Several months ago, while house hunting in upstate New York, one of the realtors we contacted to show us around the area just so happened to be a reader of ours as well. Her name is Evy Weiss, a jovial, warm-hearted woman with a laugh that lifts you instantly. Her work for Miles of Hope, a non-profit foundation providing support for people affected by breast cancer in the Hudson Valley, fell especially close to home; my own grandmother Dottie is a three-year survivor and still going strong. Well, it didn’t take long before Evy, Jaithan and I became fast friends; she was even a guest for our very first party last spring! It was then, over brunch at our house, that Evy first told me of another, the Miles of Hope Annual Brunch, and would I perhaps consider donating something for auction. Yes, of course, I said, thinking immediately of all the pretty things in our basement, stacked, one upon the other, in precarious piles. But Evy had something else in mind, a demonstration of sorts, wherein a small group of women might gather, perhaps over lunch, and learn a bit of the way I work. After some thought, we decided upon—well, what else?—flowers! Now most of the arrangements I like to do are not expensive; the flowers I find at the grocery store, the bodega, or even my own garden. But it's the vessels, the color palettes, and all the florist tricks that make them look expensive, and that's what I wanted to bring to the demonstration. A Flower Arranging Party for Ten, we called it, and wouldn't you know? It sold! All together, this year's brunch raised over $100,000 for Miles of Hope, and I'm so thrilled that Jaithan and I could be a part of it.
The winner was Dana Effron, co-founder of the foundation and herself a fifteen-year survivor. There's an ironclad will in Dana—you can hear it in her voice, see it in her eyes—a quality matched only by her overwhelming generosity of spirit. And so last Friday in LaGrangeville, a quiet, country hamlet just east of the Hudson, ten friends gathered for lunch and flowers to support a cause in which they deeply believe.
Now for the food, Dana served the most delicious spicy gazpacho, followed by a light, flavorful poached salmon, wild rice salad, brownie crisps for dessert and plenty of white wine and Prosecco. Afterwards, we all went out to the pool house, where I'd prepped the space with everything I needed. For the flowers, I'd brought a mix of zinnias, dahlias, snap dragons and roses, all from our garden, together with stock carnations from a wholesale florist nearby. Then, for the greens, I used an assortment of leaves and grasses, all snipped from Dana's garden. And here's a trick of the trade: hostas are one of the easiest ways to hide uneven stems. Simply line the inside of a glass cylinder for a look that's professional and pulled together. Speaking of, remember this one?
Another beautiful, inexpensive way to enhance a cylinder vase is with ribbon. So when I was preparing for this event, it was all about pink!
First, I layered one shade upon the other, then hot-glued a simple hope ribbon to conceal the seam. This vase I might use on a vanity for brushes, on a desk for pens, or even for a single pillar, perhaps from our friends here.
For this arrangement, I did a mix of hydrangea, stock and pink spray roses. They're not unusual flowers; nor or are they expensive. In fact, all of them are either from our own garden or from a wholesale florist in town. It's what you do with them, I told the group, that makes them look expensive!
The other two arrangements I chose to do in more unusual vessels. First, there was the tulipiere I picked up at Elephant's Trunk for which a carnation arrangement would be perfect. Second, I wanted to use a Revere bowl from our Etsy store to show the group how a grid of floral tape can act as a frog. This arrangement would also have clusters of grapes wired to floral skewers for that special florist's touch.
Here I am filling up the tulipiere with plenty of cold water to keep the flowers fresh.
Now when it comes to carnations, the more the better! This arrangement I think would be such an easy, inexpensive centerpiece for a baby shower or wedding. Two would be fantastic on a fireplace mantel as well. Very Mary Haines from The Women—the 1940s version, of course. And trust me: you don't need a tulipiere to do this. Simply stack a set of glasses or compotes to create a beautiful, one-of-a-kind vessel perfect for a tiered arrangement.
Finally, for the last arrangement of the day, I began by showing the group how to wire the grapes to the floral skewers. Make sure to do it from the stem, I told them, so they're attached securely.
Check out the finished arrangement! The dahlias and snap dragons are from our garden, while the grapes are from the grocery store. An arrangement like this would certainly be in the triple digits at a fancy florist in New York, so why not recreate the look for less yourself? Oranges, limes, pomegranates—even artichokes—all make for unusual and beautiful additions to flower arrangements.
In fact, for the workshops we're doing at Creative Candles in Kansas City this week, fresh fruit is a key component in the mix. Stay tuned for a full recap, but in the meantime, join me on Twitter for Friday's event from 11-1 CT as it happens!