Let’s talk about wedding flowers… and how to stretch your budget.
Let’s face it, flowers are expensive. But having an amazing floral designer can take your wedding from just okay to FABULOUS. Yes, flowers don’t live long past your wedding date, but they’ll be works of art that will be present in your wedding pictures for years to come. And, hopefully they’ll be so captivating that your guests remember them forever . Do you want to hire a great floral designer…. but just can’t afford everything you want? Read these tips below and step AWAY from that rack of fake flowers (that’s one way to ruin a wedding). Here’s a few tips to stretch your floral budget but still have your day look perfecto!
Reuse your bridal party flowers! The bride’s bouquet and bridesmaid bouquets are expensive, don’t let them go to waste after the ceremony. Instead, have your wedding planner or florist setup vases with water for the bridesmaids to set them in after the ceremony. Think restroom flowers, cake table arrangement, guestbook area, bar, etc. Or even sub as centerpieces! A lot went into to creating those beautiful bouquets, you better get your money’s worth out of them!
Don’t blow your budget on ceremony florals. Chances are you won’t be there too long. You and your guests will spend the most time at the reception. If your ceremony venue really needs some TLC, try sticking to one really great floral piece, like an arch. (Unfortunately arch florals usually can’t travel to the reception though.)
Quality over quantity. Instead of placing a ton of small vessels of flowers all over the venue, choose the area that needs the most love and have a really big, show-stopping arrangement created to make that space POP. People tend to notice fewer, but larger “statement” pieces versus a lot of small nondescript florals. This doesn’t mean a huge gaudy, glittering monstrosity, but rather a stop-you-in-your-tracks masterpiece that captivates your guests - a great floral designer knows the difference.
Gift your centerpieces at the end of the night. Everyone will be raving over your flowers, and they’ll be raving even more when they get to take some home. See if your florist will let you purchase the vases they are using or if they can source some for you at a reasonable price (we offer this at Three Toads Farm). Give the centerpieces (and vase) away at the end of the night - think bridesmaid gifts, or to a special family member or friend that might have helped you in some way on your big day. Not only will be they be thrilled to have fresh flowers in their house over the next week, but they’ll also think of you each time they use that vase in the future.
A good floral designer will always have your best interest in mind as well as working with you to get the very best you can possibly have within your budget.
March 21, 2018
May 25, 2015
The Bougainvillea Breakdown
A bride recently came to us with the unique request of Bougainvillea bouquets. My guess is, at some point in her life she has spent quite a bit of time in Florida or another tropical area and naturally fell in love with the stop-you-in-your-tracks electrifying pink of this warm-climate beauty. Our floral design consists of flowers grown at our farm, or if we need it, sourced from a nearby grower. 100% locally grown floral design from four-season Kentucky which is Zone 6. Bougainvillea grows in Zone 9 or 10. I must have been feeling rather bold, because saying no to the bride’s tropical request didn’t feel right. Of course we can provide bouquets of locally grown, tropical bougainvillea.... from Kentucky..... in May. Quite a bold commitment on my part. Perhaps, even crazy. I contacted a prestigious local nursery and they happily agreed to hold many of their bougainvillea plants for nearly a year until game time. Finding locally grown bougainvillea wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I was feeling pretty confident about this challenging project I had taken on.
Getting locally grown tropical flowers nailed down for a May wedding in Kentucky should have been the hardest part..... right? Boy, was I wrong. Closer to time I was checking on the flowers weekly, and getting more and more nervous. This “ever-blooming” plant blooms in 3-4 week cycles which can be shorter or longer due to the sunlight and other elements. Ever-blooming would be the correct term for someone enjoying this as a plant in their yard or from a distance, not as a cut flower that is being viewed closely and handled frequently. Thankfully, out of the 23 plants (much more than I would need) they weren’t all on the same bloom schedule. So when it came time for hacking these beauties up for bouquets, I was guaranteed that at least half would be blooming beautiful long tendrils of fiery magenta.
A week out, I realize how crazy it is to rely on these 23 baskets. I envision myself frantically driving 12 hours to hack on someone’s bougainvillea plant in the deep south….. I think I better call a florist and see what the options are for ordering bougainvillea in the event that something horrific happened to ours. Ordering non- locally grown back-ups would go against everything we stood for, but it would be much better than letting down the bride - which is simply NOT an option.
