Tuesday, January 17, 2017

creative inspiration: favourite flower books

I've been revisiting some of my favourite sources of flower inspiration the past few weeks and thought I'd share them with you. Here's a short list of titles I keep on hand here at the shop.

flower books

The Flower Workshop by Ariella Chezar
This beautifully shot book is filled with advice and musings from a floral master.  A hefty read, the book is organized by season, by colour and by flower and showcases the authors well known love of rich hues and lush natural feeling designs. A novice flower arranger will enjoy this, but it also gives a look into the author's philosophy of design and and flower work that a more seasoned designer can enjoy too.

The Flower Recipe Book and The Wreath Recipe Book, by Althea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo
I did a little review of the flower recipe book on the blog here, and this is still one of my favourites. A little more instructional than most of the other books in this list, this is a perfect book if you want to see some step by steps on making interesting arrangements. It's still inspiring and creative enough to interest a more veteran flower arranger too. We sell both these fab books at the shop.

Bringing Nature Home, by Ngog Minh Ngo, with arrangements by Nicolette Owen
This wonderful book is not an instruction manual at all, rather it showcases flowers in beautiful home environments, organized by season. A great book to leaf through for inspiration, especially for a florist that tends to see flowers in the retail shop environment rather than in a home setting. I received this book as a much appreciated gift from one of my designers.

Decorate with Flowers by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring
I love how happy and casual this book is. It's filled with colour and quick creative projects to bring flowers into your everyday world. If you love popping flowers into unusual little pots and vases and setting up your table for parties, then this is the book for you! Filled with step by step instructions as well as great advice on choosing and using colour and containers.

Foraged Flora by Louesa Roebuck and Sarah Lonsdale
I purchased this very large book recently as a New Year's gift to myself, after hearing an interview with the florist-author Louesa on the Slow Flowers podcast. The book itself is so beautiful- the cover has a fabulous heavy feel to it, almost like flocked wallpaper, and paper inside has a wonderful weight to it too, which I love. As with the Bringing Nature Home book, this one is not a step by step, but more a journey through the eyes of a creative soul. Beautiful photographs of foraged and found blooms arranged in unusual homes and spaces, and a fascinating read as well.

There are many more amazing flower filled books on my "must have" list that I hope to get my hands on soon, but I also keep returning to these much loved ones. Every time I look through I feel inspired and revitalized and ready to get back to the work of flowers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Growers of beauty: meet local flower farmer Antonio Valente

This series of "growers of beauty" posts takes a look at where the beautiful flowers are coming from, letting us meet the farmers that work so hard to bring these blooms to market for us.

I am delighted to introduce you to Antonio Valente, a farmer florist based in Thornhill, just north of the city.

I found Antonio this past summer by way of instagram, which seems to be how I meet so many of the people who inspire me these days.  After a quick bout of messaging back and forth, Antonio arrived at the shop with his pick up truck filled with pails of the most gorgeous summer blooms. The girls and I promptly fell in love with both Antonio and his beautiful flowers and we would wait in eager anticipation for every week's delivery. With the growing season over here in Ontario until next spring, we are all suffering deep withdrawal symptoms, so I asked Antonio if he'd mind sharing some of his story and images with us here, to help us make it through the long winter months without him.

Jess: Tell us a bit about your farm and business model- how big is the property? What do you grow? What’s a typical day like for you? Where do you sell to? 

Antonio: I’m often asked how many acres I farm, and most people are quite surprised to learn that I have a tiny half acre plot - that’s it! I employ techniques which allow for small-scale/high-output farming. Many of the flowers I grow are heirloom varieties or pollinator friendly. As one of the “little guys” in the field of cut flower growing, I’m competing with large-scale growers who are producing acres of flowers, so I try to grow varieties that a florist wouldn’t typically find from a wholesaler. This allows me to differentiate myself and compete with the “big guys.” My flowers are also raised in a completely sustainable fashion – another facet of my business that allows me to stand out from the crowd. As for a typical day, there really isn’t one! That’s the thing about being a seasonal grower; my duties change over the course of a season.  My most typical day, however, is also the most fun and rewarding – delivery day! These are the days when I get to load up the pickup-truck with the freshest flowers in the field and deliver them to flower shops and appreciative florists such as yourself!Most of my flowers are purchased by various florists in the downtown Toronto area. The whole locally grown flower movement has been really catching on! I’m so proud to be living so close to a city whose florists have come to truly embrace local flowers.  

Jess:  how did you get involved in this flower world? Did you always know you wanted to, or did it take you by surprise? 

