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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Jan 20, 2021

Harvesting Your Own Bouquets, Centerpieces and More With The Shrewsbury Garden Club

By Lori Draz and Rachel Weston of The Shrewsbury Garden Club

Emilee Carton’s December wedding bouquet

Ask gardeners what they ate at a wedding and they’ll probably mutter, “Uh chicken?” But ask the same group about the flowers, and you’re likely to get a much more in-depth answer. A good gardener loves to reminisce about the flowers at their own wedding and the flowers they’ve seen at other weddings too.

The always helpful Rachel Weston and the other members of the Shrewsbury Garden Club (SGC) were happy to share their stories and make suggestions for those planning their own big day in 2021.

Weston begins, “Lucky for us, we have a florist in our ranks. Kathy Keller has been a florist for over 30 years. Her floral designs have starred at many of our club members’ family weddings over the years and at countless other customers of her beloved and now closed Red Bank shop. Keller is still sharing her talents part time at Craig Kiely Designs, also in Red Bank. Examples of her gorgeous work can be found on her Facebook page, Keller Flower Studio.”

“I’ve made many a wedding bouquet,” Keller said modestly. “The challenges of this past year have meant many brides and grooms have had to postpone their wedding or transition to having a small backyard event or a simple justice of the peace ceremony and pass on the wedding party altogether. Even with these challenges, bridal bouquets are still considered essential items and thanks to Mother Nature, beautiful fresh flowers continue to be a part of their special designs.”

Keller shares some expert advice to brides-to-be who are discussing flowers with a floral designer. The bride should begin by sharing the style and feeling she wants to create for her special day. Tell the designer your colors, any particular favorite flowers and your budget. Sharing examples of wedding flowers you like with the florist will ensure you are on the same page for the design. “I want to personally deliver the bride’s bouquet and see their reaction,” Keller said.” Happy to say, I’ve never been disappointed and feel so happy when they say, ‘It’s exactly what I wanted!’”

You can also ask for help from a gardener or garden club member, who are typically more than happy to assist. SGC member Nancy Schmaltz remembered collecting wildflowers for club member Bobby Sturn’s son’s wedding and for another friend’s daughter’s wedding.

“The informality of smaller affairs makes wildflowers an excellent option for 2021,” she said. “I like to add in snowy, airy Queen Anne’s Lace into wildflower bouquets. It is often quite easy to forage along with plumes of pampas grass and other materials from road sides or properties that grant you access for some snipping.”

She also suggests that you plan ahead and buy flower seeds or bulbs now to grow into flowers you can cut flowers for spring and summer. Easy to grow zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers come in a variety of colors. A reputable seed company, such as Burpee, has many options with wedding-themed names such as White Wedding zinnias, Fragrant Wedding Bells lilies and a white echinacea, Marry Me.

Fragrant Wedding Bell Lillies, courtesy of Burpee Seeds

White Wedding Zinnias, courtesy of Burpee Seeds

Judy Bonanno’s arbor design

When member Emilee Carton saw COVID-19 changing the wedding plans for her family and friends, she couldn’t resist coming to the rescue. She shopped local grocery stores for flowers, Facebook marketplace for vases and craft stores for floral supplies. For her soon-to-be sister-in-law’s shower in July, she created a collection of small glass bud vases filled with blush colored blooms. In December, after a friend’s wedding was downsized from a restaurant reception with 30 guests to an intimate outdoor wedding with 10 guests, Carton turned to her own yard and gathered armloads of evergreen boughs as a base. She purchased sprays of eucalyptus, wax flower and roses to create the bride’s bouquet, boutineers and several arrangements.  “I really loved using things from my garden and trees. It felt  more special,” Carton said. ”This year so many more people have gotten is better touch with the nature around them.”

It will be no surprise that roses are the most popular flower, whether they come from your own garden or the florist. Susan Berdahl recalled holding baby’s breath and five yellow Peace roses from her mother’s garden at her wedding in 1978. “This hybrid tea rose has blooms up to six inches and is very fragrant,” she said.

Nadia Nigro made her own wedding bouquet in August 2002. It consisted of creamy white Virginia roses and baby’s breath purchased from a florist. The rest were all plants from her garden. She had been interested in the language of flowers. During the Victorian era, it was common practice for flowers and herbs to be assigned a meaning for their symbolism. Her bouquet was not only pretty; it had a secret meaning being told by the white roses (representing purity), gypsophila (everlasting love), Queen Anne’s lace (sanctuary), white asters (patience) and English Ivy (fidelity). As well as the herbs oregano (symbolizing joy), rosemary (remembrance), basil (betrothal), sage (domestic virtue), lemon balm (understanding) and mint (warmth of feeling).

Emilee Carton’s bridal shower

Garden by Judy Bonanno

In 2018, Judy Bonanno enlisted the help of Sue Berdahl and Therese Blake in the ambitious undertaking of doing all the flowers except the bouquets for her niece’s bridal shower, rehearsal and wedding held outdoors in Shrewsbury. An arbor festooned with roses was an exquisite backdrop. Another beautiful focal point from the project was a multi-tiered fountain planted with succulents. The sun-loving, low maintenance plants could be put into place in spring and left to grow for months while other, more pressing wedding preparations are made.

Weston also left her bouquets to a florist but took on creating the centerpieces for her 2007 wedding. “I used small houseplants and moss from a neighbor’s yard and planted a terrarium garden for each table,” she said. “I wanted guests to have a living reminder of my special day for years to come.”

No matter the scale or location, all weddings are beautiful and so are the flowers. The most important advice from the SGC to anyone planning a wedding this year is to remember to stop and smell the flowers. Breath, smile and enjoy your special day.