Spring has officially arrived.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, (and maybe by now in many of your regions too) cherry trees are lavishly displaying their pastel hues, daffodils are abundant, tulip bulbs are popping, magnolias are dressing up their branches, and the list goes on. This part of the west coast has already changed its seasonal calendar, and Spring is back in full force.
After a long and exceptionally wet winter, seeing new bulbs, flowers, bushes re-birthing is stimulating.
Today, I won’t be sharing with you a food recipe or a dish. Instead, I will be sharing a flower recipe.
A new book, meticulously crafted, filled with many inspirational flower recipes has just been published by Ariella Chezar with Julie Michaels, and beautifully photographed by Erin Kunkel.
Chezar chronicles a hands-on floral atelier entitled: The Flower Workshop.
Unleashing her formidable floral design, Chezar discloses her very own philosophy with step-by-step lessons on how to create ‘painterly’ flower arrangements with seasonally available flowers and foraged materials.
In the first chapter of her book she opens up with one question:
“Is there anything than can transform a moment, a morning, a mood, or a space as instantly as an array of fresh flowers? ”
Chezar avows: “This book is meant to inspire. My goal is for you to learn to create arrangements that go beyond pretty and into the realm of the dramatic, the unexpected, and sometimes even the magical.”
The Flower Workshop is divided into seasonal chapters. Paging through her book, and looking at her creations, felt so inspirational, I instantly wanted to create many of her original floral recipes, but I had to choose one.
Picturesque and so timely I anchored in the Spring chapter.
From there, given the abundance of tulips and ranunculus everywhere right now, I chose a Spring focused flower recipe, entitled Bright Orange. My very first approach was to follow her guidelines and then used the flowers that were available to me without feeling limited by what the recipe included. Therefore, this particular floral recipe is ‘amended’ from the original in The Flower Workshop.
Above all, the author clearly coaches on how she would rather know that we in essence adopt her floral philosophy (i.e., on using color, texture and seasonality) and only follow her flower recipes as a starting point. More importantly, she adds: “don’t feel limited by the flowers she has selected for a particular recipe.”
Amongst Chezar’s personal preferences, she shares:
“I’m charmed by small, gem-like bouquets in sweet little vessels like julep cups, delicate goblets, and shapely containers. Simple stems can surprise.”
With these simple guidelines, I found a julep cup (among my vases at home) and developed my own interpretation of the Bright Orange recipe.
Flowers are an intrinsic part of our lives. We feel emotionally attached to blossoms. In all truth, we love flowers.
They take a leading part in our tables, gardens, meals, celebrations, we give thanks and compliments with them, and much more. Corners at home are often filled with a flower or two either resting on a windowsill above my kitchen sink, in a pitcher adorning a side table, or in flower pots planted with perennials easily visible from home.
Over the past two decades, Chezar has worked to create iconic flower arrangements. She has taught in flower schools, flower farms, here in the country and abroad – including The Netherlands and beyond. She has been praised by many. She has even decorated the corners of an emblematic house, The White House.
Growing up, Chezar spent her youth in the countryside in western Massachusetts. She moved for some time to busy cities, later returning to the countryside, where she remains.
“Whenever I’m away from the country for too long – designing a wedding in San Francisco or New York, teaching workshops in Amsterdam or Maui, or making bouquets for a photo shoot in Chicago – I long to return to to the Berkshire hills, to the place and home where I grew up. The influence of that quiet, river-laced, vine-covered land is all over my soul…”
Recounting her memories, she continues, “my parents wanted to raise their children in a peaceful place where we would be free to play and explore. My father built our home by hand with local timber. My mother was an artist and teacher … like my father she loved making things, and had an innate appreciation for the beauty of the land. She encouraged my sister and me to run around outdoor as if it was our very own playroom. Wanting us to have direct experience with the natural world. We knew that paper came from trees because she showed us how to make it; we distilled dyes from plants and dipped beeswax candles… my mom taught us to sculpt with clay, knit with wool, bake bread, and even showed us the beauty of something as simple as laundry drying in the sun.”
I could easily envision or dream of retiring in a little gem and peaceful place like the Berkshire hills, don’t you?
After all these years, Chezar now owns a sustainable flower farm, where she grows, harvests, and cultivates many of the flowers she uses in her arrangements, assignments and teachings. She named her flower farm Zonneveld Farms, after her mother’s maiden name, which translates to “Sunny Field.”
Ariella Chezar’s floral philosophy is clearly built upon her vision and appreciation of the natural world. She terms: “my country childhood informs the way I arrange flowers. My goal is always to enhance nature.”
“Most often, the flowers themselves motive my arrangements. I would find a gorgeous new carnation that simply takes my breath away. When that happens, I will build my arrangement around this showstopper.” I find inspiration, as well, in the luscious abundance of fruits. To me working in a painterly style involves: curating usual flowers and doing so in their seasons. The life cycle of a plan has an apex, a moment when it is freshest and most replete, when it has a unique life force.”
She continues as you turn the pages in the book carefully explaining: Begin with color, design with foliage, find your focus, think texture and source seasonally and locally.
So I did.
I came home with palette of red, orange and yellow hues and followed Chezar’s philosophy for this recipe. Yet, I did not use other flowers or fruits Chezar used. I worked with what I found and I didn’t limit myself to the flowers she picked in the book.
After putting together a couple simple and seasonally-focused bouquets with a palette ranging from orange, red and yellow ranunculus using two small and similar vessels, I attempted mixing ranunculus and red and white tulips, and in the end I loved the use of a single component, rather than related flowers as other recipes delicately suggest. The intense color of the ranunculus filled the whole cup and made the use of any other foliage superfluous. To me, the hues and palette of the ranunculus made a true statement.
Studying from The Flower Workshop, anyone can attest that the book teaches within every chapter, with the same in-depth details as if it would have been presented at one of Chezar’s floral schools, being immersed in her philosophy, and deepening our own appreciation of the natural world. Chezar closes by saying:
“…I’d love to help you create the glorious fragrant, flowering profusion that’s destined for your next celebration. I hope you’ll acceptance my invitation.”
I certainly did and I’m certain that you will too.
- 7 fruited kumquat branches
- 7 Avignon Parrot tulips, or another large orange parrot variety
- 5 smaller orange parrot tulips
- 3 orange/burgundy picotee ranunculus
- 5 standard orange ranunculus
- 12 white narcissus with orange trumpets
- 3 orange Iceland poppies
- 3 green grape hyacinth, or any tips or gray-green foliage, like russian olive
- 3 tuberous nasturtium vines
- 3 Clematis Montana vines
- Trim the kumquat branches, cutting an X in the bottom of each. Cut away excess foliage. Arrange the branches and the base layer of your arrangement. Position some of the branches so the kumquat hang over the edge of the urn, with some fruits even dangling toward the table.
- Trim both types of Parrot tulips to various lengths and add to the urn. Some should stand tall; others should curve outward. Trim and add both types of ranunculus, interspersing with the tulips.
- Trim and add the narcissus individually or in groups of three. Trim and seal the poppies by burning the ends ; they will add a bright note and should be used sparingly. Add the grape hyacinth individually so they poke up like little soldiers.
- Trim the nasturtium vines and weave each one through the arrangement. Trim the Clematis Montana. One vine should curve low and touch the table. Another should reach up and halo the entire arrangement.
I have received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
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