Monday, June 26, 2017

5 flower farmers to follow

Recently one of our amazing Ontario flower farmers was by the shop dropping of some gorgeous buckets of blooms. She introduced me to her assistant, saying that she was " helping out at the farm, learning the ropes" to which I could only reply " good lord, you mean- she's living the dream!"

Thanks to social media, we can all take in the beautiful fields of flowers, artful pickup truck beds filled with buckets and summer bloom closeups that these hardworking farmers get to work in, but without going through all the slogging through the pouring rain, getting our trucks stuck in fields of mud, and enduring the heartbreaking, crop ruining changes in weather.

Here are 5 of our current favourites to follow ( click on their names to see their beautiful instagram feeds):

Antonio Valente Flowers
flower farmer

This guy is the sweetest. So gentle and so humble, Antonio's micro farm is just north of the city. We interviewed him a while back, you can read that post here

Floralora Flowers

We just started buying from Sas, the farmer behind Floralora, this year. Her farm is in beautiful Prince Edward county to the east of Toronto.
Find out more via her website here

La Primavera Farms

flower farmers
This farm brings us gorgeous blooms that blow us away every time. We wrote about this farm in a post you can read here. 
Visit the website here


This U.S.flower farmer will amaze and inspire you with her gorgeous photographs and gentle narratives. You can learn more about flower farming, growing your own cut flower garden and see scenes from their gorgeous property on their blog here.

Electric Daisy Flower Farm

A U.K. flower farmer, her instagram feed is unbelievable. A fantastic mix of flowers with a creative vision that will inspire you. On a sweet side note, this flower farm is located close to where I spent my childhood in the south west of England! You can see more via the website here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weddings: A soft and sweet late Spring wedding

Not all the weddings we do are full scale events. Case in point, the wedding flowers we made for Helen and Aric's special day recently. The couple celebrated their wedding at Sunnybrook Estates. They put together their own centerpieces - interactive games for guests to play at the tables- but had us design and make all their personal flowers.

I was thrilled to have the talented photographer Samantha Ong send me some of the gorgeous light filled shots she captured of the day, and you can see more on her blog here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

How to know what light level you have for plants in your home

How do you know what type of light you have in a room? It's important you think about this before choosing a plant. Too low or too high a light level can result in poor growth at best, a dead plant at worst. But how do you know what light level you have? Well, here's an easy way to figure it out.

Think of each room as a rectangle. The front third or so closest to the window is going to get the most light. If you can sit in this area of the room for a good few hours of the day and read easily without turning on any overhead lights, if you almost want to draw the curtains a bit sometimes because it's just too bright, then this is your zone of high, good quality light.

Plants that will do well here are succulents and cacti, and anything blooming such as orchids and azaleas. Keep in mind that some plants don't like to get scorched by direct sun, so  don't want to be right up against the window in this space.

The next zone is the middle third or so. In this space you can read pretty well if the sun is coming directly in the room, and in general you can sit here without feeling you need the overhead lights or a lamp on in the middle of the day. You don't ever feel the sun is too strong or too bright here though. This is your zone of medium light. Plants that do well here are ones that are used to growing in filtered light, such as under the canopy of trees. Ferns, ivy and airplants are three types that need this good light that isn't too overpowering. They tend to be plants that like to be kept moderately moist and not dry out so be careful to monitor the soil moisture well.

The back third of the room, furthest from the window, is the section with the lowest light. If you sit here in the daytime you can't really read a book without turning on a lamp. It feels too dark during the day to be here without some supplemental light. This is the low light zone. There aren't many plants that do well here, ZZ plants, Sansiveras and pothos are three that can handle lower light well. In general plants that live in low light don't use up water as quickly so be careful not to let them get too wet, wait a little between waterings.

And, if you are in a room that has no window at all, so you have to turn on overhead light just to be in there, then  that's a no-light zone. Plants aren't going to live well there, lamps and overhead lights just don't give off the right spectrum of light. Your best bet is to either buy a special grow light or do as I do and have a low light tolerant plant there for a while, but replace it after a few months once it starts to do poorly.