Well guess what is also, not an option? Ordering any cut bougainvillea what-so-ever. Bougainvillea is NOT sold as a cut flower. Not anywhere, not any time. I start panicking and googling.....googling and panicking. “Bougainvillea, while gorgeous, is a horrible option for a cut flower, it wilts almost immediately and is covered in thorns.” “Bougainvillea, covered in thorns, shatters and wilts within hours.”
I also find that there is little to no research conducted on bougainvillea as a cut to avoid this wilting problem.
I found a few strange and unique conditioning options in the depths of the internet other than our usual method of conditioning most all of our cut flowers (flora-life and locked up in the cooler for 24 hours- which was not mentioned anywhere on the internet for bougainvillea). Do they simply not store in the cooler because they are tropical? I have no idea, and apparently no one else does either, because I literally found 2 bits of advice on bougainvillea as a cut flower throughout the entire world-wide web other than "do not use this as cut flower." I had to find a way to make this happen.
48 hours before the wedding I conducted an experiment using 5 different conditioning methods on a few tendrils of bougainvillea. Like you would for any woody stem, I split the bottom of each stem, in order to allow them to drink as much water as possible.
In water with flora-life & conditioned in the cooler for 2.5 hours
In water with holding solution & conditioned in cooler for 2.5 hours
Placed in HOT (not boiling) water then immediately sealing the bucket with a plastic bag creating a tent of humidity for 2 hours (no cooler)
Place freshly cut stem tip into BOILING WATER for about 10 seconds and then place the spray (blooms) upside down fully submerged in a bucket of COLD water for 2 hours (no cooler), then set up to drip dry.
SEARED freshly cut stem with blow-torch and placed in bucket with flora life. (no cooler)
I pulled all 5 of these experiments (each in a bucket), set them side by side, and played the waiting game…… Within a few hours it was clear that they all looked pretty good, but the best was the humidity tent. At this point I am thankful that something is working, but terrified that I am going to run around like crazy making hundreds of little saunas for each tendril of bougainvillea. What have I got myself into!?!
When 24 hours was up, I was very thankful to see that each and every one of these experiments worked!! Shew! The only problem that is evident is the double-bloomed bougainvillea (which made up about 20% of my bougainvillea plants) did not hold up as well as the single-bloomed. It still works and stays intact rather than shattering, but will wilt rather quickly. By wilt, I mean simply droop over, it did not lack any color, or fall apart. In fact, it actually worked quite well on the bottom edges of two large arrangements providing a lush, over-flowing element.
In addition to the 5 experiments, I had one tendril that I simply cut and left in the cooler overnight (our usual method of conditioning almost every cut flower at Three Toads Farm). I compared all of these and guess which one looked as good as any…. the one that was cut and simply held in the cooler all night long. I may have done all of that stressing for nothing. But at least we know now! (My fear before the experiment was that the cooler would have zapped the life out of these tropical, warm-weather loving southern plants.)
All of this experimenting delayed the actual bouquet making till 1:30 PM the Friday before the wedding, less than 24 hours before I had to start delivery. But it was important to figure out what was the best way to condition these beauties. And thankfully, this was not an extremely huge wedding- I had enough time to make the amount needed for this wedding. I successfully created some out-of-this-world arrangments and slept well knowing they'd condition over night in the cooler and be in tip-top shape the next day for the wedding.
I want to thank the bride for requesting these impossible pink, thorn-covered beauties. Without her unique request I would not have gained this valuable knowledge, nor would I have been pushed to do something way out of my comfort zone. I sincerely hope another designer brave enough to promise bougainvillea to a bride gains knowledge from this experience. Half way through the process I swore I’d never use bougainvillea again, but after seeing the end result, how could I hate these beautiful vibrant flowers? Call me crazy, but I would love to recreate this late Spring beauty for another bride in the future.
-Elizabeth B.H. Montgomery
Class & Workshop
October 19, 2014
We’ve always admired the gurus in the Farmer-Florist world (like Erin Benzakein of Floret) who open up their farm and workspace to hold classes & workshops. People really look up to them (us included!) and choose to take time out of their busy schedules to reserve a much sought after spot in their class. Wow- that seemed like a far-off dream to us. Yes, our business and popularity was thriving, but who would pay to come listen and watch us create bouquets?
One of our busy Saturday mornings at our local Farmer’s Market, one of our enthusiastic customers said, “I wish you guys would have a class on how to make these bouquets.” It was that simple. Not an hour later, we excitedly (and a little bit nervously) published a flyer for our first ever on-the-farm workshop. We filled up within 2 weeks. Our phones were ringing off the hook and people were enthused. Wow- this is really happening.
