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talking flowers

talking flowers | a valentine's day guide

For me, flowers are always a perfect gift. I love them in all of their beautiful forms. Well, almost all. And at Valentine’s Day, in the bleak of winter, they are a welcome sight. But having been a floral designer for many years I know the inflated prices this holiday and the myopia surrounding the red rose. The thing is, you don’t have to buy roses. I would rather not have red roses at Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love roses, but there are so many more interesting, more unique, more fragrant, and more personal options to choose from.

More personal? In addition to their diverse beauty, flowers also say different things. In Victorian times, when flirtation and conversation between lovers was discouraged, flowers and nosegays were exchanged in discretion, to convey messages through the flowers’ symbolic meaning. So pick something that really speaks to your love. Here’s what some of my favorites say:

Ranunculus means you are radiant | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


One of my favorites, ranunculus seem a mix of miniature peonies, garden roses, and cabbage. Perfectly round, opening to a frilly and almost poppy-like shape it’s not surprising they speak of radiance. They are available in an extraordinary array of warm hues. A truly happy and pretty flower. Make sure you get these from a good florist though because the lesser quality blooms can be diminutive. These look great tucked in with other flowers, en mass, or even all alone as their stems have an interesting form too.

anemone means anticipation | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


The anemone is such a striking flower with black velvety centers popping amidst saturated petals in shades of blue, periwinkle, purple, fuchsia, pink, red, and white. There is also a white version with a green center that is beautiful. The stems are straight and leafless except for a frilly collar of leaves just below the blossom, making this a great stand alone flower for a bud vase. But don’t get me wrong, they are beautiful in bunches or mixed in bouquets or arrangements.

peony means devotion | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


It doesn’t get much better than peonies. Any color, anytime. I’m in. Devotion? Let’s not mince words, addiction in my case. The big, round buds turn to bowls of petals full of layers of ruffles and a light but sweet scent. They come in all of the warm hues, moving from white to the palest, feminine pinks to dark, crimson reds. One of the more intriguing is a coral peony, which starts as a big, bold orangey-pink ball, brightly opening to reveal a yellow center. It then fades over a few days transforming to the palest peach. It’s hard to go wrong with peonies but they aren’t always in season, which perhaps adds to their luxury.

hyacinth means constancy of love | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


Scent. For me it’s the name of the game. If I am going to buy myself flowers I almost always buy something with scent and the hyacinth is a force to be reckoned with. While not a large flower, it is one of the most fragrant. A few stems will fill the room with the delectably sweet, fresh scent of spring. These are my go-to flower in January and February because just walking into a room with them reminds me of warmer days to come and helps me shake winter. They come in a variety of colors… lavenders, purples, pinks, peach, pale yellow, white, and my favorite, a deep rich magenta-plum. And the best part? They last for quite a while.

sweet pea means bliss | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning

sweet pea

Bliss, exactly. The sweet pea, for me, is the ultimate in frivolous luxury. They are diminutive to be sure. But the little butterfly, fluttery, rounded petals which dance upon squiggly stems are steeped in a light but spicy-sweet scent. And they are so pretty and feminine. And the colors… pinks, purples, magentas, lavenders, reds, corals, and some are even speckled with other colors. Sadly, though, they do not last all that long. But for a moment, they are utter bliss.

lilac means first love | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


Nothing compares to lilac. Lilac is like first love. Its sweet scent is so true and jubilant and is cast with such abandon, that for a moment, nothing else exists. Known for its hue, it ranges through the purples from pure white and ivory to the deepest magentas and plums. Sadly, it can be fragile. But is everything while it lasts.

tulip means declaration of love | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


The superlative tulip. The beauty of the tulip is its simplicity. It is beautiful all on its own. A bunch of tulips is always appropriate, always elegant, and really hard to mess up. They come in so many different colors and different combinations of colors, and I really can’t think of one that I wouldn’t like. Though if you want to kick it up a notch, my favorites are parrot tulips (pictured above), peony tulips, french tulips, double tulips, or lily-flowering tulips. You can’t go wrong whichever you choose, so go for it, declare your love.

