…Brilliant Botanicals and Floral Designs to Complement the Occasion, Season, Location and Recipient

I am frequently asked by the family, after the design of their event or wedding, if we “do other things besides large events.” If, we design and deliver flowers for smaller occasions, such as a holiday centerpieces, a bouquet for a loved one’s birthday, or a piece at a memorial service to honor and remember the passing of a loved one. The answer: Absolutely, we are a full service design studio, able to help with all occasions, grand or small. Our “floral arena” as many friends and family call our “operation” includes: an air conditioned design studio; a 10’ x 15’ walk in cooler, always, filled with fresh flowers and botanicals, sourced 2-4 times per week; 3 small buildings of props and vases, with a 4th being built; gardens planted with succulents, reeds, grasses, and heirloom flower varietals; plus or minus, 200 rolls of ribbon…my personal favorite feature! I have been collecting collections since I was about 4 years old. Imagine, finally having a career where this “calling” of collecting is so very applicable! Spoken by me weekly: “Uh, yea, I have a box of those we can use.” Adding to the mix in 2014, for our pastry chef, caterer and restaurant colleagues, pesticide free edible flowers including anise hyssop, calendula, and borage, and increased production of our hanging succulent gardens. It’s quite a lot, we are up to the task, and as I tell our clients, our work is a task of love. In sharing the details of our ever evolving studio operations, this floral journey,  always good to point out the things we cannot accommodate in our production: everlasting and silk designs; landscaping services, providing buckets of flowers, raw flowers so folks can design their own arrangements. We receive requests for each of these services. In these cases, we provide referrals for vendors who feature these services.

This post, long floating around in my head, is inspired by the clients we helped yesterday: a father ushering his son to and through his Bar Mitzvah; an artistic woman marrying in a simple, clean line ivory dress, so her bouquet structure may be livelier and not detract from her dress; a man who turned 50 years old yesterday and with his wife and 20 friends, celebrated the occasion with a cooking class; a small group of family and friends who said farewell to a loved one, as they departed from this time, to their next. All of our clients inspire and encourage me in many and individual ways. It is the latter, those saying farewell to a loved one, who: help keep my heart and mind open; to be present;to have patience; to seek wisdom and answers when they are not straightaway apparent; to find joy, be it leaping out at you like a tabby cat kitten, or hiding like the kitten’s mother, needing a rest from her young ones;  to live this life fully. I thank you for your trust in what I do. I thank you all for this continued opportunity and journey with the flowers.

Fondly, Kate

For the Bride – Fair Bianca roses, veronica, and a profusion of grasses and reeds from our cutting garden

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Mazel Tov!

Bar Mitzvah

Unable are the loved to die.  For love is immortality.  ~Emily Dickinson

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Red Spray Roses and Twigs

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On This Harvest Moon…

Photos 4, Harvest MoonLikely attributed to a lengthy, July vacation in the Pacific Northwest, I have been drafting “this Harvest Moon” tale since that time. On this moon, a notable day and evening for me, it is a tribute to my Mom and Dad.

Both born and raised on working farms during the depression, my Father’s, in Southwest Virginia. The family lived as tenants, aka, sharecroppers, and planted, tilled, and harvested many backbreaking acres. 2/3 of the take went to the land owner, 1/3, to Dad’s family’s dinner table. Mom’s family farm was in Western Washington, a homestead, reward, and a future for two Norwegian immigrants and their children. Every morsel of fruit, vegetable, protein and dairy served in these family homes was raised, tended, eaten fresh, canned or salted down for the winter. Some grains, salt and sugar, baking powder, kerosene, and cloth, these were procured with cash from the “cash crops.” In my father’s case, sadly, not moonshine, which would make my lore so much more intriguing. Instead, cash came about from an alternative vice investment, tobacco, which was planted on side fields that the kids tended at night with lanterns, hand picking the cut worms from the underside of the leaves. The damaging and gaping holes these worms could cause, would lead to a Bear Market for this commodity. You see, large jagged holes in tobacco, when rolled up, creates a short and a lapse in a ‘gar’s gentle burn. Hideous chemical spray could have been substituted for the kill of the worm, but for this crop, Dad’s people were amongst the first organic farmers, and apparently, drew the best tobacco buyers for their leaves, much like my Uncle Doll. Uncle Doll, he did do moonshine for his cash. But, that’s a whole other story.

