13 November 2008

Truce: When Flowers Say it All

 

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It is no secret to faithful readers that this election season has been an exciting one in my household -  Fox News could have filmed one of Ben’s and my debates and aired it purely for comical enjoyment.   We were on opposite sides of the presidential election and most nights leading up to voting day were spent emotionally discussing the issues:  Obama’s tax plan, McCain’s choice of Palin, Obama’s inability to truly understand the Oil & Gas business, and McCain’s side on the “social issues” to name just a few juicy topics.   Some nights the noise level in my family room got quite loud.  Our debates became very personal to both of us, so I was truly ready for it all to be over so that my house could go back to its usual quietness.  Truthfully, I knew that the United States was going to be fine – no matter which candidate won.  To me, they were both honest, good and competent men.    But in my heart – I felt it was time - time for us to elect an Afro-American as President.    It just seemed to me that Obama was the “right” choice. 

The night America decided to agree with me, Ben went to bed early and didn’t watch the live television coverage from Chicago, which really disappointed me.  I believed that no matter how one felt about taxes, or abortion, or William Ayers – watching Obama give his victory speech was something that should have been mandatory in every home – it was history that we Americans made that night.   Instead, I watched it alone.

And so, even as I said I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to be over so that things could get back to normal in my house, nothing really changed.  Until, that is, when a few days later the doorbell rang and a huge arrangement of flowers was delivered.  The card read:  “Congratulations on the Election.  I love you, Ben.”

Aw, is he not the sweetest man in the world?  Nothing like a bouquet of flowers to wipe away a few months of “discussions.”  And wipe them away, the flowers surely did.  That night Ben came home all smiles, and I was all smiles and we both declared Truce - for the next four years.

 

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The arrangement of flowers Ben sent me congratulating me on the election.  Actually, they were the equivalent of a peace pipe, a true symbol of a truce.

 

After the excitement of the flower delivery wore down, I kept circling around and looking at them.   Years and years ago, 20 to be exact, in the first apartment we lived together as newlyweds, our downstairs neighbors owned a popular and very chi-chi florist company.  Though we only lived there for a year, it was a very floral year.  One of the owners really took a liking to Ben (like everyone does) and used to bring him flowers almost weekly.  It was wonderful.  For twenty years, they have been our go-to florist whenever we’ve needed to send something special for a birthday or some other occasion.   For all those years, we’ve always been pleased with their work.  But last Friday, I kept thinking, gee – this arrangement is really not up to par.  It was just a mishmash of pink, purple, lavender and white flowers  thrown together – without any of the florists’ usual uniqueness.   I wondered what Ben had actually ordered over the phone.  Ben is a very humble man, not flashy by any stretch of the imagination.  He also is not a complainer - he’s not one to send his meal back to the kitchen for any reason, nor would he ever question a floral arrangement.   And, of course, neither would I ever complain to Ben about such a thoughtful gesture.   He’s sensitive about those things and thinks I am judgmental enough.   I knew to keep my mouth shut.   

 

So, imagine my surprise when later the evening I heard Ben say, “these flowers really aren’t that pretty.  They look like something you would get in the hospital.”  Exactly, my dear!    The floral varieties by themselves were pretty enough, but together, they were just a mess, certainly not something that Eddie Ross would ever create.  After some discussion, Ben admitted he never really knows what to order when the florist asks him what he wants to send out.   So, after 20 years, he got a lesson in flower ordering.   In all honesty, I had never really thought about it much either.  But, given the opportunity to really be honest with my husband, I told him  – it’s always better to just order one type of flower – a dozen or two roses is always great.  Especially nice is to order the roses without a vase.  Who needs another cheap florist vase any way?   Or instead of roses, order a dozen tulips.   Or instead of fresh flowers – order a potted orchid, or a hydrangea plant.  For something I hadn’t really thought about before – I certainly had a lot of ideas!   But really – what is best to order from a florist, or to pick out at the corner flower stand?  What makes up a fool-proof delivery of flowers?

 

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A dozen peach roses is always welcome in my house – especially when they are wrapped in paper and tied with raffia.   Enough of cheap floral vases!   Isn’t this a much prettier presentation?

 

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There is nothing more romantic than roses arriving in a beautiful long, white box, tied with a ribbon.

 

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Imagine opening the door to a few dozen of these old garden roses in varying shades of pink?   Many florists in California sells these varieties over the internet.  Rose Story Farm is one such company that sells fabulous, old fashioned roses like these.

