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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.




flora + form – #1

flora + form - plum and persimmon flowers and room

flora + form - seal blue and brass flowers and dress

flora + form - orchid and grey flowers and room

flora + form - taupe and tangerine flowers and dress

All flowers artfully created by Saipua, their pairings by 1, 2, 3, 4.




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.





creative crushing – well i’m in love


…and so much so, that it inspired me to create a new series on my blog – “creative crushing” – a place to swoon and gawk over the creatives and creations that are above and beyond.

So I’m in love, for starters, with Dutch artist Anne Ten Donkelaar and her series “Flower Constructions“. Yep, totally crushing. Her flower constructions are 3-D collages created from pressed flowers and cut out pictures of flowers, plants, mushrooms, and the like. She places each element, meticulously, on pins and then builds her fantastical specimens. The pins create depth and shadow, making each piece a dynamic, interactive, changing sculpture.

They are at once, magical, colorful, creepy, pretty, pop-arty, biological, and architectural, and I am in love.
Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-Constructions Anne-Ten-Donkelaar-Flower-ConstructionsAll images courtesy of Anne Ten Donkelaar.





getting fresh – saipua



If you know me, you know that I love flowers. You may not realize how much, I am a bit coy about it, but let’s just say that it’s a lot. And, I’m sorry to admit, I do discriminate. That’s not to say that I can’t get down with the daisy but… I sure do swoon for sweet peas, garden roses, peonies, ranunculus, anemones, hellebores, fritillaria, hyacinths, lilac, mimosa, orchids, and jasmine… to name a few.
It’s not often that I am absolutely blown away by the flowers and arrangements that I see, but that’s exactly what happened when I stumbled onto Saipua, a soap and flower shop in Brooklyn, New York. Flipping fabulous.
The flowers, the combinations, the textures, the sophisticated and astute use of color… not to mention  the photography and the styling… are exquisite and executed perfectly.


I can’t even say what my favorite would be. For these and a whole lot more check them out online at Saipua. Or, if you’re in the neighborhood pop in at 147 Van Dyke Street, Brooklyn, NY (Red Hook). Saipua made me think yes.
All images are courtesy of Saipua.
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