Watercolor experiments with florals
Some old and new photos of clematis. Just a few stems can make such and impact. You can really never go wrong with green and white.
Some clematis growing along the banks of the Russian river entwined with wild grape. Such a beautiful summer display.
First hydrangea I've cut all year, I've been saving it for fall because I love it aged. Tinges of green and pink and speckles - it's hardened off so will probably just let it dry.
Little basket I made earlier this summer. Looks so sweet turned upside down and used as a frog.
A seasonal get together with other floral designers where we pick from our gardens and forage to make no-fuss arrangements and bouquets on the fly. Somehow I missed spring, but with summer in full swing I asked my sister, Zoe and mom, Lisbeth, both veteran designers if they were up for it again. We had worked on a couple for winter which were so much fun.
Zoe holding a bouquet I made with herbs from my garden and lavender, Shasta daisies and the cutest asters I picked from her's. A true hippie at heart, I found this breezy vintage dress from India at an estate sale a couple of years ago. It looks wonderful with this loose bouquet.
This cafe chair has been beautifully enveloped by some grapevines over the summer. Makes for the perfect spot in the garden to enjoy a glass of wine.
Summer is all about color - look at these mirabelle plums and borage together!
Made a quick bouquet out of some of my dried bits. With the right ribbon this could even be a cute bridal bouquet. With a lace shift dress, in a wheat field?
The true essence of summer, flush with juicy colors like watermelon, peach, apricot, cantaloupe, coral, tomato, goldenrod, raspberry and tangerine.
Zinnia are such a happy and cheerful summer flower that come in so many amazing colors. They look great simply arranged in a tomato can.
Summer is all about freshly picked fruit, I've been making these popsicles from Molly Orangette at least once a week. I like to use vanilla yogurt and use less sugar. Make them in the morning and eat them in the afternoon. They taste like heaven.
Summer is upon us and a time for breezy arrangements with snips from the fence, garden and side of the road.
This Shungiku (edible chrysanthemum) is so pretty with butter to marigold coloring. Perfect for your vase, salad or stir-fry.
The fennel is just starting to bloom here and I couldn't resist snipping a few stems from the side of the road. The smell is amazing.
Flowers can be whatever you want them to be. I leave collected bits and old stems to dry in the apple box I keep by my back door. Sometimes I put them together with new things blooming in the garden. What started as quick wreaths in the winter, I've realized has now become a five minute meditation for me. I don't what they will become, I let my mind wonder and my hands put them together. For me, doing flowers is a time to let go, relax and see where it takes me. Over the years, you get better and it becomes a muscle memory.
I think we tend to want to put parameters on things and visualize the end result. The part I enjoy the most, are the moments in between, thinking you're doing one thing, getting lost and finding something else. It's more the process than the end result. I also feel like this when I take pictures, which is why I tend to take a lot of photos of flowers.
Growing up on a cut flower farm, with fields of garden roses, I took them for granted. It has been nearly a decade since my family said goodbye to our beautiful old farm. And now, I'm realizing I miss them. May is the explosion of roses, the first flush. I picked a single bucket of roses from my mother's garden and it felt spectacular. The fragrance, every petal and fading bloom makes my mind buzz like a bee to the next one, and the next one.
If you're picking garden roses, make sure you have a bucket of deep water nearby and place them in that bucket as soon as you can. Good hydration is key to lasting flowers. The water should always be room temperature whether in a bucket or vase.
When dealing with roses, make sure you have sharp shears so you can get a clean cut. When ready to arrange, cut above a node and always cut at an angle so the stem can drink the most water. Make sure you have plenty of water in your vessel and check it daily, filling as you need. After twenty years of doing flowers, the single most overlooked thing restaurants and other accounts do is forgetting to water in the first couple of days. Then, when the flowers begin to wilt, they add more water. More times than not, this is too late and they won't come back. If you notice a bloom or two wilting a bit, take it out and recut the stem.
Part of the beauty of garden roses is the color fading and petals dropping. I mean, big swaths of fluffy petals. This has been shown in paintings for centuries. Flowers are beautiful in all states of life, after all, isn't that why we pick them?
Mother's Day can feel cheesy and forced, but there are simple ways to celebrate her. As a mother of a four year old, I really am just looking forward to some coffee in bed and little extra time to sleep. Once you become a mother, sleeping-in is a thing of the past!
Coffee or tea in bed is the simplest thing in the world. But, very thoughtful!
You could even jazz it up by adding toast and a gift. Takes no time at all!
Hand-picked posies and arrangements melt every mother's heart!
