A new take on black-and-white flowers

Week 19, as we revisit the 10-year anniversary of the book Slow Flowers

The addition of Smoke Bush stems elevates the design
The addition of Smoke Bush stems elevates the design, adding another dark-hued ingredient to the mix.
a graphic pop of contrast
A graphic pop in this contrasting botanical palette.

From the pages of Slow Flowers.

The original “Chocolate-and-Vanilla” arrangement from the pages of Slow Flowers, published in 2013, was one of my favorite designs created for the project.

To make it, I used some beautiful white-flowering viburnum cut from a friend’s Seattle garden. I do not think this is the Snowball variety; it might be Korean spice viburnum. My friend no longer owns the property, but I drove past it this week and noticed that the blooms had already turned brown, so I couldn’t inspect closely.

In my garden, the snowball viburnum is still in its young green form (another reason why I suspect the original element was an early-blooming viburnum). My substitute, however, is simply divine: Popcorn viburnum, grown by Pam Uhlig of Sonshine Farm on Whidbey Island, and briefly available each spring at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market. Fluffy and popcorn-like, the blooms create clouds and mounds of white and are delightful when arranged in my footed dish. (A note about my vase collection. I’m having so much fun revisiting how much shelf-life my vessels continue to provide!)

The “chocolate” detail I incorporated in 2013 was the Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, grown by Jello Mold Farm. I’ve seen the farm’s green form of Anthriscus at the Growers Market this spring, but neither the green or chocolate-colored varieties were there this week when I shopped for my Week 19 design ingredients.

the entire composition is elevated in a footed dish
The entire composition is elevated in a footed dish. Mechanics include a vintage cage-style flower frog overlaid with a dome of chicken wire.

And as I stood there on the Market floor, pondering “what can I use?” I ran through a menu of dark-foliage plants in the #slowflowerscuttinggarden. Three shrubs came to mind immediately – reassuring me that I have plenty to work with here at home: Black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra), with its lacy, purple-black foliage; purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggyria); and ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’). I’m sure there are others, but these are my top options. I started with the black lace elderberry (which, to be honest, needs to hydrate well or be treated with Quick Dip when cut).

My earlier arrangement used two types of branches to add height — bridal wreath spirea and green-flowering dogwood. Instead, I opted to cut and add a few young branches of the purple smoke bush, with foliage just emerging and resembling oval plumes.

It’s a vibe. A black-and-white vibe in the same footed vessel, inspired by a 10-year-old arrangement but reinterpreted with some new ingredients.

Debra Prinzing

Debra Prinzing is a Seattle-based writer, speaker and leading advocate for American-grown flowers. Through her many Slow Flowers-branded projects, she has convened a national conversation that encourages consumers and professionals alike to make conscious choices about their floral purchases. Debra is the producer of SlowFlowers.com, the weekly "Slow Flowers Podcast" and the American Flowers Week (June 28-July 4) campaign. Debra is author of 11 books, including Slow Flowers (2013), The 50 Mile Bouquet (2012) and Slow Flowers Journal (2020). She is the co-founder of BLOOM Imprint, the boutique publishing arm of Slow Flowers.

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Slow Flowers Journal is brought to you by SlowFlowers.com. Slow Flowers is an award-winning online directory created to help consumers find florists, studio designers, wedding and event planners, supermarket flower departments and flower farmers that supply American grown flowers. Founded in 2014, the site has grown to 850 members across the U.S.


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For more information, please contact Debra Prinzing
at 206-769-8211 or 844-SLOWFLO (844-756-9356); debra(at)slowflowers.com.