The market recently started bringing pre-made bouquets to neighborhood grocery stores with "By the Bunch" arrangements pulled fresh from the farmers' stock.
NICOLE CORDIER spins around on the old cement floors, clapping her hands in delight before darting off to pick a bunch of anemones here, grab a handful of California poppies there. As the front-desk manager for the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market in Georgetown, Cordier is in flower heaven, and enjoying every minute.
Eager flower farmers fill the historic building with energy and beautiful blooms three weekdays year-round. The public is invited in to shop on Fridays. The market is a growing phenomenon, with 16 members from three states contributing fresh cuts and good will. In May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the market a $200,000 grant to develop a marketing system for its sustainably grown, fresh-cut flowers.
And last month the market started bringing pre-made bouquets to neighborhood grocery stores. Cordier and assistants are composing hundreds of “By the Bunch” arrangements every week, pulled fresh from the farmers’ stock.
But the morning I visited, Cordier was pulling flowers to demonstrate her bouquet-fashioning tips and tricks. “I always start with color as the focal point,” she says.
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She chats with the flower farmers as she selects flowers for a multicolored bouquet: “This is my favorite part, putting it all together to see what can be created,” she says as she chooses an aqua-colored vase from a shelf of possibilities.
Cordier doesn’t use wire, frogs or tape. She cuts each stem at an angle, then places the thickest stems and strongest branches in the vase first to provide a grid to support the floppier flowers. “I tend to do things in threes,” she points out as she arranges purple lilacs and chartreuse viburnum in three directions to form a multidimensional arrangement.
Tall stems of Anchusa azurea have bright-blue flowers with lots of soft leaves, so Cordier uses them to fill in between the branches. She clips melon-colored tulips a little short, because they continue to grow after being cut. She sticks with odd numbers; just five tulips. “Since these are so amazing I’m going to use them all,” she says of silky, fuchsia-colored anemones. Bright pops of yellow and watermelon-colored California poppies complete the bouquet.
Cordier especially loves monochromatic arrangements, so for a second bouquet she selects dusky hellebores, burgundy peonies and plum-colored tulips. Starting with a scaffold of pink dogwood branches in a creamy-white vase, she adds the peonies with their ferny foliage, then the other dark flowers. This arrangement is both rustic and sophisticated with its contrast of glossy petals set against rough dogwood boughs.
Cordier steps back to take a look. “I feel like there’s a gap, but I’m going to call it asymmetry,” she decides. She’d also pulled claret-colored roses and Japanese maple leaves that she’s disciplined enough not to stuff in when she sees she doesn’t need them.
“Don’t neglect the back of the arrangement,” Cordier says as she turns the vase, fluffs and tinkers. “You don’t want to overdo it or cramp the flowers,” she says as she pulls out a couple of stems. “Trust your eye.”
You can find “By the Bunch” arrangements at Puget Consumers Co-ops, Town and Country Markets and Central Co-op. To shop the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, see www.seattlewholesalegrowersmarket.com or call 206-838-1523.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer. Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com. John Lok is a Seattle Times staff photographer.