Thursday, October 13, 2016

In the shop:chicken wire and flower frogs

 I've been working on phasing out the use of floral foam at the shop and have been really enjoying the results from using alternative mechanics.

Developed in the 1950's, floral foam revolutionized the floral industry by introducing a product that holds water and supplies it to the cut flowers placed into it, allowing florists to use low or unusual shaped containers.

Unfortunately, however, the foam is made from a chemical mix that does not decompose, so is filling up our landfill sites, and somewhat more alarmingly the foam is believed to be carcinogenic.  The foam in its dry form ( which is how it is stored in a flower shop)  throws up large amounts of  chemical dust into the air and that toxic dust has been strongly associated with types of cancer, especially lung cancer.

So what is a florist to do, when the industry norm is a scary environmental and health issue? well, I've moved back to my floral training and returned to the oldschool mechanics of days gone by- chicken wire and flower frogs!

As you can see in the top photo, chicken wire gets easily folded and molded into a little "bubble" that goes into the vase.  Low vases can be tricky to work with, but using this chicken wire cage allows a designer to achieve a wonderful, loose and wide shape.  When you are designing for pieces that are going to be moved around, such as going out on delivery, mechanics need to keep everything stable and in the place you put it. (The other method florists often use with vases is to create a gird of clear tape across the mouth, but with a low vase this won't work- the stems will "flip" to the side and the stem end will not be in the water.)The photo above is of the finished vase, made with the chicken wire cage.

Another oldschool florist trick is to use a flower frog, the type I use in the shop most often is a pin frog. These are just genius.

A heavy metal set of vertical pins sits in the base of the container and you press the stems into the pins to keep them where you want them.

I find the shape and flow I can achieve with chicken wire and pin frogs is so much better than with foam, creatively it feels much more organic and artistically challenging, if that makes any sense at all!

There are also ceramic and metal flower frogs that are almost like little pots with holes in, many florists collect them as they come in so many amazing formats....I think I may have found a new obsession to collect myself!.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

In the shop: fall flowers

 It's another busy season at the shop,  with weddings still happening plus all our day to day orders. Add in the Jewish New Year and thanksgiving weekend and that's a lot of flowers being designed and delivered! I thought I'd share a few of my favourites with you here.  We grab a quick photo of our orders before they head out, and at the end of the day they get emailed to the senders to show them what was sent- here are some from the past couple of weeks that show all the amazing beauty of fall.

And here is a little slow motion sneak peek video of inside the shop on one of our busiest days here, the day before Rosh Hashannah- we had a full crew on board with the lovely and talented Vanessa, Angele and Mannuella creating amazing art and lots of laughs all day!


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Weddings: presenting the bouquets

Each wedding I make flowers for, there is a certain moment where time slows down, where everything seems to hang momentarily and my heart leaps to my throat as I walk into a room and present the bouquets to the bride.  It's a precious moment, yet one I desperately want to get past. Will she like it? will I see her eyes gleam and her mouth smile as I turn the corner? Will there be tears of joy?

I have always felt this moment of worry, despite having presented countless brides with their special flowers.  Recently I had started to worry that it was me, the classic imposter syndrome that so many creatives feel.

But over the past couple of weeks I've heard several of my floral heroes mention the same trepidation, seasoned designers who fly across the globe at special request to create flowers for brides that end up on the pages of magazines or pinned repeatedly onto pinterest boards. That moment of greeting the bride and handing her the bridal bouquet still makes them feel anxious.

It would seem that it is part and parcel of being a floral designer, to create this most personal of pieces that a bride carries with her through the day as she marries her life's love and to worry that somehow you've misjudged her heart's desire.  And so I am going to try to embrace this moment in time. As I stand in the elevator racing to the highest floor of a hotel, or wait at the door and press the bell I will take a deep breath and fully feel the emotion of the day. I will not try to race past it, but rather will take it in as a sign that I am doing my job well.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Slow Flowers

There is a growing global movement called "slow flowers" that is changing the way florists and flower lovers do business.

The concept of "slow flowers" echoes the slow food movement, emphasizing using flowers in design that are grown close to home. Slow flowers as a movement has been championed by garden writer Debra Prinzing, who said in a recent interview with Architectural Digest " “People have been questioning the origins of their food and making informed food choices for decades, and flowers are a part of agriculture, too, so we should be conscious of the way in which we consume them.”

Florists and consumers that are part of this movement now have an online home at, an online directory and hub created by Debra to further connect those interested in knowing where the flowers they purchase are grown and that their purchase is supporting local farmers. Formerly only for US florists and farmers, has now expanded to include Canadian shops and farms too and I'm delighted to announce that Periwinkle is now a supporting member.

Being part of Slow flowers means that we have committed to choosing locally grown product as much as we can, and to supporting southern Ontario flower farmers.

What does this commitment mean to you? Well, to be honest, not much is going to change on your side, because I've been choosing to purchase Ontario grown as much as I can since I opened up shop. When you send someone flowers from me, chances are most of the blooms in there are from Ontario farmers, especially during spring to fall.

What it does mean though is that now there is an online resource where you can find florists elsewhere in the US and Canada that share my philosophy and choose to support farms local to them, providing money and jobs to their local economy.

You can search the directory online here, and if you are interested in learning more about how flowers are farmed or a behind the scenes peek at flower shops and floral design at all, I highly recommend Debra's podcast, which you can find here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Current Obsession: Dahlias

This time of year florists around North America are swooning on a regular basis due to dahlia overdoses. I'm serious, these flowers are something we look forward to every summer, and mourn the loss of every fall. 

