February 17, 2022
The Gift of Flowers: How to Host Your Own Floral Workshop
As we anticipate the arrival of spring, we’re sharing an inspiring story that celebrates the gift of flowers along with tips on how to host your own floral workshop! This article was originally published in Mingle Winter 2019.
Growing up, my parents’ garden overflowed with flowers and vegetables. My mother would make arrangements for the dining room table, kitchen counter, and each of our bedside tables. Even after our house was filled with blooms, there were still buckets left over. She always kept a stash of mismatched vases in the laundry room, and those would be filled up and loaded into the car. Together we would set off to visit her girlfriends. The gift of flowers meant a leisurely visit on the front porch to catch up.
As a floral designer I love sourcing blooms from across the globe, but it’s the flowers from my garden that remind me of driving with my mother down country lanes on warm summer days. I wanted to share this experience with my own friends, inviting them for a morning of making beautiful arrangements followed by a relaxing lunch at a long table, sharing stories and laughing.
Just across the field from us is Audley Farm, built circa 1760. This 3,000-acre farm is nestled west of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River in Virginia. On the farm is Audley House. In its long history many families have called it home, including Nellie Custis Lewis, the granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-granddaughter of George Washington. With its back porch overlooking the mountains and long center hall, it was the perfect space for our floral get-together.
I set up long tables on the porch and an array of blooms from my garden, including dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, and celosia. To make the selection more sumptuous, I reached out to two of my local flower-farmer friends who sent bunches of beautiful blooms for us. To get started, I gave a quick demonstration on how to set the shape and tell a color story with flowers. We spent the morning creating, admiring each other’s arrangements in progress, and enjoying the sun. As each arrangement was finished, fine art photographer Krysta Norman captured portraits of us with our flowers in one of the light-filled hallways of the house.
We set up a series of long wooden tables in the center hall for lunch. With the doors at each end opened, a wonderful breeze kept us cool — 18th-century air conditioning! Lunch came from a local country store specializing in farm-to-table dishes. Letterpress printer and designer Cathleen Titcomb designed stunning menus. After photographs, each arrangement was placed on the table and soon we were lost in a sea of blooms. When it was time to head home, each guest left with flowers and favors curated by Elizabeth Mock of Modern Mercantile: a Rifle Paper Co. journal, a set of Liberty of London pencils, floral clippers, and an apron from Portland Apron Company.
Tips for Hosting a Floral Workshop:
- Get to know your local flower farmer at the farmers market. She can help organize blooms for you. Be sure to include plenty of foliage. Tree branches, honeysuckle vines, herbs, boxwood, hydrangea, ferns, and ornamental grasses can be easily found in your garden.
- You can plan ahead and plant a small cutting garden in the spring to ensure
blooms all summer long. Many seed varieties do well in containers if you are
short on space.
- Ask your friends to each bring a bunch of flowers, preferably from their
gardens, to share.
- Thrift stores are a great place to pick up inexpensive, interestingly shaped vases. I keep an assortment of vases just for house arrangements, many of which were given to me by my mother.
- Keep the menu simple with a fabulous dessert. I love making a rustic fig tart for my girlfriends when we gather. With all these flowers, the table decor is taken care of and you don’t need to plan any additional details.
Julie Abrera is the owner and creative behind Beaumont House Design, a floral design studio in Berryville, Virginia. To learn more, follow her on Instagram (@beaumonthousedesign).