Laura Dowling: Floral Diplomacy

Laura Dowling served as Chief Floral Designer at the White House for 6 years from 2009 until 2015. In this position, she planned and implemented decorations for major events at the White House, including the White House Christmas, state dinners, the presidential family quarters, the public tour route displays, and Camp David, an imposing portfolio of literally thousands of large and small events, floral arrangements, table settings and innovative volunteer projects.

Flowers: A Tool for Innovation and Change

Laura Dowling’s Ted Talk. Ted x Mid Atlantic

Inspired by President Obama’s message of hope and change, Laura created floral designs to reflect these sentiments and chats about using flowers as a strategic approach. Focus may be environmental, cultural traditions, symbolism, and much more.

Photo by Stichting Kunstboek

Photo by Stichting Kunstboek


Promise You a Rose Garden: Ex-White House Florist Tells All

New York Times

The former White House florist Laura Dowling, in New York City’s flower district.  Credit Tawni Bannister for The New York Times  By Katherine Rosman

The former White House florist Laura Dowling, in New York City’s flower district.

Credit Tawni Bannister for The New York Times

By Katherine Rosman


Laura Dowling’s garden style bouquets are exquisite gatherings of lush and vibrant seasonal blooms, poetic arrangements that evoke sentimental memories and inspire ethereal dreams. Highly original in concept and design, Laura’s bouquets weave layers of blooms, fruits and entwining vines with fabricated materials such as paper, ribbons and wool, blurring the lines of traditional floristry to fuse flowers with nature and handcrafts in new and unexpected presentations. At once fanciful and whimsical, refined and elegant, her colorful bouquets exude a friendly and approachable aesthetic that have inspired a First Lady, high-level dignitaries and legions of fans from around the world with their great charm and liveliness. She believes that flowers – the ephemeral but enduring mementos of special occasions and everyday life – convey a vast range of emotions and meanings that words alone cannot express, unlocking a powerful tool for uplifting spirits, telling stories and enriching our lives. In her new book “Bouquets,” due out later this year, Laura shares her secrets and insights for creating 75 innovative designs that focus on l’art du bouquet – the most personal and evocative form of floral artistry – including detailed step-by-step tips and techniques for crafting her unique, signature-style bouquets for all settings, seasons and occasions.


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“ I think we need more opportunities for thoughtful, collaborative problem-solving and creative expression vs. devolving into cliques and group think – a challenge in the social media era. The bottom line is that the appeal of flowers is timeless and enduring – and will continue to play an important role in our increasingly hectic and busy lives – creating new opportunities for everyone involved in the floral world.” Laura Dowling

New 2019 Holiday Wreath Stamp Collection will soon be available. Laura shared this wonderful news about her latest project years in the making. Antonio Alcalá served as the art director Laura Dowling designed the festive wreaths for the holiday stamps. Photographed by Kevin Allen.

Peonies: Varieties to Look For This Year!!

by Scott Shepherd


With the arrival of spring comes the much anticipated onset of magnificent peonies. Each year, the peony season comes and goes with mostly the same varieties. You may recognize varieties like ‘Kansas’, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’, ‘Jules Eli’, ‘Festiva Maxima’, and ‘Duches de Nemours’. Oh, and don’t forget ‘Coral Charm’, ‘Coral Sunset’, and ‘Red Charm’. These have become the staple varieties that we know to ask for year after year. Some of these varieties are earlier blooming cultivars which we have grown to depend on, but over the years new varieties that tend to bloom later in the season have become more plentiful.

Many of these varieties have been hybridized over the decades. New doesn’t necessarily mean recently created. New could be, and often is, defined as meaning the varieties have been around a long time but have finally become more available to the masses. Peonies can be a tremendous expense to plant, both in capital, labor, and land. Many varieties take a minimum of three years before blooms can actually be harvested. As you can imagine after millions of dollars have been spent in plants, the idea of tearing them out of the ground and starting with new varieties isn’t very attractive.

So as our palette of peonies progress, we want to take a moment to show you and make sure you learn and remember some names for this spring. That way, when you have a chance you can try them out. We have not used any kind of enhancement or filters on the pictures. We have used natural light in most cases to give you a sense of the true color

 

Fuchsia Peony

Peony ‘Paul Wilde’

Peony ‘Paul Wilde’

This is ‘Paul Wilde’. An amazing fuchsia with an incredibly high petal count. This fabulous variety opens reliably into a large flower with a big wow factor. It adds that degree of moodiness to any rich romantic color palette. The color is so intense it’s sure to draw your customer’s eyes straight to it.

