Our Favourite Floral Trends of 2019

Whatever the style of your wedding, flowers can play a key role in completing your look. These are the trends that we are seeing florists use as modern updates to tried and true favourites like corsages, centrepieces, and garlands.

Dried Flowers

Photo by Dockflower Photography

Photo by Dockflower Photography

Dried flowers give brides the option to use locally-grown flowers for winter weddings, or incorporate flowers that are out of bloom in any season. This unique look can be applied to all the wedding florals, or be incorporated into designs alongside fresh flowers. Best of all, dried flowers can last for months, letting brides enjoy the florals from their special day long after the honeymoon.

What we realized when doing our November 2018 dried flower wedding was that dried flowers don’t limit people to a particular look. While you can go ‘rustic’ with dried flowers, they can also be designed to have a more classic romantic look as well!

Garlands Made of Unexpected Elements

Photo by Paje Honor

Photo by Paje Honor

While eucalpytus is beautiful and definitely complements certain style florals and I hope we get to keep using it forever (especially now that we are growing our own!), you can actually use many different types of greenery in your garlands, as long as they are varieties that stay fresh out of water. Depending on the style of your wedding and the season you and your florist can get creative. Having a summer tropical wedding? Use palm fronds on the table! A fall rustic wedding? Use some dried grasses and a pop of leaves that are changing colour.

Metal Cuffs for Corsages

Starting off with a pretty metal bracelet means florists don’t need to use as much greenery or as many flowers to hide clasps and wires. This gives the option of a more subtle, minimalist look. This is a more modern take on a traditional corsage with ribbon and we are excited about it!

“Growing Garlands”

And update on traditional garlands which have greenery laid on the table with flowers positioned flat throughout, growing garlands look like gardens with flowers growing right out of them! You can put this whimsical mini-garden look in any area of your wedding including replacing traditional arrangement with a growing arrangement. With the flowers rising from the stems and leaves, the greenery and flowers mesh into a more natural look. It works great along aisles and even framing the ceremony!

Mismatched Bud Vases

Photo by Floral & Brick

Photo by Floral & Brick

A cost-effective option that can have just as much of an impact as a structured arrangement, mismatched bud vases can add a unique vintage touch with a mix of perfume bottles, apothecary jars, or small antique vases. You don’t need to think small either - the amount of flowers in each vase depends on the budget and look you’re going for. Vases can be grouped into bunches, or you can opt for a series of standalone bud vases along a long rectangular table.

Try using some of these modern updates to make your wedding florals more “you”!

Seed starting 101

Hello fellow gardeners!

We are so excited about the flowers we are growing this year. From amazing perennial varieties of columbine to the trusted annuals we adore such as chantilly snapdragons and giant zinnias, there is so much beauty in store! As a small, community-focussed business, we want to share as much of our knowledge as we can about the growing process, so that all of you can have beautiful gardens for the neighbourhood and yourselves to enjoy! This is why we are writing a Seed Starting 101 post, to hopefully give you some pointers to lead to successful growing.

The number one rule is don't skip any of the rules. I say this because this is what I will do, I will think to myself, 'oh, that one little step doesn't matter, I've done the rest so well!', but with seeds, it all matters, so try your hardest not to skip!

1) Check your last frost date for your region. The big old adage that I grew up with is May 24, May 24, May 24, BUT, all the research that I do has led me to believe that the last frost date in the Hamilton area is actually around May 15th. We will plant flowers whose growing instructions (on seed packet or else google 'growing ___ from seed') say that they can withstand some frost, around May 15th, and the rest we will wait until the end of May to plant, just in case. 

2) Check the growing instructions for each and every variety that you wish to grow. Some need to be started earlier and some later. The instructions will give you a range (eg 8-10 weeks), so you count back from your last frost date to determine when to start your seeds.

