The sidewalk in front of Fischer & Page Ltd., in New York's flower district
While we engaged our most favored caterer to provide the food, drink, and staff for our party (and I must say they did an exemplary job of it), Boy and I did all of the other preparations, including the flowers. We wanted to make it a special event for our guests and decided that we should go to the flower district in Manhattan on Friday morning to buy flowers to decorate Darlington House. So we fired up the jalopy bright and early Friday morning and drove over and down to West 28th Street in Manhattan, where we made a beeline to Fischer and Page Ltd., our favorite vendor of fresh wholesale flowers in the city.
Roses, roses, and more roses inside of Fischer & Page
While at F&P we were assisted by the ever affable and most helpful Chris Demeo, who helped us select bunches of branches of blossoming mountain laurel to fill an urn on our dining room table, masses of peonies for the drawing room, and an embarrassment of parrot tulips for the table in our entry. I highly recommend that you, Dear Reader, seek Chris out should you require the services of a wholesale flower vendor in Manhattan. I am listing his contact information at the end of this post.
Chris of Fischer & Page, carrying our mountain laurel branchesOnce we arrived at Darlington, Boy set to work preparing and conditioning the branches and flowers, so that he could then arrange them the next day. When buying cut flowers it is important once you get them home that you recut their stems and let them sit in containers of fresh water for at least several hours before arranging them. Not only is this conditioning reviving for them, but it also ensures a longer life for the flowers for you to enjoy.
The mountain laurel, unwrapped in our gardening barn at Darlington
Boy's first task was to prepare the mountain laurel branches, which required pruning them of any dead wood and non-flowering parts, clipping their stems, and placing them in containers of water to condition.
Of course this required the necessary tools, including a pair of Felco pruning shears . . . and a gin martini for much needed fortification. It was after five o'clock, after all.
The mountain laurel, pruned and conditioning in our gardening barn
After finishing the task of preparing the mountain laurel, it was time for Boy to move on to the tulips and peonies, which he took care of in our flower arranging room inside the house.
And where would we be without our little helper, a.k.a. Pompey the pug?
The next morning, with all of the flowers prepared and conditioned, it was time to select the vessels.
Boy is fond of blown-glass, footed fish bowls, and has built up an impressive collection of them in numerous sizes. Most of his were made in the nineteenth century, and they make quite marvelous containers for cut flowers. While generally referred to today as fish bowls, they were actually more often originally used to hold leeches for medicinal bleeding, a common practice up into the early twentieth century. The reason that they have a lip at the opening of the bowl is to allow for tying a piece of cloth over it so that the leeches can breath but can't escape. The bowl in the preceding photograph is shown standing on a Paris porcelain lazy susan that Boy uses when arranging vases of flowers or trimming topiaries, rotating it as he goes.
Despite this bowl's rather gruesome original occupants, don't you think the tulips look pretty in it, sitting on the table at the entry to Darlington House? We bought the small one next to it at M. S. Rau Antiques on our recent trip to New Orleans.
And here is a photograph taken of the monumental display of peonies that Boy arranged for our drawing room. Their scent was heavenly and permeated the house.
We weren't able to get a good photograph of the arranged mountain laurel branches, which Boy had placed in a cast-metal urn on our dining room table, to handsome effect. That was because the weather was overcast and gloomy over the weekend and there was, unfortunately, not enough light in the dining room to get a good image of the branches. Despite that, they were quite lovely for the party.
Pretty flowers are always admired and appreciated by guests, and I highly recommend that you take the time and effort to feature them when you throw a party. It will make the gathering more festive and special for those you are entertaining, and you will be able to enjoy their beauty long after your happy guests have reluctantly departed.
Fischer & Page Ltd.
150 West 28th Street
New York, NY 10001-6194
All photos by Reggie Darling and Boy Fenwick