Continued farming, with flowers…

Working as hard as these families did during their childhood and early adult life during WWII, you would think that once a cash job came along for my Dad, he would have suggested that Mom fully source our meals at the local Thriftway grocer. Nope, just the opposite, for our fruits and vegetables. Picking, sorting, canning in Mason Jars (their true use) and flash freezing in Tupperware, was preceded by quite a bit of farming. Dad taught me to sprinkle carrot seeds, set potatoes in mounded hills, same with the pole beans, and place corn kernels exactly four inches apart. In my early days, I was provided a ruler. The property included about 18 fruit trees, and I had built a fort or picnic structure for me and my cats, under each of them: Kings, Romans, Jonathans, Winesaps, Gravensteins. We also had prunes, a wide variety of blackberries and tayberries, blueberries, raspberries and a ridiculously sour pie-cherry tree. Rounding things out was a coop filled with hens.

For the flowers, the season would begin in the yard and back in the woods, with wild hazelnut, trillium, flowering red currant, followed by every varietal the Burpee seed and bulb catalogs offered for the tulips, daffodils, hyacinth, and crocus. Quince, forsythia, lilac, snowball (aka, bridal bouquets for our dolls), and dogwood at Easter. Mom inspired my start as a designer by providing notebook paper,  a stapler and string for the crafting of May Day baskets. Unlike, my one day in a tap and a ballet class, disastrous, for the record, I had a flair for flowers, so she upped the craft supplies’ basket with construction paper, pipe cleaners, ribbons, stickers and a tub of paste for seamless basket folding and affixing. The cats accompanied me on all deliveries, and always gave me away, not knowing to run with me from the neighbor’s door, after hanging the basket and knocking.  May Day was followed by a version of decoration Sunday, a Southern thing, on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. A few days before our decoration Sunday, Mom, her sisters, and nieces had cleaned the family plot of weeds, fungus on the gravestones, and any rogue, winter falling limbs. Early in their days, a lunch of waffles with strawberries and whipped cream would follow, replaced in later years with a trip to the Family Pancake House. Mom was primed for her return, with me, to this family plot, and those of many more loved ones, respected ones. We had a fresh flower bouquet for each grave. By the time Mom’s health made some changes for her, I think we were up to 27 graves in two community cemeteries. Each year, we’d find yet another person we had known, not being remembered with a flower. Judy, we were always glad when you were able to step away from tablecloth duty at the Hyannisport of Hammersley Inlet to join us.

Summer brought a daily carnival of dahlias, in colors of yesteryear, much like when Crayola crayons hosted their true and original names. Heavy growth and girth of these summer sirens was prompted by all the perch and bullheads my posse and I caught on the dock in front of our home, and planted deep under the tubers, early season.  So followed the swingtime fuchsias, asters, hydrangea,  roses, and the frost, leading us to do it all again.

While the following song is a song for lovers, such as Andraya and Karl, this song is about love. And as we know, love always involves a dose of heartbreak. Tonight, surrounded by flowers old and new, I hum this haunting melody, on today’s Harvest Moon:

“Because I’m still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I’m still in love with you
On this harvest moon…”
10-27-1992, Mr. Neil Young

Photos 2, Harvest Moon Photos 3, Harvest Moon

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August’s Sturgeon Moon

I know it, I shouldn’t be that surprised upon discovery of what inspires the design process, specifically, the one of my hands and mind. Taking a moment here in the studio, to reflect upon last night’s moon rise, and its travels to tomorrow evening towards it fullest. It’s the Sturgeon Moon. The fishing tribes of the Great Lakes and other bodies of water are given credit for naming this one, as their year’s biggest sturgeon catch was snagged during this month. A bit more, some knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon. Below, this morning’s design celebration, moon shapes, corn and grain colors, onward to their delivery. Continued Happy Summer, Kathleen-Kate

Sturgeon Moon

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Passionately Pink Peonies, at the Marin Art & Garden Center

When it comes to the magic, beauty, and pure allure of spring peonies, from the fields of Napa, Calistoga, Southern Oregon, and Eastern Washington, I always chuckle to myself as I design these robust, remarkable, and reverent stems into centerpieces and bridal bouquets:  we could style them together with maritime rope and deliver in plastic buckets, and they would still, bring the house down, with sighs and oohs and awes! They are, that amazing. And, of course, we always do a bit more with them, than that, at the studio and on site at weddings!

These lovely blooms were enjoyed at the Marin Art & Garden Center, by Mr. and Mrs. RVC. Congratulations and continued wishes for joy and happiness from all of us on your wedding team: Christy Daly, Allure Consulting; Chris Engel, Insalata’s Catering; Sweet Things.

