Week 42, as we revisit the 10-year anniversary of the book Slow Flowers
Having the opportunity to design with local dahlias so late into October is such a gift for flower lovers here in the Pacific Northwest. Honestly, when I landed on this week, page 80 of the book “Slow Flowers,” I thought to myself, “Is it really possible that I designed a Week 42 arrangement with such juicy dahlias?”
And a trip to the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market provided the evidence. In 2013, I used gorgeous pink dahlias grown by Vivian Larson of Everyday Flowers. For 2023, I again found an abundant selection of similar pink dahlias from Vivian! This woman is a gifted dahlia grower.
Ten years ago, I was living in a garden with something like 10 mophead and lacecap hydrangea shrubs — all inherited and most quite happy to turn the blue-amethyst patina when temperatures dropped. Now, my hydrangeas are of the Limelight and Oak Leaf variety, so I don’t have access to cut ones like those I once enjoyed. Lucky for me, Pam Uhlig of Sonshine Farm outside Langley on Whidbey Island has some and I snagged the last bunch at SWGMC.
I also wanted to replicate my use of snowberry, but by the time I managed to shop at the Market, they were gone. Casting my eyes around for some type of “little berry” style element, I landed on a cluster of Strawberry tree sprigs (Arbutus unedo), also from Sonshine Flower Farm. This evergreen shrub hails from the Mediterranean and it loves our PNW coastal regions. It produces drooping clusters of fragrant, bell-shaped, white flowers at the tips of its branches from fall to winter. They fulfill that texture and contrast detail I was seeking. (And of course, the desired snowberries and gomphrena from the 2013 arrangement were back in stock from local flower growers the next time I visited SWGMC. The early bird gets the flowers!).
As a replacement for the absent gomphrena, at the last moment, my eyes caught a few stray stems of apricot straw flowers — amazingly, ones I grew from seed this summer for the #slowflowerscuttinggarden! Their shape and color are a lovely accent to the flamingo-pink dahlias!
From a design approach, I wanted to push myself to go taller and wider than a decade ago. I used the same 1960s vintage “Floraline” florist’s vase, an oblong, avocado-green vessel measuring 6 inches x 7 inches with a cute footed base. This is a favorite of mine that I’ve held onto for years because it is deep enough to arrange without chicken wire and its flare encourages flowers to face outward. I’m sure I purchased it for under $10 at a flea market. I just did an internet search and found the same one on Etsy for $14.95.
As you can see, I channeled my inner T.J. McGrath and added some tall stems of dahlias to create height.