Behind the Scenes: A New Spring Bulb Collection from Flirty Fleurs
This year’s spring-blooming bulb collections from floral designer Alicia Schwede are better than ever. Though we collaborate with her on color palettes and varieties, Alicia’s creative combinations are always a surprise, revealing familiar flowers in new and exciting ways.
One of the reasons these Flirty Fleurs collections are so successful is that Alicia grows the flowers as well as arranges them. Behind each of these gorgeous arrangements, there’s a gardener who is thinking about plant health, weather, bloom time and staking. To give you a window into her process, we asked Alicia to talk with us about how this year’s new Flirty Fleurs Brussels Collection came together.
Start with a Star
Most flower arrangements have a feature flower and in this one, it’s the tulip Parrot King. “Parrots are my very favorite type of tulips,” said Alicia. “The way they bend and twist their way through an arrangement is so expressive.” She grows parrot tulips separately from other types because there’s nothing straight about a parrot tulip. “They have lots of personality right from the start,” she says. “The parrot tulip’s growth habit is sort of squirrelly. One stem bends right and one bends left.”
Like all tulips, parrots continue to grow after they are cut. “I find parrots are at their best in a vase,” says Alicia. “The flowers get much bigger than they ever do in the garden.” And they keep changing. “I took photos of this arrangement for three days and Parrot King’s flowers moved around a lot.”
Make Sure to Add Fragrance
As a floral designer, Alicia is always thinking about fragrance. “Designing with a handful of flowers that have a lovely scent is important when creating arrangements,” said Alicia. “Fragrance draws people in and helps them appreciate the flowers more intimately.”
In this arrangement, Alicia added the pure white hyacinth Aiolos. In addition to fragrance, these flowers also introduce a very different shape and texture. “I always plant several different varieties of hyacinths in my flower garden,” she said. “I love working out there when the hyacinths are in bloom and their scent wafts through the air.”
Alicia also included another flower with a sweet perfume: Tazetta daffodil Cragford. “This sweet little daffodil has such a cheery personality,” she says. “I like how the brilliant orange cups echo the deep oranges of Parrot King.” Like other Tazetta daffodils, Cragford blooms relatively late in the season and has a cluster of little flowers on each stem. Known for its heat tolerance, it’s a particularly good variety for southern areas.
Be Open to Inspiration
Alicia has grown many different daffodils, yet she is always eager to try new varieties. Actaea was new to her this spring. “There are so many things I love about this daffodil,” she said. “The shape of the flower is very distinctive. Its petals are large and well defined, and they catch both light and shadows. The tiny cups have a narrow red rim that gives the flowers a painterly look.”
Alicia also noted Actaea’s long stems, light fragrance and staying power. In the garden, the flowers lasted 2-3 weeks, which was really appreciated, considering she had so many new collections to create.
Don’t Underestimate the Role of Foliage
The artful way that Alicia uses foliage is a signature touch. It’s subtle, but always special and just right. The Brussels Collection includes foliage from nandina, a shrub in her backyard. The plant’s leaves are light green in early spring, then turn deep green and glossy for summer and fall.
“Nandina’s chartreuse spring foliage echoes the flashes of green on Parrot King’s petals,” said Alicia, “and the arrow-like leaves allowed me to add some extra movement.” There was also a practical reason for using nandina. “The plant’s stems are very slender so I could add foliage at the end without disturbing the rest of the arrangement.”
Bonus Tips from a Pro
Alicia often uses footed vases, called compotes, for her floral arrangements. In this case it’s an antique mercury glass compote. Before arranging the flowers, she filled the vase with a dome of chicken wire to hold the stems. “Most of the floral designers that I know, avoid using floral foam due to its environmental impacts, said Alicia. “Most spring bulbs have hollow stems, which makes them incompatible with foam, anyway.” Chicken wire works well, though Alicia stresses that you need to work slowly and carefully to avoid breaking the stems or slicing them on the wire.
When making an arrangement that combines daffodils with other types of spring bulbs, Alicia always starts by putting the daffodils in a separate container of water for about 30 minutes. This gives them time to release most of their sap, which would otherwise clog the stems of other flowers in the vase.
Floral Design Made Easier
We love the way Alicia can create such stunning arrangements with just a few different types of flowers. “There’s no need to get overcomplicated,” she says. “The Brussels Collection features just four varieties. It’s the various shapes and sizes of the flowers that creates the drama. Adding one type of foliage from the yard pulled the whole arrangement together.”
Shop All Flirty Fleurs Collections for fall planting HERE.