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Friday, Sep 22, 2017
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Wedding flowers come from the garden

We once owned a flower shop with a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse. Unfortunately, we were sad failures in the business. For years, I had nightmares about arriving at a wedding with the wrong flowers. Luckily we traded the shop for our first little farm. When our daughter Brigid got married years later, the florist, who was also a friend, asked if I wanted to fix the flowers. I didn't. But when she told us her sister had just had a heart attack and might be dying, I said, "Of course I'll fix the flowers." It turned out to be a pleasure and started a family tradition.
When our Gretchen got married in 1997, I bought a few flowers and materials from a local florist but made most of the bouquets with flowers from my garden because she was willing to have whatever flowers and colors that were available. On March 26, our granddaughter Elizabeth (yes, the one who helps so much at the open gardens) married James Good. So the night before I picked the best blooms from my own garden and that of my friend Nancy Gaspermint, who had more roses and beautiful small sunflowers and spires of dark blue larkspur. I left them in deep water to condition overnight and worked on the back porch in the morning. I sprayed the finished bouquets with a fine mist of water, and then packed them for travel in coolers with ice packs. Bridal bouquets are much easier now than when we had our shop. Back then we had to wire and tape every single flower and leaf. Now there are handles with oasis on the end, and you can just arrange the flowers as you would a vase bouquet. Thin stems work best. Corsages are harder. Don't volunteer for them if you haven't had training. And don't volunteer for a large wedding or a fussy bride. I've never had a florist hesitate to sell me the materials I needed, but you can get some of them from the craft department of Walmart or Kmart. I always prayed the bouquets wouldn't wilt or fall apart, and they didn't. Praise God. Now is the time to ... Rejoice in all the new spring growth and try to catch up as much as possible with weeding and pruning, while mornings are still cool and the rest of the day is bearable. Keep a bloom calendar handy so you can plan for future events. It seems that spring beauty comes in spits and starts and doesn't last as long as autumn. But I'm trying to pin it down. Every day has some new surprise. Pick and use or give away the last of the early oranges. At the beginning of April, I still had a few red navels and the last of the tangerines and pages. We ate every last Ponkan. We're just starting on the Valencias and hope they will last through June. Grapefruit and pummelos are good through May. Juice and segments in juice can be frozen for months when there is no fruit. Some California oranges and lemons ripen throughout the summer, so that is why there are always some in the stores.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, author and freelance writer who can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.
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