Nicolette recently collaborated with Matches Fashion for their 30th Anniversary weeklong celebration in NYC. Her lecture and floral demonstration was streamed live on Facebook--if you missed it, check it out below.
Once again, the Dutch Masters Class at the Metropolitan Building knocked it out of the park. If there were a flower world series...well.
We were lucky to have talented photographer Olivia Rae James with us to document all the beauty. Feast your eyes below...
This must be the place...
Take a minute with this photograph. Imagine yourself in the middle. of. that.
Now, let us all concur: the Dorothy that still lives inside all of us would trade poppies (and skip the poison) to wander through this field of delirium in our ruby slippers. And you can, with us, very very soon... Our Iris Study is taking place once again this May in Salem, OR, at Schreiner's Iris Gardens. Together, we will touch it and breathe it and paint it and make beautiful arrangements out of it too.
The people of Schreiner's are what truly make the place- it's family owned and operated, and they treat their blooms with the devotion of patron Iris saints, carrying the spark through three generations of Iris cultivation and propagation and love. They are a hardcore Iris farm 11 months of the year, and May is the moment that everyone gets to celebrate those months of hard work with the gift of bloom upon bloom upon bloom...10 acres of it. It is also the time we get to go worship at the Iris altar by offering our two-part Iris intensive, and we are very much looking forward to being in the company of thousands of these beautiful ladies. Join us!
Click here to read more about the Iris Study.
And click here if you caught the Talking Heads reference earlier and need to hear the song now. (Or is it "Nothing But Flowers" that you need to hear? Will David Byrne's beautiful voice be the soundtrack to our workshop? Probably.)
In late March we took to the Metropolitan Building once more for our annual Dutch Masters class. It remains one of our most popular and we just can't seem to retire it. Admittedly each year we do threaten to stop, move-on... but that's only because we believe drama is very important in all aspects of life.
For this year's spirited revival we asked the beautiful, charming, talented (and married) Holly Carlisle of ROSEGOLDEN to be at the helm; she agreed to document the day, student work. By the end we had ruined her electrolyte levels; she floated over to the food and drink spread pleading for a liquid that wasn't coffee or champagne-- we didn't have a damned drop to offer her. So, she elegantly drank the remaining water from a vase once filled with flowers.
Holly really did an amazing job creating then capturing these hauntingly indulgent compositions-- each one is a painting that I keep running over with my eyes, again and again. Please enjoy a sliver of student work below:
Articulating the engineering behind a beautiful bouquet can feel cheap-- the most successful simply involve honoring each stem as one explores the unique relationships between the collective. Of course our longer intensives afford us the ability to slow down, gain and then integrate this zen affectation towards our own creative process. For the remainder of the time a rose positioned just so looks right because... it just does.
Back in February we hosted an intimate day-long bouquet making class at the cavernous floral dungeon that is the SAIPUA studio. We were armed with lusty flowers, strong coffee and piles of cheese. It was joy to spend a snowy Saturday teaching a troop of warm individuals, please please enjoy their work below:
Over a year ago Nicolette and I started planning a trip to Oregon to visit Schreiners Iris Farm. Located 45 minutes south of Portland in Salem, Schreiners is the motherland of the bearded iris. It was a career highlight for both of us.
With over 200 acres of planted bearded iris, the farm stops traffic on nearby highway in peak season. Tourists flock to the Schreiners display gardens and cut flower show to bask in the beauty of this short seasoned goddess of flowers. Much was learned from the Schreiner brothers (third generation iris farmers) and we left with lists of coveted species to plant and future plans for more visits to the farm.
The farm sells mostly iris tubers, both retail to enthusiastic gardeners and also wholesale to nurseries and flower farms. In season you can pick from their charming bucket displays of cuts from the field; at $7.50 a dozen it's hard not to leave with armloads of these fragrant queens.
