2013 Recap: Spring Wedding Flowers

In this blustery winter weather, it’s refreshing to see these photos from last spring!  Spring wedding flowers offer up delightful blooms such as peonies, ranunculus, anemones, tulips, narcissus…  And I love flowering branches of all types: lilac, forsythia, cherry blossoms, crabapple, quince, and snowball viburnum, to name a few.  Admittedly, a couple of these weddings were technically in early summer, but the flowers are more characteristic of spring.

spring centerpiece for corporate event

Spring floral centerpiece for a corporate event at Venue Six10.

Spring wedding flowers at Chicago History Museum.

Escort card table arrangement at the Chicago History Museum.

Spring wedding floral centerpieces.

Tall and short spring floral centerpieces at the Chicago History Museum.

Spring flowers on a wedding cake at the Chicago History Museum.

Spring flowers on a wedding cake at the Chicago History Museum.

Spring wedding flowers at the Quadrangle Club.

Spring wedding flowers on the entry table at the Quadrangle Club (University of Chicago).

Spring wedding flowers at the Quadrangle Club.

Highboys with gold mercury glass votives and spring wedding flowers at the Quadrangle Club.

Spring wedding centerpiece flowers at the Quadrangle Club.

Spring wedding centerpiece flowers at the Quadrangle Club.

Escort card table arrangement at the Chicago History Museum.

Escort card table arrangement at the Chicago History Museum.

Low centerpieces of spring flowers at a wedding at the Chicago History Museum.

Low centerpieces at the Chicago History Museum.

Spring ceremony flowers at Loft on Lake.

Spring ceremony flowers at Loft on Lake.

Spring cake flowers at Loft on Lake.

Spring cake flowers at Loft on Lake.

Gardeny spring wedding ceremony arrangement.

Gardeny spring wedding ceremony arrangement. I loved the flowers for this intimate wedding at the Conrad Hilton.

Spring wedding centerpieces with peonies, roses, clematis, astilbe.

Spring wedding centerpiece at the Conrad Hilton.

Spring head table centerpiece.

Spring head table centerpiece at the Conrad Hilton.

Spring wedding centerpiece at Room 1520.

Spring wedding centerpiece at Room 1520.

Want to see more from 2013?  Check out our winter recap here.

Styled Photo Shoot on 100 Layer Cake

We were just thrilled to be a part of an amazing creative team of Indie Wed vendors who contributed to this styled photo shoot of Geometric Wedding Inspiration on 100 Layer Cake’s blog.  Thanks to Kelly at Indie Wed for inviting Pollen to be a part of it!  And thanks to Amanda Megan Miller Photography for capturing everything so beautifully!  Here’s a sample of the loveliness to be found in the full post.

http://www.100layercake.com/blog/2013/06/12/geometric-wedding-inspiration/photo by Amanda Megan Miller Photography

Floral Design Workshop = Success!

Shears, handouts, bunches of flowersYesterday, Pollen held its first ever workshop at Pollen’s studio, located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood.  Exclusive to Pollen clients (and a sidekick), students learned the basics of floral design, with an emphasis on working with farmers market flowers.

After some instruction and demonstration (and mimosas and bloody marys), the students designed their own arrangements.  I was so impressed by how well they did!

happy students
We worked with all locally grown flowers to create a low and lush centerpiece appropriate for a dining table.  The flowers selection included dahlias, zinnias, gomphrena, viburnum berries, lisianthus, cosmos, coxcomb…  Lots of bright and beautiful summer flowers.  I set up an area for students to take photos of their arrangements (then lurked behind them and took some myself).  Check out the students’ arrangements below and on Pollen’s Facebook page, where many of the students have posted photos of their work.

zinnias asclepias viburnum

dahlias, lisianthus, coxcombzinnias, sedum, asclepias, tansyI’m seriously impressed with their work!  If you are a Pollen client and missed it, have no fear, I’ll be doing it again next year.  I had so much fun reconnecting with my clients, meeting their friends and family, and seeing their pride in their new design skills!

If you aren’t a client (or if you are, and can’t wait until the next one exclusive to clients), there will be another workshop in a few short weeks.   Sunday, September 9, 2012, I will be hosting a workshop/fundraiser to help out one of my flower friends with the costs related to his recent cancer diagnosis and treatment.  You may have met my flower friend, Les with The Flower Garden, while buying flowers at the Green City Market.  All ticket sales go toward his medical costs.  This workshop is limited to just 10 people, so sign up quickly!   Get more information about the fundraiser/workshop (open to the public) and buy tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/256572


Indie Wed 2012 Recap

Wow…  I’m so honored to have participated in another winter Indie Wed (year 3!).  I had an especially good time this year.  I got to catch up with a few past clients, see a few current clients, and meet potential future clients!

