Sunday, February 8, 2015

A fistful of sweet peas.

Okay, okay, I confess. I’ve been hanging out in my bed (with yet another chest cold) dreaming about being a flower-farming florist again. It happens every year that I cannot go out and rummage through the garden, when the snow or the sleet or the bitter cold makes being outside a hideous experience, I start thinking, “If only I’d been a florist.”

Or should I say Floral Designer. Isn’t that the proper term these days? I don’t really care, what’s more important for you to know is that my Instagram feed is littered with their photos and all I can do for the last few weeks is talk about how Emily Thompson made an arrangement with a wasp’s nest, magnolia branches and dark pink sweet peas, swoon over the fabulousness of Ranunculus ‘Charlotte’ and try and find myself a couple of bunches of Carnation ‘Antigua’ – no no, don’t get all sniffy on me about carnations, carnations have been cool for a while now and the ‘Antigua’ is so hot, my connection doesn’t even know if she can get me any for next week.

I guess I should back up a bit and explain. Remember how I told you that the reason I started gardening in the first place was because I loved making huge flower arrangements and was spending a fortune buying the individual stems each week? So I came up with the crazy thought of, “Hey why don’t I grow a few on the weekends when I come out to visit my family’s house?” Well that passion has never died, and every winter when I’m unable to go out into the yard to cut things, I get a little stir crazy and I start kicking around hunting floral inspiration. The flowers in the supermarkets are my gateway drug, they suck me in every year even though I know better, and wouldn’t you know I the moment I bought one bunch of eryngiums last week, it started to wilt the same evening I arranged them. So there you have it, I was right back I was onto the hard stuff again. Florists and flower arranging workshops.

I’ve told you about the class I took with the girls from The Little Flower School in Brooklyn, but this year, I applied for a scholarship for one of Erin Benzakein’s workshops in the Pacific Northwest at her Floret Flower Farm. Erin is a flower farmer and floral designer of such distinction that Martha Stewart chose her as her top choice in the floral design and special event category in her American Made Awards this year. Her blog is true floral porn, and I think her life looks amazing. I have been dying to take one of her 3 day workshops (which sell out in a nanosecond every year) for the last few years, they are however, quite expensive, and, as they also require a plane ticket across the country to the Pacific Northwest, and lodging is additional -- plus I’ve already purchased my flight to take me to the Chelsea Flower Show in London this year – I was feeling a little poor. So, I applied for the scholarship instead. I didn’t win, two other women did, but there were 549 others applying and I was a runner up, with Erin offering to give me a bit of a reduced rate, which was lovely, but still too stiff for me this year.

I wrote Erin back to thank her and to tell her I’m just going to have to start a roadside stand to sell my flowers and that I’ll stick all the money in a jar to save for next year classes as she is a total inspiration to me.

But it’s that kind of a winter. 

I have the floral crush thingie happening big time.

So now I’m trolling Instagram looking at the NYC flower market photos and thinking that if I were working with cut flowers instead of plants my life would be so much easier. Ha! Right? I happen to know that it doesn’t matter where you work or what you do, you bring the stresses you carry with you. Darling, I would make being a grocery bagger at King Kullen a stressful job. I’d have to fix the whole process. It’s just my nature. Working with cut flowers would be just as crazy as working with live plants. Although probably just as much fun too.

I adore flowers and foliage and textures and creating so of course flower arranging is one of my passions. It is like painting the same way gardening is – beautiful, crazy and fascinating. And expensive, but oh so worth it. Which brings me to this week’s floral holiday. Valentine’s Day.

Okay, so no pressure, but please get someone you like (or love) beautiful flowers this weekend. Or if there’s no one you’re crazy about this week, buy them for yourself. I don’t care if this holiday was made up by the greeting card industry or not, I just know it’s a fantastic time to get and share something beautiful, especially if the individual you are sharing them with a gardener.  Gardeners love plants. I was once given an all green foliage bouquet I still think admire for its incredible subtlety. I loved that person for a little longer then I should have just because they gave such gorgeous arrangements.

Personally, I think it’s exciting to make someone an arrangement on your own, to chose and style flowers for someone, but if you can’t swing it, or if it intimidates you, do not fret. Go see Anatasia at Sag Harbor Florist. The woman is brilliant and she has promised me that she has ranunculus ‘Charlotte’ coming in for the holiday. She’s actually the person who first introduced it to me in a pair of bouquets I bought from her last winter in which she used rosemary cuttings as her greenery, a marvelous idea I now copy religiously.

When I lived in the city I used to go to the flower district just to inhale the colors and textures and shapes, not to mention the fragrance, and it’s one of the things I truly miss about NYC and I keep threatening to get on a jitney just to go to Dutch Flower Line and G. Page (I know, I know, it’s al really changed since the 90’s but don’t kill a girl’s dreams.)  Now a visit to Anatasia’s shop or a drop in on Michael and Jim at the Bridgehampton Florist is how I satisfy my petal craving soul. “The boys,” as everyone you knows them refers to them, are fabulous people, and have being making fantastic arrangements out here for years. Their combinations are inspired and they are lovely, funny and charming people to work with.  

I’m not going to tell you not to buy red roses for your significant other when you do go to get arrangements from either of these fantastic places, red roses are beautiful, but there are a bazillion other amazing flowers out there that will break your heart with their beauty. Open your eyes to the diversity of shapes and colors and stems that you can laden your loved one with.  Ask for an orange arrangement, or a deep bloody wine colored one. I like supporting local growers, so I am a big fan of armfuls of quince stems and handfuls of sweet peas at this time of year. Well seriously, who doesn’t like sweet peas?

Valentine’s Day is Saturday, and so is the farmer’s market in Riverhead where Pierpont Blossoms will be selling sweet pas, quince branches, lisianthus and hopefully ranunculus. I went there last week and bought the most divine, soft lavender sweet peas that smell like spring. I also bought some brilliant white lisianthus, just because they were beautiful, and I’ve craving flowers.

While I was there, I had a quick thought, that if I was so desperate to learn how to be a flower farmer, I could just talk to these nice folks and not have to travel all the way to the Skagit Valley in Seattle, but the part of the adventure is the exploration and deep submersion in the practice so I think I’m just going to have to throw a picnic table out on Sagaponack road this spring and see how much money I can make selling bunches of my unusual tulips. Because after planting over 1000 of them I think I might have a few extras left over after I’ve made my own bouquets.

Paige Patterson admits that she has a flower problem, but doesn’t think it’s that bad of an addiction to have.