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The Wild Roses of West Marin

On any given day, no matter how lively the tasks ebb and flow, there comes a moment where I step back and I smell the roses, as the quote reads, figuratively, and literally, because of what I do for my job craft, and because-of what blooms from early spring until the first hard frost-in our garden.  I am one who has always lived by or amongst, a forest canopy, a meadow of grass and flowers, a beach next to a body of salt water, under a sky of clean air. For this, I am grateful, and that’s putting it mildly. Keeping me company have been dozens of bird species, tiny and large, butterflies, dragonflies, and at times, fireflies. Crickets, frogs, animals of the wild. This week, a pair of great horned owls keeping tabs on one another in the early evening hours, have provided night music outside our home, from the tops of our hood’s tallest trees.

This weekend, we have a two part wedding floral design and delivery project, on the shores of Stinson Beach. Yesterday, the “house” designs were white wedding elegant, but with a spin of California Ocean-Marin Headlands style. Great design fun with studio favorite botanicals. Best of all, the delivery was well received by the bride. Tomorrow, wedding day, only fully bloomed, pure white peonies for the ceremony, each flower’s curly petals nestled by its neighbor in the designs.

I assured my schedule after yesterday’s works allowed me the afternoon: a lunch bowl of clam chowder at the Sand Dollar in Stinson Beach: to see who had been writing and publishing on the shelves of Stinson Beach Books; to stop and visit with those about the College of Marin research boats in Bolinas; to pick a few veggies from the Star Route Farm’s farm-stand baskets: for the weekend Bar-B-Q, Marin Sun Farms chicken apple sausages, made that day, packed by the Sun guys on an ice bag for my trip home.

On this day yesterday, I rode solo in my van. Much wide and expansive time to think, stop, photograph wild roses, sketch the shapes of grasses, and visit with people along the way. As Irv Spivak would call them, “New, Old Friends.” I also recalled the quoted text on the handmade, college graduation card from my family, many years ago, typed onto a piece of notebook paper. The quote was from a speech which Maya Angelou had given years earlier to the graduates of Spelman College. She observed that pretty much every place these students had been up to this point, they had shared a “stage” with those around them. Always, a team effort. Upon their graduation, they were headed to places where they would now stand, often alone, on this stage. They were to keep in mind, no matter where they went, what they did, they were to take every person making a difference in their lives, onto to this stage with them —

— Here is to, remembering these people in our lives. I do in mine. With gratitude and respect, on Memorial Day and every day, I remember those who served, and do serve our country, with courage, loyalty, and dedication, and their families on their “stage” with them.

-Kathleen

Wild Roses of West Marin

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For Mother’s Day

Mom: Those who care enough to love and support you when things get complex. As one ages, one sees this person can be a woman or man, young or old, perhaps multiple people. A Mom nurtures you and guides you, and they are not your friend. They’re, Mom. They are quite tough on their shell and deeply strong in their marrow. When they’re looking for you in the yard, a Mom might call you by each and every name of your siblings, before she finally calls you by yours. Even, if you have brothers.  She is somebody whose heart melts, by way of her smile, when you walk through her kitchen door. A child learns, all you really have to do for Mom’s best happiness, is come home safe at the end of school day. Not arguing at bath time, that helps too.

Moms don’t settle for anything less than their children giving all activities they attempt, their best try. Failures? Those are lessons. Success, gets celebrated, and improved upon the next day. Assuring assistance, she is, was, and will be the one who fills her kid’s literal and figurative tool basket with a ruler, crayons, lunch money in the correct amount for the cashier (if “lunch day” met her approval). This basket could also include a carefully completed Scholastic Book Club order form, and a typewriter from K-Mart, on which to type college papers at a University, no less. A Mom is not shy with stamps and the US Postal Service. She sends perfectly posted, crisp envelopes to her children, covered with baby animal and flower stickers. If a $20.00 bill is included for incidentals in one’s life, the seal of the envelope gets taped down in three places.

Mom. The one you wish to call to help you celebrate an achievement or occasion, recall a cat story, “out” those who looked at you wrong and made fun of your outfit, or tell of the smell of a Mr. Lincoln red rose you just admired on a walk. To this day. She’s the one whose perfume you smell when you open your jewelry box, as her earrings are in there, sparkling like stars.