One of the highlights of our visit was spending time with Ray Schriener in the new varieties field. As Ray explained, each year they cross existing iris to create brand new hybrids. They grow these crosses out in the field and then choose the best ones to introduce to the world in the following years catalog.
Ray explained that naming new hybrids presents quite a challenge -- the names have to be original, and clear the thousands and thousands of names given to both current and formerly bred iris. In fact, one of the Schreiners sisters utilized a nail polish catalog recently to come up with new names.
Nicolette and I were like kids in a candy store. We maxed out the storage on our iphones and drained our camera batteries taking pictures. I wish we could do justice here for how much beauty we took in that week.
As always, half the joy is sharing the beauty with the students who came out to learn about iris and how to arrange with them. (The other half is hoarding flowers for ourselves.)
Now is the time to plan your fall planting of iris tubers!! If you are curious about growing beards or want to spend an hour down the rabbit hole of iris, I encourage you to peruse the Schreiners catalog: http://www.schreinersgardens.com
Many many thanks to Dyna, Liz, Ray, Steve and everyone at Schreiners for being SO accommodating and making our class such as success. We hope to see you in coming bloom seasons!
NEW CLASSES are coming soon! Nicolette and I are on our way to Italy tomorrow to work on a wedding -- in between hustling flowers and wine drinking we'll be planning two new late summer/fall classes. As always, we usually announce these classes first via our newsletter, so if your waiting for a class, make sure you are signed up with your email (the sign up is at the bottom of our CONTACT page here.)
Our 4th Weddings Mastery class took place in Brooklyn two weeks ago. 10 florists from around the world...all at different stages in their businesses...some just conceptualizing their floristry plans, some having worked in the industry for 10 years or more...
We did a lot of flower arranging, and a lot of talking about business. The biggest issue people usually want to discuss is pricing and contracts...the nuts and bolts of running a creative floral business. Usually this sort of talk would bore me to tears, but I think both Nicolette and I have been through the gamut of all sorts of methods for charging and negotiating with clients, and so these conversations make us feel very charged and eager to help students through the rough or sticky parts of where they are at...
Deanna agreed to get her nails painted and was our model for bouquets. She's a good sport.
We arrived at the loft early on the second day to make some florals and an installation of hanging amaranthus for our celebratory dinner...
Much to my chagrin, Nicolette demonstrated how to make a flower crown. I'm so sick of flower crowns! But hers are pretty...
The hosts, Leisah and Monica from Atelier Roquette fed us the best snacks and meals...the two day class ended with a long leisurely dinner and lots of wine. I can't say what a pleasure it is to actually get to SIT DOWN at a big beautiful table after working to make the flowers for it!
Thanks to all our students for making the effort to come learn from us. Always humbling and inspiring to be amongst such enthusiastic talent.
We held a really special Dutch Masters class two weekends ago at The Metropolitan Building in New York City.
We were lucky to have our friend Samin in town from San Francisco and she brought some of the most delicious refreshments (including some quick pickled carrots and cauliflower that I am still enjoying). Another celebrity guest was on hand; our friend Nicole Franzen - the superbly talented photographer - who managed to capture much of the beauty that unfolded throughout the afternoon.
Thanks to all our students for their creativity and enthusiasm and fearless-ness in the face of styling photos with dead poultry! Also thanks to our helpers Emily, Claudia, Mindy and Kelli.
All the student work was photographed by Nicole and can be viewed in the slideshow below.
Last April Nicolette and I took a few days to expand our creative minds a bit...away from the city and away from the ever present stream of studio shoulds. It's easy to forget to feed yourself something beautiful when you're busy feeding everyone else beauty. Little Flower School here reminding you that ya gotta eat, girls.
We had the run of a beautiful nineteenth century Italianate home in the hills above Sharon Springs, NY. It's owned by Michelle, a real estate agent in the area. She's selling it by the way. The asking price is (in her words) "a big bag of cash.' But I warn you, the heating costs are through the roof.
