A few weeks ago I met Megan Hevenor, a local champion of the ‘Slow Flowers’ movement and the owner/lead-designer for FIELD Sustainable Florist in Portland, Maine. We were at a barbecue and as one does with a full plate of food I was trying to find a place I could shimmy in next to some cool people and eat. By chance Megan was setting up some flowers at the end of the table and I had the pleasure of inhaling all the floral goodness she was wrist deep in. I love flowers in the garden, but to be honest I love them a whole lot more plucked from said garden and arranged in vases in my home. Bring the beauty of the outdoors in I say – something we folks who live in Maine know a lot about since we spend a lot of time getting to know our interiors.
As good things tend to happen this way after the barbecue I saw a photo of her work then I heard someone raving about her then again and again. Well, I don’t know about you, but I thought this blog could be prime for some tips from Megan about arranging flowers at home and oh don’t we all know it – keeping them healthy.
Getting to know Megan a little has been fun. She’s a lot like her floral arrangements – Gene Kelly “I’m Singing in the Rain” happy. Megan’s days of sourcing flowers at Broadturn Farm and Snell Family Farm, working out wedding dreams with brides or styling scheming for an event are in the daylight hours between when her three-year-old, Henry, awakens her by jumping on her bed and tickling her feet and evenings with salty popcorn and a stack of emails. Her best day moments – walking to the edge of a meadow and forest and finding a totally killer wildflower that has just bloomed. Can’t you almost picture her squealing with delight at the sight of lupines, lady slippers, and jack in the pulpits? Just get to know her, or just get to know her floral creations (you can see them at Judith on Market Street or Gemstone Tattoo on Commercial Street) then you’ll see.
Isn’t the person you turn to for flowers during life’s significant moments- births, celebrations, weddings, and deaths- isn’t that person supposed to be joyful and engaged? With that in mind, let’s see what our happy floral artist has to say about working with flowers for all us novices.
What kind of flowers do you like to work with and why?
Gosh. The list is endless. First and foremost, I love working with what’s blooming in the moment. I think it’s so magical to invite the season’s unfolding inside. Even in winter, I cut pine-coned boughs or dried milkweed pods. I also love using material seldom seen in the vase, like bleeding hearts, solomon’s seal, and other garden faves; also mushrooms, berries, and fruited boughs. I love flowers with curvy stems, like anemones and poppies that reach out and give an arrangement a wild shape. I especially love dark flowers and foliage, like black iris, hellebores, fritillaria, and purple basil. I also always try to use tight buds, so my clients can watch the flowers unfurl and open before their eyes.
What flowers are best in Mason Jars?
I gotta say, Sharon, I’m not the biggest fan of flowers in Mason Jars. I love a good jar as much as the next girl, for blueberry preserves and my coffee as I run out the door, but I think flowers are too grand and stunning. Flowers belong in handmade ceramics, vintage glass vases, and vessels that give an arrangement shape and body and highlight their absolutely amazing beauty. I might make an exception for a huge bundle of feverfew or chamomile in a blue jar.
Would you share a couple ways to arrange flowers at home?
I guess I think of flower arranging as building a sculpture- you’re going for balance and harmony with colors and shapes, but you want just enough wildness and unusual elements to keep it interesting. I usually start by defining the arrangement’s shape with a super tall item and a long trailing one, or I start with a couple of “stunners”, or focal flowers. Then I build it up and out from there. Working in a limited palette ups the interest factor, or even a monochromatic palette with a single pop of color. If you have a bunch of the same flowers, like say, a bunch of peonies or zinnias you just picked up from the farmers’ market, using a vase with a wide bottom and small neck will let the flowers splay in a lovely way.
Any tips for keeping cut flowers healthy?
It’s all about keeping water flowing freely up the stem. If flowers have been out of water for even 30 seconds, their stem-ends start to dry up limiting their ability to take up water. Always give your stems a fresh cut when they have been out of water for any length of time. The leaves on a stem help carry water up to the flower, so leave them on, but pull off any that are below the water line. Leaves and bacteria in the water will clog up the stems, preventing water from reaching the flower and causing it to wilt. Keep your vases clean and change the water before it gets cloudy. Keeping cut flowers out of direct sunlight and moving air helps a lot, too. Choosing cut flowers that are still closed gives you a much longer (and more fun) vase life. Lastly, remember that a big part of flowers’ power is that they are ephemeral; we love them fiercely for a few days then we have to let them go.
Want to talk to Megan about an arrangement, see her contact page.