entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: flower laboratory

by Grace Bonney

One of our favorite ways to display the bits we bring in from outside is to make a “laboratory” garden. The look is easy to create by using transparent glass containers and varying the way each specimen is displayed. Late summer is a great time to experiment, as lots of garden plants will need cleaning up and some annuals may be on their way out.

One of our recent projects on this topic was a “wildflower lab” created for an amazing interior designed by Nicole Hollis. We are always really excited when we get the opportunity to work with other designers and visit hidden (private) spaces around the Bay Area. We hunted the flower market for unique shapes and graphic details to create a modern green and white tablescape. Below are some examples of what we found and how we created our lab using a variety of simple glass cylinders and bottles:

  • unusually tall freesia with root bulbs still attached (could work well with short hyacinth too).
  • fluffy cone hydrangea flowers contrast nicely with their straight, woody stems.
  • larkspur with most of the stem cut off so the flowers rest on the bottom of the cylinder and the budded ends peek out over the top (place a tiny amount of water in the vase first).
  • stephanotis plant with long vines “growing” onto table and fluffy roots floating in water.
  • massed tulips with a straight cut on the stems and suspended in a tall cylinder of approximately the same size diameter.
  • nasturtium plant with lush leaves on top and delicate roots dangling below.

CLICK HERE for the full post (including more images, a recipe for a “garden mojito” and tips for a spoon flower display) after the jump!


This idea also translates well for a more casual side table grouping that shows off a single leaf, tiny cluster, or a thin trailing vine. These are the kinds of arrangements we use most often in our own homes as we often have a single beautiful flower leftover from an arrangement or a pretty leaf plucked from the yard on the way inside. Sugahara pebble vases are perfect for creating little trios (right now Jill’s contain a tiny cluster of yarrow, a sprig of nasturtium, and a single yarrow leaf). This week Alethea’s bedside table is filled with skinny vines of fragrant jasmine, giant Burmese honeysuckle, and hot pink passiflora in Tung building blocks.


We were inspired by some pretty little apples with blush insides from the farmers market to create this pink-themed table. Some fallen apples from our tree and a few small branches that needed some pruning finish off this super easy to assemble centerpiece for a last minute tea or dessert gathering. It can work with lots of other fruits and veggies as well. Just cut some of the fruit in half and press against the container’s side along with whole apples, leaving a small space in the center to insert the leafy branches. Rub a little lemon juice on the cut pieces to slow browning.


We also made a little spoon display for a few tiny specimens and buds to go along with our apples. Just gather a few of your favorite spoons, add a drop of water, and place your tiny blossoms in place. We used yarrow, a pansy and dahlia bud, veronica, lavender, and hydrangea. You could also attach nametags to make place markers and favors for your guests.


From our years working at Rose and Radish we learned to appreciate what’s happening above the water level in a vase, as well as below. Another fun way to achieve the lab look is to showcase the entire plant- roots and all. We started with an unruly mint plant that kept popping up from a large crack in Jill’s walkway. We noticed it had thick, beautiful, pinky roots so we carefully pulled it up and got to work. If you don’t have a garden you can shop for an inexpensive plant with nice foliage- just pull the plant out of its pot a little and poke around to find one with a thick/heavy root system.


This type of display looks best if the water is crystal clear so you’ll need to spend a little time cleaning your plant. We shook out all the big chunks of dirt and then swirled the roots around in a bucket of lukewarm water until they were very clean. A small occupant had been feasting on the lower leaves so we plucked off all the eaten foliage. Placing the mint in a tall pedestal vase, we used the leaves and stems to hold the plant up and suspend the roots in the water. When company is coming over this is a great display because it encourages a second look and maybe even a pinch of the fragrant mint (perhaps accompanied by mojitos?).


A great friend of ours who happens to be a fantastic bartender used to make this fun little drink for us in the warm summer months. To give it a special bit of flare he used to add “Sugar Island”, a tiny floating oasis of sweetness atop a slice of tart lime. Before we dove into our cocktails we would bite into the chunk of lime savoring the sweet-tart taste and then quickly take a sip of the drink.

Garden Mojito
(we used a lime geranium leaf for our sugar “boat”)
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh lime juice
2 heaping teaspoons sugar
1 cup crushed ice
12 fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup (2 ounces) white rum
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) club soda

In a tall 10 ounce glass, this can also be a pint glass or just a large water glass, stir together lime juice and sugar until sugar dissolves. Add 1/4 cup crushed ice. Tear mint leaves in half and add to glass. Stir for 15 seconds, then add rum, remaining crushed ice, and club soda. Gently stir all ingredients for 5 seconds. To garnish add some super thin mint shreds; take a lime slice and float it gently on top of the ice. Add geranium or mint leaf boat and quickly spoon a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar on top. Insert a tall straw and drink up!

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