Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chronicle of a Black Bouquet

Last night I nestled into bed with one of my favourite books on flowers; "Sensational Bouquets". The book was created and written by one of the world's best and most original florists, Christian Tortu. I happened to be looking for inspiration for an upcoming event thinking to myself Monsieur Tortu will definitely inspire me.

As I casually flipped the pages perusing one beautiful floral arrangement after another, I eventually found myself  at the end of the book reading the chapter "Chronicle of a Black Bouquet". I had previously read it with passing interest. But this time it struck a chord. I was instantly reminded of the devastating fires this past summer here in Canada on the west coast, the California fires near Los Angeles, as well the wild fires in Australia, Spain and Italy.

Flowers taken from the burnt landscape and made into a bouquet.

Monsieur Tortu's words on a deadly forest fire in the south of France 1999.....

July 1999: the Alpilles are on fire; a strong wind spreads the horror at a mind blowing rate. An entire region is taken aback, and the roads are blocked. It's impossible to know the size of the blaze, to know where the devastating wave has struck. Man is forced to acknowledge his impotence before such wild forces.

It is suspected that an arsonist's hand is the cause of the disaster. Outrage, disgust, and also shame because man is responsible for many forest fires every year. Does he need to burn part of himself to this extent? Does he need to think for just one moment that he can dominate nature?

We have scheduled our first photographs for this book (Sensational Bouquets) to be taken at this time. We of course feel the need to testify through a bouquet composed of plant life from the desolate area. We are not out to record final images of the site, for we know that the land will revive.

In the weeks and months following this apocalypse, the landscape is in mourning. Black predominated at all levels. The holiest of trees, one hundred year old olive trees, were but pantomimes barely standing out against a background of gray, brown and black. 

I painfully remember a herd of boars, adults and little ones, wandering aimlessly along the road, bewildered of what they had seen of hell.......For miles and miles, it seemed like the end of the world.

A year later: the same roads, the same paths. Seen from afar, all is green again, a green that is unknown around here, almost worrisome. A uniform colour, bordering on yellow. Vegetation has changed........

For a second, one would think that nature had taken its place again. It's not true. Gone is the metallic green gray of the olive trees, gone is the very particular green of the burgeoning vineyard, the darker green of the changing light hitting the holm oak and pine trees. Only charred silhouettes haunt this luner landscape. A few trees yielded some shoots.......We will never see the Alpilles that we knew again. Time is against us.

We tend to forget that nature is fragile. We crave domination, and this surpasses all of our ancestral fears........

Dead fish, naked trees, tides of many colours, deadly haze on the horizon. All our indignation is in vain if we are not deeply concious of our every act. Serious, often irreparable, whether it damages or builds, nature belongs to a time that outlives our own existence.

Life is so fragile. 

To my late sister Catherine. Miss you.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Something old should become new again.....

Well..... I'm going to go out on a limb here by admitting that I rather quite like cascading bouquets. They have been out of fashion for so long that I think it's about time we revisited this flower style. Mind you, I'm not speaking of the stiff cascades that seemed to be immensely popular in the 1940's, 50's and 60's. Unfortunately the poor flowers were wired to near death and had no natural flow or feeling to them. 

When meeting with a bride, if I sense she might be open to the idea, I love to suggest a contemporary version of the cascade. Our bouquet would be looser and softer, with oodles of style and personality.

A gorgeous bouquet of orange, apricot and ivory roses with chinese lantern branches. Such  a beautiful idea for an early autumn/Indian summer wedding.

What an incredibly sumptuous gathering of sweet peas. I think this would be divine to hold. It's not heavy, but it would feel luxurious and it's definitely gorgeous.

Again, sweet peas. This time covered with fine netting. Love it !

Classically speaking..... a bride should be tall, and her dress quite full and dramatic to carry a full cascade. However, as you can see in the photos above, even a simply styled, modern dress can carry this look. 

Now, if you happen to be 5'6'' or shorter, simply adjust the volume and cascade of flowers to a level that gives balance and good proportion . The idea is to have a soft flow of flowers. So even if it's just a few dangles of ivy trails or vines, it will be elegant.

Stephanotis vines with leaves.

An eclectic bouquet of cattleya orchids, jasmine vines, ferns, lily of the valley and lady slipper orchids. 

Admittedly they can be cost prohibitive as they're very labour intensive. At our studio, a full cascade bouquet starts at $ 250.00. But they are beautiful, romantic and extremely chic.