hydrangea means playfulness | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


Hydrangeas truly are crowd pleasers. Just look at those big balls of color, especially that magenta-purple one, pow. They are best when in a big mounded bunch or mixed with other flowers. They come in a wide array of colors… greens, whites, purples, blues, pinks, reds, even brownish-plums. Their one drawback is that they can sometimes be temperamental, you can generally gauge their demeanor by feeling the flower head, if it is firm they will last, if it’s smooshy, beware. (Tip: If the flowers crash, soak the whole flower head in a bowl of cool water for 5 minutes, shake off the water gently, and recut the stem underwater – then give it a little while to hopefully perk up.)

orchid means exotic beauty | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


Similar to tulips, it is pretty hard to go wrong with orchids. They are the largest group of flowers in existence and have been around for thousands of years. Did you know that vanilla is from the bean of an orchid? Orchids are, themselves, exotic beauties. So many different varieties, different shapes, different sizes, different colors. The most common cut flowers are the dendrobiums, mokaras, and cymbidiums, though you can get phalaenopsis, lady slippers, oncidiums, and cattleyas from a good florist. Am I speaking Greek at this point? Well, Latin I guess. The short and sweet, they are all beautiful, and better yet, they will all last for quite a while. A very special flower.

rose means love or friendship  | talking flowers - A Valentine's Day Guide to Flower Meaning


If you just can’t bear Valentine’s Day without bearing roses, it’s okay. Roses are absolutely beautiful. Just beware of the price, and beware of the lesser priced – these may not be the best quality and may not last very long. (Tip: Squeeze the head of the rose to test its firmness. If it is firm, and not like a rock, it will last, if it feels hollow and soft it won’t last very long.) There are so many beautiful colors of roses, of course the reds, but pinks, whites, lavenders, yellow, orange, green, peach, and mixtures therein… and here is where it gets complicated. Different colors have different meanings. Pink roses mean “friendship,” red roses mean “love,” white roses mean “I am worthy of you,” and lavender roses mean “enchantment.” If you really want to make a statement though, you can choose my favorite roses, garden roses (like the darkest rose in the picture above.) These are the most beautiful and most fragrant roses, the scent will knock you over, really. Standard (tea) roses do not even compare as far as scent goes. Garden roses open round and full of ruffles of petals, appearing very similar to peonies, as they have many more petals than a tea rose. They are however, probably hard to find, unless you go to a very good florist. And they are expensive. But, wow, they are a treat, you can practically taste their fruity sweet scent.

I hope this helps you find something that really speaks to your love. What would you pick?

Original images via 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.




getting fresh – favorite fall wreaths

Favorite Fall Wreaths - Fresh Maple Leaf Wreath

Fresh Maple Leaf Wreath

It’s funny how as soon as the nights cool and crisp, the wild asters start to ramble, and those first few colored leaves drop we start to think of wreaths. It makes sense I suppose as the garden and green will inevitably begin to fade and we will move more and more indoors. So we look to adorn that door, add a little color and light, and give a nod to the season.

For many years I worked as a floral designer and loved making fresh and dried wreaths. Now I do it mostly for myself, but I love it nonetheless. I love how it is a microcosm of the world around. I can be seen most of the year going on long walks with my rescue puppy Adelaide and cutting, digging, bagging, and dragging back home the best the season has to offer. I’m pretty sure the neighbors, and my boyfriend, think I am crazy, often exiting the woods with giant rolls of vines, tree stumps, roots, fresh moss, giant driftwood, and bark. What can I say, I’m addicted to nature.

Here are some of my favorites for the season, some for inspiration if you want to design your own, and then the best that I found that you can buy. I started with the inspiration shots and included underneath each a description of what is in the wreath. (Let me know if you want more help on how to make each.)

Gilded Leaf and Wheat Wreath - Favorite Fall Wreaths

Gilded Leaf and Wheat Wreath

A simple twig and pinecone wreath and a dark, rough, and natural fall wreath.

