“Follow Your Flowers from Field to Vase”: The 50 Mile Bouquet, by Debra Prinzing
On our bookshelf you will find a book by our friend Debra Prinzing, The 50 Mile Bouquet. She has written about folks who are leading the movement toward growing and using locally sourced flowers, many of them in Northern California. Her profiles include gorgeous photos by David E. Perry.
ABOVE: Flora and our own Susie Nadler, the linchpin of our Cutting Garden floral design practice, are featured in the book.
ABOVE: Snapshots from the featured spread.
Debra’s Eco-Friendly Floral Design Tips
Background: As more florists and designers discover the negatives of that green foam block (also called Florist’s Foam or Oasis), they are returning to some tried-and-true techniques for stabilizing stems in a vase. The problem with the foam is that it is a formaldehyde-based product that does not break down in landfills. Many designers I’ve interviewed express concern about breathing and/or exposing their skin to the material.
- Vintage and new flower frogs: (I started collecting these years ago and they’re easy to find at tag sales and vintage flea markets for under $5 or $10). Use and reuse!
- Pebbles, glass beads, marbles
- Excelsior fibers: Also called wood aspen, you can find this packing material through craft stores or wine shops. Insert a tangle of the fibers in your vase and then you can stick stems through the fibers to stabilize. When you’re finished with the arrangement – this can go into the compost pile with other clippings.
- Chicken wire: I have a $15 roll of 15-in.by 5-ft .poultry fencing that I use over and over again. Just use wire clippers to cut off a 12-inch section of the wire so you have an approximate square. Form it into a loose ball to fit the interior dimensions of your container [see my first 2 photos of a wide-mouth, square compote]. If the container is shallow, use sticky clay (available in the floral department at Michael’s or other craft stores) to anchor the chicken wire in place. My second photo shows how I created a full, lush arrangement with winter greens from my garden and locally-grown organic tulips. This is the type of arrangement you would have traditionally seen stuck in florists foam – but the chicken wire does the trick beautifully!
- Twigs/branches: I learned this technique from several designers I interviewed for The 50 Mile Bouquet. As a first step. arrange a framework of decorative twigs inside your vase, placing each one at an angle that crosses over the next. This interior matrix is then perfect for inserting other floral branches and foliage – and the twigs become part of the design. See photos 3 (twigs in vase) and 4 (finished arrangement with black-stemmed pussy willow, maidenhair fern and spring daffodils).
Other eco-design tips:
1. Use recycled containers and vases. My girlfriend stocks up on $1 glass vases at the Goodwill or Salvation Army and has them on hand all year long. When visitors come to see her amazing rose garden, she sends them home with a beautiful rose arrangement of just-clipped flowers and a recycled vase.
2. Use greenery from your own garden. Broadleaf or needled evergreen foliage, ornamental grasses, perennial foliage and herbs are all unique foliage sources – straight from your garden. If you buy flowers from the farmer’s market or another local source (many supermarkets are beginning to source from local flower farms, for example), add them to your own foliage to create a naturalistic, fresh-picked bouquet.