Depending on your child's age - pick or let them pick flowers, foliage (whatever they like) from your garden. Give them a nice working space that can get wet (like this tray) and a small vessel and pitcher of water. Let them explore the stems by themselves and choose how that want to arrange it. Nothing is better than getting a little arrangement made by your child or grandchild!
You can feel spring in the morning now, with light pouring through the windows and the warmth outside. Suddenly, you don't need your sweater. My sister, Zoe and I got together to make a sweet post about May Day, but then were more inspired by an abandoned birds nest and roses. Roses growing on her fences and field. She and I grew up on our family's cut flower farm with 13,000 roses planted in our fields and worked together designing florals for years. We have always done flowers.
In Asia, roses in fossils have dated back 70 million years. Even if they don't know any other flowers, most people can identify a rose. Throughout history, symbolism of roses has meant so many things, from love to death, peace to war. Wreaths of roses have been found in Egyptian tombs, and Romans used them to carpet their floors for special occasions.
Roses and strawberries are such a sweet combination, with this single-petaled climber mimicking a strawberry flower. It is also a beautiful scent combination and can be used to create delicious jams. They go together so easily.
I spent the summer I turned twenty in France and one of my favorite desserts was a bowl full of sliced strawberries with red wine and sugar to macerate them. Just soak them in the wine. No need for cream or anything else. Delicious.
Rose water is so refreshing, a quick face or body mist with a hydrosol really helps cool you down and to elevate your senses. It's also nice to spritz it over a glass of chilled white wine or champagne.
Florals and styling by Zoe Honscher & Silvanie Farmar Bowers, photos by Silvanie Farmar Bowers
Making arrangements in tin cans has become one of my favorite things. It's a nice way to recycle, and makes an easy gift of your garden flowers. I make weekly arrangements for my son's preschool class. Using tomato cans is economical, recyclable, and non-breakable if they get knocked over in the classroom. I save the cans that come though my kitchen, I love tomato cans, with or without the label, vintage or new. I also keep my eye out for them (water tight is a must though) at garage sales and thrift stores.
Some more tin can arrangements from last summer. I favored the cans sans label. They look great on a kitchen table, or if you're dining al fresco, you don't have to worry about bringing them back inside or the wind blowing them over and breaking a favorite vase.
An easy bouquet or, more like a posy with fresh cut strawberries my sister, Zoe and I did in her garden. This would make the sweetest and simplest bridal bouquet. Not too fussy, and full of spring.
Zoe leaning on her fence covered in hops. Below a little video of her putting the bouquet on the fence and making some finishing touches. She is an amazing designer.
Sweetest little thing. It has strawberries in it, so I have to twirl it!
Flowers should be fun and express the seasons as well as you. Relax.
Flowers by Zoe Honscher & Silvanie Farmar Bowers, photos by Silvanie
Little garden bits in some French egg cups. We lugged these egg cups across France along with antiques (mostly enamelware) for my mom on a family trip when I was a teenager. Somehow, they've ended up in my cupboard.
I talked before about using what you have in the garden, even dandelions. Simple really is prettiest and easy to do.
I love these bare, speckled eggs now. But, we'll dye and decorate eggs when it gets close to Easter. It's a very magical time for those who believe in the Easter bunny.
All florals, styling and photography by Silvanie Farmar Bowers
More non-dyed, bare, in the buff eggs. I love the soft, natural colors of the eggs themselves with bright spring flowers.
I always love the mix of colors during spring, and a little can go a long way. This is only two stems of lilac, a few crabapple branches, a few freesia, a handful of forget-me-not stems and a few snips of viola and maiden hair fern from pots on my front porch. Most people have more things to cut outside than they think. Mix it up, even pulling up a dandelion or two and putting them in a small bowl or terra-cotta pot with some eggs around is sweet.
Time to clean up...
All flowers, styling and photography by Silvanie Farmar Bowers.
Soft crabapple petals.
These eggs are about as simple as it gets. I had grand ideas about using the viola I pressed in the antique colors I've been obsessing over the last few weeks. But, after getting dozens and dozens of fresh eggs from my sister's chickens, I decided I wanted to look at the bare eggs. All of the eggshell variations are so beautiful just the way they are. Soft, buff, speckled, green and brown.
All flowers, styling and photography by Silvanie Farmar Bowers
How did you get your start in floral design? I used to work at a store in San Francisco that would get amazing florals delivered every week and I was so intrigued by them. Having a background in art, I thought the idea of being able to use my hands to create sculptural floral designs would be a good fit. I decided to apply to different floral designers looking for help. An SF based florist took me on and taught me so much. I eventually started working for other people around the Bay Area and then eventually created my own business.
How would you describe your style? Textural, somewhat structured. I like to try different things to keep things interesting. I hope that my designs are always evolving.
