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Wreath Season

 

It’s here! Or rather, it’s apparently been here since way back in November. Wreath mania – all you need to do is spend five seconds on Instagram and you’ll know what I mean.

I’m going to make a big confession and tell you I’ve never really been in on the wreath scene. As in there hasn’t been a single wreath in my home, ever. I’ve been that sad, busy person running around Stockmann the night before Christmas Eve because somehow the holidays managed to sneak up on me – even though I absolutely love, love, love Christmas.

So this year I’ve made a solemn pledge to make the most the holiday season even if it kills me. Xmas pillow covers, check. Gingerbread dough in the freezer ready to go, check. Mini Christmas trees in the house, check. Gift list, wrapping paper and ribbons tucked away in the wardrobe, check. Christmas playlists and surge in wine consumption, check.

Holiday wreaths, finally, check.

 

I set out onto my holiday wreath mission as I do for most new missions: confident in the art of winging it. So that’s what I did.

I didn’t have access to any ideal, bendier branches (willow, birch or grapevine) for my wreath bases so I just foraged the yard and made do with what I had: woody raspberry stems and hydrangea branch which has a pretty, vinelike look to it. I fashioned the bases while the branches were still damp from the snow, which made them workable enough for creating an organic wreath shape using sturdy wire. If you’re like me and not into spending ages wrestling with the wreath bases, totally don’t worry about them being round. They don’t need to be. You can fill in any non-intentional suspicious bits with the greenery, ha.

I’m in love with this fluffy juniper that I used: the deep, blue-tinged hue and the soft, delicate texture. All it needs is a few accent stems to be good to go – I wanted simple, natural wreaths with more of a subdued holiday feel, so I skipped color outside of the evergreen palette. The greens I used are wholesale, but you could easily forage the whole thing.

A note on the wax flower in my photos: it doesn’t dry “pretty” so if you’re expecting to look at white flowers throughout December, skip it. It browns and shrivels when it dries, but I personally like that for the natural look of these wreaths.

 

 

I’m not really an arts and crafts kind of person, which is a bit funny as I love to work with flowers. But after three of these, wire and all, I’ve got to admit I’ve now got a new holiday tradition. And as everything, wreathing is even better with a hot cup of foamy coffee and a good playlist. Mission accomplished!

I’m now an official member of wreath mania.

 

 

To carry on the holiday flower mood, I’m doing a miniature Christmas pop-up at my friend Amanda’s antique shop (VSE Helsinki + Galerie 1900, Annankatu 11, Helsinki) starting Thursday this week. If you’re in the area, pop in for a seasonal green weekend bouquet or one of these wreaths.

Happy start of the holidays!

 

Wabara roses and berry tones

 

I remember having a really long phase when I massively disliked pink in florals. I’ll still cringe if you talk to me about fuschia as a main color. But something about this autumn and the re-emergence of color throughout the mainstream flower world has had me craving deep berry tones, burgundies, peachy oranges and yes, even flat out pink to bring it all together. I was so excited to make such an amazing find at the wholesaler’s – these absolutely delicious, pink-peach-yellow Linda’s Baby dahlias that I’d never seen available here before (and haven’t seen since – please give us more!). The color palette within this flower is just stunning and adds so much depth, tone and movement to an arrangement even on its own. Using tonal materials like this is the best way to really work a color palette to the max (check out the amazing gradient color also in the crocosmia seed heads).

I mainly made this arrangement using materials left over from a corporate client, as part of my brief affair with the floral frog that I last wrote about. I also finally got a chance to test out these new luxurious garden roses.

 

 

These roses are Japanese Wabara (this exact one is called Sola, which is a spray rose and ranges in colour a bit like Cafe Lattes) – this sort of vintagey, coppery, glowy and warm shade of pink is one that I’m willing to get behind. I’ve been eyeing these babies for a while, but hot dang – they do cost an arm and a leg, so I’m not exactly predicting a bestseller here. Unfortunately so, as I was super impressed with how hardy these turned out to be (they’d be great for small personals, ie. bouts and crowns/combs). But for a little something special these really go a long way.

 

Flower Recipe

 

Wabara Sola roses

Pale pink winterberry branches

Black viburnum berries

Actea leaf

Linda’s Baby dahlias

Crocosmia seed heads

Warrior Panicum

Toad lilies (tricyrtis)

Penstemon seed pods

 

The recipe says ‘actea leaf’ – singular, literally. My entire bunch apart from one stem died on me and I wasn’t able to get any more, as apparently none of the actea available through Holland are lasting right now. You need to really squint to find it in the arrangement, but sometimes even one stem can go a long way. :)

 

 

I first shot this arrangement in full daylight, then left it to wait – and was rewarded with this dappling warm sunlight just before night fell. We’re starting to lose both natural greens (farewell, foraged greenery) and natural light as winter approaches here in the North. I don’t do that well with the dark season – as it’s getting closer I’m starting to feel a bit of the autumn blues. But thanks to ingredients like this I’m learning to feel the autumn pinks too.

