Author: Bethany Karn

Foxgloves – Heart Stopping Magic

  Here we are at the solstice, climbing the big hill of the calendar like kids in the first car of a roller coaster. We could try to savor the moment but summer is off on a roaring start. Hang on tight! Shooting up like rocket and lasting only as long as a ride on the Coney Island Cyclone, is Foxglove, Digitalis purpea, a giant poisonous beauty used to make digitalin, a common heart-disease medication. Could it be a coincidence that it’s so stunning it makes your heart skip a beat just to look at it? I doubt it. Foxglove grows like weeds in England which is why it has become visual short hand for the quintessential cottage garden. In typical Brit fashion it is also the stuff of elfin legends; covered in freckles, aka “elf fingerprints,” they are also known by the names “Dead Man’s Thimbles” and “Witches Fingers,” no doubt because its poisonous sap keeps insects away. But not Fairies. The plant is, so they say, lousy with fairies; sleeping in the blooms, making a living …

Preserving the peony dreams

Ah! that smell. Fresh and green – a little like a rose, a little like broccoli. Not to everyone’s liking, I understand, but nothing will transport you faster to your Grandmother’s backyard faster than a face plant in a big fluffy peony pillow and a big long whiff. It is fitting that Memorial Day is the traditional start of peony season. Everyone’s Grandma grew peonies it seems, so it’s not surprising that our olfactory senses team up with the neighboring hippocamthus to bind that peony smell with memories of childhood and all the other happy May events: prom, graduations, weddings, the unbearably close last day of school. I hold on tight to memories of my Grandma Frances, whose peonies I dug out of her Ohio backyard and took home with me after she went off to that Great Garden in the Sky. Wet bare feet covered in grass clippings and huffing away at a big white Festiva Maxima peony – I am no longer here in Maryland but back on rain soaked cement steps, leaning against the back …

Dogwood

Just at the height of a dreamy spring opener, a sobering hail storm came through last night, blasting tender little buds off branches and making a mess of the containers I naively filled with summer flowers and herbs. In southeastern US, such spring cold snaps are called “Dogwood Winters,” as farmers have learned to keep their eye on the lovely and native Cornus Florida trees and plant crops only after they flower.  And so before I go out to clean up the mess (“buh-bye, tomato seedlings, my bad…”), I’m going to take a moment to celebrate that gorgeous know-it-all, currently in flower and reminding us all that it’s still her time to shine. Luckily I know other talented designers capable of giving Dogwood it’s due. The branches really excel in either in full length frothy form, filling design space with a effortless, almost anti-gravity kind of feel or cut short or floating, all the better to appreciate the 4 flawless white or pink bracts (leaves, actually) that surround the inner chartreuse flower cluster. I am also a …

mud balls

a bit of Spring experimentation going on…   …these days with several new projects keeping me busy…I wish I could say out of trouble as well, but I have turned into a bit of a stealthy little Moss Bandit, decimating friend Laura’s backyard as I steal borrow a teeny bit of the gorgeous green velvet that grows behind her camelias.  But all in a good cause as I had fun making little mud balls of joy. Kokedama is the Japanese word for moss ball and this “poor man’s bonsai” as it is often called is nothing more than an ingenious way to grow plants, no pot needed. They are happy sitting on a plate of rocks or suspended from the ceiling on fishing line or macrame – all the better to enjoy the plants distinctive shape. In Japan everything from herbs to trees are fair game.  I was lucky enough to learn the craft from our area’s best creative design team, Sarah and Shinki at Mimoza Design, who were kind enough to lend me a cup …

arranging clouds

There is a stillness at the end of winter – a hesitation while the snow melts and the lawn heaves a bit from the thaw, like Mother Nature rolling over under a blanket of sod. This breathlessness makes me think, for some reason, in white and green color palettes, of tentative new beginnings and tender young shoots. It’s like arranging clouds. Adding in crystals and silver only underscores that icy thrill. Here’s a look at some of my end of winter projects – a hanging garden of hellebores, the last of the poinsettia and wee little baby fern heads, and an attempt at a curly willow spiral with pussy willow, pieris and chandelier crystals on a silver dish, filled out with ferns and succulents in hidden shot glasses of water. Hope you enjoy arranging some clouds. ***AND big thanks to Christine de Beer for her lovely curly willow spiral project – I attempted here in an altered form, wrapping a curly willow garland around two bottles, one clockwise and the other counter-clock wise. Her spiral …

