Sound Garden: Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend

by SarahB

Photos by Maxwell Tielman

Welcome back to Sound Garden! This week’s musical inspiration is a study in paradox. Matthew Sweet’s third album, Girlfriend, was released in 1991 and is a shining example of utterly listenable power pop. Many critics have lauded it as among the best albums of the 1990s. This is all well and good, except for the fact that it is an album entirely devoted to his painful divorce. If you listen to the lyrics and themes closely and ignore the bright guitar and upbeat rhythms, Sweet’s sadness is revealed. I seem to have a yen for albums like this; much of Stevie Wonder’s early work features heavy lyrics paired with gorgeous, lofty music. We can take some time at a later date to speculate about the complexity of my musical taste, but for now, on to the flowers! :)

I’m on a sugary sweet hangover from Valentine’s Day, so I selected some real beauties this week. The photograph on the cover of the album is of Tuesday Weld (an actress from the 1950s), and I just love her knowing look and vintage fur collar. Because the image is so soft, cozy and romantic, I chose blooms that not only matched the muted palette but also reflected the feathery textures.

Follow along with me after the jump as I take you through a “craft” for non-crafters (like me!). We will wrap up a vase just like Tuesday Weld is wrapping herself up on Girlfriend‘s cover. And I will demonstrate a floral arrangement that includes sweet, feminine blooms and, as always, a hint of spiky texture. — Sarah

The full post continues after the jump . . .

Flowers from left to right: ranunculus, Black Beauty sweetheart rose, protea, chocolate cosmos

Above are the “showcase” blooms for our arrangement.

Flowers from left to right: lilac, dusty miller, lavender, sumac

Above are the supporting players.

Although I am forever crazy about mercury glass vessels, I decided I wanted something softer and warmer for this particular arrangement. Using a thick silk-wired ribbon, I wrapped the vase from top to bottom.

First, I took a strip of clear, sticky floral adhesive that you can find at any floral supply or craft store. There are two kinds of floral adhesive. The first comes in green and has a silly putty-like texture. This adhesive is good for keeping taper candles secure in candelabras, “gluing” a large floral arrangement to a pedestal vase, etc. The second kind is used here. It is clear and has the texture of very thick rubber cement. It is stretchy and very, very sticky. You could also substitute a glue gun, but on a non-porous surface, I often find it difficult to get the ribbon to stick.

I folded the ribbon under so I got a clean edge, fastened the strip of floral tape to the underside and simply stuck that end to the top rim of the vase. Then I carefully and tightly began to wrap the ribbon in layers down the surface of the vase while slowly spinning it. When I got to the bottom of the vase, I simply repeated folding the ribbon under and securing it to the vase with a strip of floral adhesive. Done and done.

Into my newly snuggly vase, I placed a mix of foliage. First I added the sumac and the dusty miller to create the structure.

Then I added some of the softer elements — the ranunculus, lilac and protea blossoms. My goal with this arrangement was to create a mild cascade effect, with the “face flowers” appearing to “fall” from the top left down across the arrangement and toward the bottom right. Hopefully, you can suss that out in the finished product picture below.

I just want to pour some hot chocolate and curl up right under this lovely thing. The final touches of lavender and delicate chocolate cosmos add some richness to the palette.

Above you can see that I focused on clustering some of the face flowers, like the roses and ranunculus. This is a particularly nice effect when using a more traditional bloom such as a rose. If you cluster several together, the arrangement is elevated.

When I listen to Girlfriend, I am hit with a major wave of nostalgia. The album represents a very specific time in my life that was filled with young heartbreak and future promise all at once. Today I wanted to create a design that was both tender and sweet but also hinted at coming of age. Ultimately, all great romances include a dynamic mix of colors and textures.

Join me back here in two weeks when I delve into another sonic adventure with flowers.

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  • I LOVE that album!! When I purged a lot of my cds, this was one I couldn’t part with. And that cover photo — to die for. The flowers in this post are beautiful =)

  • One of my gfs received a bouquet for VDday that had an interesting flower that I was really curious about but had no idea of the name. Thank you for this flower breakdown, beautiful arrangement by the way! The flower I was looking for is the protea.


  • This is so unbelievably beautiful…I absolutely love the way you took inspiration from that photo and the music, and tied it all together with the flowers in such a completely successful way. This is one of the most amazing arrangements I’ve seen, almost effortless looking, but stunningly beautiful.
    Loved looking at this..thank you

  • WOW! This i a great arrangement. I love how it’s soft, yet those touches of deep red and burgundy give the bouquet such depth! That sumac has such an interesting texture, I’ve never seen that one before!

  • Oh my gosh I loved this album in high school; I never would have appreciated the back story then. The bouquet really has a nostalgic romance feel to it. Perfection.

  • Incredibly gorgeous/ flowing arrangement…if i may say however the lovely Ms Weld (b.1943) rather blossomed in the ’70s-80’s..we could just mention Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) and Once Upon a Time in America (1984) :-)

  • Who is the girl in the photo will the fur? Looks like Tuesday Weld. She’s was a little older than me but I seem to remember that teenage face from the movies in the early sixties.

  • Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend” is not an album solely based on feelings surrounding his divorce. He had met someone new and some songs are wrapped up in those feelings, as well. This makes the album, in my view, even more substantial. The cover photo is of Tuesday Weld. He had to secure rights from her to use her photo. Originally, the album was called “Nothing Lasts”, but at the last minute, worried that Ms. Weld, would not give rights, he changed the name to “Girlfriend” which he thought was more positive.

  • What a lovely arrangement! I hope you don’t ruin your mercury glass with water! I put my Christmas arrangement in a fabulous mercury glass vase from West Elm, and it was ruined! All of the leafing came off from inside the vase. :(

  • Hi All! Thanks for all the great feedback. @Anna: YES! Mercury Glass is very tricky that way. It is created by dipping the vase into liquid leafing that marbles to create that antique effect. Unfortunately, depending on the process, the leafing can rub away within a few uses. I try not to scrape the inside of the vase with stems as much as possible, to try and make the arrangement last longer. Also, never put flower “food” in a mercury glass, as the chemical that eats the fungus and keeps the water clean also eats the leafing. Other than that, you either have to accept that mercury glass is not a long-lasting flower container or use it for candles or another decorative item. If you are really ambitious, you can try to place a smaller, clear glass vase within the mercury glass. Good luck!

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