Summer ended with a dream assignment, one that challenged me creatively, and called upon quick thinking. The destination was the American Gold Cup Equestrian Event, an exquisite four-day affair at The Old Salem Farm in North Salem. My part was to create 80 centerpieces of varying sizes that would match the excellence being displayed in the ring on the difficult jumping course.
Container by Rustiek
Container by Rustiek
Artichokes, succulents, thistles, hydrangeas, hypericum berries, roses, mini calla lilies, pin cushion flowers, cock’s comb, arachnid orchids, kangaroo paws and single magnolia leaves joined forces for a veritable cornucopia of shapes and autumnal colors.
Container by Rustiek
And I used custom troughs of reclaimed barn wood for containers. These truly stunning assemblages added bursts of color to linens in shades of green, terra cotta and deep plum. I like to think that while the world class equestrians made their mark, my centerpieces helped make the experience of attending this event all the more spectacular.
What a nice mix of jobs I had this summer.I loved every bit of it, and I guess it
showed. Merchants in New Preston and Washington, CT, turned to me to create
window boxes and planters that would go the extra mile for the busy tourist
season.I had fun coordinating the
entrance D. K Schulman Design in New Preston –with window boxes of black and
papaya petunias.This striking
combination captured the eye of an Artscope Magazine photographer illustrating
an article on Litchfield County.I
worked the ever-faithful angelonia, vebena, lantana and millions bells; these
are the Percheron draft horses, the mainstays, and come in many varieties and
colors. Needlepoint ivy and a few surprises added the finishing touches.
Sometimes flowers and foliage really CAN draw pedestrian traffic, and this was
exactly what happened the day I arrived in Larchmont, NY, and began creating a
large planter for Sweeets, a new candy emporium. “Would you come do mine next
year?’ one of the neighboring merchants asked. The yellow, orange and blue
flowers in the arrangement matched the sign in the shop’s glistening plate
glass window to a “t”.
There were elegant parties and a variety of weddings in
Connecticut and Manhattan. I used flowers that would have been at home in a
local garden for a country wedding. Some of my favorite custom ordered gems
made for an elegant dinner at Manhattan’s Bryant Park Grill. And I had fun
playing with sunflowers s in glass containers, and fiery roses, Bells of Ireland
and hydrangeas for a wedding reception held at an art gallery – they seemed to
capture the very essence of summer.
Now I’m moving on to a large and exciting new project. Stay
Snapdragons, baby mums, phlox, roses and asters are staples in many home gardens. But have you ever considered some ways to build upon these flowers in arrangements that are fresh and contemporary?
Recently at The Smithy in New Preston I gave a workshop in which we explored some possibilities. To a bouquet of phlox and dusty miller I added stems of raspberries. For a burst of color how about purple asters. I place them in orange peppers-as-containers. Fresh herbs in a rectangular glass container were lovely all on their own, but adding a bed of river stones to the base of the clear container and several stems of colorful snapdragons upped the ante.
Why not mix roses with vegetables, and onions with frilly kale? How about using aspidistra leaves to conceal the oasis in a clear container? Arranging really offers us a chance to tap into our imaginations and to play. As an aside -- I use organic vegetables and herbs in my arrangements. Why? I know I’ll be chopping them up and using them for soup in a few days. What a fitting final destination.
I’ve had a lot of fun in recent months creating a series of nontraditional arrangements. Sometimes they have been asymmetrical works like this one created for a round entry table
In which I mixed tall camellia branches with Hawaiian dendrobium orchids, garden roses and oranges on natural stems.
Other times I’ve made sleek, modern combos in glass cubes and rectangles. When you have top quality flowers, focusing on one or two varieties can pack a wallop.
I’ve embellished a hot-colored centerpiece with fiddleheads, and played with unusual color and flower combinations. I’ve wrapped oasis in tropical foliage, and turned to bamboo, grass and curly willow for spirited finishing touches.
As you see, white, green and sienna callas became showgirls when they are set in sea glass or river pebbles. Similarly, how could this line of lush coral peonies not make a lasting impression?
And how wonderfully exuberant and mysterious this arrangement of green and while callas, Hawaiian dendrobium and cymbidian orchids, bamboo and grass became. I thought afterwards, it was like injecting a bit of the Rain Forest into the equation!
Old World elegance was the tone I struck for a Greenwich client a few days ago, as I set about to decorate her home for the holidays. I turned to an assortment of greens (douglas fir, cedar, redwood, magnolia and Italian ruscus) for wreaths and a lovely mantle arrangement, with scabiosa pods and bursts of white hypericum berries as welcome accents. Among the most stunning of the creations was an exquisite garland of magnolia that I strung along a curving staircase. I capped the garlands, top and bottom, with sumptuous 16-loop moss green bows.
If you look closely at these photos, you’ll see how the finished look corresponds with the interior décor, and picks up on the muted natural palette. (I left confident that my arrangements would stay fresh for weeks, thanks to the trough watering system I’ve refined over the years).
Overall, the result was sophisticated, but soothingly understated. I had embellished the home’s exquisite architectural details without attempting to upstage them. All that was needed will come next -- a crackling fire and guests and family.
An outdoor wedding in the late fall can be risky – and many a bride and groom have worried about rain or cold. These days, thanks to heaters and well-seasoned caterers, even the nastiest weather need not spoil this special day. A Greenwich couple found this out recently, as they made their way from Christ Church to the Gallaher Mansion at Cranberry Park in Norwalk in the pouring rain. With Susan Scully, owner of Watson’s Catering at the helm, everyone knew this event would be spectacular.
For the décor, it was my job to find a colorful and modern way to distill autumn’s essence. I had begun by injecting bursts of color in the Bridal and Bridesmaids’ Bouquets and in the Boutonnieres, turning to Coffee Break roses and hypericum berries.
Once inside the tent I set to work with rolls of natural burlap, transforming tent poles into trunks of trees that I topped with canopies of sweet gum leaves.
Table centerpieces picked up this theme, using many of the same ingredients… Pressed maple leaves scattered on each table and votive candles finished the look.
Flowers have always been a way of life for Loretta Stagen. The daughter of two horticulturists, Loretta has been making corsages and bouquets since she was a child.
A professional floral designer for over twenty years, Loretta Stagen provides innovative flower arrangements and party decorations for corporate events, weddings, concerts and theater stages.
She is also a frequent lecturer at garden clubs.