But wait, most importantly you need to consider each room carefully to determine if your highest light there is actually high light or not. Just because you have a window at one end, that doesn't make the area by it automatically a high light zone. If you can't sit and read easily without turning on a lamp during most of the day, then you aren't in high light no matter how close you are to the window. My house is a good example of this- my main living space is a long thin rectangle with a big double glass sliding door at one end- you'd think that means high light, right? But it faces into a garden with a large maple tree that throws down full shade, and has an awning overhanging a small patio that shields the light even more. I can't comfortably sit and read in this space without a light on, it always feels a little too dark. So at best I have LOW light towards the window, and no light from the middle to the back. The only plants that do well here are the ZZ, pothos and Sansievera, and they need to be in the end nearest the window.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Shopkeeper's diary:The merry old month of May

A new feature that I hope will be monthly, Shopkeeper's diary is a series of posts sharing a little about life behind the scenes of a local brick and mortar shop.Keeping it real, pulling back the curtain of social media perfection to show the grubby, dirt under nails side of floristry and small biz.

We've been catapulted into May already. April was busy, but May even more so. In the shop we are enjoying the change in flowers. Tulips and ranunculus are beginning to wain, but  we've gotten to enjoy snowball viburnums and lilacs which help fill the gap. Late spring into early summer is a hard time though, because the beautiful seasonal blooms like the lilacs etc are so short lived in southern Ontario. One small string of too warm days and it's all over.

Mother's day was mayhem. Absolutely nuts, which I've heard was the case across the industry. The weather was cool and rather grey leading up to it, which always gives flower sales a boost. The whole team was in and it felt more like a party in here than real work as we got to enjoy the happy colours of spring and several days working together as a team. My staff are such a talented creative bunch, and such nice kind people. It really is a pleasure to spend time with them here. We suffered a major glitch with our software system on the Saturday morning, causing us to loose all our data from the 24 hours before. We had all our orders on worksheets, as we know better than to rely solely on technology, but it made for some extra work and a difficult morning. Our couriers were overwhelmed that weekend too. Always the weakest link in the chain and the one we have the least control over, delivery is a difficult job at the best of times. The added volume of a major floral holiday makes it even harder. 

As shop owner, I usually feel a bit schizophrenic.While running through May I'm actually working on and thinking about June and July. We have weddings starting up in June, and this year I'm so blessed with brides that have chosen really inspiring colours and that share a similar vision with me on the flowers. Every year gets better and better and I'm excited to get started on them, as they are such a different animal than regular shop orders.

And remember this post a few weeks ago, where I share how excited I am to have learned a new way of designing wrist corsages, one that actually appeals to me ascetically?  Well, I tested and tested them, wanting to be really sure they would work and hold up. Corsages are one of the things we have the most issues with. It takes a long time to take an order for what is a very small dollar purchase, the customer is usually hyper concerned over the exact flower and look ( although, weirdly everyone pretty much ends up choosing white. I find most canadians are very afraid of colour!) and they are something that once made has no water source at all and has to try to hold up in warm conditions while being waved around on the end of an arm all night. So, I tested the new designs. I made a whole bunch on separate occasions. I wore them in the shop all day to see how they did and was really happy with the result. And then we heard that two that went out fell apart while getting put on. We can't explain it. I've sobbed it out on a florist facebook group, and heard a wide range of answers- some florists  say the same has happened to them, others say they've used this technique for years with not a single issue. We've compared  notes, and traded secrets. And I have no idea why the two at issue failed, but I don't' feel confident enough in the new way to continue. Two is two too many, especially in this modern world of online reviews ( which, I think should be better termed online complaints and vents). So, it's back to the old wire and tape technique for now. I feel frustrated and chastened  but am trying to remind myself that there are no failures, only opportunities to learn, and that nothing ventured means nothing gained.