I was excited to meet some vendors with whom I have been hoping to cross paths.  And I got to see some friends’ new(ish) businesses, such as Plate, Crafty Broads, and Pink Cottage Pastry.  Kudos for taking the leap!

Thanks to friend/floral designer/interior designer Paul, who was at my side while putting together the display and on the day of Indie Wed.  Here’s the final display:

A couple of weeks prior to Indie Wed, Paul and I scoured The ReBuilding Exchange for inspiration, without too much of an idea of what we would do for the display.  We picked up some folding doors and somehow came up with the idea of attaching pussy willow branches to the doors.  The overall effect of the pussy willow was of a somewhat random pattern… neutral but natural.  We went with Pollen’s colors of dark brown, mossy green, and raspberry (picked up in the flowers).

I wanted to use furniture from the studio so that the display “felt” like Pollen.  The pedestals were locally made a few years back by my talented carpenter friends Carson and Dave.  The table was a craiglist find (with a little revamping to change the tabletop from orange to white and expose the layers of plywood).  And the chair is one of four Heywood Wakefield school chairs I picked up at the Kane County Flea Market.  (Have you been?  You must go!)

The display showcased our favored naturalistic style.  On display were a bouquet, a floral centerpiece, a planted centerpiece, a boutonniere, and a showier piece, like might be used at the guest book table or bar at a wedding.  The flowers all went together, but weren’t too matchy-matchy.

The designs kept with our eco-friendly focus, eschewing floral foam (a non-biodegradable petroleum product).  The focal arrangement was designed in a recycled glass vase.  The smaller floral centerpiece was designed in a vintage glass container.  While our first choice is to work with locally grown product, during Chicago’s winters that just isn’t possible.  So we hand-selected a combination of sustainable, domestic, and Dutch floral product.

photo by Lily Red Studio (©Lily Red Studio 2012)

The bouquet was loose and sprawling, and wrapped with a plant-based ribbon.

photo by Lily Red Studio (©Lily Red Studio 2012)

The planted centerpiece, a low container of succulents, showed an example of a centerpiece that can have a life beyond the day of the wedding.

The flowers used included the following:

  • from California, acacia, scabiosa, blackberries, and viburnum;
  • from the Netherlands, kale, anemone, muscari hyacinth, cymbidium orchids, snowball viburnum, ranunculus, hellebores, and bullet allium; and
  • from a certified sustainable grower in South America, blue thistle and hydroponically grown roses.

Paul “person”-ed the booth while I joined fellow Green Wedding Alliance members Nina from Tweedle Press and Molly from FIG Catering to give a short workshop on green wedding tips.

Thanks to all who came out to Indie Wed and stopped by to say “hi.”  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

Seasonal Flowers: October

I just love fall weddings.  Mostly because of the fall wedding flowers available, of course!  I’m a big fan of berries and branches, and fall is a perfect season to include fruits, berries, and branches in floral arrangements.  This post, I’ll focus on non-flowers.

Ornamental Peppers (Capsicum annuum)

Ornamental PeppersOrnamental peppers are more diverse than you might think!  They’re available in black, purple, red, orange, and yellow, and they are sometimes long and thin like a serrano pepper, and sometimes short and fat. For a black and white wedding theme in fall, ornamental peppers are a great option.  They’re shown here with coxcomb and sunflowers.  Please don’t eat them!  I hear they’re terribly hot.  Haven’t tried them myself, though!

Ornamental Kale (Brassica oleracea)

Ornamental Kale“What is that… cabbage?”  Yes!  It is!  And isn’t it cool???  Kale comes in plum/purple, blush, ivory, and green.  If you ask me, it resembles like a giant rose.   Sometimes the petals have  ruffly edges, sometimes smooth.  Ornamental kale is a popular fall bedding plant as well as being a great option for fall wedding flowers!  They are very striking, and a bit unusual.  Don’t dismiss cabbage for your wedding flowers.  They’re quite the conversation starter!

Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria)

Another favorite of mine, smokebush is a shrub that turns reddish purple in fall.  The leaves are roundish and about 2″ across.  One of the prettiest cut branches available for fall color, if you ask me!

