weeder’s digest: seasonal with capitol S

Every year my friends and I say something stupid like “this is going to be the BEST summer ever!” and then high five, maybe pull out a stick of Juicy Fruit and run through a fire hydrant or something. Every year except this year. Some packed up and left town. They adopted pets. They’re fasting.

Like clockwork, on the first of July I sit down with my favorite pair of jeans. We have a heart to heart, and then I carelessly snip them into shorts. Regret sets in 20 minutes later…”What have I DONE?!”

I sit inside on my day off and stare at the dog listening to Arthur Russell, postulating on gay singers who sing about girls. In a state of confusion I call some of my brides to see if they want to hang out. “We need to discuss boutonnieres! Wanna meet up for a drink? What are you going to wear?” What little professional edge I had just fizzled.

Lately I’ve been on the wedding chain gang. (Which is not a bad place to be as a florist; ye shall make hay while the sun shineth so to speak.) But I’m about to get off – the heat of summer deters many brides. With my extra time I’ve been able to fully appreciate some of summer’s first flowers. My mother’s garden is a racket of daylilies, foxglove and yarrow. Zinnias are starting to show up at the farmer’s market. Amaranthus, sea holly, asclepius, summertime hydrangea line the street in the flower district. Some of these make it into our designs at work, some are just admired in passing.

We all talk a lot lately about Seasonality in reference to food and flowers. Many of my clients are concerned with things being seasonal for 2 reasons: they want to be eco-friendly with their flower budgets, and they want to keep those budgets low. Our flower world is far from seasonal. Yes, we have peonies in spring, dahlias in summer, hydrangea in fall. But we also have roses, freesia, tulips, orchids, stock, snapdragons, and lilies year-round. To make a flower arrangement in February seasonally we would be limited to evergreens and maybe a locally grown anemone.

To complicate things even more, consider a popular flower like the peony. We’re about done with peonies on the East Coast this week, the last coming in from Vermont, and the north. But they’re still available from Holland, and will be for another 2 weeks. In mid winter we’ll get 6 weeks of peonies from New Zealand. Expensive and somewhat second rate, these peonies bear a hefty carbon footprint. Another example is the Ranunculus, a greenhouse flower that has enjoyed the spotlight for the last few years. Ranuncula are typically eclipsed by May due to warmer temperatures. Now we get them through the summer grown in the Kenyan highlands. Despite the long travel – (most African flowers make a pit stop in Holland and are sold through the international flower market in Aalsmeer before landing in New York) – these flowers hover at the same price regardless of their origin. Your Jersey Ranuncula in April is the same price as the Jet-Set Kenyan in July. Go figure. It makes the conversation about Seasonality ever more complicated. You don’t always save money when you ask for seasonal flowers.

My dilemma is this: I like to use a big mix of different flowers. Always. July, November, March. So often I sacrifice my ethos and snag the Japanese clematis because they are so damn beautiful, and at the end of the day, it’s my job to make things beautiful. But I would like to do my job in a greener way.

And that champange wasn’t local either BTW…

  1. PFox says:

    Your arrangements are incredible. Thanks for clarifying the concept of “seasonality” with regards to flowers.

  2. Amber says:

    You are hilarious! I also cut some jeans into jean shorts this summer- have no denim-related regrets! Jean shorts are awesome and look great on summer-loving florists. ; )

  3. ellynelly says:

    Interesting feature..thanks for that :o) Photo’s as always so very beautiful..gosh we just love flowers. Cheers, Elaine & Nell :o)

  4. erin says:

    i’ve been thinking a lot of seasonal flowers lately…so glad you unpacked all of this business about where our flowers come from, here…definitely food for thought!

  5. erin says:

    {p.s. i also just made cut-offs…isn’t it a bummer that cutting off the bottom half of a pair of jeans that i didn’t like to begin with didn’t somehow make them more lovable. darn. too afraid to cut up my faves. ok, now i’m done}.

  6. sarah says:

    I especially love the top photo. The pop of pink really takes that arangement into the extraordinary.

  7. everyone is amazed that I still have huge bunches of peonies from my garden, i think we are REALLY behind in the catskills!