Pretty Little Liars – Café au Lait Dahlias

Behold! The autumnal It Girl of wedding florals: the stunning Café au Lait Dahlia. She’s the one making the Pinterest rounds for every bride looking for that coveted and hard to describe color of BLUSH.  A not white, not cream, kinda sorta pink color bordering on caramel that really does look like coffee with a lot of milk in it. In addition to its remarkable size (ranging from approx. 6″ diameter to the roughly the size of your face) and non-stop billowy texture, this flower provides just the right tea-stained hue for a out door rustic wedding with a vintage vibe.  (photo credits: thevinesleaf.com, brides.com and martha stewart weddings) Or does it…? See, this is a flower of many colors. While the Bridal Industrial Complex has turned its focus solely on its creamy ability to match the current craze for neutral and blush color schemes, the flower seems determined NOT to match, thank you very much. Sometimes it is pink. Sometimes it is striped. And sometimes it commits the sin of being a color not seen since your …

This Week in Flowers – Mid Summer

Over the Potomac and through the woods to MidSommar Farm we go, in search of dahlias and lisianthus for some lucky September and October brides.  Karen Gesa and her daughter gave me a tour of their adorable start up flower farm with its abundance of echinacea, cosmos, gomphrena, nicotinia, bells of ireland and herbs.  The Cardinal Basil is practically a flower in itself. And this Carmine Lisianthus –  just about killed me (note to my Jewel-tone October Bride – keep your pretty little fingers crossed!).  Karen gave me a bundle of delightful flowers with just two stems tuber rose and my entire mini-van became a perfume bottle on wheels. Felt like I was driving home from heaven…and, who knows? I may very well have been.  The farm name reminded me of the lull happens in mid summer, a peaceful little interlude where we can enjoy the last of the callas, glads and tuber roses before we dive head long into a heady harvest of dahlias, salvia and the lisianthus second-showing.  This year’s Dahlia growing season has been vexing for some growers, what …

This Week In Flowers – July

 Full blown that’s where we are, summer-wise! Full of everything with more to come. Zinnia, sunflowers, gladiolas and celosia are just getting started, along with the summer “it” girl, lisianthus. We wait all July for her to show up. I’m also very excited about crocosmia, a funkly little red-orange flower on a swooping stem with a sword like, long lasting foliage. (image courtesy of Gardening KnowHow.com This summer, local flowers are filling CSA orders and shelves at Takoma Park Food Coop .  Come find something pretty!

atta girl

this is my kind of wedding: colorful, kookie, with a high play quotient. Heavy on the laughter and lilacs. An unapologetic dash of cigar and bowling shoes. Lots and lots of smiles.   When I met with Peter and Allie last year, they had only two themes in mind for their May wedding at Pinstripes in Georgetown: wine and fun. Kindred souls, clearly, this quickly became a mission close to my heart. Even irreverent good times require a bit of homework to pull off. Investing in a wine bottle cutter, we learned the art of cutting wine bottle to make vases from the bottoms and candle votives from the top. We sliced wine corks into boutonnieres and brides maids accessories. We filled wine bottle boxes with herbs and gathered bunches of local spring flowers, including that most “abbondanza!” showstopper of them all: lilacs. Put it all together it became a kaleidoscope of good cheer. Pretty much like Allie and Peter themselves.  “Cento di questi giorni” thanks to RMN Photography for all the great captures!