I want to start this blog today by thanking everyone for their kind comments and emails. I read every single one and they all make my day. Then I read them to my husband and say, “Jealous?” :-)
In this part of The Art of Entertaining, let’s talk flowers. My daughter, Gracie, doesn’t know it yet but I am enrolling her in weekend flower school here in Paris. She’ll thank me later. It’s part of her “education” in Paris. Flowers are the icing on the cake when it comes to entertaining. But for God’s sake, let’s do it right. If I see one more sliced lemon inside of a vase of daffodils, I’m going to kill myself. When it comes to flowers, I like to think outside the box but with some “decorum.”
First of all, I think it’s important to put some thought into the vase. By the way, don’t you hate this new fad of calling a vase a “vessel.” Call a spade a spade, call a vase a vase. I love using the unusual… wine crate, Moroccan tea glass, antique urn, Mercury glass cup, old French enamel pitcher, antique sterling silver trophy cup, loose tea containers, Chinese blue and white ginger jar, terra-cotta pot, old bucket, Delft tulipiere, antique cache pot, wicker basket, majolica, faux bois… just anything that does not shout “Clear Glass Vase from FTD!” I am not a huge fan of exposed stems. Take a look at these gorgeous "vases"...
I am also in love with asymmetrical flower arrangements. Take a look…
What I love the most is unusual accoutrements in arrangements. Orange branches, kumquat branches, strawberries and their leaves, rosemary, basil, lavender, peppermint, geranium leaves, cherry blossoms, magnolia branches, blackberry branches, artichokes, fig branches, olive branches, persimmons, fall leaves and fruit (used properly). Take a look…
Whenever I feel a little lost in my faith, I look at a flower and remember that there is a god. I mean, who else made that pink and green parrot tulip or black orchid or blue passionflower or night blooming jasmine!
I realize that flower arranging can be daunting. Here’s what I would do… Go to flower school. It’s important to know the basics and the tools of the trade…floral frogs, oasis etc. There are a lot of secrets to a good arrangement. If you are not confident in your flower arranging, flower school will teach you about texture, scale, asymmetry, depth, color combinations etc. (In terms of color combinations, it’s always best to let Mother Nature be your guide.) After that, you can make your own arrangements. Did you know that Carolyn Roehm went to flower school in Paris before she wrote her book, A Passion for Flowers? She did. She studied at the renowned florist Moulié Fleurs. However, my advice would be to go to the flower school in Paris of Catherine Muller, the protégé of famed Parisian florist Christian Tortu. If you are in New York, there is the inspiring Little Flower School in Brooklyn.
After you receive your “degree” from the flower school, my advice on this is to go to your local wholesale flower mart. You’re ready for it now. All big cities have one. My favorite is the New York City Chelsea flower market on West 28th St. This is the Mecca of flowers. My friend Diandra (and her reluctant driver) and I would go every week and load up on everything from magnolia branches, cherry blossoms, cut flowers, topiaries, succulents, even palm trees. We bought all of the Christmas garland, pine cones and berries there as well. Talk about a visual feast! You need to know how to navigate this place though. There is a great tutorial with tips on how to have a successful day at the New York City Chelsea Flower Market from gardenista.com. You can watch it HERE. In my opinion, the best shop at the Chelsea flower mart is Associated Cut Flower. Watch this little video with Carolyn Roehm at Associated Cut Flower shopping for parrot tulips and David Austin roses HERE. It is like a candy shop!
If you are not up to all of that, there are brilliant florist that you can visit to find atypical arrangements. In Paris, the most exclusive old-school Parisian “fleuriste” is called Lachaume on rue Faubourg Saint Honoré. Having been in existence since La Belle Epoque of the late 1800s, this is the secretive boutique that writer Marcel Proust would stop by daily to pick up his cattleya flower to decorate his buttonhole. Another favorite of mine in Paris is Odorantes on rue Madame in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. This ain’t your mama’s flower shop. This discreet little shop arranges its flowers by scent and it is nothing but the extraordinary. And of course there is always Dani Roses at my favorite Hotel Costes in Paris. They only sell roses and I am sure the staff spends half of their time wiping smudge marks off their windows from lookie loos like me.
My other favorite florist are Amy Merrick in Brooklyn. Think asymmetrical old Masters. Lewis Miller Designs of New York. Think Vogue and Givenchy. And also, Sarah Winward of Honey of 1000 Flowers. Think organic. And don’t forget my favorite florist in Los Angeles, Eric Butterbaugh. Think sarcastic.
Now, if you’re too lazy to go to flower school, if you’re too lazy to go to the flower mart, and if you’re too lazy to go to a florist there is a solution for you and it’s not a fat farm. Your miracle is called The Bouqs. This is an online sustainable eco-friendly florist. The concept is simple and you can order from the comfort of your tufted sofa with a vodka tonic in your hand. You can also order from the comfort of your hybrid Prius on your cell phone while you are in your kids after school car pickup line because there “is an app for that.” $40 flat fee for a not too shabby bouquet. They cut on the same day you order so the flowers last longer. The best part is that their farms are energy-efficient and offer living wages, health care, child care and adult education.
If you want to see more gorgeous flower arrangements, you can check out my Pinterest board “Fleurs” HERE.
That’s it for today. Stay tuned for the next Art of Entertaining. Hint: cluck cluck.