  8. Heidi says:

    Fabulous post-thanks!

  9. emmy-ray says:

    I love, love, love your flowers. I am just starting out in the flower biz. I figured why not turn my love of them into a job I also love. Keep writing, I’ll keep reading!

  10. annie says:

    Thank you for the explaination we have been trying do seasonal flowers at the cafe and spent 3 months with a jar full of cruely willow….but now we are on to blackeyed susans-your work is beautiful.

  11. Sprout says:

    I feel your seasonal pain! I just composed my own list of seasonal flowers, hoping it will be of use to someone out there who is planning a green wedding.


    It’s not easy being green! Not easy, but not impossible, if you’re willing to compromise. :-)

  12. caroline says:

    such an interesting post, sarah – thanks!

  13. natalie says:

    hello Sarah, I just wanted to tell you that i await Fridays (or sometimes Saturday mornings as i’m in Australia) for your Weeder’s Digest posts. Your arrangements, and the photos which capture them, are always so stunning, and I just loved the recent video post (More please? A deconstruction of that first photo this week? Beautiful!). For me floristry is no longer defined by images of bad, overblown wedding arrangements to design-oriented beauty (my misperception in the first place I’m sure). I am so inspired that I will be switching careers and studying floristry soon. Thankyou so much.

  14. Amen, sister!! I couldn’t agree more and just wish I could communicate all of that so well to my brides who want to be seasonal-at low costs of course!! Maybe I’ll just refer them to your great article this week!! Thank you for this post.

  15. Anna says:

    I always enjoy looking at your arrangements. They are unexpected, full and beautiful. Thank you.

  16. Kay Hable says:

    I search for your “weed” each week!!! Am jealous that you have so many lovely flowers to pick from… Texas is so hot and our yards are only full of potato vine, lantana, pentas, and blackeyed susans… but we do have the most beautiful crepe myrtles.. wish we could share at this time of the year.. Thanks for your lovely photography… each time you write…

  17. Caitlin says:

    I really enjoy your all posts, and I think it’s so great to explain the local/seasonal flower situation the way you did.

    Keep the sustainability conversation going and maybe things will change, at least a little!

  18. Jo says:

    I think we all talk about our good intentions when it comes to being environmentally responsible. But when it comes down to it, we are all pretty spoiled. We’re used to getting what we want, when we want it. That is never going to change unless its a forced change (as in a depression or such). But at least the idea is in the forefront of conversations these days. I guess that says something about how we are feeling about our own accountability. And that’s a good thing.

  19. Laura says:

    I am getting married on aug 1st and am planning on getting all of my flowers from the Pike Place Market here in Seattle. There are tons of locally grown flowers available from local farms, and even though they don’t last as long as the professional florist flowers, I think it is totally worth it! And they are so beautiful to boot!

  20. Angela says:

    This is an older article but still relevant, and it sums up quite a few of the dilemmas of non-seasonal flowers. Supporting these companies is essentially like supporting a throw-back to colonialism. You have first world nations dictating prices and demand while paying those in developing nations extraordinarily low wages for work that is quite often destroying the local environment. Then to add to that these products are shipped all over the world, further contributing to pollution. Not to be a debbie downer… it’s a gray area and a difficult thing to really feel you can make an impact on. Anyway, to end things on a brighter note: I love your flower arrangements – they are truly beautiful. And I am just as guilty of buying non-local/non-seasonal products as anyone else – it’s hard not to!


  21. Jennie says:

    Well said! Was wondering though if you’ve ever sought out local flower farmers to supply your wedding designs? Like those that often show up at Union Square in NYC? Especailly right now in July there is an abundance of material to work with and really just about all flowers bought directly from the farmer are going to be cheaper. Not only does that help the bride’s budget, it also allows people like me ( I am a flower grower and designer in Philly) to make a living doing what I love. :-)

    BTW, it’s been a great summer for local flowers so far! Just today I picked nigella, globe thistle, hydrangea, snaps, scabiosa, sweet peas, larkspur, yarrow, echinacea, hyssop, zinnias and many more buckets of beauties.


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