer together.  It's like having a single tree growing near an old stonewall, soaking up all the sun, water, nutrients and having room to spread out versus a group of trees growing closer together, which have to share all the good stuff and tend to grow upward, but not as much outward.



Cutting sunflowers and prepping them for your bouquets and arrangements takes a bit of effort. By the time you see them, I have removed many large leaves from the length of the stem. I usually try to strip the stems in the field as natural compost.

At the end of the day, a nap is usually in order for my number one helper.