The ground up here in early April is slow to render, so we shopped the market downstate in the city for some goodies. The double petaled hellebores grown by Hautau are spectacular this time of year, as are their ranunculus. Fritillaria persica is always a stunner and makes any arrangement sing in Dutch. The sweet columbines we cut from nursery plants (the market ones shipped in from Holland are always smashed. Just can't ship that flower.
This break from the normal world of making flowers for weddings, corporate clients or magazine shoots is really necessary for us. To have time to play with flowers without any boundaries or someone art directing is a luxury I wish to afford myself more often. Otherwise I find I get stuck in a rut of routine, recipes, pleasing people.
Many thanks to Michelle for letting us use her incredible home, to Marietta and Asheley for indulging us with their beauty as our models, and to Jim, Roger and Chris for helping facilitate the project. We hope you enjoy the pictures. And we hope you remember to afford yourself a bit of time and space to leisurely enjoy your own flowering soon.
The first week of September we traveled down to Virginia to visit some of our favorite east coast growers and teach The Weddings Workshop at the beautiful Lynnvale Farm. It was probably the hottest weekend of the summer...
Stacey from Broadturn Farm in Portland Maine came along for the ride, and we landed Wednesday night at Bob Wollams farm. Bob is a notorious grower. His hydrangea and viburnum collection is unparalleled. Wollam Gardens is propelled by one of the most successful internship programs I've ever seen. We had the pleasure of staying at Bob's for a few nights and had the chance to catch up and learn more about him. He's a treasure!
Another highlight of the prep for this class was a visit to the infamous Don Dramstad of Don's Dahlias in Leesburg, Virginia. Don has served as president and on the board of the National Capital Dahlia Society and often judges at dahlia competitions. So you can imagine the standards to which he grows his own! Each bloom is the result of thoughtful care and coaxing. Disbudding, perfect fertilization, overhead shade cloth all attribute to near-perfect specimens. Don's dahlias are the standard. It's a treat to be able to spend time with him and his wife Rhonda and learn a bit more from them each time we visit.
After two days of collecting materials we landed at Andrea's farm: Lynnvale. Andrea is a talented grower and designer; her fields reflect her amazing eye for color and texture. She grows some of the most beautiful 'creamy rose' celosia, many beautiful basils, love-in-a-puff-vine...her zinnias defy the norm and trust me in spring her brown and rose ranunculus are to die for. She was kind enough to open her farm and home to 10 students from around the world looking to start or expand their wedding and event work.
We hope the results of these two special days - spent sweating it out in the flower studio and talking through the pains and pleasures of business - pays off, and that our students are moving forward in their wedding work with a bit more confidence and wisdom.
p.s. We're currently holed up working on our Winter class schedule. We'll post it later this week.
Ten students, three of our interns, and a few more animals descended on Worlds End Farm two weeks ago to learn about building large scale arrangements. We started amassing the necessary florals with a trip to River Garden...
We have been ordering flowers at River Garden for years, but have not ever had the opportunity to visit with Bernadette and Walt. Suffice it to say they are a busy couple: they manage 60 acres of flowers. SIX-ZERO. What was supposed to be a quick pick up at the farm ended up being a two-hour-plus, pickup-tuck-surfing cutting session. The celosia fields are especially gorgeous. I would love to do an event with just all different types of celosia....
I'll admit I was envious of the flowers, and of the 4 feet of completely rock free topsoil that they farm on the bank of the catskill creek. To die for! Many thanks to Walt for being so accommodating and talking irrigation with us, Julien for letting us prance around the field pointing at things we wanted him to cut for us (we FORGOT our clippers) and Bernadette for taking the time one night to talk flower farming with us. The place is real deal inspiration.
A lot of people are intimidated by the scale of building large pieces; this class was designed to demystify the process and let students have several hours to practice building.
One of the important things we emphasized in this class is how similar large arrangements are to smaller ones. It's all about scaling up; bigger flowers, bigger pieces of foliage, and more of both.
