December 2010 Newsletter

Floral Trends - Volume 9

Drink Your Flowers — Holiday Cocktails

by Kit Wertz

Flower CocktailsDid you know that flow­ers make a great cock­tail? We are sure you know that you can make a sim­ple syrup out of sug­ar, water and flower blos­soms like laven­der that can be used to fla­vor a cock­tail, but what about flow­ers that are actu­al­ly made into a liqueur and whole flower blos­soms that are used as a base for cock­tails? I first got intrigued about “flower cock­tails” when I heard the Focus on Flow­ers pod­cast on the sub­ject. I’ll go over a few types of flower recipes in this arti­cle, but if you want to learn more, lis­ten to the pod­cast or read more about this new trend in bars across the coun­try in the New York Times arti­cle, “How to Sip a Gar­den.”

Elderflower Cocktails

Elder­flow­ers are from Elder shrubs or trees and were for­mer­ly iden­ti­fied as part of the hon­ey­suck­le fam­i­ly, but were reclas­si­fied to be part of a small fam­i­ly of flow­er­ing plants, the Adox­ac­eae. The flow­ers are used to make cor­dials and syrups.

The most famous Elder­flower cor­dial (liqueur) is St. Ger­main and its cock­tails are show­ing up at all the hoity-toity affairs. If you want an organ­ic option, look for Thatcher’s Organ­ic Arti­san Elder­flower Liqueur. The bot­tle is pic­tured above.

One Elder­flower cock­tail is called The Hum­ming­bird, a blend of Avi­a­tion gin, St.-Germain, lemon juice and soda. Or you can sim­ply pour cham­pagne over some of the Elder­flower liqueur for some yum­my times! Check out each company’s web­site for more recipes.

Hibiscus Flower Syrup Cocktails

Wild Hibis­cus flow­ers are now used in a syrup to fla­vor cock­tails. The Wild Hibis­cus Flower Com­pa­ny is a small fam­i­ly owned and oper­at­ed firm in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. Wild Hibis­cus Flow­ers in Syrup are the orig­i­nal cre­ation of Lee Ether­ing­ton who invent­ed the prod­uct 11 years ago in 1997. From their web­site:

The Wild Hibis­cus Flow­ers in Syrup was “dis­cov­ered” by hap­py acci­dent at a live­ly Aus­tralian din­ner par­ty in 1998, when Lee Ether­ing­ton and a group of (tip­sy) friends play­ful­ly dunked a crim­son wild­flower into a cham­pagne flute. The flower slid grace­ful­ly to the bot­tom of the glass, and the friends watched, agog, as cham­pagne bub­bles streamed across it, and the petals slow­ly unfurled. Lee, a 21-year-old tour guide who owned a small food busi­ness and had only ever used the edi­ble Hibis­cus as a dessert gar­nish, took a sip of his exot­ic cre­ation.”


This drink was first served at the leg­endary Dorchestor Hotel, Lon­don in 2006; a Swanky hang out for the rich & famous where it remains the most pop­u­lar Cham­pagne cock­tail on the menu.

Wild Hibis­cus Flower Gar­nish

¼ oz nat­ur­al rose water

2/3 oz Wild Hibis­cus Syrup



  • Mud­dle mint in the cham­pagne flute & dis­card (squash some leaves around inside the glass)
  • Place Wild Hibis­cus Flower in bot­tom of glass & stand upright
  • Add rose water & some bruised torn mint pieces
  • Top with Cham­pagne
  • Last­ly, pour in the Hibis­cus syrup which will grad­u­ate from crim­son at the bot­tom to light pink at the top
  • Tip: Pour syrup in first for a lay­ered effect

The flower will sit in the bot­tom of the cham­pagne flute and slow­ly open up over 3–4 min­utes.


Flow­ers offer a fun touch to the mid­dle of ice cubes for cock­tails. Use dis­tilled water to get a clear ice cube. All edi­ble flow­ers can be frozen this way and used in drinks, how­ev­er, one must avoid poi­so­nous flow­ers or flow­ers that have been exposed to pes­ti­cides.


