Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wedding Flowers - DIY Bouquets and Arrangements

Weddings are wonderful but can be very expensive. You can save money on a wedding by doing your own flowers. Most of the cost of having professionally arranged flowers is in the labor. Now, I certainly don't want to dismiss the floral industry. Professionals can really create fabulous floral arrangements and wedding bouquets. But, when you are pinching pennies, you just have to get a bit creative. 
There I am, old Dolores, fixing up a large combination of flowers in a rustic old bucket. This was an outdoor wedding, so we used all kinds of containers, from old buckets to mason jars. I went heavy on the filler flowers for a fluffy, natural look, adding solidago, Bells of Ireland,  and snap dragons.

The bridesmaid bouquets on the left were simply created with large hydrangeas. Then we added ranunculus for the splash of orange that our bride so loved. The bridal bouquet, you can see at the back, was made of all orange roses with looped ribbons of monkey grass. All bouquets were secured by winding and pinning ribbons around the gathered stems. We put the bouquets together 2 days before the wedding, storing them in water in a cool place. Since we bought the flowers at a wholesale floral warehouse, the blooms were not fully opened, giving us enough time to do things a bit ahead of time. 

Of course, you don't have to get fancy, or create a complex bouquet. Nothing is more beautiful than a handful of all the same type of flowers, a very popular concept. Sometimes combining flowers can be a bit much, while using only one kind gives an arrangement an elegant, yet simple look. 

The last time I created a wedding bouquet, I simply hand tied a few lilies. The bridesmaids carried 3 blooms, along with some fern, while the bride carried 5 blooms and fern. All were secured with white satin ribbon and white beaded pins. 

If you just use a few flowers, remember to include an odd number. It just works out better. Some time before the event, buy some of the types of flowers that you wish to use so that you can practice putting bouquets or arrangements together.

You can also use your own flowers, but flowers raised by the industry do have a tendency to last longer. And you can't always count on your own flowers to be in  perfect shape for the event. Of course, you can always plant the event around the time that your favorite flowers are in bloom. Hydrangeas, for example, remain attractive for a long time. 

I wish that I had more pictures of the flowers, but I was too busy. And at the weddings, well, I was too busy having a good time.

Blue and White Dishware - Classic and Beautiful

 I love blue and white dishware and collect without discrimination. I love it all - my old Victorian Flow Blue, the clean lines of Finlandia patterns (poor man's Royal Copenhagen), and rustic blue and white spatterware and spongeware.

There is something so clean and bright, a simple purity that speaks of home. Oscar Wilde once claimed that he feared he would never live up to his blue and white dishware. Old collectible Flow Blue can cost a fortune. Or you can find blue and white china for next to nothing at a thrift shop.

Blue and white are the colors of the sky, the sea, and the colors most associated with the Blessed Mother. Blue and white china reminds me of the sky on the most beautiful of days, when the weather is dry with a few clouds in the heavens, and the air is fresh and clean.

Transferware, developed in England in the late 1700s used a printing method to decorate dishware. Previously, dishes had been hand painted. The new method transferred ink from copper plates onto tissue paper which was applied to pottery. Quicker, cheaper mass production of transferred designs became popular with England's burgeoning middle class. Blue and white was the color combination of choice though other colors eventually included brown, cranberry, and mixed hues. Popular designs featured flowers, rural scenes, and souvenirs. The plate below depicts Franconia Notch in New Hampshire USA.

Blue and white souvenir transferware plate

Flow Blue

Antique  Flow Blue is a beautiful transferware china that originated by mistake in the early part of the 19th century. When the color ran ruining the pattern, sets were shipped to the United States where they caught on.

Tea cup with no handle

 Early British tea cups had no handles. Though handles were common by the early 1800s tea cups without handles (like the one pictured above) were produced into the mid 19th century.

Old blue and white spatterware pitcher

Spatterware and spongeware refer to simple techniques of decorating pottery. Blue paint was spattered onto a piece creating an interesting design. Sponges could be cut into patterns and used to print a design on a surface. The stoneware pitcher above shows a spattered decoration. Here too, blue and white were the most popular color combination. 

Paperwhites -Beautiful White Flowers That Smell Bad

Paperwhites are beautiful white flowers often grown indoors during the winter months. Grown before Christmas, they make an excellent holiday decoration. Grown to bloom after the holidays, paperwhites brighten up the winter doldrums with their promise of spring.

Members of the narcissus family of bulbs, paperwhites can be grown outdoors in warmer climates. But they make the biggest splash inside. Tall 12" - 18" stems produce tiny white bloom clusters (as pictured on right), that exude a distinctive aroma. So who put the stink in distinctive aroma?

Some sources claim  that the scent comes from a chemical called indole, a musky smell that up to 1/4 of the population find, frankly, putrid. So doesn't that make me feel special!

Now, some folks are offended by the smell of Oriental lilies. But I think that they mistake too much for too stinky. One or two Oriental lilies smell heavenly. More than that can be overwhelming so that the heady perfume becomes offensive. 

Paperwhites aren't like that at all. They just plain smell bad.

Will I attempt to grow them again? Sure! They are so beautiful that I am willing to forgive the stench.

Paperwhites are easy to grow. For most attractive results, plant an uneven number of bulbs, 5 or more.
  •  Just place the bulbs in rocks, pebbles, or a loose growing medium like shredded coconut fiber. Plant bulbs very shallow, allowing 2/3 or 3/4 of the bulb to protrude above the growing medium.
  • Add water, filling the container so that the water just touches the bottom of the bulbs. Maintain water level.
  • Alcohol - some growers add 5% alcohol to the water. The alcohol (gin, vodka, whiskey) prevent the stems from becoming too leggy.
  • Place potted bulbs in a cool dark place for 2 weeks or until sprouts grow 4" - 6" tall. (45 - 55 degrees F works well)
  • Move container into a bright location at about 60 - 65 degrees F (a good reason to keep the thermostat turned down).
  • Turn the container every day or so to help the plants grow straight (they will lean toward the light)
If you want to go all out and have a dramatic show, plant all the bulbs at once. Or you can stagger planting a few bulbs at a time for a longer lasting show. 

Paperwhites grown in this way are referred to as "forced." Forced blooms, in general, produce an attractive display, but create a weakened plant. Many people throw out the bulbs after the blooms have faded. 

Paperwhites stay in bloom for quite a long time. Remember to keep well watered.