-Kathleen Cage

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Photo: Courtesy of Sabine Scherrer, Sabine Scherrer Photography

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Nessy Rose and Michael, Marin Art and Garden Center

Once in a time, a wedding will happen along where I can’t muster the true, full, and proper words to share the story of the wedding day. I wouldn’t do the wedding’s loveliness and purity its full due — with its bold and obvious details, and the once in their lifetime, loving touches and moments. This past June, this particular day included them all. With many thanks to Michael L’ Heureux, Michael L’ Heureux Photography, I don’t need to search for those words. His breathtaking photos say it all. This couple, and several of their family members and friends, are amongst my dearest friends. It is an honor to be your flower girl for your occasions, and a joy to share your friendship.

As always, special thanks to the Marin Art & Garden Center for your continued welcome to us on wedding day, and for all that you do to manage, maintain, and honor your remarkable gardens and site. We also give an additional shout out to Michael, for his finesse with the camera on a 103 degree, farenheit, wedding day. Tim and I still don’t know how you looked so cool all day! 🙂

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2013 Bouquets to Art, de Young Museum, San Francisco

It has been a marvelous week at the studio, and on our travels to and fro’ the de Young Museum. We have completed our 6th year of design participation at the 29th annual, Bouquets to Art. This annual floral jubilee is organized by the volunteer members of the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums, with many, MANY tireless, patient, kind, and encouraging hands and voices of the curators, and staff members at the de Young museum. Through the years, this annual event has raised over $5 million in support of conservation projects, education programs, and special exhibitions at the de Young and Legion of Honor museums. To be reminded of the details of this event: A “selection day” is held each year in early January. On this day, we designers determine our top five pieces we like to interpret, echo, and evoke with flowers and botanicals, and other materials, such as metal, glass, mesh screens, wire, and more. Then, right after Valentine’s Day, our assignment arrives in our mail boxes, and away we go with our production and design process. This year, I was assigned a 12 panel aquatint and soft ground etching by Julie Mehretu, entitled Auguries, 2010. As noted in its formal description, it is, “inspired by the natural character of the city as a place in flux, where Julie Mehretu builds webs of information throughout her painted and printed work. Her process of layered mark-making is exemplified in the map-like, gridded structure of this twelve-panel print. Its composition encourages block-by-block or panel-by-panel observation, approximating the way a city is experienced, one little bit at a time.”

We were honored to have interpreted such a wonderful and favorite museum piece, and we had a lot of fun, with our white ginestra (broom flower), many salvaged metal parts from M. Maselli & Sons, Mitsumata sticks, and chicken wire. Special thanks, and it’s a blessedly long list: my co, executive designer, Raymond C; museum magicians, Leslie H., Debra E., Colleen T; each and every staff member at the de Young who go above and beyond with their help to us all; Bouquet ladies, Lisa H, and Alex L., and their associates; the kind people we met on Friday at our “Meet the Florist” session; my family and friends who dropped by this session.

Last but not least, my most loving thanks, to the Bouquets’ ring leader of 29 years, Barbara H.

With joy, Kate

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Simi Winery, Soft October Pinks and Greens

October is one of the loveliest months for a wedding in wine country. Large, rumbling trucks filled with flats of sweet, late harvest grapes keep you company on the roads during wedding-day deliveries, pumpkins and gourds greet you at every doorstep, the weather is warm but not too hot, and event evenings include a roaring fire hearth and ceiling of twinkle lights. It’s my personal, favorite time to design in Sonoma and Napa’s wine country. Also, this wedding included some of the last of the local, heirloom garden roses…Purple Prince, Fair Bianca, and Juliet! A very special group of talented and spirited wedding professionals helped Wendy and Tim with their nuptials: the ever so talented Jessica Boldt, Simi Winery;  Park Avenue Catering; Kimberly Roberts from LVL Events; Christian & Miss Susie from Krumbs Cakes. Special thanks to my sweet friend and colleague Curtis Myers, Perfect Circle Photography with Curtis Myers, for his joy, his talent, and I suppose, a keen, third eye for seeing things which others do not see. The last photo in this post? My beginner’s talent shooting Curtis doing what he does so well. Cheers, Kathleen-Kate

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Curtis, October 2012

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Anderson Ranch – Kenwood, California

This past summer we had the pleasure of working at the remarkable, stunning, and breathtaking Anderson Ranch – an utterly charming and intimate private estate located in Sonoma’s Kenwood region. However, surpassed by the charm of this site was our bride and groom, Corrine and Steve. Continued congratulations for a lifetime of happiness. Special thanks to Luke Snyder for showing us and inspiring us with the story of this wedding day…

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