Monday, November 21, 2016

A Day with Loretta Stagen at the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens

I relocated to New Preston, CT, in 2008 and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I love the people here, and as an avid sportswoman, love the hiking, swimming, and biking just outside my door. What better way to show my gratitude than to share my design skills at a free lecture at the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens in Washington Depot. I came laden with gorgeous flowers and greenery that I’d procured at the NYC flower market on an early run the day before.

 Forego the clichéd baskets and orange gourds, I urged the assembly of women, and opt for the more subtle autumnal colors you’d find in the Connecticut woodlands. Mix the ordinary (onions, brussel sprouts, artichokes) with the extraordinary (orchids, unusual roses, scabiosa, sea holly and Dutch green hydrangea).
Create works that proclaim abundance, as you play with colors, shapes and textures. Even China-pink euonymous, gathered from the countryside (and a nice use of what today is seen as a menace—on Connecticut’s invasive species list) can be pressed into service. Unbeknownst to them, the women seated in chairs with ribbons would win these arrangements and get to take them home later in the day.

I had just a few hours to catch my second wind...before returning to give an evening workshop. The fees from this sold-out event went directly to the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens. It was a whirlwind of a few days, but very happy ones, with a sincere “thank you” from me to the place I call home.

Monday, September 26, 2016

American Gold Cup Equestrian Event

More than 80 of my floral centerpieces took center stage inside the glorious double tent at The American Gold Cup competition. The event, legendary in the world of International Show Jumping, is elegant with a capital “E”. Once again it was held at the historic Old Salem Farm in North Salem, NY. The Cup is an iconic event, now in its 46th year, with the top purse $216,000 for the Gold Cup Prix. Success at the Cup enables the gifted equestrians to move on to the ASPCA MacLay Finals.

In this stunning rural setting my challenge was to select plant material that would match the beauty of the landscape and withstand the rigors of five days of festivities.
 I turned to roses and green thistles, green Dutch hydrangea, green hypericum berries, celosia, spiral eucalyptus, kangaroo paws, scabiosa and crocosmia pods, and magnolia leaves. These gorgeous mélanges went into custom barn wood troughs and offered delight at each and every table.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Unique Wedding Reception held at the Famous Old Salem Farm in New York

Horses are wonderfully social creatures, and what can be more joyful than a wedding that includes them? Recently a stable-full at Old Salem Farm served as a celebratory Greek Chorus – as guests filed past stable doors to the tent where a sumptuous candlelight dinner was served.

From the lush green late summer fields to the white silk tablecloths and sparkling crystal, the late afternoon and evening event was the epitome of taste and understated grandeur. The scene cried out for table arrangements of Dutch white hydrangeas, white roses, white freesia and green hypericum berries; at the head table I showcased forest green Italian ruscus, spectacular white hydrangea heads, and green cymbidian orchids.
For the bride’s bouquet I opted for a romantic confection of white hydrangeas, white Hawaiian dendrobium orchids, green hypericum berries, and a collar of dusty miller. The bridesmaids carried a variation on this theme with bouquets of white lisianthus, white roses and green hypericum berries. Imagine flowers as spun sugar …made from the finest of fresh ingredients. The bride and her party looked astonishing, and so did these floral concoctions.

And of course the horses, their velvety heads taking in the happy scene, helped make this a wedding t to remember.
Wedding Coordinator: Eileen Smith Events

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ocean Cliff, Newport, Rhode Island

Ocean light. Cliffside views. Puffy clouds. Blue skies. What could be more inspirational that a wedding at this time of year in Newport, RI, land of gilded mansions and sparkling seas?

 The flowers for this glorious wedding picked up on some of the trends I’ve chronicled – the use of high quality flowers, and startlingly fresh bursts of marine color. Talk about a modern day wedding with elegant “cottage” appeal.
I had gorgeous flowers to play with – hydrangeas, peonies, freesia and delphinium, and turned hypericum berries and Italian to complete the wonderfully romantic look. I added snapdragons to the mix on a lovely arbor and wrapped its columns in white organza; for the bridal bouquet I mixed peonies, hydrangeas, freesia, delphinium and the charming chartreuse ladies mantle that is in bloom right now in the garden. It made for a great look for a great day.

Monday, April 4, 2016

New Trends for Bridal Bouquets

Bridal bouquets are shifting from the tight domes of recent years into a looser, multi-floral style that mixes colors and textures. Look for dramatic contrasts, as in this bouquet of blue anemones, black calla lilies and white roses, or a variety of arrangements that incorporate mixes of contrasting colors
Choose this effervescent mix of Japanese sweet peas and lily-of-the valley; or go for the monochromatic drama of red roses and hypericum berries.

Unusual materials, such as the rosemary, lamb’s ear and muscara featured here add surprise and charm to this custom look.
Partial collars, using either lime green Lady’s Mantle or Springerei add interest, but keep the focus on the high quality flowers selected. While roses are favorite mainstays, freesia, lisianthus, hydrangea, sea holly, anemones…all work wonderfully in concert. 
As a final thought, look at how the braided ribbon adds further glamour to this spectacular bouquet.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Orchids, Orchids, Orchids

While orchids may seem exotic to most people, I’ve been familiar with them from as early as I can remember. My mother grew her favorite Cattaleya orchids in her hothouse and Cymbidium orchids in the lath house, and in time taught me how to make corsages. 
In recent years I’ve come under the spell of the extraordinary Phaleonopsis and Hawaiian Dendrobium orchids, which are stunning in stand alone bridal bouquets and can energize any table.
I also like to create floral designs with Vanda and Arachne orchids. I’ve used them to great effect to mirror the glamour of an exquisite bridal gown, as well as to add a decidedly modern spin on a holiday mantel or combined with tulips, roses, hydrangeas or calla lilies for a special wedding.
Orchids make the potentially predictable unusual and special!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Holiday Centerpiece Workshop at the Re-invent Gallery in Lake Forest, IL

There are times when the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making the holidays special can seem overwhelming. Then there are times when we work together, and make magic.

At least that was the way it felt not too long ago when my daughter, Corinne, organized a floral workshop with her Lake Bluff/Lake Forest friends. The event was held at the Re-invent Gallery in downtown Lake Forest. As we sipped Prosecco, munched on goodies, and caught up on each other’s lives, we set to work on centerpieces that would soon grace holiday tables.

Imported Dutch hydrangeas, burgundy cymbidian orchids, gorgeous black pearl roses and green hypericum berries proved to be just what we needed.

Happily removed from what can be the sturm und drang of our lives, we remembered what should be at the heart of this season.

What fun it was to lead this workshop; and what a gift it was for me to watch these nine women head home with their beautiful creations!

All photos by Corinne Torkelson