3) If you go to a specialty seed store like William Dam, you can ask the knowledgeable staff about your specific seed-starting needs. They have the basic materials you will need, which are: special soil that seeds need to get started; cell packs (for planting your individual seeds in their special compartments); tray liners (for placing the cell packs in and then filling with water to bottom-water your seeds); and degradable pots of various sizes, for seeds that need a little more space as they are growing, or for plants that don't like being transplanted out of the cell-packs at planting time. These pots can be planted directly in the ground, unlike their plastic counterparts. We can't vouch for the effectiveness of this, however, as we've had mixed results and also heard mixed reviews about this process from other growers. Also purchase labels that you can stick into your cell packs to show what is growing there. Use waterproof marker when writing on them. I think to buy the more eco-conscious variety of wood labels, you would need to order online. I don't yet have a recommended source for these.

4) Get your seed-starting area set up. Seedlings will need about 14-16 hours of light per day (don't do less OR MORE, for optimal results), so the best thing to do is set up grow lights. You can do this with shop lights bought at a home hardware store, with an even amount of warm and cool light bulbs installed. At the same store, buy some by-the-yard chain and some hooks. We screw into some exposed wood beams that we have on the ceiling, to hang the chain and lights on, but you might want to set up a shelf system, where you put your trays of seeds on a series of shelves, and the rig the lights to the shelves. Either way, you want to make sure you can have lights about 2-3 inches above the cell packs, and then be able to adjust the lights upwards to maintain this as the seedlings grow. We also recommend one or a few space heaters, because different seeds will need to maintain different temperatures during germination.  Again, do your research! Google the growing instructions for each variety.

5) Put cell packs into the trays, add water to the trays so that the soil can start to absorb it right away, then fill the cell packs with the soil, press down, fill with more, and then press down, and repeat as often as necessary until you have firmly packed, moist soil. Roots don't like air bubbles, so getting packed soil is necessary. It also makes it easier to push the seedlings out at planting time.

6) The great thing about your trays are that they will hold water, so that you can bottom-water your cell packs. It's a good rule of thumb to only bottom-water. You will need to keep an eye on water levels, and keep a lot of water in the trays, so that the soil is consistently moist and never dries out. Unlike some of those tropical houseplants you have, seedlings do not like to be dried out between waterings! A tip here is to have a thin-neck watering can that you can poke under the cell packs to fill the tray with water. Trays are awkward to carry, especially with water in them, so bringing them over to the tap isn't easy.

7) Seeds come in various sizes, so be prepared for some seeds to look as fine as dust. Follow individual directions for each type, but in general you will be putting one seed in each cell pack. The instructions might tell you that the seeds need light or dark in order to germinate, so you will be instructed to leave on top of the soil or push in accordingly. 

8) Stick your labels in your cell packs in very clear and organized ways. In our first year we thought we would remember what was where, so we did very rudimentary labelling, but that was a huge mistake! This year we've put many labels bordering out areas in the cell packs so that we know what flowers type, and colour of that type, are where. It is recommended that you stick to one type per tray, so that you can control conditions specific to that type, but that's not always possible, so just do your best, but stay organized. 

9) Your seeds will need constant care to make sure that they don't dry out, the temperature stays where it needs to be, and the lights are the right distance away, for the right amount of time. 

10) Once you have strong seedlings, about one week before transplanting outside, start moving your trays outside into the great outdoors, so that the seedlings get used to the weather and the sunlight. They need this period in order to adjust. Bring them in at night or in frosty periods. 

11) When you are almost ready to plant, make sure you have prepared your soil using compost. Rich soil makes all the difference with plants. Plant your flowers the directed space apart. To get them out of the cell packs poke through the bottom holes of the cell packs and gently work them out. Because plastic is so bad for the environment, try your best not to wreck the cell packs so that you can reuse them the following year. A bit of tape will be fine if you get a stubborn seedling and need to rip the cell pack a bit. 

12) Be gentle with watering your new plants, and be vigilant about weeds, which can steal all their nutrients. Mulch helps with this, but be sure to leave space around the plants, don't choke them.

13) Use natural fertilizers instead of chemical ones. There are quite a few recipes online for making your own, often called 'compost tea'. Plants need this food to do well.

We hope that this will help you, and we welcome any questions you have! Best of luck in the coming season!

A day in the life of a new floral business

I thought it might be interesting to let people know how a typical day goes for me since I launched in March, diving in head first without a clue how to run a floral design business!

