I think it safe to say I have a love hate relationship with winter. While I savor a slower pace than what is afforded during the active growing season, and I love the feel of crisp winter air, I greatly miss the sight and fragrances of fresh cut garden flowers and all that goes into working the land. To help get me (and you) from point A (midwinter) to point B (Spring flowers) I have decided to put forth a Fleur du Jour. Today's Fleur du Jour is Bachelor Button. Last year I cut 3,765 Bachelor Buttons, with the first cuts on May 18th. That makes it only 120 days until Bachelor Buttons! Woot. Woot. Are we there yet? This year's first Bachelor Buttons have been in the ground since last fall and are looking great. Can't wait for this versatile beauty.
It's that time of year when every seasonal flower farmer is truly missing the flowers. Sure, there are seed orders to fine tune, equipment repairs to be made and all the rest. It is not as though I am not busy every day. In fact, there is little time off in this job, especially for a farmer florist, who also does floral designs, weddings and events, as well as grow flowers. As I think back to the season past, I feel the need to reveal some of the perks of the job - weird as they may be - and which I so miss as I look out the window on a rainy December day. Today I'll just point to a few.
In no particular order, here goes. I am in my flower rows everyday of the growing season and many days before flowers appear, as well as after they are gone. It doesn't feel right to not be out there. Maybe I don't love it when it is raining on me or super cold or really windy when I am trying to do some jobs, which in do not in any way, shape or form require wind as a helper, and I don't love having my hair whipped around my face and totally messed p by wind, but I love being outside. I love smelling fresh, clean air. I love smelling air after it rains. I love smelling air on hot, humid summer days. I love smelling warm soil inside a plastic low tunnel when there is snow on the ground outside the tunnel. I hugely love the many fragrances of blooming stock and tuberose and lilies. How can flowers have so many different scents? Even chrysanthemums, which I have typically considered somewhat acrid-scented, have a very soft, subtle, sweet scent when coming out of my gardens.
Speaking of scents, I love, love, love running a hose to spray the basil!
Have you ever been totally surrounded by basil fragrance?
I mean TOTALLY surrounded, as in infused?
Grow some basil (or a few rows of it) and give it a hand watering! Wow!
The really cool thing is I grow a bunch of different varieties and they all have unique fragrances! Wahoo. I am in Heaven. I know I am.
And, by the way, anyone else around here missing the glorious scents of our scented geraniums? Ummm, yeah.
Here's another scent I really like - the scent of
honey. Yep, honey. When my hydrangeas are
blooming and bees are visiting, standing next
to these great big balls of flowers is like
sitting on the edge of a honey jar. It
practically bowls me over.
The same thing happens with goldenrod. One cultivated variety, in particular, blooms a bit later than all the rest so is a star bee attractant. the great thing about the great honey caper is the scent comes with the flowers.
So, when I cut them for an arrangement,
people's houses and event spaces can smell of
both flowers and honey. So sweet!
The big black blobs in the goldenrod photo to
the left are bees. It does make cutting a bit
awkward! Usually have bumble bees, honey
bees and others at the same time.
Finally, since I am speaking of scents, I'll share another secret obsession of mine: opening the cooler door when it is full of flowers. Well, I don't mean opening too often because I DO want to keep them cool, with that being the idea of the cooler afterall. Any visitors to Butternut Gardens definitely get "the open door" treatment, which consists of my opening the cooler door, standing back and partaking, with my visitors, in the glorious cool waves of mixed flower "perfume." Ahhhh. could do it forever. In fact, I think I'll take a walk now in this nor'easter of a rain storm just to see what it smells like out there, see what's growing, and give myself some hope for spring.
Some of the most lovely spring flowers, which everyone wants in their bouquets - Anemone and Ranunculus - are tucked in the ground here at Butternut Gardens, hopefully well-protected from the coming winter cold.
The Anemone run the gamut from striking red to red and white bicolor to lovely pastels and more subtle dusky blossoms.
