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.

Zinnias are Coming!

Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

I choose today's Fleur du Jour - beautiful and bold Zinnias - to brighten up this white, wintry landscape. I cut thousands of Zinnias each year. They are one of the best cut and come again flowers going for summer and fall. Last year's first Zinnias popped open on June 10th and continued to frost, gracing bouquets and arrangements for a good 4 months. In 2014 I cut 3,242 stems of one variety alone (many different colors). It was not the best year for "zins" but I would say that was certainly good enough! Based on last year's first cut date, only 128 days to beautiful show-stopping Zinnias! Wow!

Welcoming new couples at wedding expos

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

and hydrangea.





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.  


A Dahlia's Year

One of the rites of summer around here at Butternut Gardens is seeing which variety of dahlia will be the first to bloom, and when it will happen.  Some naturally bloom a bit earlier, but of the early bloomers, there is always a bit of variation. Two years ago, 'Bashful' broke the barrier on June 28. Last year it was 'Jitterbug', also on June 28, and this year, a red Karma won the race, but several weeks later owing to a late spring, and my delay in putting the tubers in the ground.

From that day in mid-summer until the first

hard frost, which is usually around October

15, I enjoy hundreds of dahlias blooming

every day in their absolutely stunning array of



Look carefully, and you will see one of my

dinner plate dahlias, called 'Ice Cube' to the

left. It truly is the size of a dinner plate! 



Dahlias survive the first light frosts of fall, as do many bees, which end up spending the night on the blooms.

As a rule, I will not cut a bloom with a resting bee. Come cool days and nights, I often delay my morning cutting until the warmth of the sun gets my little friends wiggling and buzzing. In fact, a number of bees even survive the first hard frost, when the dahlias do not.

As soon as this first hard frost hits, the dahlias are immediately done for the season as far as cut flowers go.

For two weeks or so in mid- to late-October, I do nothing, but I know each of the dahlia tubers is hardening off underground.

The leaves, meanwhile, turn brown and black.

Come early November, I cut the stems to about six inches above ground.

Within the week, I gently pull all dahlias from the ground by hand, and maybe the slight help of a shovel.




It amazes me that what went into the ground as a single "fingerling potato-sized" tuber, emerges as a mammoth cluster of tubers, some nearly two feet in diameter, others more round, but with equally numerous new tubers attached.

Digging dahlias in bulk is heavy work, as so much growth quietly takes place under the summer sun.


Once out of the ground, I physically cut the clump apart (not easy work) keep one tuber per plant, rinse off the soil and write the name of the tuber variety on the tuber itself with permanent marker. For several days, I let the tubers dry in the sun on newspapers. Then, it is time to box them up for winter storage. I overwinter dahlias in moistened pet shavings place in cardboard boxes. I use clear shavings, not cedar shavings, and I mix in just enough water to make the shavings moist, but not truly wet. Too wet will promote rot. Too dry, and the tubers will shrivel and may not be as viable come spring.

My dahlias "winter" in the cooler where they enjoy temperatures in the low 40's. Every month, or so, I peek in a couple of the boxes to make sure I don't have rot, or to sprinkle a bit of water if anything seems dry.


Depending on temperatures, dahlia planting for the new growing season begins mid-April to mid-May.

By then, rows are tilled and waiting.

I put a bit of bone meal at equal intervals down the rows, and this helps me set my spacing for the tubers.

Following the advice of a long-time dahlia farmer, I plant my dahlias close to the natural surface level and then "hill up" over the tubers.

I do not water when I plant.

It takes weeks for the first shoots to break the surface, which is long enough for me to wonder if anything is ever going to happen.

Sure enough, it does, and it is always very exciting watching rows of soil become rows of dahlias! If, by chance, a late spring frost hits after shoots emerge, it does, in fact, kill off early shoot growth, but the tubers underground fare fine, and the dahlias thrive nonetheless.

I try to set up support netting as soon as

possible once the shoots appear, since

dahlias tend to grow and branch rather


First I do a careful weeding, and then set up

rows of 6" x 6" support netting.

Even though it costs more, I personally do

not like to see plants growing in bare soil, so

I add wood bark mulch (not fresh wood

chips) at this time as well.


When new shoots reach 12" to 18" I do a single "pinch" meaning I cut the stems to prompt the remaining stem to branch at the pinch point. Then, once again, I wait, as each plant pushes out more leaves, the first small buds, and, finally, sometime in late June or early July, that first fully developed dahlia bloom. Thus, the dahlia's year comes full cycle, once again, and it is time, once again, for the myriad of dahlias to shine in farm bouquets, table arrangements and the hands of many radiant brides.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.

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. 

Flower Subscriptions going strong

A spring subscription delivery with tulips, allium, iris and lilac, among others.

A spring subscription delivery with tulips, allium, iris and lilac, among others.

One of the joys of flower farming is following all the changes that take place during the course of a growing season and seeing "what's going to come next."

Through the Butternut Gardens Subscription Service, many loyal customers also share in the joy of new flowers every week and the joy of anticipating "what's going to come next."

I am happy to offer several types of subscriptions to meet individual interests and budgets. 

An early summer selection.

An early summer selection.


Quite a few subscribers receive flowers every week.

Some choose to have fully-made bouquets delivered.

Others choose the 'bucket' option and create their own arrangements from a mixture of loose flowers.

I often hear that a number of flowers make it into the second week, although others, we know, are expectedly more fleeting.

There are many times when I would love to see how  the 'bucket' subscribers choose to display their floral bounty.

Bi-weekly subscriptions are also popular. As just mentioned, a number of flowers last longer than a week, although I would not count on that for the majority of blooms.

Flowers delivered every other week can also come as fully-prepared bouquets or as 'bucket' subscriptions.

One of the most fun parts of subscriptions is that you really do NOT know what is coming next!

Sure, it might be the time of year when Phlox is bountiful, but with what will it be paired? Will it be a monochromatic offering with all lavender or all pink or all white blooms? Will it be sheer Phlox ecstasy - purple, pink, white, deep pink, pink and white swirled phlox all bunched together? What special little accent flower shall I add this week? Mountain mint, perhaps?  Flower subscriptions are truly gifts and surprises!

August bouquet

August bouquet

The third season-long subscription option is the monthly option. Every month fresh flowers arrive at your doorstep.

This seems to be the perfect floral pick-me-up for many subscribers. It is also a very popular gift item - just enough, but not too much - and a full season's worth! For many, it makes their month.

Going from one month to the next, subscribers see the biggest difference in blooms, because what a difference a month makes in the gardens.

It is the difference between peonies and tulips to phlox, iris and daisies; the jump from sunflowers and zinnias to dahlias and chrysanthemums. 

For those who are not certain about receiving flowers regularly, I also offer a one-month trial of four bouquets. This is another perfect gift item. Generally, the biggest concern about flower subscriptions is, "What happens if I want to take vacation?"  I try to be as flexible as possible, and change delivery weeks or double up on flowers other weeks, to best accommodate.  Somehow it all works! Many thanks to my flower subscription customers. I love growing your flowers and surprising you with what comes next.

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?



Now that's a dahlia!

Beautiful dinnerplate dahlias sure do catch the eye.  Here were have a stunner!  Even though I have to dig hundreds upon hundreds of dahlias every fall, because they are not winter-hardy here, it is always worth the sore muscles when they come into bloom the next season.

Imagine this one in your bouquet! Add some amazing greens and you have nothing short of pure magic.

Imagine this one in your bouquet! Add some amazing greens and you have nothing short of pure magic.