Our youngest daughter was married last month, and we used hydrangeas from my garden and the gardens of many friends and family to add to the joy of the celebration. In honor of summer brides everywhere, here are a few tips on using fresh flowers in a wedding.
1. Once you know the date of the wedding, talk to a local gardener about which flowers will be in season. Of course you can ship in roses for a winter wedding and even find tulips for a wedding in the early summer, but you’ll pay three times the price when you import blooms from the other side of the world.
2. Choose flowers grown by local growers when possible. In Western Washington we are lucky to have farmers markets in many communities where local growers will sell direct to the public. Some of the flower growers have farms in Eastern Washington but make the trek over the Cascades every weekend to peddle their petals direct to the consumer. Local florists that specialize in wedding flowers will often buy from local growers when the bride chooses flowers in season.
3. If the bride has her heart set on a certain flower (our daughter really wanted peonies — that were out of season in July) you can go on the Internet and find a grower from Alaska or Hawaii and splurge on these flowers for just her bouquet or as an accent flower amidst the less expensive blooms that are in season. Alaska has become a hot spot for wedding peonies as the long hours of daylight and cool summer weather make the peony crop available almost all summer. Hawaii grows orchids year round, and both states have family farms that will ship directly to private homes using ice packs and overnight express.
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4. Meet with a florist about which type of flowers hold best in hot and sunny weather. Local florists can suggest flowers that resist wilting, and they also have access to special sprays that keep petals from wilting and drying out. Don’t overlook the common mum. Chrysanthemums are not only available all year long but they hold up in heat and also cold weather, they come in a multitude of colors, shapes and flower forms and can cost half the price of imported roses or orchids.
5. Don’t depend on growing your own flowers. Timing is everything, and weather conditions are unpredictable. Just because your pink lilies were in bloom last summer during June does not mean they will flower at the same time next year. Ditto that your hydrangeas may not be the same color from one year to the next.
6. Use potted plants when possible. Lining the bride’s walk down the aisle with pots of cyclamens, mums or hydrangeas can be less expensive and more practical than using cut flowers. Plus you can add the potted plants to your garden or give them away to guests when the event is over.
7. Fabulous foliage can add a lush look. Baskets of ferns made from sword fern fronds, huge leaves from hosta and colorful foliage from heucheras are becoming more popular in wedding bouquets as brides seek to add an original twist to the wedding flowers. Succulents are also being used as cut flower alternatives in arrangements or as potted plants on tables. The more leaves, berries and spiky grasses you add to the mix the less flowers you will need to buy and the more resilient the display will be.
8. Visit Pinterest and become inspired. The Pinterest website is like a bulletin board where you can post your favorite photos of any creative idea and also grab images from other creative people and try something new. Pinterest inspired us to create a “flower wall” using hydrangeas that filled a gold picture frame and also a centerpiece that can only be described as a ‘hydrangea waterfall’ that flowed off the table an onto the floor at the reception site. Pinterest is not just about pretty photos — often you can visit a site with just one click that will share more details and how-to information about the project you see posted on the site.
9. Share the joy by sharing the flowers. After a wedding or large celebration, the flower centerpieces can be sent home with guests to enjoy, brought to a church or my personal favorite delivered to a nursing home and given away to house-bound residents. When properly cared for, cut flower centerpieces will last for a week to 10 days. After that the faded blooms can be recycled into a compost pile.
10. Remember to take a deep breath, inhale the fragrance of flowers and enjoy the day. Flowers are nature’s reminder that the world is a beautiful place and life should be enjoyed.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.