My Ranunculus will cover the absolutely delicious sherbet palette of colors - peach, salmon, orange and pink.
Neither of these bulbs overwinters well without a bit of added protection, so the low tunnels are up! Also called low hoops, short for hoop houses, or caterpillar tunnels, these low hoops will keep the soil at more moderate temperatures, and enable these two fabulous flowers to flourish.
Before I plant either the Anemone or Ranunculus
in the ground, I let them develop a good root
system in a moist medium under more controlled
temperatures. That way I give them a good head
start. They do want to grow.
After a good period of time, you would be amazed
by the wonderful roots that both Anemone and
I am always amazed by
Here's a shot of the little octopus-looking
Ranunculus with all of its wonderful white roots
ready to be put into the ground under the low
Into the tunnels they go. Five low tunnels are currently harboring a wonderfully-warm (relatively) climate for all of these beauties. On one recent day, my visiting grand dog, who has helped me all summer with the flowers, decided it was necessary to enter one of the tunnels to inspect for mice and voles. I escorted her out, and thanked her for her loyal efforts! Took out the leaves as well.
Never-ending inspections taking place here!
So many wonderful couples came my way through two recent wedding expos in Connecticut. The welcoming Fox Hill Inn in Brookfield recently hosted a Wedding Steps Expo and was followed by another Wedding Steps Expo held at the gorgeous Water's Edge Resort in Westbrook. Wedding expos are a great place for couples to meet vendors, get ideas, and begin planning for their wedding day.
I love meeting with couples, often with families and friends, to talk flowers. While I don't have a lot of time to go into all the individual details of each wedding, I am able to answer a number of questions specific to a good number of wedding visions and also to comment on issues which most couples face. In addition, of course, I am able to talk about Butternut Gardens and how my Evelyn Lee Floral Designs often differ a bit from designs of others. I am the only flower farm in Fairfield County. My designs are definitely garden-inspired. They incorporate so much rich material fresh from the field and showcase a wildflower, or simply wild look. While tighter arrangements can be made, the looser, more natural feel is definitely what most brides seek when working with me.
As I design in the late weeks of autumn, I love
working in some of the best of the local vegetable
At both shows I decided to create an interesting
mix of blooms and veggies around a hurricane
lantern. You can see it here in the lower right. Kale,
carrots, peppers and more, including a soft plume
of broom corn sparkle among the mums, dahlias
Here it is closer up.
I was also able to bring a sweet arrangement showcasing a rustic look with zinnias and sweeping Baptisia foliage in a fabulous green vase.
Didn't you know, one of my delphiniums joined in!
It is not unusual for some of the spring-bloomers to send up fall blossoms.
You might notice, in your own landscape, for example, that the azalea near your house offers up a few blooms at this time of year.
Nature has its wonderful own way, and I am absolutely willing to work with it.
Hence, a striking blue accent to this lovely grouping.
Brides dream of their bouquet.
So, how could I go to an expo without some hint of what a bouquet might look like?
For both shows I took a lavender and white combination which popped with dahlias.
Deep purple, ivory and lavender ribbons flowed, and how could I help but sneak in some totally awesome ornamental kale with its soft green and lavender-pink lacy leaves.
To add to the softness of it all, dusty miller nestled in quite nicely as did one of my favorites - the grey-blue ageratum.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
Ah, the colors! Soft pastels of spring are transforming into summer's brighter hues. One of the things I love most about working with flowers from the gardens is they are always changing. Lilies are a staple of the Butternut Gardens flowers throughout the growing season, but I mix things up by growing different colors and types from March to October. This golden yellow sure sparkles with some of our early summer beauties.
Here we see a wonderful double white shasta daisy, along with bright pink dianthus and the beautiful deep purple drumstick allium nestled against the lily. Peachy yarrow, stock and snapdragon add filler and spiky accents respectively, while several of the early zinnias lend a nice accent.
