Local, In-Season on Trend and on Budget

| 2016 Q2 | story by LIZ WESLANDER | photos by Steven Hertzog

Karen Pendleton with Pendleton flowers

No matter the size or style of the wedding, flowers are the flourish that confirms you are truly in the midst of a special occasion.

Three local florists have given us an inside look at the world of wedding flowers, including a rundown of the trends they’ve noticed in Lawrence. They also make a convincing case for why choosing in-season flowers is the single best way to get the highest quality flowers for your money.

Ask any florist, and he or she will tell you this: Brides love peonies, but this has not always been the case. Behold the power of Martha Stewart.

Karen Pendleton, who specializes in local, seasonal, pesticide-free wedding flowers, first planted 2½ acres of peonies on her farm in the late 80s as way to diversify the springtime offerings at Pendleton’s Country Market, which she co-owns with husband John Pendleton.

“At that point, peonies were still primarily seen as a Memorial Day flower,” Pendleton says. “But a year or two after we started growing them, Martha Stewart’s first wedding book came out, and she featured peonies. It changed our lives.”

One of Pendleton’s friends had a daughter getting married in 1991, and, inspired by Martha Stewart’s new book, went in search of a florist who would work with peonies for the wedding. She couldn’t find one.


Pendleton flowers

“Florists wouldn’t work with peonies at the time because they didn’t hold up very well, so she asked me if I would do the wedding,” Pendleton explains.

Pendleton said yes and, using the peonies from her farm, successfully pulled off the event. Through word of mouth, Pendleton quickly found herself in the wedding flower business. She and John quickly got busy increasing the variety of flowers they were growing and started refining their post-harvest handling techniques to maximize the durability of their flowers. Pendleton’s is now booked with two to three weddings every weekend from May through November.


Kristin Spacek adds final touch to a flower arrangement at Owen’s Flower Shop

Kristin Spacek, who has co-owned Owen’s Flower Shop, 846 Indiana St., with her husband since 2011, can attest to the fact that peonies are still going strong in the world of wedding flowers.

“Oh, people want peonies all year round,” Spacek says. “I wish that was available, but they are so expensive out of season.”


Owens Flower Shop

Perhaps one of the reasons for the enduring popularity of peonies is they come in colors that have been trending in the wedding world. Both Pendleton and Spacek agree that coral, blush pink, ivory and white have dominated wedding color palates for the past few years. However, more vibrant colors appear to be staging a comeback.

“This year, I am starting to see more of the marsala color, which was supposedly on trend last year, but we tend to be behind by about a year in the Midwest,” Spacek says. “We haven’t done that sort of color scale before, so I’m excited to see that happening.”

Jennifer Oldridge, who has been operating Stems Event Flowers out of her home studio in Lawrence for three years, says a number of her fall brides are planning a color scheme involving a deep emerald color paired with a hot pink or a hot rose.


Owen’s Flowers, photo courtesy Melissa Sigler Photography

“It’s really dynamic,” Oldridge says. “It will be remembered, that’s for sure.”

Aside from peonies, florists agree that dahlias and hydrangeas are popular at the moment, as are flowers that fit with the earthy, organic, just-picked-from-the-garden style that a number of brides currently favor.

“The whole country burlap thing has definitely been on trend for the last three or four years,” Spacek says. “But I feel like people are starting to move a little bit away from that now. People still like the rustic, outdoor, wildflower look, but without as much burlap.”

Spacek says she likes using herbs, especially lavender, to create a natural look.

“Herbs are soothing and calming as far as the scents, and they provide a lot of texture that make the bouquet look more interesting,” she explains.

Oldridge has also seen a lot of the “burlap and lace look,” and she says a number of people have recently started requesting the addition of antlers and horns to the wedding décor. Weathered vases and containers are also popular for creating a look that blends old and new, she continues.

Pendleton, too, does a lot of “country and barn weddings,” but she says locally grown flowers and loose, round bouquets are currently popular across the board, and she does plenty of traditional church weddings using flowers grown on her farm.

“Just like locally grown food, people are more aware of locally grown flowers right now,” she explains. “Martha Stewart has honestly done more for my wedding business than anyone because she promotes locally grown flowers. That’s huge.”

Both Spacek and Oldridge like to work with local flowers when they can, especially since they naturally lend themselves to the just-picked style that is popular right now.

“If people stay with what’s seasonal, then we can get flowers that are literally picked the day of from one of our local sources,” Oldridge says.

Even if couples choose not to use flowers that can be grown locally, all of the local florists agree it is still in the couple’s best interest to plan their flower choices around what will be in-season on the day of the wedding.

“If a flower is out of season, I try to tell brides up front that it might not be available,” Spacek says. “If a bride wants peonies in November, that’s probably not going to happen. But there are always options for in-season flowers that will have a similar look to the flowers they want.”

Aside from the issue of availability, out-of-season flowers are also significantly more expensive.

“Picking flowers in season is the best way to save money,” Pendleton says. “People think they have to have carnations or lesser flowers in order to save money, but buying things in season will save money. If someone is wanting hydrangeas in May, I’m going to tell them to use stock. I’m growing that then, so it will be less expensive. For people who want lots of dahlias, which are running expensive, I tell them they can get the same look with zinnias between July and October.”

Oldridge agrees couples should embrace flexibility as much as possible when it comes to their wedding flowers.

“Sometimes it’s kind of a reality check for people to understand the pricing and availability of flowers,” Oldridge says. “It’s really a good idea for couples to have a few flower options in mind. We can always get roses from Ecuador, anytime, that’s a pretty easy one; but quality and pricing on most flowers can fluctuate even from week to week depending on weather patterns across the world.”

Both Spacek and Pendleton say they have some customers who, following the do-it-yourself trend, are simply interested in purchasing flowers in bulk that they can then arrange themselves. Both florists do sell bulk flowers for weddings, but, as experts, they have a few caveats for the DIY folks. One is the importance of having a specific idea of the type and quantity of flowers and greenery they will want.

“Some people will just ask me to give them enough flowers of whatever I have for twenty bouquets,” Pendleton says. “Well, that can vary quite a bit depending on things like how full they want the bouquets. If I’m going to figure all that out and make all those decisions, I might as well be making the bouquets.”

Spacek agrees DIY flowers require more planning and effort than many couples realize.

“I always like to try to offer my services and explain to the bride that unless they have a team that is doing it for them, it really does take more time than you think,” Spacek explains. “I’ve actually had someone call me the day before their wedding saying they realized that doing their own flowers was too much and that they needed my help.”

Aside from choosing flowers in season, local florists say the best thing a couple can do when it comes to their wedding flowers is trust their florist—they want the flowers to look good just as much as anyone, and they have the expertise to make it happen.

“We all want to make that bride cry for joy,” Pendleton says. “Give your designer a little leeway, and let them use their good judgment. The most gorgeous bouquets I do are the ones where the bride just gives me some colors, a list of flowers she does and does not like, and says, ‘Make it pretty.’ ”

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