Seasonal Flowers: September

Well, just in the nick of time, I’m getting in a September flower availability post!  I love fall, and I especially love the berries that become available in fall.  Here are some of the locally grown flowers that I’ve been seeing and using this September:

  • Zinnias
  • Tuberose
  • Eucalyptus
  • Asters
  • Snapdragons
  • Gomphrena
  • Asclepias
  • Celosia
  • Gladiolus
  • Dahlias
  • Dianthus
  • Hydrangeas
  • Amaranth
  • Aronia

Some specifics about a few favorites:

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Bright zinniaand fun, zinnias come in an array of colors, including red, pink, orange, yellow, and green.  Their brightly colored petals surround a center disc.  Zinnias are a bit casual and gardeny.  Zinnias are fantastic in casual centerpieces.  They can easily be grown in the yard, as well.  So if you’re really a DIY type, you could grow your own for your wedding!  They are a long-blooming annual and will stick around until frost.  The butterflies will thank you!

PeeGee Hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata)


PeeGee hydrangeas are large tufts of blooms that emerge white (or sometimes green) and turn a rosey color as the blooms age.  They hold up well in bouquets and centerpieces.  Lovely, lovely.  PeeGees can be either casual or elegant, depending on how they are presented.

Pumpkin Vine, or Pumpkin-on-a-Stick (Solanum integrifolium)

Pumpkin-on-a-StickThese cute fall favorites are not actually pumpkins, but they sure look like them!  The mini pumpkin imposter is a type of eggplant.  They make an interesting addition to centerpieces and vased arrangements.  Very, very halloween-y!

Seasonal Flowers: August (part 2)

In my last post I wrote about some of my favorite locally grown flowers available in Augus, like celosia and dahlias.  On a trip to the farmers market last week, I spotted not only dahlias and celosia, but also sunflowers, lisianthus, zinnias, snapdragons, lilies, amaranth, gomphrena, asters, and delphinium.

Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflora)

I’m a big fan of lisianthus. Lizzies look beautiful in bridal bouquets.

Many people think they resemble roses, with delicate rounded petals surrounding a center of yellow anthers.  Lisianthus is a long-lasting flower available in single and double petal forms in white, cream, peach, pink, lavender, and purple.

Lisianthus is available from local cut flower growers throughout summer.

Amaranth (Amaranthus sp.)


Amaranth is a late summer garden flower that is available as a cut flower in both upright and hanging forms. Amaranth in not much of a focal flowers, but adds very interesting texture and form to floral arrangements.

Upright amaranth is a fuzy, spikey, dense cluster of flowers. Upright amaranth offers an interesting texture when used in bouquets and centerpieces. It is available in lime green, burgundy, and golden brown.

Centerpiece with amaranth, oak leaves, hypericum berries, and orchids.Hanging amaranth, also known as love-lies-bleeding, is available in the same colors and is an interesting trailing form.

Amaranth is shown in the upper photo in green, in the lower photo in burgundy.

Seasonal Flowers: August (part 1)

I love using locally grown, seasonal flowers.  Not only are they more affordable than imported flowers, but they are better for the environment, too!  Since they don’t need to be transported thousands of miles to get to market, locally grown flowers have a much smaller carbon footprint than imported flowers.

I’ve been looking and looking for a comprehensive guide to the availability of Midwestern locally grown flowers, with limited success.  If anyone knows of such a guide, please let me know!  Until then, I’m going to begin compiling one through this blog!  So here we go…

For August, many of the locally grown flowers are available in a rich, bright color palette.  A wedding color scheme based around jewel tones is a great for an August wedding.  You’ll see burgundy, orange, hot pink, and gold.  Berries (which I love) are becoming more available, too.  The following is a list of some of the flowers you’ll find locally in August.

Asclepias  (Asclepias tuberosa or  Asclepias curassavica)

Asclepias tuberosaAlso known as butterfly weed.  This is a very interesting little flower that comes in gold, orange, and sometimes a bi-color yellow and orange or yellow and red.  Asclepias tuberosa is related to milkweed, and like milkweed, will exude a milky sap from its stems when cut.  For this reason, I prefer not to use them in bridal bouquets, but they are lovely in vased arrangements for little pops of color.