A cascade of bougainvillea blossoms. I'm in love with this bouquet. It is so rare and so lush.

A classic bride, full skirt dress and romantic surroundings. A perfect combination for an extravagant bouquet of foliages and trailing ivy.

Another example of a contemporary fall featuring orchids and stephanotis vines. Exquisite.

Bride's attendant.... great look and wonderful bouquet.

A beautifully arranged cascade featuring roses, vines and gardenias.

So, if you are in the midst of planning for your wedding and your flowers, do give some consideration to this loveliest of lovely bouquet styles. It is sophisticated, elegant and romantic. And may I add, a fashionable choice right about now.

Photo credits: Martha Stewart Weddings, Shane Connolly Weddings, Marcel Wolterinck Weddings

Monday, September 21, 2009

Call me old fashioned but....

Grace Kelly on her wedding day 1956
Isn't this the most beautiful portrait of a modern bride ?

I've seen some fabulous photographs and paintings of brides and weddings, but this.......this is exquisite. And you know what? The glamorous occasion happened 53 years ago. Yes, indeed. And..... it's still gorgeous to look at!

Some details: 

Her gown was a gift from MGM studios;

It consisted of 25 yards of silk taffeta;
100 yards of silk net, peau de soie; and
125 year old Belgian rose point lace;

It took 36 seamstresses to create Miss Kelly's gown;

She wore a Juliet cap with seed pearls and orange blossoms sewn in.

She carried a small bible with a delicate posy of lily of the valley .


A little sidenote:  I read on Wikipedia that her family provided a dowry of $2,000, 000.00 in order for the marriage to go ahead. Is this really true?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Romantic rainy weddings

Personally, I love the rain. Mind you, I wouldn't want an entire season of it, but I do love the moody nature of it all. The sound of a light drizzle hitting the roof makes me want to get all cozy - make tea, delve into a great book or just languish about with a pile of favourite magazines and perhaps a wonderful glass of something. Even a dramatic burst of thunder followed by a heavy downpour brings out the kid (or TOAST model) in me. I suppose it's the element of surprise and the unexpected pursuit of suddenly running for cover and giddily laughing along the way. Blame it on TOAST, my childhood, whatever.

Anyway, despite what some grumpy Brits (that would be my relatives by the way) might think about their own weather system, I happen to find it rather romantic.

Brides nearly always want a perfect sunny day for their wedding and worry about inclement weather imposing on planned events. Particularily an outdoor wedding. We try to reassure them that a rainy day wedding is far from being a spoiler. For one thing, it's a known fact that photography is best on an overcast or rainy day. And in some cultures rain on your wedding day is a sign of good luck. Ok maybe that's a stretch.......Well maybe it is, who knows !

We've certainly had our share of rainy weddings. But you know what ? They were really lovely. Here's a few snapshots we took.......

Miller Lash House, an Arts and Crafts manor in Highland Creek (Toronto)

I love this house. It is sooo gorgeous. Even the rain doesn't distract from its beauty. In fact I think it only adds to the romance of the place. It has such lovely paths and is surrounded by incredible lush greenery and huge evergreens. The landscape has a slight rolling hilliness about it.

It was a tented affair in the garden. We did simple, lush peony bouquets for centrepieces. I actually loved the sound of the rain gently falling on the tent. Everyone just quietely worked away at setting up.

Snapshot of peony bouquet at the studio.

The bridal flowers

This garden wedding took place at the bride's family home located in a gorgeous neighbourhood in Toronto known as Hoggs Hollow. It's a little hidden Eden in the north part of town and has the some of the loveliest homes and gardens.

The home (though you don't see it in the picture) has a charming white picket fence and you're only seeing a very small portion of the front garden. It was so lush and green (wet summer). That's me pointing my finger somewhere towards the house.The sky was overcast and yes, it did rain that evening.

The back garden had a pool that had to be covered over to accomodate the guest tables, the band and bar. The tenting was quite lovely.

The company that erected the tent allowed for the
Japanese Maples and other foliages to be part of the setting. Isn't it pretty ?

The flowers included hydrangeas, dahlias, roses and orchids with ivy tendrils.

A bouquet of dahlias and ivy wrap with black silk ribbon.

All photographs taken by David Evans

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Great style never goes out of style...

Menswear clothing shop Harry Rosen is one of our clients.

Their flagship shop on Bloor Street in Toronto is absolutely  gorgeous. Newly renovated, the shop is an exquisitely culled collection of boutiques representing the best in men's clothing. The shop is so well regarded that Tom Ford has a boutique here which is so sumptuous even the dressing rooms are extraodinarily decorated. Apparently it is a mini version of his shop in NYC.

