So, I don’t normally blog. But here we are. I’m one of Ohh Deer’s founders and its Creative Director *waves*.
I think there’s something I ought to admit from the outset, I’m addicted to flowers. When I hijack Ohh Deer’s Insta stories, it is normally to highlight something floral happening in my garden or something pretty I’d added to the house in vase form.
My absolute favourite account to follow on Instagram is The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers. Their work is basically everything I love about the art of arranging flowers, balancing weight with colour, and seemingly able to get their mitts around anything.
The thing with flower arranging is that it can go very very wrong. There are plenty of butchers out there who think it’s okay to die flowers bright blue and spray glitter on them. No sir. Not on my watch. There’s a special place in hell designated for you. Certain flowers will forever be connected to a period of time that likely won’t ever be cool again, but some are able to weather the ‘trendy’ storm and come out the other side looking amazing.
Dahlias were one of those flowers for me. They’re something I associate with my grandparent’s garden and, for me, not up to the standard of a peony. Their blooms in fact are much more robust and last far longer in displays. The reason I’m wittering on about Dahlias is because Lauren at Farmer’s Daughter Flowers has well and truly changed my perception of the flower. The sheer amount of variety within the species is incredible and Lauren now grows a whole bunch of her own, multiplying the crop every year to add a touch of local grown to their arrangements.
We had a scheduled trip to the east cost of the US and wanted to go see our friends at Sapling Press in Pittsburgh off the back of that; guess who is also a resident of Pittsburgh, only bloody Farmer’s Daughter Flowers… So, naturally, I arranged to go see them and do a workshop!
Their store, to start off with, is just a quick walk away from the Andy Warhol Museum (which was also a great visit). Attending the workshop was myself; Mark, my partner and MD of Ohh Deer; Lisa, the founder of Sapling, and Jesse who owns a store in Pennsylvania called Jeppie. Far from just being a florist, they’re crammed full of brilliant gift ideas. After all, they’re selling a lifestyle kids!
So before we arrived, Lauren had popped a few stems in a vase ready for each of us (the starting blocks for what we needed). Additional material was around us ready to throw into the mix. We learned specific tips about some of the blooms we were dealing with, like Tulips, for example; to stop them from wilting too early, put them in a case with a penny and also trim them regularly. Lauren had completed a bouquet for the dressing room of Elton John that same day, and it turns out he’s a big old fan of Tulips.
Always start with your greens and build your bouquet out from an open ‘O’ you make by folding your fingers around to touch your thumb (tighten your grip where appropriate). Once you have a base of greenery, you start to layer in some of your bolder florals. One of the great things about their arrangements is the intentional awkwardness some of them have, leaving certain stems to tower above others and purposeful asymmetry is one of the brilliant ways they deal with this organic product.
Working with your flowers rather than forcing them to behave how you want them to can often lead to a much more interesting result. There’s no fixed flat way of dealing with the blooms, it’s dynamic and more beautiful for it.
All four of us worked our way through the process at varying speeds. Turns out it’s a lot harder to keep hold of a bouquet with eagle talons for a long period of time and slotting additional stems in became like a game of Kerplunk… There were tricks though that Lauren advised us on.
We were making bouquets which were to be wrapped and given to someone special (ourselves), but if you were looking at producing something for a vase, it’s advisable to build that in situ. You can use all sorts of different things to help make it more rigid / keep shape.
I was done first and was slightly jealous when the others continued filling their arrangements with gorgeousness, but felt it was well balanced.
The next stage was to trim all of the stems to a consistent height and use an elastic band in a specific way that meant the bouquet didn’t cluster together and become a column of flowers; instead it kept the organic shape it had in our hands.
After that, we wrapped our flowers in tissue paper like a swaddle and picked the ribbon that would finish off the arrangement! Each of our bouquets, even though it contained largely the same flowers, all felt different because of the way we’d interpreted where we wanted large and small blooms to fall.
A couple of other fun things we learned:
Lauren and Farmer’s Daughter don’t chill their flowers. Even though some come from as far away as Holland and Japan, they’re keen that they’re not selling flowers that aren’t fresh. They sometimes run out of blooms because of demand. But like Lauren said, when it’s gone, it’s gone. Get your order in earlier!
The other interesting point is that Lauren doesn’t necessarily employ Florists, because they come with lots of habits. She prefers to employ creative people who (like us on the day) will all interpret the material differently and produce art.
Below is the happy bunch… (I’m on the left, followed by Mark, Jesse and Lisa).
Be sure to check out the very talented Lauren Work and her team at The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers.