Happy day! Spring blossoms are beginning to do their thing and it’s got us wanting to talk flowers. So for tips on purchasing and designing your own wedding flowers, we reached out to our good friend Kate Sparks at Laughing Lady Flower Farm, located just outside of Philadelphia.
With a few able helpers and an open mind, designing your own flowers can be both a budget-conscious and enjoyable experience. What’s more, the options for buying local, specialty cut flowers are growing in leaps and bounds. Small farms are cropping up everywhere, even within half-acre urban plots, making it surprisingly convenient to find a variety of high quality flowers in favorite colors like blush, ivory, and peach from May through October. Read on for a glimpse of what’s available when, plus other planning tips.
Hi Kate. Can you start by taking us through the highlights of each season?
Late April through May
Look for heirloom tulips (Belle Epoch is a popular variety), Ranunculus, Anemone, poppies, Fritillaria, French lilac, and hellebore; cherry blossom and quince branches are also nice for texture. Overall, spring is full of wonderfully fragrant, soft-color options, with pops of periwinkle and lemon cream.
Late May through June
Peonies are the undoubted favorite, with other delicate offerings like bellflowers, Astilbe, columbine, Nigella, more poppies, the first flush of garden roses, and lily of the valley — a quintessential bridal flower. Choose from a wide variety of colors: ivory, blush, juicy pinks, peach and more.
June through July
Expect peonies through mid-June, spectacular garden roses (a florist favorite), foxglove, heirloom lilies, Cosmos, chocolate lace flower, and the start of flowering vines. Pale apricot and soft gold hues add to every shade between blush, berry, and plum.
August through the first frost
At long last, the Dahlias! Not to be missed: Cafe Au Lait and Platinum Blonde varieties, with Lisianthus, tuberose, Zinnia, pincushion flower, Japanese anemone, and heirloom mums. Colors begin to get richer, including deep purple, burgundy, and rust, however ivory and blush are still plentiful. Crab apple branches, seed pods, and grasses add texture.
How are these offerings dependent on geography?
Generally speaking, what I mentioned applies to the continental US; things just shift a bit depending on your location. For example, flowers bloom earlier the further south you go. And because the climate is more temperate out west, the seasons for certain flowers are longer; Dahlias and heirloom roses do very well on the west coast. Think of the above as a rough guide, and contact your local farmer for a more detailed view.
Where can brides buy flowers in bulk?
Flower farms, including urban farms which refurbish the soil in abandoned plots, often sell flowers in bulk to brides. This is the simplest, most sustainable option, and you will receive the absolute freshest flowers. The Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers lists flower farms by state, and the Slow Flowers website also curates a great list. For supplements, Whole Foods always has a small yet responsibly sourced selection.
How do farms sell their flowers to brides?
You can usually count on at least 100 stems per five-gallon rectangular florist bucket. Bulk flower buckets generally range in price from $100-200. When speaking with your local farmer, ensure that your buckets include a mix of face and fill flowers. Face flowers are your larger, focal flowers like peonies and Dahlias, while filler flowers like Astilbe and Cosmos round out arrangements and provide texture. For a lush, garden-like look, you should also order foliage; popular favorites include dusty miller and Eucalyptus. Most farmers will build buckets to fit your desired color palette, just be sure to tell he/she which colors you prefer early in your discussions.
How much should a bride buy, and when?
This depends on what she is planning to design: bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, corsages and boutonnières, centerpieces, garland, etc. Roughly, you could create five small bridesmaid bouquets or five quart-size centerpieces with one 100-stem bucket of flowers, plus foliage. Consider the size of your vases too; votives look nice with just a couple of flowers and a sprig of greenery. Some farms will offer you a quote for bulk flowers up to a year before your wedding, however most discussions begin between three and eight months before your wedding date.
Do farms ever offer design services?
Because farmers work with flowers daily, they are often experienced floral designers too! Depending on who you work with, you may be able have certain designs (such as your bridal bouquet and boutonnières) professionally created by the farm itself, in addition to ordering bulk flowers and foliage for designing your own centerpieces and bridesmaid bouquets. Contact individual farms for more information on a la carte design services, as well as floral design lessons.
What should a bride plan for right before the wedding?
Plan to pick up bulk flowers one to three days before your event, and have a dark, cool place (away from fruits and vegetables) ready store them. Air conditioning is essential during peak summer months when storing, designing, and transporting your flowers. Set aside plenty of time and a few friends to help you design; depending on how much you are designing, this could be anywhere from three to eight hours. Also, consider how you will be transporting your finished designs to your venue and how much time you will need to them set up—generally at least an hour.
What tools and materials are needed?
You’ll need plenty of space, access to water, and a variety of materials on hand including sturdy floral clippers, floral tape, pins, and ribbon if desired. Consider any support you might need within your vessels, i.e. a small cage created from chicken wire to anchor stems, or floral frogs. At Laughing Lady, we rent our design studio by the hour to DIY brides. It may be worth asking your local farm if they offer this option as materials are usually included in the rental price, and you won’t have clean up!
Volunteer Opportunities in 2017
We are hoping to create a list of friends interested in volunteering at the farm during the times we need it most, such as planting seedlings in the spring. In exchange, you'll get a glimpse of how a working farm operates, plus gardening tips that you can bring home to your own landscape. Tools and lunch will also be provided.
If you are interested in joining our volunteer list, please fill out the contact form and write volunteer opportunities in the comments section. By doing so you're under no obligation, we'll just send you word when we need help and if you can come, we'd be glad to have you.
Thank you for your continued support, and here's to an abundant season!