Just as if you were makeing a smaller compote sized arrangement, you want to start a giant urn off with your larger, more structural materials. We were cutting apple branches, wild dogwood, viburnum, oak and wild grapevine. These large pieces formed the foundation in the urns, or the first rough outline of a shape.
When you build the foundation of the arrangement, it's smart to leave some holes, or some empty pockets: room for some of your face flowers. It's also a good idea to leave some negative space in the top so that you don't end up with a big symmetrical dome of flowers.
Once you've placed your face flowers - or your focal points - you can add the final 'seasoning' -- the accents or wispy gestures. Just remember the scale. A small flower like a chocolate cosmo or a stem of Ixia is not going to have much effect in a 5 foot arrangement...they will get lost. Often the accent flowers for a big urn arrangement are the same flowers that would be the big focal moments in a smaller arrangement. Perhaps a garden rose, a dahlia, a smattering of zinnias...
If for some reason you don't have big sized flowers to use in a big sized arrangement, you can always group lots of smaller ones together to create the big focal points you'll need. Great flower ideas for big arrangements are: delphinium, hydrangea, lilies, fatty roses like 'Secret Garden,' size A or AA Dahlias (sometimes referred to as 'Dinnerplate Dahlias) and hippeastrum.
One last thing to note: You don't need flower foam to construct these big urns! We use chicken wire. Ball it up, jam it in your urn and then be sure to use some strong waterproof tape to secure it - tape right over the urn in a big X. That way the chicken wire cage won't tip out as you're working on the composition.
Last tip; if you have a short stem you want to place high in the arrangement where it won't touch water, you can tube it (put it in one of those urine-sample-looking tubes that come on the ends of cut orchids, or are available at florist supply stores) and then finagle in to sit in the branches. You can also tape the end of the tube to a strong stem - just make sure to cover your tracks so you don't see the tube.
Here's pictures of the masterpieces:
So many thank you's to our incredible intern helpers Mikey (who took a lot of these gorgeous photos), Evelyn, and Reuben. And thanks to Susan, my mother who is our exclusive caterer here at the farm. Such a good weekend.
Time flys. As we are trying to put together our next round of flower lessons for Little Flower School, we have been sifting back through the past few classes and admiring student work. These photos are from our blowout Peony Class in mid May.
Both of us feel strongly about using flowers in season; and we try to impart to our students the importance of knowing as much about the flowers they choose as possible. The more you know about a particular stem, the more thoughtful you will be in placing it in your arrangement. We like slow, deliberate arranging. (I am often painfully slow when I make flowers!)
With seasonality, we learn to embrace the peony for only a short time each year. It's brevity is part of it's sensational appeal. We anticipate it's arrival in May and enjoy it through mid June. People want peonies all year round, and just like a tomato, there are ways to get them, shipped in from other parts of the world. But they are just not the same when they are chilled, packed flat shipped to us. Not the same.
All that preaching we do...and then suddenly it's mid May and there are no local peonies blooming yet, and our Ode to the Peony class is a few days away! Who could ever have predicted the freezing cold spring we had in the North East this year. Out the window went our plans to visit Styer's infamous peonies bushes to collect material for class. They were weeks away from bloom still. Suddenly we were on the horn calling in orders for dutch peonies and product from South Carolina. So it goes.
I mentioned we're throwing around ideas for new Little Flower School classes for late summer, fall and winter. We're planning an Oregon trip for August (fingers crossed the details work themselves out) a class up at the farm at Worlds End on making giant urn arrangements, and a big Dahlia blowout class in NYC this september. We'll have them available by the end of this week.
In the meantime, we'd love to hear if you have any thoughts on what sorts of lessons/classes/places you'd like us to visit...
We're really rolling at LFS right now - and what a joy it is to teach workshops this time of year. Despite a cold spring (with local peonies really lagging) this past Sunday we were able to cull boatloads of southern peonies, flowering branches, and other spring blooms for a decadent class at the Metropolitan Building.
