Friendship and flowers! That was my birthday wish this year, so I hosted Cultivated's first flower event in the garden on Saturday, inviting ten friends to join me for a two-hour workshop on floral design. What a gift!
Here's how it worked:
- I mailed out postcards outlining the evening's events, informing guests on what to bring and suggesting they dress simply and for the weather.
- We set up a long table in the garden.
- For materials, I clipped from my plots, but I had no idea what might arrive, so tried to reign myself in! I also visited a farm for dahlias beyond what I could supply and hit up the wholesaler for local, greenhouse grown product. (A sad excursion into homogeneity for me. This world needs more flower farmers!)
- Each friend brought one type of flower, branch, vine, berry, or 'what have you' from their gardens, with stems specified to be at least a foot long. I suggested a 'bucketful' to share.
- People also brought their own vase and snips.
It was so interesting to see what arrived: the friend who had planned on visiting a farm ran out of time and grabbed some stiff chrysanthemums from a shop; another clipped her rowan tree for its orange berries; another brought rose hips; and many brought mixed buckets of this and that procured from gardens near and far. Potluck indeed!
I began with a Constance Spry style chat about creativity and passed around some chicken wire and floral tape to get people started. A few guests had brought tall narrow vases that didn't work with well with the flowers we had on hand, so I leant out vases. In the future, I'd supply compotes.
I then discussed Erin Benzakein's way of seeing flowers as 'filler, focals and air'. A brief chat about colour, then I worked up the foliage in my design (a table decoration for our dinner party afterwards), emphasizing the importance of shape and structure. With the guests' fingers twitching to work, everyone was set loose on the bounty. Then fun (and frustrations) began!
Flower arranging is not easy, but it's interactive, a kind of kinaesthetic learning that requires trial and error. I had an assistant on hand to help circulate among the women, adding tips and advice. Many had never given much thought to designing flowers, nor considered themselves particularly creative in the design department. I asked guests to fill out a feedback form afterwards and got some great responses:
"When poised to begin, I was suddenly distressed. But the coaching was fantastic and the initial teachings perfect."; Fun & Inspiring!"; " I got absorbed."; "Loved the inspiration to create and get out of my box!"; "I am astonished at how beautiful they all are. Really. It was fantastic."
These are my friends, and they'd had some wine, but I'll take the compliments! A grand success, and from my perspective, I was amazed at how each woman found her own aesthetic, how no two pieces were alike, how each arrangement said something about that person. One of my friends who is wonderful cook remarked that each chef has a 'fingerprint', that no two people, given the same ingredients, could quite match one another's recipes. I agree. Beauty isn't just in the eye of the beholder, it's in the hands too.
As the sky faded to dusk we rushed to take some pictures, finally warming ourselves by the fire before dinner. One of my happiest birthdays ever!