By Anita Rafael
Step away from the sap-sticky pinecones and needle-dropping evergreen boughs! To do something very creative with our holiday décor this season, we are adding bouquets of fresh flowers around the house. We are choosing arrangements with shimmering, silvery eucalyptus and we are picking out collections of unusual succulent plants that stay attractive for weeks. After visiting Kate Cornell and Sherry Clark at work at Bondville Bloomist, one of the area’s most charming shops tucked away on a small lane along Route 30, we blossomed with clever ideas. They have worked together since the 1980s, and turn every customer’s wish into a work of art.
“Everyone thinks beautiful roses are the most expensive cut flowers, but they’re really not,” says Sherry, lifting her hands to make a tall shape. “With gilded foliage and the right container, I can design something architecturally interesting. Picture sheaves of gilded lily grass, entwined with elegant ribbons, and mixed with long-stemmed roses. It can be stunning.”
She suggests using magnolia leaves or variegated holly and adding twigs and berries for arrangements that keep well. “I use Hypericum because the berries on them come in many colors,” she says. Branches loaded with bright clusters of Winterberry are good in holiday arrangements, too, adding a big splash of color with an extended vase-life.
“This idea,” Kate says, “of combining flowers with foliage and other materials works well because you can take the flowers out when they fade, and you still have a very pretty structure remaining. Or, you can just insert three or four fresh stems again.” Try an arrangement with a Protea hybrid called Safari Sunset. The actual flower is a small cone surrounded by large, colorful bracts that are frequently mistaken for the blossom itself. Bouquets with sturdy leaves like Safari Sunset last at least two weeks.
“Recutting!” says Sherry, reading her business partner’s thoughts and starting the next sentence. “That’s the thing we have a hard time getting our clients to do. Flowers stay fresh much longer if you change the water daily, and, before you go away for a few days, snip a half-inch off the bottom of each stem.” Every time you make a fresh cut, she explains, it allows the plant to drink more water and recuperate when wilting starts.
“We’ve been designing many shorter arrangements for multiday events and weekend parties because the shorter the stem, the longer the life of the flower,” says Kate. She and Sherry like making several matching arrangements that can work two ways: individually for a spot of color or clustered to create a greater impact. “That way people can move the separate containers to different places, such as the coffee table, the mantel, or the bedside table in a guest room,” she says. “We put flowers in our bathrooms, too.”
Although the “Bloomists” love to incorporate parts of the Vermont outdoors into cut bouquets and arrangements, such as rustic wood, birch bark, and pine cones, Kate says, they “don’t have to.”
“This year,” says Sherry, “I intend to do a lot with flowering plants. I can center a large amaryllis in its pot inside a bigger container, and then I am able to decorate all around the flower to complete the design. And I will be using more succulents, too. I am very into succulents lately.”
As if on cue, Kate disappears into the back of the shop and a moment later brings out a large, shallow cardboard box. Together, they peek inside at rows of small succulent plants—dozens of hardy Hens and Chickens of a variety that are tinged with a pinkish hue and flecks of brilliant green. Sherry is making inventive arrangements with these.
“My client puts two oblong containers filled with pebbles on her bar,” Sherry says, “and I add various succulents. These last a long, long time.” Other kinds of Sempervivum are spiky like stars and some are soft shades of silver. Succulents can be used in their potting medium or cut from their roots and placed in water.
“Using fresh flowers and plants in your holiday decorating will make you happy,” Kate says. “Flowers bring you joy in a season already filled with joy. They bring you life, especially in the middle of winter.”
The Bondville Bloomist
802-297-1424 or 802-297-2070