 

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– better yet, plan a trip Carpinteria to tour Rose Story Farm’s acres of blooms!

 

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Or, you can always bribe a friend with rose bushes to let you cut a few of the blooms to surprise a spouse. 

 

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Simple and elegant:   one color, one dozen roses:  order orange colored ones for fall. 

 

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Another good color for fall is a mixture of orange and yellow roses. 

 

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Pale lavender roses are gorgeous no matter what season – and a personal favorite of mine.

 

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Or try a mixture of light and dark pinks and lilacs with white roses.  So beautiful!

 

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A sure bet to order from is Martha Stewart.  There are a plethora of choices on her web site – some come in wonderful vases like this one made of mercury glass.   Stewart  has a “one arrangement a month” program – a gift that lasts for  year.  I’ve always wanted to give that to someone.  Maybe this Christmas………?!!

 

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Instead of fresh flowers that will die within a week, order a rose plant – these are from Martha Stewart. 

 

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Lately one of my favorite bouquets of roses is one of each color – something my best friend Lisa has given me on my birthday.

 

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Californian designer Lynn Von Kersting puts arrangements of old garden variety roses throughout her house.  These romantic blooms match the feel of her decor. 

 

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Roses are a staging staple for design magazines.  Here in a Gerrie Bremermann room, dozens of white roses fill a baptism font.

 

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Again, Gerrie Bremermann uses yellow roses to blend with the colors in this room.

 

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Veranda used light pink roses in Pam Pierce’s all white living room. 

 

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Suzanne Kasler uses a small arrangement of pink roses in her pink and khaki dining room.

 

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Besides roses – a great flower to send is tulips.  Either French or Parrot tulips – both are beautiful.

 

 

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Parrot tulips are ruffled like these.   Tulips are a great choice – a few or many.  This is a large bouquet – a smaller number of tulips can be just a pretty.

 

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But then again, a large box of mixed French tulips would be most welcome!!!  If you are having a party, consider ordering a large box of flowers online such as this.    It’s a great savings. 

 

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A dozen parrot tulips- tulips are most beautiful when they start to fall over like this.

 

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Many interior designers use tulips in their presentation.  Here Dan Carithers, an interior designer from Atlanta uses peach tulips in a yellow and blue room.  I love this shade – it almost is the color of skin.

 

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Interior Designer Diane Burn uses an antique tuliper to hold her dozen tulips which are perfectly bent over.

 

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Jeffrey Bilhuber’s French tulips match the decor exactly.    This room without the bouquet of tulips would not seem quite as finished.

 

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Gerrie Bremermann used peach colored tulips in this antique silver bowl.

 

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Babs Watkins, from Houston, mixed white parrots with hydrangeas in this dining room in River Oaks.

 

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As always, when sending out flowers, order them wrapped in paper – this is beautiful enough.

 

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Sometimes, instead of sending fresh flowers, I like to order potted orchids.  They last up to two or three months and look wonderful in any decor – traditional or contemporary.  Here a white phalaenopsis orchid is potted in a red oriental wood bucket.

 

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An orange cymbidium orchid is perfect for the fall season and is available in stores now.

 

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White orchids look particularly pretty in a blue and white pot.

 

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A great gift is fresh orchid stems – though they don’t last as long as the plant, they do last much longer than fresh cut flowers.

 

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Californian designer Michael S. Smith used yellow orchids in his famous Portuguese styled home.  The  yellow plays perfectly off the blue and white tiles.

 

 

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In the spring, the prettiest flower you can order is the peony.   Here is a bouquet in a vase that is decorated with peonies.  Is there anything more beautiful than this?

          

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A smaller bouquet is every bit as pretty.

 

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Or, bring home one stem on a special occasion  – beautiful!

 

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A bouquet with deep pink peonies pops in a monochromatic room.  Notice how the stylist added the hot pink throw in the atrium.

 

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In a California guest cottage, Michael Smith used a pale pink peony bouquet that blends with the decor.  Another bouquet of roses sits on the side table.  This room gets better with each viewing.  The lighting choices are impeccable – the oversized lantern, the black reading  fixture and the creamy porcelain table lamp.    Most amazingly, the fabric is actually bedspreads purchased from Urban Outfitters and upholstered to the walls and used for the curtains and upholstery.

 

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Suzanne Kasler’s famous pink dining room features a deep pink peony bouquet that picks up the colors in the painting.