Antonio: I’ve been gardening all my life, but I actually come from a long line of avid vegetable growers. I’m currently growing flowers where my father and grand-father once grew their veggies. While I never quite took to vegetable growing as they did, it certainly left a niche for me to fully explore flower growing. I remember my dad setting aside a small plot just for me amongst his vegetables. It was here that I was able to grow whatever I chose. Like many of us, I grew up, got a typical office job, and had forgotten about gardening for a while. As an antidote to the hum-drum of office life, I decide to once again start gardening and planted a very small cut flower garden. I literally started with 4 dahlia tubers (bulbs) in my first year. That was about 7 years ago, and each year since that cut flower garden expanded. I soon had neighbours requesting bouquets, and a Saturday morning road side stand. It wasn’t long before I was taking my flowers to farmers’ markets. This is where I was discovered by a florist who asked if I would start selling wholesale to her on a regular basis. Word quickly spread among florists and today I sell exclusively to florists with a penchant for locally and organically grown flowers and foliage. 

Jess:  How would you like to see your business grow or change over the next five years? Where  do you see flowers taking you?

Antonio: Oh boy, this is a great question! I tend to really focus on the flower-growing part of my job, which has everyone around me pushing for a long-range plan, and I’m not very administrative. I have so many ideas for this flower-growing gig, but as a one-man-show, time isn’t always on my side. I’d love to expand my growing area, as I simply could not meet the demand from florists this past season. A website is definitely also on the list. I’d also love to combine my love of teaching with gardening and share the joy of flower gardening with others; I’m just not exactly sure what form this might take. But then of course, as with farming, even the best laid of plans sometimes go askew. Had you asked me 7 years ago if I knew I’d be taking my tiny cut flower garden to a level where I’d actually be selling blooms, I probably would’ve just laughed it off.  

Antonio's instagram feed is out of this world, you can feast your eyes on it here.

My thanks to Antonio for so graciously taking the time to answer my questions and share a little of his world with us. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In the shop: our winter window and a request for your VOTE!

Last week I spent a wonderful day with my talented staff, the lovely Vanessa and Angele, putting together our winter window.  A real meeting of minds and team effort, I am so happy with how it looks. The gorgeous paper flowers on the wreaths were painstakingly handmade from crepe paper by the girls, and I just love how we expanded on Angele's idea of having some sort of snow effect on the edges by using paper doilies. The display behind has all the shiny happy things we are loving this winter, including our succulent plants in mercury vases with colourful pom poms and cheerful little sleepy faced pots by local potter Janet Hinkle of Hinkleville Handmade.

I don't usually do "themed" displays, but this one has a special reason behind it- we are entered in our local BIA's Window Wanderland competition and we need your vote!


If you are reading this between 

December 1st and December 18th 2016 please visit

and vote for Periwinkle Flowers! 

The prize for the winning business is a transit shelter ad, which is something that would be so amazing for us, and there is also a draw for a winner among voters (for MPV Dollars, which you can spend anywhere in the neighborhood) but even if you aren't directly in our area, your vote still counts!

Thank you so much for your support!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In the shop: how much water to use water your succulents


Here's a quick little video short, showing you how much water I give a succulent plant when I water, something I get asked about all the time so thought I'd share here!

p.s. I know, I say "water" very oddly- I'm British born and raised but have spent enough time in Canada now that my accent is a weird mix of both worlds :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

In the shop: Winter has arrived, but we aren't taking it too seriously.

Well, the snow arrived in Toronto this week, and we've officially switched our website over to our winter offerings. But just because it's winter doesn't mean we've gone all "white and pale" on you. If there is one thing we do well at Periwinkle it's colour, and with the darker days and gloomy skies our winter ideas are kicking the colour up to keep our hearts warm.

We're bringing in as much local product as we can, while filling in the gaps with some imported blooms such as our heirloom garden roses and many beautiful blossoms from the Dutch market.

Mixing winter greens with bright pinks, sunshiny yellows, happy reds and oranges makes us happy!

And of course, if we can put a happy colourful little pom pom or two ( or three) on it, the more the merrier!

You can take a look at all our winter ideas on the website, where you can also order on line for delivery in Toronto, or come by the shop to see what's in the flower fridge today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

In the shop: Spiderplants

I remember spiderplants from childhood with fondness. Native to tropical and southern Africa Spider plants ( Latin name Chlorophytum comosum.) are efficient air cleaners, known to reduce levels of formaldehyde in homes. They are such an easy plant, as long as you have natural light. Shady spots won't do, but given a nice natural light, these pleasant plants will happily send out long tendrils with little baby plants at the ends.

As a child I would snip off these new plants and pop them on the top of a glass milk bottle (that should indicate how old I am- milk was delivered in glass bottles with foil tops, right to our doorstep!) filled with water, and watch with wonder as over a short space of just a week or two the small roots would grow. Pot the plant into a small container of lightly moist potting soil and it really is as easy as that. Keep lightly moist but not wet, especially if just potted on since those first roots grown in water will be getting replaced with a new set built for life in soil.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In the shop: Our flowers are published in Mingle Magazine!

Super excited to finally have a copy of the fall/winter issue of Mingle magazine.  Our talented friend Lorrie Everitt has a seven page feature in there, giving all the pretty little details and gorgeous photos from the creative collaboration we were part of this past spring.


You can find a copy of this lovely magazine, filled to the brim with beautiful ideas for gatherings and parties of your own, at Indigo Books, Michael's Craft stores and Wholefoods.