Epic saturation or saturation in love? That is the watery metaphor swimming in my brain as I reflect on this past week's floral floodgates. Many of you know that, in addition to flower CSA bouquets, I also love floral design and styling for weddings. The two flower services are mutually supportive and I am so grateful of the many ways your commitment to supporting sustainably grown and designed flowers from our farm's fields to your vase keeps us afloat through the season, come heat and highwater.
As a farmer, I am constantly being reminded of how and where to best intervene, when to take charge of the petal paddle, when to pause and re-direct based on what's showing up in the fields, and when to just let go and ride the waves of peak season on the farm. This past week's weather was a perfect storm of heat, humidity, saturated energy and a waterfall of petals, amplified by a challenging yet beautiful wedding flower gig. Here's a brief synapsis of how the flower forecast played out. (If you want the full account, I'm happy to meet up over hard cider at the next Field Table Dinner at Touchdown Tavern or the next Woodfire Pizza Night at the Branding Iron.)
The models predicted heat and humidity, though I must admit I was not fully prepared for the relative humidity, heat index and highwaters that poured from fantastic cloudscapes of storm cells that seemed to keep turning on itself. I have never before have I been so energized and in awe—at some point on Saturday, the day of the wedding, I just stepped into the currents and rip tides and went along for the flower ride.
I had a mix and match of 80 plus bouquets to make ranging from bridal party and table bouquets to bud vases and arbor design for one weekend. Fueled by lightning flashes of focused determination, I think I am up for this! And doubly so with the collaboration from fellow Farmer Florist, Mary Jo Borchert with Five Green Acres. Her eye and skill for craft and design helped make for a synergistic partnership and ensured that we would have a bounty of fresh flowers alongside providing impeccable service and artful floral design.
On the flower front, as with seasonal eating, the menu of blossom beauty changes and is prone to the peaks and valleys of Wisconsin's growing season. In the flower fields I've landed on the top 30 flowers that hold steadfast to whatever wild cards and wildflowers Mother Nature loves to showcase. So it was no surprise that that our flowers rocked it during the rains that came and kept coming! It helped that harvesting strategically flowed in sync between frontal boundaries. Timing is indeed of the essence and this includes the planting schedule. My client wanted lisianthus and last week, they just so happened to be at their prime. Same for delphiniums, purple prairie clover, phlox and butterflyweed. Scabiosa, stattice, dahlias, sedum, tansy, foxglove, hop flowers, and sunflowers among others arrived just in time to compliment the floral deluge. A forest of vines and foliage, finished off the bouquets and the results were Pacific Northwest meets the Great Lakes States and a watery, colorful state of rich floral splendor and textures poised to drink in the beauty of the day.
On the event flow side of wedding detail, the learning curve was steep, like learning to surf in hurricane season. Thankfully at some point I reached the eye of the storm and rode it out to shore, taking diligent notes on 'what I should have done and plan to do next time round' in my Rite in the Rain notebook. Thank goodness for flower friends and family to support logistics as all changes were subject to planning including:
Bouquet making design space – Friday's heat index meant sourcing a space with air conditioning. Gratitude to my parents for offering up their basement space! Though down side to this is that indoor AC air meets thousands of flowers = pollen profusion in the ventillation and a surprise allergic reaction. Duly noted that airflow is of the essence even when it's rainy buckets outside and heat index is up past 100 degrees. Taking a pause for a few deep slow breathes, also helps to re-energize.
Bouquet transport – Our Hyndai Accent, while can hold lots of flowers and handle our CSA deliveries, the trusty vehicle was ill fitted to handle 81 bouquets and additional backup buckets of stems just in case. Gratitude to Laura and the Orange Cat Farm Crew for letting me borrow your station wagon to serve as the weekend's 'flower mobile'. Even with this, plus Mary Jo's mini van, the production required 2 trips of flowers. A delivery van equipped with AC is in the operational plans for future seasons.
We pride ourselves on fairness and transparency when it comes to pricing and in my opinion whoever decided to charge a big mark-up because bridal was in front of the bouquet, was an evil genious. After last weekend, I now understand the mark-up need and there's a tension and artful way to negotiate how best to value your time when it comes to bouquet making. Contingency planning has taken on new meaning as boundaries between florist and event planner are fluid and it can be a communication dance depending on the needs of the day in terms of what your role is for the wedding day and negotiating details from vases to set-up.
Speaking of roles, I was not prepared for the expectation of my time during events leading up to the ceremony. People were kind and gracious, save for a few stressed out staffers in charge of planning, and while I was not expecting a 12 hour day delving into details, pinning on boutonnieres, and priming the champagne glasses with currants, I was planning on nothing less than a learning curve and an adventure.
All of this leads to impermanence and gratitude. After setting up the arbor bouquet design where the ceremony was to be held overlooking the prairie fields and hills of the Driftless, another storm rolled through and we had to move chair bouquets and ceremony vases back down the hill to the tent, while the magnificent arbor design was deluged. Alas, a flower offering of gratitude to the land.
Back in the tent the water started to rise on the ground, fingers crossed that the sound equipment for the band was well grounded. Back up the hill to move chair bouquets, I took off my shoes thinking my time was done. But no, vases tipped in the kabota and needed some freshening up and ironically, some more water. I bent over and heard a rip. Great, my party dress ripped a new 'oxbow' up my backside. I don't think anyone noticed as I tried to be discreet and cover the hole with a scarf.
Whew, almost done, or so I thought, the bridal party was confused about bouquets, where was the wedding planner on hand? Enter your 'friendly farmer florist'. A quick dash and pass off of pins and flowers and finally a sit down as vows were exchanged. I listened to expressions of love and intentions and the words, 'events happen for a reason' stuck with me. I am grateful to to the bride and groom for trusting in me, for being both detail oriented and organized and at the same time giving us space to be creative and go with the flow. As I slipped out the backdoor, headed down the driveway and walked a mile to where my car had to be parked (bus shuttles were on hand, though cell service didn't work in the valley). I didn't mind the walk. The night was lit by fireflies and I needed the calming serenade of frogsong and the sound of water all around me. It's the magic that only happens in the Midwest at peak summer, peak humidity, post stomr, and the epic saturation of the skies – the epic saturation of gratitude I find in loving what I do, and being in love with the land and the flowers and food I am fortunate to grow.
I look forward to a few days dry spell and sharing this week's bouquets with you and please let me know if you have any questions. I am always happy to talk flowers with you!