What is your favorite time of year and what materials do you like to work with during that season? I love spring. Flowering branches are so pretty (I love working with branches) and there are so many different varieties of delicate flowers to choose from at that time.
What do you find easiest and hardest about having a home-based studio? It's great to be able to walk out of my house and right into my studio, no travel time. Another thing I enjoy, is to be able to take a lunch break with my family and get quick visits from them throughout the day. I actually love having a home-based studio for the same reason it can be hard. It can be challenging when my kids/husband come in and visit while I'm working because it can be hard to get things done with the distraction of my family.
How has motherhood changed your approach to design and your business? I have come to realize that my time is very important to me and where I put that time and energy is important. I now only take on business/jobs that I really enjoy the look of and have fun making. Having the opportunity to be creative while supporting my family is such a gift. I want to make sure I am spending my time doing what I love, otherwise it's not worth it to me.
Some of Kim's artwork in her living room.
what are some of your favorite places to visit in Napa? We live pretty close to the Oxbow so we end up going there a lot. They have a lot of affordable good quality food options and can be quick and easy at the same time. I've also started doing a lot of kid friendly things lately like going to Connelly Ranch to see the animals with my kids or going for walks and to different parks around Napa.
As autumn is one of my favorite seasons I thought it would be fun to collaborate with my mom, Lisbeth for the flower friends series. She has been my biggest teacher in style from setting the table to doing flowers themselves. She and I decided to go to Summer Cottage, the antiques co-op where she sells her aprons and tunics that she sews herself, mostly in linen or denim, as well as her natural - dyed vintage table and bed linens and other antique collectables.
Beautiful garden roses cut from my sister Zoe's garden.
One of her beautiful linen aprons. You can find some of her sewing and knitting projects as she works on them on her Instagram.
Who says autumn means orange? Be creative with what is growing in your garden.
This is one of the best styles I have ever tried, with roomy front pockets and crossed high in the back so it doesn't shift while you're working.
Kathy Hoffman of Napa, California is truly one of the very best floral designers of all time. Her design ability, aesthetics and attention to detail go far beyond flowers. She is creative in all facets of her life. She comes from an incredibly talented family and is a legend in her own right. Kathy's parents started The French Laundry in Yountville and she worked with them for many years. After selling the famed restaurant to Thomas Keller, Kathy continued to be the in-house florist up until her retirement this year . She and her husband, Bill Hoffman, a well-known gardener in Napa Valley are enjoying their house and garden that they have cherished for almost forty years before venturing out for a simpler life in Oregon where they are planning construction on their new house.
How did you get your start in floral design? When I worked with my family in the restaurant business (mostly at The French Laundry) it fell to me to help my mom make the spaces feel welcoming. We did that by changing the dining room on a weekly basis, looking to the garden for the week's color palette. Then we would choose from our linen collection we owned, I would pull containers out and the foraging in the garden would begin. So I really truly learned from the ground up - didn't know what a flower market was - it had to be growing in The French Laundry garden, my parent's garden next door, my garden or if were were hitting bottom, a neighbor's garden or an empty field. I did that for sixteen years. It was an incredible training ground. Learning day-by-day, making mistakes and hopefully moving forward and learning what not to do the next time. If I cut something at the wrong stage of growth or in the wrong weather conditions it hurt - we didn't have a lot of extra to waste. Then when my parents decided to sell and move on to their apple farm project I had to decide to stay in the food and service business or take a leap and start a flower business - by that time you could say I was pretty hooked - it was all about the pleasures of picking, arranging, and transforming a space into something beautiful...
Her parents apple farm project is The Apple Farm in Philo, California now run by Kathy's sister Karen and her family.
What are your favorite times of year in the garden? Some of your favorite flowers and plants? Each season brings its own beauty and certain goodies - I'm always ready for that next change. Again, it's my mood that decides my favorites - whether I crave a good dose of color, decadence in a full fat bloom, or just beautiful branches and foliages. In the spring I love white dogwood, ranunculus, gold peonies, floppy open parrot tulips, the first of the late spring fragrant cabbage roses, green hellebores... Summer it's all about bright flowers with blooming herbs, vegetables and fruit (I love all the endless combinations). I'm always ready for fall - to ditch all the flowers in favor of beautiful colored leaves - Bradford pear, viburnum, maple, etc. with all the rose hips, berries and acorns I can get my hands on. It's all about the textures. Winter brings the pleasure of just enjoying the form of beautiful bare branches against a wall - hazelnut, birch, colored dogwood branches - I crave the simplicity of them in the winter. But then that branch sits in a warm house in water long enough and those tiny little leaves start to come and I'm ready for spring all over again!!! I have to admit that spring is my favorite - it's all about the thrill of watching spring come about, leaf by leaf - there's so much promise in that - of new beginnings... All those shades of green just do it for me. The sheer vitality of it energizes me like no vitamins ever could...