From the Focus on Flow­ers Pod­cast
This syrup is often fea­tured in old cook­books and can be used to fla­vor cock­tails instead of just plain sim­ple syrup.

  • Mix togeth­er 1 cup of fine sug­ar with ¼ cup of pes­ti­cide-free laven­der flow­ers and 2 oz of rose water.
  • Add this mix­ture to a cup of boil­ing water in a saucepan and sim­mer until the sug­ar dis­solves.
  • Cool, strain, and store in a glass con­tain­er in a refrig­er­a­tor for up to 2 weeks.
  • Use a few drops in ice cubes or water to sug­gest the hint of the aro­ma of fresh flow­ers.

Flower Duet wish­es you a hap­py and safe hol­i­day sea­son and reminds you to please imbibe respon­si­bly. Wild Hibis­cus Flower Syrup and Elder­flower liqueur can be pur­chased at Bev­Mo! stores.

Decorative Wreaths

by Casey Schwartz

Williamsburg Wreath

History of Wreaths

Wreaths have a long his­to­ry and use of wreaths varies by cul­ture, tra­di­tion, and reli­gions. They are often made from ever­greens to sym­bol­ize strength, as ever­greens last even through­out cold­est sea­sons. The cir­cu­lar shape of the wreath is seen as a com­mon sym­bol of eter­ni­ty. In the Gre­co-Roman world, wreaths were worn to rep­re­sent a person’s occu­pa­tion, rank, their achieve­ments, and sta­tus. In ancient Rome, peo­ple used dec­o­ra­tive wreaths as a sign of vic­to­ry. Some believe that this is where the hang­ing of wreaths on doors came from.

The Advent wreath ori­gins are found in the folk prac­tices of the pre-Chris­t­ian Ger­man­ic peo­ples who, dur­ing the cold Decem­ber dark­ness of East­ern Europe, gath­ered wreaths of ever­green and light­ed fires as signs of hope in a com­ing spring and renewed light.” Excerpt­ed from

California Wreath by Flower DuetFast for­ward to less than 100 years ago when Colo­nial Williams­burg first dec­o­rat­ed for Christ­mas in 1936. The green­ery was con­fined to a few plain wreaths and some run­ning cedar to hang about the Governor’s Palace and the Raleigh Tav­ern. Mrs. Louise Fish­er was placed in charge of flow­ers and Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. She drove to the Library of Con­gress where she turned to Eng­lish and Colo­nial Amer­i­can pic­to­r­i­al exam­ples to use as guides, how­ev­er, it was it was fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry Ital­ian gar­lands cre­at­ed in ter­ra­cot­ta and wood carv­ings dis­played in Eng­lish church­es that first prompt­ed Mrs. Fish­er to use fruits in her arrange­ments. By 1939 her “Del­la Rob­bia” wreaths were attract­ing atten­tion and the “Williams­burg Christ­mas look” was launched. (See Pho­to above.) Louise Fish­er cre­at­ed a unique­ly Amer­i­can dec­o­ra­tive style of hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions that was a more mod­ern ver­sion of the dec­o­ra­tions used dur­ing colo­nial times. Read more on Williams­burg Christ­mas Wreaths.

This month Flower Duet will lead a wreath-mak­ing class at The Hunt­ing­ton Library, Art Col­lec­tions, and Botan­i­cal Gar­dens. We will be using fresh green­ery and flow­ers that are asso­ci­at­ed with and grown in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, specif­i­cal­ly in our own back­yard of Palos Verdes. Euca­lyp­tus, Sta­t­ice and Sea Hol­ly This­tle will be our main com­po­nents. Our shape will be a bit of a depar­ture from the tra­di­tion­al, going with a square frame that can be hung as a dia­mond or a square. We’ll even adorn our wreaths with some Pea­cock feath­ers – to hon­or the fowl that roam freely all over the Palos Verdes Penin­su­la.