Basically, orders come in through many different avenues - email, online submission through our website, Instagram, Facebook, and phone. As soon as I see the order I check what I have flower-wise. This is much easier whenever I have my own plants in bloom, such as tulips in early spring, or the many varieties of flowers that should be blooming soon. In that in-between stage between tulips and summer plants I often have to source flowers from local farms, people's yards (with permission of course! Did you know that plant stealing is actually a pretty big problem in Hamilton?), or from wholesalers who carry local products (brought in from farms around Ontario). Ordering from the farms or from wholesalers means I have to buy in large-ish quantities, and drive out to pick up my order. I want to move as much away from this as possible next year, and really concentrate on using the flowers available in the city. But with unpredictable weather it can be out of my control. The new greenhouse that we got should help though!

So, I put together the bouquets, always striving for interesting mixes of texture and colour. This takes the longest, so I like to dedicate evenings to it (you are supposed to harvest flowers in the evening, jsuk, as it is the coolest thereby preventing the flowers from going into shock), I normally have a glass or two of wine and put on music in my studio and enjoy.  I then slip them into sleeves, put stickers on, and keep them in the cooler until it's time to deliver. Full disclosure, I have been using my cold basement as a cooler, but we are getting a florist's cooler in the next couple weeks!

Weekends can be crazy because I sell in a couple of retail stores, which means I am regularly preparing larger orders, along with any individual orders that come in. The subscription service we offer is a great organizational tool - with set times during the month for each customer I can really plan ahead for design and delivery. Orders for floral crowns come in pretty steadily, often for photographers, but also for events and even sometimes just for an individual's weekend plans. I handle those in a similar way to the bouquets, but generally with more back and forth with the client in order to make sure I am meeting their vision while balancing including my own style in the crown. Weddings are a whole other deal, so I'll do a separate post about those down the line!

Other than that, I spend a lot of time on Instagram, reading up on flower farming, and studying pictures of beautiful arrangements to soak up their secrets. 

Planting time!

I'm exhausted after a day of planting, and I have the rest of the week ahead of me! But, it's a beautiful time, where there is enough already growing so that I can put together a complete arrangement using all my own flowers and foliage. I've done as much of that as I could throughout the early spring, but always had to supplement with some locally-sourced blossoms. I'm super thankful for my late-blooming specialty tulips, because they offer a stunning full bloom when other tulips are done, and before most other plants have flowers. 

It's nice to buckle down in the dirt after a hectic Mother's Day weekend. How lucky am I to work in the peacefulness of nature, with cardinals, robins, blue jays, squirrels, and my puppers for company? I wouldn't trade this new life of mine for anything!

My seedlings have been growing under grow lights for weeks now, and they are thriving now that they are out in the sun, even though many of them are still in their containers and not yet in the ground. It's a race against the clock for me now, as I try to get everything planted before they get too big for their containers! I'm a bit worried about my sweet peas .. they were one of the earliest seedlings to get nice and big and healthy, but I had to wait until now to get them in the ground, and they aren't looking too hot. Poor little guys. But hopefully they will pull through!

Happy planting to all you gardeners out there!

Hello from Floral & Brick!

Well, choosing this cold but sunny day for my first blog post makes a lot of sense. For a first season of an urban flower farm business, it sure has been crazy weather! Frost cloth has been my friend - taking it off in a spirit of hope for a couple of days only to lug it out again has been a routine I'm actually getting used to. It won't continue like this for much longer though, right?

Hamilton may have a relatively shorter growing season than other North American locations (I'm looking at you, B.C.), but all in all it's not bad. Blossoms are out on trees already, daffodils are fully open and gorgeous, and early-blooming tulips are finally showing their colours. Our seedlings have been arching their little stems to the grow lights in a warm room for weeks now, and as soon as April 29th hits (the last frost in our area) they are going in the ground! Some are already out, hence the frost cloth, but that is more due to error than typical routine. One of our helpers (I love you Mom!) thought that since snapdragon seed is just like dust, it could just be sprinkled out and would grow fine. While a bit of sprinkling is OK, it's really important to give them space, so when I judged that they were big enough I took a risk and divided up the bunches that had grown together, and put them outside. I'll keep you posted on their progress!

I'll continue to use this blog as a way of taking you on my flower journey with me. It's a learning experience for me and my team, but a beautiful and exciting one, and I'm happy to share it.