DIY Flower Arranging at Home

Take a break from the stresses of the present and rest your mind on the splendor of a sunset, that sip of coffee, or—perhaps—the relaxation of arranging fresh flowers. Here are some steps to keep in mind.

1. Start with flowers and colors that make you feel good. Our local ranunculus, Canadian tulips, and peonies are a great place to begin. They’re colorful, seasonal, and can’t help but cheer you up.

2. Give them a fresh cut right when you get home and get them in water. Flowers don’t like sitting out of water, whether they sit in your car or on the kitchen counter. A clean, sharp cut is best and allows the stems to take up water. Dull cuts and mashed stems will shorten the life of your flowers.

3. Narrow-mouth jars and vases will hold your flowers more upright. Wide-mouth containers will require more stems and will generally give a more relaxed presentation.

Tip: Cutting thin strips of clear tape and taping a grid pattern over the mouth of the vase helps hold stems upright.

4. Always use flower food. It greatly extends the life of flowers.

5. Work towards an overall balanced appearance, not exacting symmetry.

6. Start with larger flowers first.

7. Relax and enjoy what you’re doing.

8. Re-cut the stems every few days to make your flowers last even longer.

9. Enjoy your flowers!

Flower Arrangements in 5 Easy Steps!

Step #1 – Take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the flowers.

Step #2 – Sprinkle flower food in a wide-mouthed vase and fill vase two-thirds full with lukewarm water. Stir and set aside.

Step #3 – Lay out your flowers. Choose a stem that will be the centerpiece. Begin building the arrangement in your hand. Greenery near the center adds interest. Build each layer a bit lower than the last layer. Rotate the bunch as you go to make each side beautiful. Finish the arrangement with more greenery.

Step #4 – Measure your preferred height of the bunch against the vase. Cut excess length off of stems. Helpful hint: any cutting utensil will work as long as you are able to get a nice clean cut).

Step #5 – Drop flowers into vase and enjoy! Share your own arrangements on social media! #myDLMflowers

Maria Rose

A rose is just a rose, you say? Well let me tell you about the Maria Roses we carry. Ask Felipe Villamizar, President of Maria Roses based in South America, and he’ll probably tell you about his mother Maria, the beauty of the Andes Mountains, and the graciousness of South American culture. He probably won’t tell you though that Maria Roses can be found in the best markets in Europe. He won’t brag that he can trace every rose bunch to the farm of origin and the day it was harvested. He probably won’t even mention the razor-sharp logistics of shipping his roses worldwide. But what he will talk about is the beauty of the roses, the connections they help build, and making people happy.

Maria Roses are cutting edge, coming to us from farms in Ecuador and Colombia. The Ecuadorian farms are at higher elevations and the Colombian farms at lower. With different climates, Maria is able to grow more rose varieties. Poor weather or a production problem at one farm doesn’t necessarily mean that the same problems are at another. Maria Roses cares about sustainability. As Felipe says, “It’s our land, it’s precious, and there is no more.” He is very proud of his family’s involvement, too, and will likely show you a photograph of his teenage son working at one of the farms last summer peering into a microscope in one of the laboratories.

Every few weeks, we get an email or call from Felipe asking if our customers like the Maria Roses we’re getting. Felipe has never been to our stores but he’s part of our family and culture and we are part of his.


Fresh Flower Basic Care Tips

  1. To keep your flowers fresh, place in water as soon as possible. If they’ll be out of water for longer than one hour once you leave our store, let us know so we can wrap them accordingly.
  2. Beware of extreme temperatures. Cut flowers in a hot car are doomed as are ones left exposed to the winter elements.
  3. Fill a clean vase with cold, clean water and flower food. Trim stems with sharp knife or pair of scissors. Remove any foliage that will be below the water. change water and re-cut stems every three days.
  4. Find the perfect spot. Place your vase in an area that is away from sunlight, heaters, or drafts. These will cause your flowers to wilt quickly.