 

 

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The hydrangea plant is a favorite with just about everyone.  Ordering a single plant in a pretty clay pot is a gift that keeps on giving.  The plant can be transplanted outdoors after the blooms are finished – thus this one flower delivery can actually last a lifetime.  My favorite colors are the blues and purples first – but I also love the “antique” hydrangea colors.

 

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  An inexpensive straw basket is a great thing to include with an hydrangea order.

 

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Make a grand statement with mass of plants in large, matching pot.

 

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Once the blooms have faded, plant the hydrangeas outside to enjoy for years to come.   Luscious!

 

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White hydrangeas in  gorgeous patinaed urn.

 

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  Veranda magazine likes to feature hydrangeas on it’s covers.  Here – a home in California designed by Houstonian Renea Abbott.  A cover like this makes it hard to resist buying the magazine.

 

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  And again, in a home in Galveston designed by Babs Watkins.

 

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And, here mixed with snaps, in a Dallas home designed by Houstonian Jane Moore for her daughter and son in law.

 

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In the same living room as the above Veranda cover, Jane Moore used hydrangeas as the only color in the room beside seafoam green.

 

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I love to dry the antique hued hydrangeas – here in a home designed by Shannon Bowers in Dallas – a large metal bucket holds a mass of dried hydrangeas.

 

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In my own home, when in season, I try to keep blue hydrangeas in two different places – first, on my wine tasting table in the entry area.

 

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And second, another plant in my breakfast room inside a white ironstone vase.  I love the blues against all the white. 

 

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In fact, I love hydrangeas so much that for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah invitation, I decided to go against the glitzy trend and instead chose an invitation which featured hydrangea blooms with a ribbon in antique hydrangea colors.

 

 

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OK – so I’ll really play the proud parent now!  At Elisabeth’s Bat Mitzvah luncheon, my mom Betty Rae and I ordered this huge arrangement for the center table.  It was all pink (the colors are really off in this picture) – roses, peonies, stocks, and who knows what else.  That’s my large iron urn that we used for the vase.  Actually Lizzy is standing on a chair here – the flowers towered over her!  And of course as soon as Betty Rae arrived, she removed those pink bows the florist had used for decoration.   I’ve always wondered what the photographer said to Lizzy to make her pose like this – she looks like one of the girls on The Price is Right showcasing the grand prize!

 

 

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My daughter was born in spring, in late March, and for her birth I received two beautiful flower arrangements that remain my all time favorites.  The first is what my parents sent me in the hospital -  an large arrangement of French tulips – that perfect peach hue which is almost flesh colored.  At my wedding reception the flowers were roses and tulips – so ever since then, those two flowers have had a special meaning for us!   

The other arrangement I received in the hospital was from Ben, the proud but exhausted new father (yes!  HE was exhausted!)  Ben, of course,  ordered the flowers from the same florists that botched his Election Day Truce bouquet.  For Elisabeth’s birth – his florist friend informed him that they had flowering branches of dogwood.  Now, being from Texas, we don’t have dogwood here.  In fact, before that day, I had never seen it before.   The dogwood branches that were delivered to the hospital were the most gorgeous flowers I have ever received before or since.  The pale pink flowering branches were huge and took up so much space in the small room  – everything else was dwarfed by their size, including my tiny 5 lb baby girl.   I was amazed and overwhelmed by their beauty and by the fact that Ben had sent something so extravagant – not in cost, but in sheer lavishness.  Generally, Ben is a very understated person, but I suppose the grandness of his gesture matched his emotions.    Being as Elisabeth is an only child, it seems fitting that the dogwoods were a one-time occurrence, never matched again.  If he ever did send me dogwoods again, it would somehow take away from the specialness of that occasion.

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Suzanne Rheinstein used a small, flowering potted dogwood in this Virginian house.   I wonder if the owners later planted it on their property?

 

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A southern bedroom with an arrangement of dogwood branches.

 

 

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And finally – sometimes flowers aren’t the only way to say what you want to.  I wasn’t the only one who received a surprise last week.  Lizzy’s boyfriend sent her a balloon bouquet!   What a festive way to say – I’m sorry, I love you, Happy Birthday, or Congratulations on the Election – whichever applies.

 

What’s you favorite flower or arrangement to get from your significant other?  Did I list it here?  Do you have one memorable arrangement that you will never forget – like my dogwood branches?