How long have you lived in your house? Since 1978 - which adds up to an amazing 38 years - hard to believe!
What makes a house a home for you? I've always been a nester, started as a child with my room - watched my mom who I owe so much of how I walk through life to - as she has always had such a good eye. Our houses growing up were so personal and lived in. I've learned from her to fill your house with the things that make you happy - I love color, texture, form, organic things that bring the outside in - and it's got to be in a light filled space. I get immense pleasure in handling and touching beautiful things in daily life, whether it's a blanket to cuddle in, a special glass to drink from, a spoon that feels good to stir with. I see no reason to have something just to get the job done when I can have those objects also give me pleasure to handle and look at. Our house has evolved throughout the years as our tastes and needs changed, our family grew, my business took off. "My stuff" as Bill has labeled it is part of my life - he is stuck with it beacue it is part of who I am. Nothing makes me happier than making vignettes in the house - stirring up new combinations really just to please my eyes. It's really all about feeling good in the spaces you live in...
Ceramic faces made by Troyce, the youngest of Kathy's three sons when he was a child.
What are some of the things you enjoy most about your house? The open, light-filled rooms with a garden view out every window and door. Our second floor space that we designed just for us with our bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom with my tub to soak in...it feels like a treehouse - it's cozy and spacious at the same time, with the views of the tops of the trees and that different perspective you get from looking down on things. Outside, my studio is just a few steps away which I love - no commutes to work! And, of course the garden, which has been a total work in progress as the growth of the trees and shrubs through the years has changed the things I can grow. Many of the sunny spots have changed over to dappled and deeper shade, but that has given us the privacy and actually made it a fairly easy garden to care for. So the garden has evolved. My idea of a favorite day is to put my cell phone aside, escape to the garden and just do whatever calls to me - sometimes there are specific tasks, or I will start something and end up totally immersed in hours later, totally exhausted but in a good way.. It's so satisfying and stress reducing. Then there are all the sitting areas and spots in the garden I can go to rest and recoup - a hammock, a comfy chair, my book or a snooze... and lastly, our dinner deck "in the woods" that has seen many good times - just the two of us or a rocking table of family and friends - I feel like I've gone somewhere when we eat up there, like time away...
Kathy's studio seen through the side garden.
How would you describe your style? I go a lot of directions with that, depending on my mood. I can be very simple and minimalistic, happy with three stems of weeds in a vase against a certain wall or I can crave lots of texture and layers and groups of objects. My house is full of color, but all mostly in warm tones - they make me happy. But, I also get in the mood for all layered neutrals and I never tire of all shades of green - its so energizing and calming at the same time. I thinks that's the fun of it, having no real barriers, I'll see something that stimulates my imagination and I'm off and running. I've learned through the years to just let it come, trust myself and not overthink it - the best things happen that way! I had a lot of art training early on in life and in college - that gave me a foundation to build with. I used to feel a little disappointed with myself that I did not pursue that more, but to tell the truth I now feel that I'm in my best medium - living and organic things are three dimensional with texture, smell etc. - so much better than a painting or drawing.. I can always return to that and I will in my new life in Oregon. My new surroundings will be great stimulation for being creative in new ways I hope...
What projects do you have on the horizon? We are just about to start a whole new life with our upcoming move to the southern Oregon property we have owned for 15 years. To leave California and our life here is a big deal for both of us but it's a leap we have been working toward for awhile now. It's been such an amazing process, one with so many decisions that constantly make us think and reflect on what makes us feel good in a home. It's a chance to make a statement on who we are at this point in our lives - this time around fitting it into a new natural landscape so different than what we are coming from. I have had to come to terms with the fact I'll never have a garden like I've had here for 38 years - but that it's ok, it will be different and a step back to a simpler life. We are going to work hard at embellishing nature without leaving too much of a stamp on it. We've been nurturing the forest and meadow for the last 15 years - it's been so satisfying to watch it become stronger, more diverse, wildflowers and native grasses coming back strong, the constant surprises of all of that. Being custodians of a forest is an amazing new challenge!
For this summer post, Brooke and I were joined by another flower friend, Adrianne Smith an Encinitas based floral designer and artist. Adrianne is always up for something new and three of us had so much fun putting together arrangements and bouquets with flowers from my garden, local zinnia from Sebastopol and the wonderful cutting garden at Valley Flora.
Adrianne and Brooke, such good flower friends.