Simple Twig and Pinecone Wreath | Wild and Wispy Olive, Berry, and Integrifolia Wreath

Chinese Lantern and Bittersweet Fresh Fall Wreath

Fresh Chinese Lantern and Bittersweet Wreath

Magnolia and Feather Fall Wreath and a Mossy Twig Wreath

Magnolia, Millet, Protea, and Pheasant Feather Wreath | Twig, Lichen, and Moss Wreath

Rolled Grapevine Wreath and a Fresh Oak Leaf Fall Wreath

Rolled Grapevine Wreath | Fresh Oak and Rosehip Wreath

And here are the best fall wreaths that I have found from around the web that are available ready to go. So instead of picking, gathering, glueing, and wiring you can spend your time doing the fall things like apple picking, baking, drinking mulled cider, sitting by a fire with a good book…

The Best Fall Wreaths to Buy for 2013

( 1. Sunset Quince Wreath , 2. Quince and Cinnamon Stick Wreath , 3. Preserved Oak Leaf Wreath , 4. Grains Wheel Wreath , 5. Fresh Hops Wreath , 6. Sun Bleached Cardoon Wreath , 7. Fall Leaf Wreath8. Rosehip Wreath )

Inspiration images via 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.




getting fresh – the best little gifts ever

shell gifts and party favors by Robin Charlotte

I’ve been admiring these creations from Robin Charlotte for a while. First, they are airplants so I love them right off the bat. But it’s not that, it’s what she does with them that gets me. Her pairings of airplants and shells and other containers mixes quirky, cool, and natural in a way that is so right.

Airplant Thank You Gifts and Wedding Favors

Airplant GiftsBest yet is their giftability. They are just the right size and just the right price to send someone a little something. Wrapped in stamped craft boxes with sweet little messages they are great for any occasion – birthdays, love, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or just because. There are a number of ready-to-go themes available but custom options are also welcomed. And taking it a step further, they are great for THE occasion. They make a memorable, affordable, (and being airplants) durable option for wedding and party favors.

Airplant party and wedding favors by Robin Charlotte

wedding favors by Robin Charlotte

Airplant and Shell Plant

Airplant and shell wall art

See the whole collection from Robin Charlotte here. And check her out on Facebook to see her spectacular ads.




perfect specimens

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with cactus

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with succulent

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with cactus

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with succulent

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with succulent

1012 Terra Hydroponic Terrarium with succulent

To say that I am a plant enthusiast is a little bit of an understatement. I have lived with, worked with, loved, watched, and grown plants for most of my life. My admiration has spanned from the pretty to the peculiar – garden roses and peonies to obscure orchids and woodland ferns. The one thing that has remained constant though, is my fascination with the entirety of the plant, not just the flowers and the leaves, but what goes on below the surface. The roots.

Perhaps this is why I am so taken with the these vessels from 10¹² Terra. They are hydroponic terrarium meets specimen jar. The name of the brand was inspired by the number of cells produced per day (10¹²) and was created by Daisuke Tsumanuma and Kenichi Yamada to create products that mirror the constant changes of life. Their terrariums are made for collecting and showcasing plants, and showcasing all of them – flowers, leaves, and roots alike. No longer do you need to ask how does your garden grow.






getting fresh – amy merrick

Amy Merrick's beautiful floral styling with vintage wallpaper.If you know me, you know that one of my first loves is flowers. This was first instilled in me by my mother. From a very young age I was her gardening sidekick. We would be outside for hours, digging, planting, picking, pruning. Our daily dog walks would be with spades and pruners – bringing plants, flowers, and branches back from the wild. I knew every flower and plant by name, both common and latin, domesticated and wild alike. Side by side we would make wreaths and arrangements, mine always a smaller version of hers.

…and it continued. Decades later we moved from San Francisco to a flower farm in Vermont where my mother’s hobby (obsession) became her trade. The digging, planting, picking, pruning continued and brought flower markets, flower stores, and the world of floral design, where I worked for many years. If you know me, you know that for me, flowers are a way of life.

You also know, that the ordinary just won’t do. I seek the unusual, the obscure, the extraordinary. And extraordinary Amy Merrick is.

Amy Merrick's floral design, warm pinks, oranges, and purples.Amy Merrick's floral design fruit and flowers.

