Flower Camp FrolicPosted: May 11, 2011
I’ve been anticipating Flower Camp for weeks. My friend A hosted her first Flower Camp three years ago when her mother, Mrs. L, an artist and celebrated garden club doyenne from Memphis, visited. Half a day spent learning from this expert, playing with flowers, eating good food and visiting with dear friends: what more could a girl want? We’ve all been awaiting Mrs. L’s return and Flower Camp, Part Deux.
Taking Flower Camp preparations quite seriously, I began harvesting my peonies early last week and putting them bare stemmed into my garage refrigerator in accordance with Andre Viette’s instructions. When I pulled them out Sunday evening to condition them overnight, many looked as though they were just going to shrivel up and fall apart, so I was glad that I had supplemented my supply with two bouquets of peonies from Whole Foods ($9.99 for 5 stems was not a bad price). I needn’t have worried. My peony blossoms were gorgeous come Monday morning.
It seems that I am always just putting my peonies into basic glass vases, but when Flower Camp comes, I want the perfect container. For the first camp, I used a tall crystal pedestal that I had found at a local antique mall just for the purpose. When I saw Eddie Ross’s booth at the Ivy Market, I knew that I would find an amazing flower container there for this camp. Of course, I couldn’t narrow my selection down to just one, so I bought two. Eddie knew all about the history of these vintage lace sided bowls with their Dorothy Draperesque feel. The pieces are so versatile and will certainly be used for more than just flowers. Eddie loved the idea of Flower Camp and was so gracious sharing entertaining tips with the Ivy Market visitors.
I spent much of Sunday afternoon harvesting greens from my yard. The herds of deer that live around our home limit my choices. No acuba or hosta can survive their appetite, so I have to rely on rosemary, lavender and ivy. While viewing the stunning arrangments prepared for the St. Stephens Flower Festival this past weekend, I noticed that more than one of them included honeysuckle. Well, that grows like a weed in one of our azalea clumps, so I took my clippers to these vines. Come Sunday night, my kitchen was overflowing with bounty from the yard. My boys complained that the kitchen had been taken over, but I couldn’t imagine a more perfect Mother’s Day setting.
When I arrived at Flower Camp on Monday morning, Mrs. L, A’s sister M from Houston, and A had fashioned a chicken wire lid over this fabulous vase purchased at Pier One about 20 years ago. They wove a wire through the edge of the chicken wire to secure it tightly, then filled the holes with boxwood cuttings from A’s yard. This arrangement became the starting point for Mrs. L’s lesson.
If you learn nothing else from Mrs. L, you will never forget that it is all about the mechanics. This is one of her sayings that A invokes on a regular basis. Her other major point for the day was that it is always better to go bigger rather than smaller. And big Mrs. L went with the Pier One container. She kept adding and adding, including a lot of my honeysuckle vine. This arrangement got so big in fact that A will not be moving it from her kitchen island for a long time. It’s a good thing that she has a huge island.
Vivacious M, who has her own cottage flower business in Houston, was also very instructive. She introduced us to the Fibonacci number sequence that is created by adding together the first two numbers to get the third number, then the second and third to get the fourth, and so on. This gives you 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 . . . . Apparently this sequence is found throughout nature. By using flowers in amounts equal to one of these numbers and combining them into an arrangement, you end up with a pleasing, natural composition.
With these lessons and a kitchen full of flowers, we got started on our arrangements. Peonies were definitely the flower of choice for many of the campers, and some of us worked while others played to put together some really beautiful arrangements that I daresay we would not have tried on our own. I employed the Fibonacci theory to my first arrangement in Eddie’s rectangular dish using eight peonies, three rosemary branches, 5 lavender sprigs, and one ivy strand shaped into a handle. Thanks to a little help from M, I was pretty pleased with the results.
Having a lot of peonies left, I put aside Fibonacci. Instead I added peonies in a three layer cone to my round dish that Eddie suggested using with a frog. Five lavender sprigs added a nice finishing touch, don’t you think?
My flower arranging has such a formal feel. I enjoyed seeing the more casual results that some of my friends created.
M devised this gorgeous one just by playing and experimenting. I would not have been brave enough to attempt this monochromatic scheme, but monochromatic arranging became one of the themes of our camp. (Sorry about the fuzzy pic, but I hope you can still get a feel for the beauty. I really do need a new camera :-).)
If you don’t have a friend like A willing to sacrifice her home for the joy of flower arranging, you still have a chance to attend a flower camp. A former garden columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch among many other garden accomplishments, Nancy Ross Hugo has held weekend camps for years at her mountain retreat in Buckingham County, Virginia. A and other friends have attended and loved it. This fall Ms. Hugo and others will be leading a weekend workshop at bucolic Shrine Mont, the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s retreat center and camp in Orkney Springs, Virginia. What a wonderful weekend getaway that would be, especially with a group of girlfriends.
A’s Flower Camp was gorgeous inside and out. All of my senses were satisfied with the flowers, food and fellowship. Thanks for a beautiful memory, A. I sure hope that your mother can return for another camp session.
All photos (fuzzy or not) by Avad Fan