Journey to South Africa—Wild Proteas

At the southern tip of Africa lies a landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. Jagged mountains rise up from ragged coastlines. A milk Mediterranean climate and ancient volcanic soil produce unique growing conditions. It’s here that a huge group of plants collectively known as the Cape Floral Kingdom grow. Many of these plants are found nowhere else.

The most widely known of these endemic plants in the Queen Protea, a dinner-plate size Protea that’s been adopted as the South African national flower and is all the rage on social media for bridal bouquets. In addition to the many Protea varieties, there’s a huge number of lesser known but stunning wildflower species.

I’ve wanted to see the wild Proteas and other Cape species for decades. My late August trip to South Africa was timed to coincide with the late-winter Protea blooming season. For the better part of two weeks, I hiked with a local naturalist and experienced the amazing diversity of the wild Cape Floral Kingdom. I wanted to see the local flower-growing industry firsthand. I was fortunate to meet Bryan Michell. Growing up, his family had a vacation farm about 50 miles outside of Cape Town in the stunningly beautiful Franschhoek Valley.

It’s one of the most scenic wine regions of the world with rolling, fertile hills surrounded by towering mountains with sheer granite cliffs. Many years ago, Bryan’s mother decided she wanted to start breeding and raising Proteas. She became very good, and after several years was commercially growing and selling her cut Protea to local floral exporters. Her farm grew as did many of the other flower farms in the valley. The Franschhoek Valley is now a mix of world-class vineyards and flower farms.

While the Proteas are cultivated, i.e., planted, maintained, and harvested, for years, many of the other fowers grow wild. Large areas of natural vegetation are then selectively harvested. This is completely organic and completely sustainable. These wild flower fields are as they have been for centuries. It’s sustainable agriculture at its very best.

We’re very excited to reveal that Cape Mountain Flora, which is operated by Bryan and exports native South African cut flowers mainly to Asia and Europe, will now add DLM to its network starting in mid-December. The quality of Cape Mountain Flora is the best of the best, so get ready!

Trendspotting: Dried Flowers

Just like styles make comebacks, so have dried flowers. Their surge in popularity is everywhere, whether it be table arrangements, bouquets, or even decorative wreaths.

It’s a trend that we’re seeing supported from an array of growers. For instance, Hammelmans, a multi-generation family-owned company in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, is sending us some of the best dried bunches I’ve ever seen. You’ll find dried Chinese lanterns, wheat, flax, safflower, craspedia, and switchgrass. With these bunches, you can combine them to create your own stunning arrangement.

There are also local growers who are making stunning creations, like the dried wreaths coming to us from That Girl’s Flowers’ Nellie Ashmore. Each contains a variety of organic flowers from different times in the growing season, creating a story of the year. This dried flower trend truly is everlasting beauty.

Into the Field with Peach Mountain Organics

Every so often, you meet someone who is larger than life. What they do becomes more and more incredible the closer you look. Their passion and total dedication is inspiring. They are the best at what they do. Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics is one of those people. I am fortunate to know her as she grows certified organic flowers locally and brings them to Dorothy Lane Market. We are so beyond grateful to be able to provide our customers with her beautiful flowers.

Down a winding road in Spring Valley is where you’ll find that majestic farm called Peach Mountain Organics. As you walk through the greenhouse and fields, the vibrant colors draw your eye here and then there, while a rain-kissed fresh fragrance gently greets you. Although the local floral bouquet season started in the spring, it’s still going strong even as summer comes to a close and fall takes over. Right now, we are simply dazzled by all of the dahlias that Leslie grows with such care. These late-summer/early-fall beauties come in a variety of different sizes and together form a rainbow of luscious colors making for the most stunning bouquets. On a recent farm visit, Leslie showed us how she cares for each and every stem so delicately and told us why growing flowers is so meaningful to her. Her story is incredible.