But there are other major and long established fashion houses inside HR (not to be confused with Holt Renfrew) that have their own boutiques. They include Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Canali, Ermenegilda Zegna and Brunello Cucinelli. In fact, one of the special event days recently involved a visit from one of the world's finest tailors. The staff were soooo excited, and I must admit, it all felt rather glamorous. 

Anyway, the reason I tell you this is that I never thought of menswear shops as being interesting. But I have to say, each time I am there at HR, I am overwhelmed by the quality, styling and the attention to detail in men's clothing. The Italians in particular are outstanding and I would guess the best in the world. The cloths, silks, colour and pattern combinations are so incredible. So suffice it to say, each time I am there I tell myself I must dress better. 

Buying great quality clothing is never a waste of money. It is an investment. You WILL wear it for years to come. Because...... great style, quality and craftsmanship never go out of style.

Photo taken from Harry Rosen magazine "harry".
Everything about this gentlemen's outfit says first class. He could have had this jacket for five years, 1 year or just bought it today and it would look this good. This is sexy, no ?

Photo taken from Canali website.
Well, yes of course it's an adverstisement. And very on trend. Yet classic. The checks, stripes and diagonal stripes work. It's very chic, has individual style written all over it and yet, still classic.

So, the following is my fantasy wish list of quality, classic clothing for the upcoming coming fall season. 

Two design houses that dominate the fall season for me are Dries Van Noten and Brunello Cucinelli.

Dries Van Noten..... the great Belgian designer..... his clothes represent all the things I would love to wear whilst staying in town. Van Noten's superb use of colour and sophisticated styling are brilliant. And I love the nod to the 40's. Watch his runway show on line. I love the "film noir" approach on the catwalk.

And... for the country.....Brunello Cucinelli... Cashmere, hammered leathers and resplendent silks are their stock in trade.....

Oh, those gorgeous Italians !!!

I absolutely love this outfit ! The boots, the bag, the jacket. And oh, did I mention the cashmere tights ?

Fabulous !

Very fabulous !

Fabulous, fabulous !


Mmm... this could be a very town outfit. Ok, that bag is killing me.

Yes ok, this could also be a town outfit. Do you love the extremely long leather gloves ? 

Quality and classic styling should always be your benchmark. That's going to be my rule from now on. I know we can't all afford a full wardrobe of cashmere and silk clothes and spend silly amounts of money. But one great coat, one great dress, a fabulous bag and some amazing shoes/boots and you have the basics for an elegant, sophisticated look for years to come.

Saturday, September 5, 2009 not required

As autumn approaches, I find myself drawn to the very textural and earthy elements that come with the season. Branches, foliages, berries and grapevines all seem to have their fashion moment at this time of year.

The berried branches are perfect here. The room is more handsome and serious as a result. A bowl of roses or mixed arrangement might have intruded on the masculine aspects of the furnishings. These, on the other hand only enhance the other pieces.

Ahhh, this is spectacular and so unexpected at a wedding ceremony. It probably would have been easier to introduce colour and flowers to such a neutral interior. However, in the right hands, a fabulous display has been created. This is a brave choice and all the more rewarding for it. Go for drama when the opportunity presents itself.

Of course the beautiful old stone oil jar is the star here, but the crabapple stems and the cardoon leaves invoke a very relaxed, disarrayed feeling. Yet, I might add, it still feels so elegant.

Have you noticed yet ? That very stunnning bouquet in the green vase on the floor is basically a roadside weed in many parts of the country.....good old Queen Anne's Lace. In Britain, they call it wild carrot, which I love. Doesn't it look impossibly chic in that vase ?

And the bride's bouquet?

A sumptuous cascade of fluffy lamb's ears, scented geranium leaves, clematis seed heads and hosta leaves. Brilliant!

A very contemporary approach to a wedding ceremony and reception. With their leaves just starting to sprout, lofty branches of whitebeam make a striking impact in this art gallery space. 

And the bride's bouquet?

A perfect white camellia blossom. Sublime.
(our one flower inclusion)

These looks aren't for everyone or every venue. However, the key things to bear in mind in the coming months are natural, organic, textural and interesting. Think handsome, spare, sophisicated and elegant.

Picture # 1: House and Garden; # 2:Fete,The Wedding Experience; #3, 4, 5, 6 and 7: Shane Connolly Wedding Flowers


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