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Click above to join my weekly email group- each month you receive a pretty  digital wallpaper, a chance to win free floral goodies and insider info about all things flowers, makers and pollinators!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Current Obsession: tiny things

Tiny things have become a new obsession for me. Little handmade pots and bowls especially (the ones above and below we've just started stocking at the shop, made by local artists Akai Ceramics).

With an entire flower fridge to choose from, I find I'm taking home the teeny tiny blooms and setting them into teeny tiny bowls in my bathroom and at my bedside (my two favourite spots to have fresh blooms at home). Big bouquets don't interest me, it's beauty on a micro scale that holds my attention.

Tiny plants do it to, teeny wee ones set into teacups. Add in a miniature animal figurine that messes with the scale and I'm in heaven.

If you are the same, I bet you'd enjoy these links to some creative folks making and sharing tiny things online:

Jon Almeda- almeda pottery on instagram

A shop favourite, Toronto maker Janet Hinkle of Hinkleville Handmade on instagram

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Click above to join my weekly email group- each month you receive a pretty  digital wallpaper, a chance to win free floral goodies and insider info about all things flowers, makers and pollinators!

Monday, May 1, 2017

In the shop: floral jewelry

I've always had a love-hate relationship with wrist corsages. I love the idea of people wearing flowers as a decoration for a special occasion, but frankly the corsages themselves always leave me feeling  a little "meh". I was taught the traditional wire and tape method back in the stone age when I trained. Over the years I've tried different techniques and different mechanics in an attempt to love them but have never found something that looked anything but awkward. Until now that is.

Found the way I usually find things, through instagram floral friends and then letting my brain tick over things for a bit, we now make our wrist corsages in a totally different fashion than before. Gone is the annoying stub of wire at the base, the frustrating having to hide mechanics with ribbon ( oh how I hate ribbon in bows), now our corsages are like beautiful bracelets that sit around the wrist rather than up it, and are delicate and graceful and all the things I think flowers to wear should be.

We are desperately waiting for someone to ask us to make wilder bigger pieces, pieces similar to those made by the amazing talented designers at electric daisy flower farm and passion flower sue, to wear as complete floral headpieces, necklaces or (gasp) as beautiful botanical sashes at the waist.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 easy ways to help the bees

Bees and other pollinators such as butterflies and moths are responsible for about 70% of our food supply. So it kind of makes sense that if they are in trouble, we are to.

Bees in particular are struggling right now. The biggest problem they face right now seems to be the use of pesticides, specifically neonics. The danger from them is serious enough that governments are taking notice, Europe has banned their use, while the issue is being discussed in canadian government right now. Essentially neonics stay with a treated plant for years, and every time a bee drinks from that plant it is taking a toxic cocktail that eventually causes death, most often over winter.

There are some simple steps we can take to help, even if all you have is a couple of pots on your balcony or a window box. It isn't the size of the garden that counts, it's the thought behind it.

1. Ask before you buy. Several large suppliers such as Rona have committed to making their supply chain neonic free, and to labeling clearly for the consumer. No matter where you shop, ask for confirmation that the plant is neonic free. If they can't answer a solid yes don't buy there. Going neonic free doesn't mean you have to buy the most expensive plants, it simply means asking and making a choice about where to buy from.

2. Plant flowers that are brightly coloured. Bees in particular can see yellow and blue flowers, other pollinators such as butterflies are attracted to red.

3. If you have a lawn, don't cut down the dandelions when they first appear! Dandelions are one of the first food sources in spring for bees, after a long winter they desperately need to find sources of food quickly. Learn to love the bright yellow happy flowers that dot your lawn.

Don't have a lawn? ask your local municipality to let dandelions grow in public spaces and parks!

4. Set out small saucers of water outside. Change them often to keep from getting stagnant and to discourage mosquitoes.

5. Give bees and other insects places to burrow and hid. You can find a myriad of tutorials for bee hotels on pinterest, but it can be as simple as leaving some empty earth spaces that don't have a layer of mulch, that insects can burrow down into.