There are many varieties, all of which have their champions.  The amazing thing about dahlias is how the shape of the petals moves the light around the flower, shifting the colours and glowing from the inside.  They make arrangements instantly look full and romantic, and are certainly a wedding favourite for August through September. 

Dahlias aren't the easiest to grow, which maybe is what makes them so special.  The tubers have to be dug up in the fall and stored in a cool dry place over winter, then replanted the next year. They like a nice hot summer but have suffered in Ontario this year with our drought, as they also like to be well watered, so this years supply has been difficult. The dahlias you see in the photos above came from a flower farm just north of Toronto. That pale cream one just above, that is the much coveted cafe au lait variety, which had me in a dead faint when I saw it nestled in the bucket- a sweet treat from the grower that I gazed at in wonder for a while before making the vase up as a gift to celebrate a friend. Because if there is one thing dahlias are good for, its for giving to people you love.

U.S. flower farmer and florist extraordinaire, Erin of Floret Flower has to be the undisputed queen of dahlias and has been breaking the internet this year with her gorgeous photos from her farm, which you can take a look at here.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A perfect summer wedding: Rachel and Jamie

About a month before her wedding, Rachel contacted me about her flowers. That's a pretty tight turnaround time, but she knew exactly what she wanted.

Her vision was a late summer dream- big full romantic roses in whites and blushes with lots of lush full greenery. Rachel chose a bouquet of large full roses with greens, in a boho romantic style bouquet. She also wore a flower crown, as did her 7 attendants. She was a magical woodland fairy in her gorgeous off white gown.

 The wedding took place in the lush green garden of the bride's aunt. It was a perfect setting.

I decorated the wooden arbour, which became the chuppah. White organza fabric was draped around, with a mix of garden roses, spray roses, lizianthus blooms and love in a puff vines trailing across the top.

The tables were rectangular rustic wooden pieces, which I set long green garlands on, with clustered blooms at each end. Serving platters were set ,family style, along the tables.

It was a ridiculously hot day for a wedding set up, as I worked on site making the garlands it was over 30 degrees Celsius, and there were dark storm clouds brewing over head.   But as I left, the sun had begun to shine, blue skies were showing and it turned out to be a magical evening.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Makers: Janet Hinkle of Hinkleville

The Makers series of posts highlights the artists that make the products we sell, a peek into their workspace and process as they create beautiful things. 

In this Makers post I'm delighted to introduce you to Janet, the creative maker behind "Hinkleville", based here in Toronto.   Janet makes the most adorable little mini planters I have ever seen. I came across her work on instagram a while ago and was besotted immediately. I knew I needed to have her work in the shop, and I am so happy to now be a regular stockist of her pieces ( and the only one in the city located north of Bloor street!)  I sent Janet a few questions about her space and process:

Jess: Tell us about your work space- do you have a dedicated studio or do you carve out space where you can when you need? What does it look like?

Janet: Up until July 1st my workspace was very makeshift and spread across my entire apartment. However, recently, I have had the opportunity to rent studio space in the Parkdale Akin Collective location. The Parkdale space is very loft like and space is divided by the square foot to make up each artist's own studio area. It definitely beats having clay all over my home.

More about Akin via Akin:

"AKIN organizations- Akin Collective (Studios) and Akin Projects (Arts and Community Programming). 
Akin Collective is an art studio and shared workspace with studios in Parkdale, Bloordale Village and Junction Triangle. The collective provides affordable space to about 160 creatives across ten studios with a friendly and inspiring atmosphere suitable for creative endeavours and entrepreneurial undertakings of all kinds. 
Akin Projects is a registered nonprofit established for the purpose of providing both creative and professional development opportunities to members of Toronto’s artistic and cultural community. We have offered services to over 3,000 individuals across the city since our inception in 2015.

Jess: what are your tools of the trade?
Janet:  When dealing with ceramics there are two different kinds of tools that are necessary to complete any single piece. First you have tools that are used by hand (carving tools, casting molds, potter's wheel, etc..) these are all used when forming a new piece. Second, you have the tools that are necessary for finishing a piece to a desired look (i.e.: a pottery wheel for trimming, glazing tools, a kiln for firing, etc...).


Jess: Share a little about the process involved in your work
Janet: When creating a new piece from scratch I usually like to jump right into the sculpting process (I never made using a sketchbook much of a habit). I love how I can start with a lump of clay and immediately form it into a bowl, cup, planter, etc... and go on from there. The process doesn't end there though, half of the fun comes after the clay has been molded into it's initial form and is at the 'leather hard' stage (leather hard: unfired pottery or greenware, that has dried and hardened to a point that it can be trimmed and/or decorated). I really enjoy working at the 'leather hard' stage because you can take a simple form like a planter and add texture, colour, etc... This is the stage where each piece really becomes its own unique form.

Jess: Where do you look for inspiration?
Janet: I tend to look for inspiration everywhere but often find it in the same few places. For texture inspiration, I tend to find it in fashion design and/or architecture (I often experiment with fabrics by pressing them into the clay surface to create new textures). For form, colour and pattern inspiration, I tend to look back at what potters from the mid century were doing; I really love the simplicity of the form combined with the repetition, and complexity of the patterns from the 1960's, the funky colours they were using are also pretty amazing. 

 ---   ---   ---   ---   ---   ---

Janet has a great social media feed, you can follow along with her on instagram here.

I carry several colours of Hinkleville mini planters, potted up with cacti and succulents, and happily now have some of Janet's gorgeous mugs in stock too.