Days passed, and between the three of us toads, we put together a hands-on floral design workshop for our loyal customers. We spent hours cutting, cleaning up the workspace, planning, and being slightly scared. A few hours before, we set-up a phenomenal selection of our finest cuts, everything we could possibly offer. The layout resembled a Thanksgiving, but instead of gourmet dishes we had a table lush and over flowing with lilies, zinnias, basil, lisianthus, sunflowers, snapdragons, dahlias, and much, much more. We couldn't have picked a better time to hold this class- in August EVERYTHING is in full-bloom and sometimes we have more than we can possibly sell.
We started with a tour of our greenhouses and flower fields and industrial sized cooler. People loved seeing and learning about our operation. These things are very normal to us, but to see the look of awe and excitement in our guests eyes proved that this is a one-of-a-kind business. Most people do not realize the amount of work, time and effort that goes into flower farming. From the way we sew our crops, timing of planting, dead-heading, what the amount of rainfall does to us, our irrigation system, to our industrial cooler- everyone was just soaking up all this information like a sponge. We really are teaching these people!
The workshop itself was a raving success- at one point my partner said, “Ok, it’s time to wrap things up.” I was thinking ‘No way, I’ve only just begun!’ Little did I know nearly an hour and a half had passed, it was time to wrap things up. It felt like 10 minutes had passed, it is true that time does fly when you’re having fun- or helping 10 people create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
This was an incredible experience where we got to share our little tid-bits of advice & know-hows to an eager group of people wanting so badly to know more. Everyone walked away with a phenomenal looking arrangement that THEY made (with a little hands-on help from us, ok maybe a lot for some), but the point is… they left happy.
While is it great to utilize your space and your product for your business the best you can- especially for farmers, the point isn't always a monetarily poignant one (even though that is very helpful). The amount of awareness about the life and work of a farmer-florist was the real nugget of gold we took away from this experience, far out-weighing the cost of the class in which just simply helps us keep on doing what we’re doing.
-Elizabeth B.H. Montgomery
Finding a Family in Farmers Market
March 16, 2015
Our summer weeks revolve around one special day: the Saturday Farmers Market. We’ve been growing fine flowers for the Lexington Farmers Market since 1998. Since our farm does not have a storefront per se (although the public is welcome to make appointments to meet us at the farm), the local Farmers Market is our main venue of business. Our fellow farmers at the market have become a family to us over the years, and we have established a very loyal, dedicated, niche group of clientele — many of which we consider to be our dear friends. One could say the Lexington Farmers Market is the very heart of our unique business.
All week — rain or shine, unusually high temperatures or unusually low — we gather and hold the finest of our cuts for Saturday market. Come Friday morning, we are in overdrive scurrying around to collect the absolute best flowers to bring to our loyal customers. It’s quite a sight to see the “Three Toads” cut and condition a trailer and truck load of flowers in one day! We have been known to go out into the field with a head-lamp to choose the very last cuts in the dark. Some weekends we have a wedding or event thrown into our market prep schedule, making it is an even more fast-paced weekend, but we’ll save that for a later blog.
Saturday morning starts at the early hour of 3 a.m. for one dedicated, hard-working Toad, who has most of our booth set up by 5:30 a.m. The other two Toads trickle in soon after and we are ready for our droves of customers by 7 a.m. We craft most all of our bouquets on the spot, as many customers have special requests and also enjoy watching their bouquets being created. Some of our customers bring us vases to fill with very detailed instructions, while others would be happy buying a few loose stems to create their own floral masterpiece, or an already made bouquet. Whatever the request is, we aim to fulfill it. Many times I will look down at my watch and realize hours have passed in what seemed to be only 20 minutes as I’ve been in a bouquet-making frenzy for hours.
All of this sounds like a rather stressful, way-too-early way to spend your Saturday, but the three of us absolutely love this day — it’s what the whole work week is about. Saturday is the day we are blessed to see our true grit flower-farming work transform into something magical. Our customers get that “stop-and-smell-the-roses” moment, their eyes feast upon the beauty and their nose is filled with mother nature’s perfume. Our flowers bring someone fleeting moments of awe and beauty, filling the senses with positivity and briefly transporting a person away from the rat-race of everyday life to a more relaxing, beautiful state of mind.
-Elizabeth B. H. Montgomery