We head to Oakland tomorrow, one of our favorite cities to visit. This trip is going to be especially fun; we're going to see all kinds of flower people. And Samin. And we're going to eat at Pizziaolo everynight.
But we need some help while we're there -- prepping for our Spring Bounty class on the 21st. We're looking for two volunteers to help us that Tuesday morning at the market in SanFransisco, then help up set up the class at the Starline Ballroom in Oakland, and finally help us clean up afterward. It's gaurenteed to be a long day of glamourous flower schlepping. But in exchange for free addmission to the class. The first two people who email me at sarahatsaipua.com get the spots. UPDATE: GOT HELP, THANK YOU! SEE YOU IN THE SUNSHINE STATE!!!
We spend a lot of time in the car as Nicolette always likes to say "going deep" -- that is driving to the middle of nowhere with clippers and cameras. This is pretty much our favorite thing to do. Throw in a bottle of fizzy water and a good bag of almonds for Nikki, a dunkin donuts coffee for me, and we can drive pretty much anywhere in search of flowers.
But I don't want you to think this is just anywhere, another farm we stumbled upon. This is THE FARM. Ben Fisher's 24 year old brainchild of flowering branches, cut woodies and miscellaneous perennials. We probably picked the best week of the year to visit.
Ben has been in flowers practically his his whole life, and was one half of the legendary Fischer and Page that used to dominate the 28th Street flower market. He knows his way around trees and woodies better than anyone I've met. He dances a mean tango (apparently), prefers tea over coffee, and has sported the best mustache in the market for decades.
His energy is abundant and his work ethic paramount.
He would want us to mention that he is only walking with a cane because he twisted his knee in the field. Occupational hazard. Like clipper-wrist. When I first got it, I went to Ben for advise.
We had the pleasure of helping Ben cut some lilac and crabapple. Some people would be horrified to see how trees get chopped up this time of year for the flower trade, but you know what, after years of this they look amazing. That's because trees like pruning.
The renewal pruning regimen recommends cutting a third of the oldest growth back to the base of the tree/shrub. Right after bloom. Lilacs love this especially. But you have to cut them right during or right after flowering or else you'll loose next years buds which begin to form almost immediately after this seasons blooms.
After a day of cutting, Ben loads all his beauties; big bales of crabapple, cherry, lilac, quince into his big box truck. Stuffed full, it arrives in the city for sale the next morning. I like to be there right when he pulls up to see if there's anything extra special or unusual onboard.
Last month we hosted a Dutch Masters workshop at the Metropolitan Building in Long Island City. March/April is arguably the best time of year to mimic the dramatic compositions of these paintings -- for one, Dutch bulb flowers such as Fritillaria Persica, Imperialis, and Melagris are at their peak along with some of the best parrot tulips, Italian grown Icelandic Poppies, narcissus, hyacinths, sweet peas and ranunculus.*
Watching these arrangements come to life was extraordinary! It's always incredible how each student interprets the same set of flowers uniquely. At the end of the day we styled and photographed twenty some odd masterpieces. You can view them all on flickr. Thanks to the staff at the Metropolitan Building for being such gracious hosts, and to all our students who came from far and wide (two from the UK!) to spend an afternoon with us.
*You'll never spot a ranunculus in a dutch masters painting -- the multi-petaled ranunculus we know and love were not cultivated for cut flowers until around the turn of the 20th century. More about Edwin Frazee, one of the most influential ranunculus growers here.
We taught our second intensive Weddings 101 class in Sydney last month. 12 amazing women came from all over Australia and New Zealand to participate. We did a lot of talking and a lot of making...
In this class we really try to identify the troubles people are coming up against in their businesses. Sometimes students struggle with how to build bouquets, or headcrowns -- often it's how to charge appropriately for their hard work, or how to manage a flower order for a big event. I like to think all the conversations Nicolette and I have had over the years on these tricky topics get put to good use in these classes.