 

New and Different

Peony ‘Do Tell’ / ‘Flat Top’

Peony ‘Do Tell’ / ‘Flat Top’

There’s a short story with this variety. When I first bought this peony, it was sold to me under the name ‘Flat Top’, and I posted it on Instagram as such. Then, one of our followers was kind of enough to give me her thoughts on the variety. I was very grateful, since I always want to be correct when posting new varieties. At the time, I found images that matched under both names. However, I do think the name is ‘Do Tell’. So I listed that first above. This is a very interesting peony with all the color in the center of the flower and the pink petals that continue to fade as it opens. It blends with almost any palette. Because it opens quickly, I would leave it in the cooler as long as possible. The color in this flower has the ability to create color bridges or help with transitioning interesting color combinations of flowers.

 

Salmon Peonies

In my hunt for salmon color peonies, I came across the next two varieties in Holland. Their names say it all, and I just had to try them. As you can see in the pictures, they really aren’t salmon. I will say that they start salmon-ish and then open to pink.

Peony ‘Etched Salmon’

Peony ‘Etched Salmon’

‘Etched Salmon’ is a beautiful peony. It opens slower than the variety below and when you see all the petals you know why. It just keeps opening and opening to the magnificent flower you see above. They consistently open with a combination of tones throughout the flower. You naturally see the darker pink inner petals that fade to the lighter pink outer petals. I would never hesitate to try this variety if given the chance. When the flower fully opens it’s almost a complete sphere. Amazing!!

Peony ‘Salmon Saucer’

Peony ‘Salmon Saucer’

If you need a fast opener, this is it, ‘Salmon Saucer’. Being in the single family of peonies, it has few petals. These two varieties look identical in the bud stage. If you use your fingers and pinch the bud the single peonies feel hollow compared to a double or semi-double. If they get mixed up you can use the pinch test to tell them apart. They are beautiful, but some people are turned off with the yellow pollen filled center. Often brides and customers that want the pink of the peony are not happy with this center. When fully opened, it reminds me of the flower from Magnolia grandiflora.

 

White Peonies

Being that white is the number one color in demand for most weddings, I’ve included two that you may not know. If you do a lot of weddings especially in late May and June you may have lucked out over the last two years and found these show stoppers.

Peony ‘Madame Claude Tain’

Peony ‘Madame Claude Tain’

This peony contains beautiful petals with a feathery center. The petals, as they approach the center sometimes have a slight yellow cast to them. However, when it opens completely, it reads white to me. I guess it depends on the color palette you may be using with it. It is definitely whiter that ‘Duchess’. The petal count makes this flower seem full and dramatic. A great choice for sure, you don’t want to forget this one.

Peony ‘Odile’

Peony ‘Odile’

White peonies are truly the jewels of the wedding bouquet. If you struggled with choosing which white peony to choose, I understand. Deciding between white with pink flecks or varities that open with this yellowish creamy center can be frustrating. For the bride that wants pure white, I think this is the best variety because it really doesn’t have much, if any, of that yellow that stands out in an all white bridal bouquet. Needless to say, the whitest variety I’ve seen. Remember this one for sure.

 

Pink Peony

Peony ‘Sweet 16’

Peony ‘Sweet 16’

Out of all the “new” peonies I’ve enjoyed this year, ‘Sweet 16’ has to be my new favorite. It’s a little darker than the ‘blush’ most people want in the wedding world. This peony is an absolute showstopper. It’s large and has a pretty balance to it, not a single blossom and not packed with petals either. It opens gracefully because these huge petals are amazing. Almost every single flower that I saw in this batch opened beautifully. I just can’t say enough about this variety because my jaw dropped open from the very first second I saw it open. Truly a work of art to be used in designs.

The flower business is constantly changing with new varieties replacing old. With some crops this is easier than others. Change in the world of peonies is truly slow. Because South America joined the world in peony production, they have brought many new varieties to our markets. I can’t wait to see what treasures they’ll send our way this winter!!