 

Floral anchors: pin frog

 

When it comes to anchoring my arrangements, I prefer chicken wire out of all the options out there. It’s my go-to. But it’s good to mix things up once in a while, so last weekend I thought I’d give flower frogs a new chance to become part of my regular repertoire (and practice while I’m at it – using one does take a while to get used to, if you ask me).

 

My frog du jour was a japanese kenzan pin frog – these appear to be fairly uncommon in Finland. Pin frogs in general aren’t available through my wholesaler, which I was surprised by when I first started flowering here. I got mine from Tokyokan here in Helsinki, and the first thing to know about frogs is that they don’t come cheap: mine was around 25 euro. The frog is completely re-usable though, so after you invest in a couple of preferred sizes you’re good to go for arranging at home.

 

Pin frogs are made of metal (often lead, if this concerns you) and have base plates full of sharp spikes to spear your flower stems onto. They come in a variety of sizes as well as round and rectangular shapes to fit your different vessels. They’re traditionally used in ikebana, the japanese art of flower arranging, but Western floral designers have embraced them as well – especially for the more minimalist, airy design that frogs are ideal for. They are also especially useful when you want to arrange into shallow vessels that don’t allow other floral anchors.

Minimalism isn’t really my MO, so I’m looking forward to more experiments with frogs to broaden my range a little bit (spoiler alert: I didn’t go minimalist this time either – whoops). But first, here’s my good, bad and basics of working with a frog.

 

 

Using the frog is really as simple as placing it into the bottom your vessel, filling up with water and arranging away by pushing your stems into the pins. You want to press firmly enough to really secure the stems, which may feel new at first if you’ve been down the chicken wire road before. Going in at a heavy slant can be tricky: cutting your stem to a sharp angle helps. Metal pin frogs are heavy, so for light materials and minimalist arrangements it may be sturdy enough on its own to support your work – however, keep balance in mind. I tend to build just one side of an arrangement for a while before rotating and love using a lot of / heavy materials, so I need to secure my frog to the vessel with floral putty (Oasis Fix) to make sure it doesn’t tip over when I’m arranging. I recommend doing this in any case, because there’s nothing more irritating than watching your carefully crafted arrangement fall over and/or apart in seconds.

 

What I love about the frog is that you can place flowers very specifically to face a certain way, while still allowing their natural shape within the arrangement. This is especially a delight with thinner stemmed dahlias such as the one in my pictures, which can take a bit of manouvering in wire! You also don’t need to worry about unsightly mechanics showing, so you can really go in the airy, floaty, ethereal direction with lots of breathing room between materials. What I dislike is the discipline needed: you can’t just pop your flowers wherever, whenever without restricting access to the rest of your pins, as opposed to the glorious mess you’re allowed to make in your ball of chicken wire. Also, I find the frog tricky to use with woody and hardy stems.

 

In conclusion: I’m definitely still playing favorites with chicken wire. But I’m digging the idea of using a floral frog under a lighter structure of wire as many do, combining the best of both worlds (forwards facing dahlias, yasss!). And I’m definitely looking forward to more practice with the kenzan (and self-restraint) once soft-stemmed ranunculus and bulb season gets rolling. Maybe I’ll finally go minimalist then?

 

 

P.S. I found some special treats at my wholesaler and made a new (although expensive) rose friend – I’ll post what I made with a flower recipe next week.

Autumnal urn arrangement

 

I have a new rusty urn.

 

Finding great floral vessels in Finland is sometimes difficult, but not impossible – it just takes lots and lots of scouting. I found this fantastic one from FinnMari a while back and when a bunch of beautiful workshop leftovers came home with me, I had to finally try it out. I love the roughness and color of the finish – perfect for autumn arranging and the natural blush and burgundy palette I curated for last weekend’s floral design workshop. (More on those later.) The base structure is chicken wire.

 

It’s an amazing time to forage and using natural elements is always the perfect way to bring movement, texture and seasonal proximity to arrangements. For this one I used foraged grasses, mystery ingredients found by my friend Kreetta (mystery ingredient = find in nature, test run, end up using and fall in love with but have no idea what it is) and the most gorgeous raspberry leaf that has toughened, curled and just begun to color. Raspberry, to be honest, has also saved me throughout the past wedding season so many times I can’t even recall. But this is the most beautiful I think I’ve ever seen it.

 

 

Flower Recipe

 

Cafe au Lait dahlias

Cafe Latte roses (came in very purple, you could easily substitute with f. ex. Amnesia)

Quicksand roses

Foraged raspberry, grasses, vine + mystery bits and bobs

Red Spirit viburnum branches, starting to flower

Queens Picotee pink hellebores

Warrior Panicum

Apricot stock

Daucus Carota

Great burnet

Cotinus Royal Purple

Dried flowering wild thyme

 

 I know some are tired of the blush and burgundy palette.. but I love it when it’s really tonal and natural like this. The gradient palette can be found within a lot of the materials used, which brings the overall look depth and softness – burgundy to dusky blush and cream within the petals of the dahlias, in the stems of the greenery and vine, creeping into the raspberry leaf, in the hellebores, in the wine red viburnum bursting into soft cream flowers. It’s nature curated.

Or rather, curated by nature.