Navigating pricing is something we spend serious time on. I think every floral designer who strikes out on their own goes through different phases of how to charge for their work, and that's natural. In the beginning you give it away...I did! You're just so excited to be working that you undercharge and overbuy.
In some ways I miss those days. But I would certainly have profited more with fewer of them, and that's why we spend time talking students through our budgeting and buying process.
Another common request is how to make bridal bouquets that appear loose and flowing. One thing that really helps is to keep the hand that holds the flowers very loose as you build the bouquet (avoiding the grip of death!) and remember to cross your stems at a near 45 degree angle. Like most technical work it's just a matter of practice. Look at all these beautiful bouquets!!!
We love these intensive classes - the two full days allows us to get to know our students better. It's also so lovely to watch the comraderie form between students who will hopefully stay in touch and continue to foster each others creativity and constitutions.
When it's over and everyone is hurrying to exchange instagram handles, we feel like we've gained 12 new flower-loving friends. Please take minute to click through all of their beautiful work!!
We stumbled into taking our Little Flower School on the road some years ago, but never did we think about going so far away as Australia. To see the other side of the world...it's people, it's flowers. To be honest, we're still processing it all...
We arrived in Sydney a few weeks ago and were greeted by one of the hottest days on record - a whopping 46 degrees (approx. 110 degrees in Farenheit). It hardly phased us, consumed by our excitement for lotus flowers, banksia, blooming eucalyptus and flannel flowers. The following day we were actually quite awake and ready for a 4am trip to the Sydney Flower market (jet lag works in your favor so very rarely).
As we met people we both talked endlessly to everyone we met about our good fortune at having summer twice. Indeed we indulged in more heirloom roses and peaches than were probably necessary.
The third day we drove north to some flower farms with Ruby our Sydney guide and fellow florist. In what became the most memorable of days we cut giant begonia leaves and learned a thing or two about propagation at a dutch woman's greenhouse, bought peaches and plums at an Italian-Australian's little fruit orchard, visited with Tammy at B&B roses, and visited with Wayne and his wife Allison at their perennial farm located in a enchanted micro-climate at the base of the Blue Mountains.
When we travel the farm visits are so important; they give us instant insight into the local market - what florists are using and what maybe they should be using but have not considered. Plus growers are always crazy and fun characters to hang out with. They love to talk about flowers, even more than we do sometimes.
We were in Australia for two weeks, but even by the third day we were planning a return visit. There are just too many great things, places and people to see. I don't like to generalize too much, but I want to tell you how warm, aesthetically oriented and adventurous Australians are. The floral designers we met love their natives, and in ways, are almost patriotic about working with them. It's lovely.
We have lots more to show you; obviously the CLASSES! And all the gorgeous student work that resulted from these collection of beautiful flowers. But before we sign off on this we wanted to extend a very big, sincere thank you to all the people who made this great adventure possible and so special.
Ruby - for all you help in planning, all the emailing. For convincing us in the first place that there might be enough interested students. And for being the most gracious and thoughtful hostess imaginable.
Jardine - for trusting strangers enough to show up at the market and just start carrying stuff with us. I know we told you a million times already but we wouldn't have been able to manage without your help.
Tammy - for taking the time to show us around, being so honest and rad. I wish we had more time to hang out.
Wayne - Your beautiful farm is paradise and it will haunt our dreams till our next visit! Thank you for spending so much time sharing your enthusiasm for plants for growing and for the industry. You are an inspiration and you make terrific coffee!
Saskia - It really was such an honor to have dinner with you and your staff. The perfect evening in so many ways, thank you. We are savoring the beauty in the book bit by bit.
And of course -- 100 thank you's to our students who trusted that we'd have something interesting to share. You inspired us with your fearlessness, your eagerness and of course your passion for flowers.
We've spent a lot of time on the road together. A lot of time driving to what felt like the end of the earth looking for great flowers. Or wine. Now we're getting ready for what might be our biggest trip yet: OZ.