Story By B.C. Rausch
The Lowcountry is a great growing environment for many types of flowers and vegetation. Spring is when our flowers start blooming and gardens start taking shape. It’s a lovely time of year (pollen notwithstanding). To help get your garden ready, we asked some local horticulturalists for ideas to bring out the best of spring.
Make an impact
Sean Bishop, owner of The Fox and Olive floral design on Hilton Head Island, reminds us that some of our favorite spring flowers come from far away to brighten our lives. He imports Dutch forsythia from Holland for high-impact floral designs.
“A four-foot-tall Dutch forsythia branch often has 1,500 long-lasting, vibrant yellow blossoms,” he explains. His spring compositions also include branches bearing apple and cherry blossoms, and he loves adding the magnificent color and fragrance of hyacinth in compact short-stem arrangements. He notes that bulb flowers will continue to grow after cut but will flop over because soft stems cannot support heavy blooms; potted bulbs are best in mixed garden planters.
Bulbs provide nutrients to the flowers; cutting them from the bulb takes away their strength, eventually leaving the stem soft and floppy. This is why cut tulips and daffodils when placed in a vase tend to arrange themselves by flopping at random angles.
Pretty as they are, daffodils should be used with caution. Their stems are extremely poisonous, potentially harmful to humans and animals. And never use daffodils in a mixed arrangement because the poisons in the stem will kill the other flowers.
Go with the flow
Annie Bartholomew of Annie Scott Events, a lifelong resident of Hilton Head, works year-round creating special occasions. Asked for her favorite flowers for spring bouquets and arrangements, she picks the more organic, flowy designs.
“I love springtime florals, as there are a lot of variations in bloom and more selection,” she says.
Bartholomew also works with springtime branches in bloom. “I think branches add dimension and height to arrangements. Springtime colors are cheerful and happy, so I love to see that reflected in bouquets. Of course, I also love classic peonies.”
And don’t forget the vases and other elements of the setting if you’re creating a party or livening up any occasion with flowers. Bartholomew likes to mix vessels and different votives on a table, combining metals and textures.
“I think you have to start with a solid base to make the flowers reach their full potential,” she said. “Specialty linens, table runners, or wooden table tops can elevate any design or bouquet.”
For supplying flowers, Bartholomew favors Wimbee Creek Farms in Seabrook. “My mom, grandmom and I used to get a floral subscription from them (during quarantine days), and they would deliver fresh in-season florals. We would make arrangements together. Their seasonal workshops are a great way to kick off the spring season.”
Get in the weeds
Carolina Floral Design owner Sylvia Bushey, who has been pleasing her Beaufort clients for 23 years, creates spring bouquets with a loose and airy appearance by using weedy plants that suggest movement. Her favorite floral elements are delicate baby’s breath, bupleurum that she imports from Ecuador, colorful alstroemeria and fragrant lilies.
Wild and wonderful
When Julie Alkire, owner of Mum’s the Word Florist, creates spring arrangements and handheld bouquets, she designs them to look as if each just came from the garden. “I want a whimsical, free composition. Not too symmetrical, a bit wild, and with lots of color,” she says.
Her spring mix usually brings together Queen Anne’s lace, spiky thistle, larkspur and ever-popular sunflowers. “Three-fourths of what goes out our door includes sunflowers,” Julie added. Vibrant gerbera daisies are always a favorite, and many people still ask for roses in a wide spectrum of colors. A Hilton Head business for 45 years, Mum’s the Word is a floral family affair for Julie and her mother, Dorothy Howard.
Even better than the real thing
Another family business, Branches Designs of Hilton Head, showcases the talents of designers and sisters Sarah Perry and Lauren McAvoy, who see spring as the happy response to winter’s bleak months. Branches is known for using faux florals and botanicals with a Lowcountry vibe, bringing the highest quality permanent floral and foliage elements to interior spaces. Check out the colorful outdoor installations at Kelly Caron Curated in Old Town Bluffton; those pops of color are just samples of Branches Designs’ recent work.
“Spring is a casual season for design and an opportunity to add unexpected color that complements your home,” said Perry.
She takes inspiration from the local coastal bounty of palmetto fronds, silver dollar eucalyptus, magnolias, white orchids and hydrangeas. The sisters, who took over the business started by their mother, also like to incorporate antiques and unique salvaged finds with their arrangements.
Don’t miss the bus
Want to make your own bouquets? The Island Girl Flower Truck drives around the Lowcountry in a vintage VW bus turned truck with buckets of organically grown flowers sourced from local farms. Picked fresh, pesticide-free and ready to bring home, these vibrant varieties of long-stem beauties also make scheduled appearances on Hilton Head, at the Bluffton Farmers Market and at area festivals.
“We curate and sell chemical-free, fresh-cut flowers grown locally in Beaufort by Farmer Blue and at Wimbee Creek Farm in Seabrook,” says owner Cheryl Rieck-Klippel. Island Flower Girl specializes in domestic blooms and, depending on the season, also sources from farms in Georgia, Florida, and California.
The bus — named “Buttercup” — roams the area, allowing shoppers to select stems from 28 different buckets and create bouquets on the spot, instantly satisfying their floral passions.