 DAHLIA CARE TIP: Cut the stems with clean, sharp cutters and use floral preservative. Always re-cut the stems and change the water after a few days

The Simple Pleasures of Culinary Herbs

This is my favorite time of year—I can fling open the kitchen window and invite the balmy air to swirl, reminding me of the pleasures of the garden, lazy evenings on the porch swing, birdsong in the morning, and signs of life refreshing itself. One of the first things I do to mark the season is to establish my potted culinary herbs in a sunny window.

culinary herb

I always choose organically grown herbs, like the Organic Potted Herbs we carry in the Floral Department. I think the organic herbs taste better and I like that they’re ethically grown and nutritionally sound. Two basil plants are a must because I love fresh pesto and it’s so easy to make. In addition, we’ll also have mint, chives, parsley, thyme, and oregano.

While I’m admittedly a casual cook, I seldom prepare a dish in the spring that doesn’t include at least one culinary herb from my window garden. When the honeydew melons are ripe, I pluck a stem of mint, strip the leaves, slice in strips, and sprinkle over a wedge of melon. The fruit is cold and sweet making the mint a refreshing counterpoint. The experience of preparing this also is pure pleasure as the act of stripping the mint releases its essential oils, adding an artful dimension to an ordinary morning.

Flavored vinegars are a cinch to make with fresh herbs, even for the modest cook. Pour two cups of white wine vinegar in a clean jar, add ½ cup of assorted fresh herbs, shake well, and set the jar in a cool, dry place for ten days. Strain the mixture through a cheese cloth into a clean jar and cap tightly. The herb vinegar should keep for about six months at room temperature, ready to jazz up a variety of dishes!

But why stop at the kitchen door? The use of fresh culinary herbs is limited only by the imagination. Tired tootsies? A friend of mine makes a tea with a handful of basil leaves, pours it in a basin, and soaks her feet. Basil contains a natural anti-inflammatory that will ease aches while the aroma soothes the senses. Mosquitoes a bother? Rub enough thyme between your palms to release the essential oils—the scent acts as a natural repellent. Most importantly, don’t wait for a recipe or a remedy to enjoy your fresh herbs. Pluck a leaf from the nearest plant as you go about your day, bruise between your fingers. Then breathe. Relax. Appreciate.

Why Buy Organic When it Comes to Flowers?

Customers frequently tell me that while they can understand why choosing organic and locally grown products for their tables makes a difference, they are less particular about why it matters when choosing flowers. So with that question in mind “why does organic matter?”, I spoke to some of our local growers, whose organic local bouquets you’ll see in our stores.

One of the first calls I made was to my longtime friend Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics located in Spring Valley. She and her husband Doug have been growing flowers and produce organically for more than 30 years. I asked Leslie why she chooses organic farming. “After I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I could not imagine farming any other way,” Leslie says. “It was the first book published that made a clear, meticulously researched case against the use of DDT and the dramatic and dangerous impact pesticides were having on our  environment and wildlife.”

Non-organic farmers may spray and then directly sow seeds in the field. The seedling emerge in a non-competitive environment. “One of my methods is to start seeds in the greenhouse, repotting them after seedling stage, allowing them to grow and become established. Then, I cultivate the ground and set a stronger plant into the bed. This will give it a competitive edge when weeds begin to sprout,” Leslie shares. This method is a successful alternative to using herbicides but requires more labor and materials.

Nellie Ashmore of That Girl’s Flowers, another organic grower whose flowers you’ll find at DLM, agrees. “Non-organic farmers are often able to offer products at a lower price,” Nellie says. “They will use fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that are not only less expensive but can be applied mechanically. At my farm, I use a wide variety of methods to fertilize and control pests and weeds.” She explains that fish emulsion is an excellent organic fertilizer but that it’s costly and has to be applied by hand. The same is true for the essential oils that she applies to control insects. Nellie also hand cultivates during the growing season to control weeds. So why does organic matter? Besides the reasons aforementioned, health matters, the earth matters, wildlife matters, and clean runoff from farmland matters. Organic matters because it returns something to the soil, contributing value for goods received. “Farming is not suppose to be like mining, taking resources from the land and returning nothing. If we want the land to continue to produce, then we need to nurture it, treating nature with respect and graditude”, Leslie says pointedly.