Here's another view.
Can't you just imagine all those bright green lily buds popping open!
The snapdragon variety in the foreground is called 'Apple blossom.' A real winner with its perfect white and pink bicolor florets!
One of the best parts of early summer is being able to combine some of the best of the late spring pastels, like the feathery soft pink astilbe in this one, with the magnificent summer flowers such as this soft, periwinkle blue ageratum and this stunning green-eyed Black-eyed Susan, called 'Prairie Sun.' This year seems to be a particularly good year for both.
In this close-up you can also spot the bright pink dianthus and the peachy yarrow again. The Ageratum will continue to bloom its heart out well past summer, all the way to frost. Oh the bouquets it will make! At the end of the season, I'll give you the numbers on how many cuts I got. For now, I am just trying to keep up!
So, what do you think of this lineup at the New Canaan, CT Farmers' Market?
It is such fun seeing all the colors of the seasonally-changing bouquets en masse.
Boy, do I feel spoiled getting to play with all these beauties every day.
Hard work? Of course!
So, these seem to be perfect flowers for mason jars and weddings looking for summer elegance on the farm tables.
I thought you might like to see "splendor in the grass" with these lovelies. So fun to have a few of those striking blue delphinium to add a spark here and there.
And I bet you would love to join the party when they hit the table.
Setting up for an outdoor rustic chic summer event. These beauties add such a perfect touch.
So many different blossoms to catch your interest while you are dining and conversing.
One of the first questions Danya asked was, "Do you grow coral peonies?'
Coral was going to be her color. Then, coral metamorphosed into sherbet colors, and, wow, what a fabulous combination it became.
Nearly a year later, coral and sherbet were absolutely smashing.
Congratulations Danya and Steve. I loved working with you and your families, watching your wedding plans evolve into a lovely ceremony at Greens Farms Congregational Church and a heavenly reception in your Westport home. Every detail was driven by love for a very happy occasion.
Pew flowers graced several of the pew ends along the church's two aisles. Yes, two aisles. It is quite an interesting and beautiful church. The church grounds are absolutely stunning as well.
From the start, the big question was, "How will coral blend (or not blend) with the red fabric seating and carpeting?"
I'd say it worked quite nicely!
Two aisles, of course, necessitated two matching altar pieces.
Flowers arriving at a reception create such an overwhelming and awesome blossom of color!
Here are Danya's and Steve's flowers making their grand entrance.
Mercury pedestal vases and mercury juleps were an awesome combination.
Just love the elegance of mercury glass! Did anyone say, "Sherbet?" Yum.
Can't imagine anything nicer than working with all of these amazingly beautiful blooms.
And, did I tell you, stock has the most amazing fragrance?
Now, the finished look. Gorgeous with a beautiful, delicate, white runner gracing the farm tables, and light linens atop the round tables.
Couldn't have been nicer.
Here's a look at a pedestal on the round tables from overhead.
Love the choice of table runners and linens.
If I were the bride, this is where I would like to sit!
Of course, the groom would have to sit very close by!
Every wedding is so personal and unique. When people say, " It is your special day," there is great truth in the words.
New to me was working flowers into a "deconstructed" cake - three separated layers and using 'cake vases" on each of the cakes. Thank you, Danya, for introducing me to something new. Instead of inserting flowers directly into the cakes, or into frosting on the cakes, a cake vase sits atop the cake and one inserts flowers into the plastic vase.
This is actually the smallest of the cakes, and the cake vase certainly allowed for a wonderful display of blossoms and color.
At the end of the day, I must say, I loved sitting in the kitchen and talking flowers with out-of-town family members while putting the flowers on the cakes. I loved creating a floral wreath for the little one in the family. I loved working coral peonies into an awesome sherbet palette.
Congratulations Danya and Steve. A beautiful wedding it was! I thoroughly enjoyed working with you and your families. Love always!