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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