The Cal­i­for­nia Cut Flower Com­mis­sion lists 170 flow­ers and green­ery cur­rent­ly grown and avail­able in Decem­ber by Cal­i­forn­ian Farm­ers. So go local and make your own wreath this hol­i­day sea­son.

Sagittarius Florascope — 22 November — 21 December– Bird of Paradise

Bird of ParadiseBird of Paradise (Sagittarius) Traits

If you are a Bird of Par­adise flower (or Sagit­tar­ius), you are hap­py-go-lucky, open and gen­er­ous and a wild­flower at heart.

Good careers for Cac­tus flow­ers test pilots, vets, trav­el writ­ers, ski instruc­tor, car­toon­ist, come­di­an, movie direc­tor or politi­cian.

Birds of Par­adise are hardy, healthy and ener­getic.

Birds of Par­adise chil­dren have friend­ly smiles and are deeply attached to ani­mals like the fam­i­ly pet.

Birds of Par­adise birth babies get along well with mums, orchids, sun­flow­ers, ros­es, cac­tus flow­ers, tiger lilies and oth­er Birds of Par­adise.

Famous Bird of Par­adise peo­ple includes Jane Austen, Beethoven, Noel Cow­ard, Walt Dis­ney, Bruce Lee, John F. Kennedy, Brad Pitt, Jimi Hen­drix and Steven Spiel­berg.

About Birds of Paradise

Con­sid­ered a trop­i­cal or exot­ic flower, Birds of Par­adise are also known as Crane Flow­ers. They are named so because the flower shape resem­bles a bird’s beak and head plumage. Birds of Par­adise are native to South Africa, can grow eas­i­ly in South­ern California’s cli­mate and bloom from Sep­tem­ber through May.

Flower Arranging Tip for Birds of Paradise

Bird of ParadiseDid you know that there are three sets of orange and pur­ple plumage inside every stem of a Bird of Par­adise? If you want to show off all three at once, you can care­ful­ly dig into the bloom and gen­tly pull them out to dis­play. Or…as the first one that pops out fades, cut it off and pull the next one out to dis­play. It’s the flower that keeps on giv­ing!

Flower Arranging Book Review: Decorative Wreaths and Garlands: The Art and Craft of Floral Decoration

Wreaths and Garlands Book Review
Dec­o­ra­tive Wreaths and Gar­lands by Pamela West­land

Over the last 30+ years, Pamela West­land has been bring­ing flower arrang­ing and cook­ing to inter­est­ed par­ties in book form. Flower Duet has this book, Dec­o­ra­tive Wreaths & Gar­lands in our library and thought it fit­ting to enlight­en all our read­ers just in time for the sea­son we asso­ciate with wreaths. This was pub­lished in 1999, around the time that we launched Flower Duet. This book was one of the first in our library and we have found it a great resource over the past decade.

The book shows the art of mak­ing wreaths and gar­lands using fresh and dried flow­ers, fea­tur­ing more than 30 projects for all sea­sons. Ms. West­land uses fruit, twigs, grass­es, flow­ers, and even stones to cre­ate a vari­ety of looks. It is 144 pages of col­or­ful imagery and inspi­ra­tion. Avail­able for pur­chase through var­i­ous online book­sellers.

Floral Tool — Floral Foam Wreath Forms

Floral Wreath Forms

Floral Wreath Forms

Ready to use wreath rings make flo­ral design a snap! These are a won­der­ful tool by Oasis — and are called “Oasis Design Rings.” See a win­ter design from their web­site below.


Their same great stan­dard flo­ral foam we love to use for all kinds of designs has been glued well to a plas­tic base. They hold water and work well for table cen­ter­pieces or to hang. They are avail­able in three sizes and take a sur­pris­ing amount of flow­ers — so make sure you buy enough to cov­er!

See our June Newslet­ter to learn how to use flo­ral foam here and apply the same meth­ods to these foam wreath forms. Here are some fun designs that Flower Duet cre­at­ed over the years.

Floral Wreath



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