Coneflower Pods  (Echinacea purpurea)

These are often listed on my invoices as Rudbeckia, but I’m 99.9% certain they’re actually purple coneflower.  These pods are de-petaled heads of the purple coneflower, and can range in color from orange to brown.  They are pretty sturdy and add great texture to an arrangement.   A good option for an unusual autumn boutonniere!

Dahlias (Dahlia sp.)

Orange DahliaThese beauties are available in a wide range of colors, including white, yellow, red, orange, peach, pink and burgundy.  Dahlias also come in a number of bi-color varieties.  Their big, bold, round flowers add impact to bridal bouquets and arrangements.  Dahlias are versatile, almost chameleon-like.  They can look elegant if paired with lilies and roses, or casual if included in a more gardeny mix.

Celosia (Celosia cristata, Celosia plumose, Celosia spicata)


Brains!  I love, love, love crested celosia, also known as cockscomb.  And, yes, they look like brains.  I love their velvety, contorted texture tucked in bouquets and low centerpieces.  In addition to crested celosia, plume celosia is available in August.  Plume celosia is a linear flower.  Celosia is available in yellow, gold, orange, peach, salmon, hot pink, pink, red, and burgundy.

Those are just a selection of what locally grown flowers are available in August.  More to come!  Check back for viburnum berries, sedum, and zinnias!

Cut Flower Care for Longer Lasting Flowers

Women resting on grass with bouquet in hand

Whether you picked up a bunch of flowers at the grocery store or you were delivered a hand-tied bouquet by a florist, following a few simple guidelines to care for your flowers will insure you get the longest life out of them.

1.  Strip the stems. Remove from the stems any foliage that will be under water.  Submerged foliage will decay and encourage the growth of bacteria.  The byproducts of these bacteria will clog the stems of the flowers and prevent the uptake of water.  No water = wilty flowers!

2.  Fill your vase with lukewarm water. Flowers draw water up the stem due to a process called transpiration.  Water evaporates from the surface of the leaves, decreasing water pressure at the top of the plant, and creating suction in the stems of the flowers. Essentially, a vacuum is created, and the stem draws water from its cut end.  It’s kind of like a syphon.  When cut flowers have been out of water, air is taken into the end of the stem and the vacuum is lost.  By using water that is warmer than room temperature, the water in the stem expands, the air gets pushed from the cut end of the stem, and the vacuum is again functioning!  Some flowers, such as spring bulb flowers, prefer cool water, but generally, you’re safest using warm water in the vase.

3.  Re-cut the stems before putting them in water. Using a sharp tool such as a knife or floral shears (ok, kitchen shears if you must!), cut at least a half-inch from the bottoms of the stems.  Cutting the stems at an angle increases the surface area exposed to water.

4.  Keep the arrangement out of direct sun, heat, and drafts. Flowers will last the longest if they are kept cool.  Being directly in the sun is tough on cut flowers.  Heat and drafts also speed water loss from the flowers, so don’t put the flowers on your tv or on a windowsill.

5.  Give them some TLC at least every other day. Every other day, remove the bouquet from the vase, clean the vase, fill it with fresh water, rinse the stems, and recut the stems before placing the bouquet back in the clean water.  If any stems begin to wilt, give them a fresh cut and they will usually perk right back up!  If that doesn’t work, remove any wilted flowers from the arrangement.

By following these simple steps, you’ll get the longest life out of your flowers.

Ornamental onions? Really??? Yes. Allium.

As you can see from my use of allium throughout this website, it’s one of my favorite flowers.

And they’re in season now!  Allium has a smooth, sturdy, and leafless stem, topped off by a purple poofball.

There are a few different types commonly available as a cut flower.  Bullet or drumstick allium (Allium Sphaerocephalon) are small, with about 1″ ovoid flowers that are greenish in bud, then turn to a pinkish-purple as they open.  A much larger variety, Globemaster (Allium giganteum), has eye-catching 5″ diameter blooms.

While florists refer to these purple balls as allium, the term “allium” actually refers to the genus of plants that includes not only onions, but also garlic, chives, leeks, and ramps.   Globemaster allium are available locally from late May into June, at the same time as peonies, which they happen to look great with!

Allium are fun–they add a sense of whimsy to any arrangement.  Or used on their own, they can look architectural.

A simple bouquet of allium

Simple bridesmaids bouquet of allium.

Allium vased

Simple vased arrangement of allium.

Consider allium for your spring wedding or next special event.  They’re a beautiful seasonal flower, not to mention a conversation starter!