The rains have started, the fall leaves have long been turned to compost, and winter can be felt lurking about. Even with a cup of tea and the anticipation of hellebore and snowdrops, it doesn't take much to persuade me to think back to the magical two days I spent at Floret Flower Farm.
When I first started thinking seriously about turning my love of flowers and design into a business, I spent hours cruising the internet for information and inspiration. A handful of people kept turning up, and two women in particular. Erin Benzakein and Amy Merrick. It seemed every time I would stop and daydream over an image it belonged to one of them. When I found out Amy was coming out from Brooklyn, and they were going to hold a workshop at Erin's farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington I signed up with hardly a hesitation. It was so close I could drive there and the timing was perfect. To say my expectations were high is an understatement.
Everything about that weekend was wonderful. It was held at a historic farmstead in the Skagit Valley, just down the road from Erin's. When we arrived we stood on the grass under huge poplar trees sipping wine and introducing ourselves as the sun sank. Corn fields led our eyes out to the Olympic Mountains and swallows wheeled overhead. The next morning we ate breakfast in the farmhouse; leaning against the porch railing or gathered around a large table. Across the grass, a russet colored barn was our classroom. That barn. It was our setting and our place. Really, it was a member of the workshop.
The first morning we spent walking the fields of Erin's farm. She let us loose with clippers and buckets. Dahlias and zinnias at their full glory, black Queen Anne's lace, Scabiosa in colors I'd never seen, and we could pick them! We went a little crazy. It was hard not to.
Erin and Amy were so gracious and generous with their knowledge and experience. I think Erin might get done in a half day what would take me two. She really is as amazing as she seems. Amazing and honest, and warm and so very encouraging. Amy's enthusiasm and love for the material and craft of what she does was inspiring. She shared tricks of the trade as well as insights into her own process.
I learned nearly as much from the talented and varied group of women who had come together that weekend to immerse themselves in an all out flower love fest. We shared our joys and challenges as we worked and ate side by side. The camaraderie continues across distance and timezones. A full four months later and I can still hear all those voices cheering me on.
In the afternoon of the first day we made hand-tied bouquets. It is hard to describe how beautiful they all were, so full of Erin's amazing blooms. The colors warm and bright. As the sun started to go down on our day, Laura Dart took our individual photos. We grinned and beamed, each of us holding our bouquets with that fabulous barn as a backdrop. What a day.
Day two found us back in the barn with flowers in a softer color palette. The queen of our story today would be the Cafe au Lait dahlia. A better prima donna could not be dreamed up. We worked all morning on our footed compote arrangements, adding in crabapples and draping tiny clusters of grapes. Then over lunch Amy wove the spell that would create our next endeavor.
Together we transformed a section of the barn into a vine-draped, candle-lit grove. The table was lined with our arrangements and each place set with elegant linens. Anne Parker, with an assist from Nina Foster, outdid herself with dinner. It was all so beautiful and so delicious. Made more so that it was created by our own hands. We sat together late into the evening. We wore flower crowns on our heads and huge smiles on our faces. The sunset was more fiery than the night before, and as if to pull out all the stops, a rainbow marked the sky on the other side of the barn. If this all sounds a little dramatic, well it was, and magical too.