Amy Merrick's floral design, wedding bouquet with fruit.She is a floral designer and stylist in Brooklyn, NY, and her work is sublime. And I don’t even use that word. Her flower pairings, her mix of textures, her choice of flowers, the mood, and oh yes, the color. Simply perfect.

She was most recently published styling for Kinfolk Magazine, for whom she created the exceptional, nostalgic, moody, feminine scenes (seen throughout) with floral fabric backdrops. These are so very… yes.

Amy Merrick's floral design, tropical bridal bouquet.

Amy Merrick's floral design, apricot hues arrangement.

Amy Merrick's floral design and styling, moody plums and violets.

Amy Merrick's floral design, lavender roses and ranunculus.

Amy Merrick's floral design and styling with vintage wallpaper.

Amy Merrick's floral design, antique blues and apricots.Thank you, Amy Merrick, you are so very, very good.

For a peak inside her work and her process, read her blog here. All images courtesy of Amy Merrick.





getting fresh – marimo balls

My latest obsession, well as far as green and growing things go, is Marimo balls. As you may know, I love moss – its unrelenting green and diminutive nature. In fact, it was my love of moss which first introduced me to the concept of Shibusa. Thank you, moss.

Of a similar ilk – marimo balls. What are marimo balls you ask? Algae.

Marimo balls are naturally occurring spheres of algae which are native to freshwater lakes in Japan and Iceland. They vary in size and can grow up to 4 to 6 inches in diameter. In Japan they are considered to be both a treasure and a token of good luck. It is believed that if you take good care of your marimo that all of your wishes will come true. And for this reason I want you to have some.

I am holding the first-ever FINDING SHIBUSA Giveaway for a jar of marimo balls from Terrain, pictured below.

Take your pick of three marimo, 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter, or one marimo, 3 – 4 inches in diameter. To enter, you just need to click the button below to enter on Facebook. Simply “like” FINDING SHIBUSA and you are automatically entered! The drawing will be on Saturday, July 14th. Good luck!

What do I do with them if I win, you ask? Well, put them in a great glass vase, by themselves or with stones, or maybe a few twigs. Or in a water garden – the are said to move up and down in the water. Whatever you do, take good care of them and all of your wishes will come true. The oldest marimo is said to have lived to 100… think of all those wishes…




tiny winter wonderland

Tiny gardens have always fascinated me, ever since I was a little girl. I used to sit in the forest looking into the mosses and imagine other worlds existing in miniature, especially under the mosses that look like little trees. Perhaps that’s why terrariums are so intriguing to me, they cultivate not only that which I put inside, but my own wonder and imagination – something which I have clung to fiercely over the years… especially at this time of the year.

Thus, I was so excited to see that Terrain is offering products for holiday terrariums this season – from the coolest containers and accessories to the sweetest little decorations. You can make your own tiny winter wonderland.


For a more traditionally terrariumed approach, from left to right: the Hanging Paned Terrarium, the Tall Hanging Atrium Terrarium, and the Conservatory Terrarium.

For a more modern look, from left to right: the Bottle Neck Terrarium (love it) and the Hand Blown Terrarium – hand blown in Poland.

And for the accoutrements, from left to right: Okubo Shears from Japan, Terrain’s Woodland Terrarium Kit which has sold out since I started writing this post (but even better I found this place that will send live moss and lichen assortments from the forest floor in Idaho), and the Plant Mister.

Next come the rocks, from left to right: Jade River Stones, Tan River Stones, and Ocean Stones… And if you like rocks you should look here, here, and here.

And lastly, heh, we have the Bottlebrush and Bristle Brush decorations, from left to right: the Snowy Bottlebrush Trees (with red berries), the Bristle Brush Fox Ornament (love him), the Bristle Brush Robin Ornament, the Perched Owl Ornament, the Bristle Brush Cardinal Ornament, and the Bottlebrush Evergreens.

So if you have not yet had a go at terrariums I suggest you give it a try and create your own little world. Here are some instructions that will help you get started.

Image courtesy of pinterest.

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