The days are rapidly heating up in the Okanagan as we welcome spring with open arms. The hellebores have flowered and with the Okanagan's unique climate and wedding destination feeling (wineries, anyone?), we spoke to Darquise Patenaude of Blue Sage Farm to find out what's so great about the region.
Here's what she has to say about floral trends in the wine country we're lucky to call home.
Tell me about your journey to being a florist.
I’ve always loved art ever since I was a child. I did a lot of drawing, painting, stitching, felting, dying fabric with plant material. I’ve also always been drawn to flowers and gardening. It’s something I’ve always done. And I need that creative outlet. Since I love nature I thought I could do a combination of the two: art and nature. It was a natural progression; one that I couldn’t really resist.
Are you from the Okanagan originally?
I’m actually from Ottawa. I grew up in Ontario and moved to B.C. in the early nineties. I lived in Vancouver for about 12 years and then moved to a hobby farm in Kelowna where the sage plant grows !
So now that you’ve been based in the Okanagan for some time, what are some local plants you like to use?
Dusty miller and lamb's ears. These both have beautiful gray foliage. As for flowers, you can grow so much here, including Echinacea, lavender, baby's breath, lilies, sunflowers, Russian sage and dahlias. All plants do really well here, except for bamboo.
The Okanagan is a major destination for couples and weddings. Are most of your clients local or do you see a mix?
When I got into flowers I had absolutely no idea that the Okanagan was a popular wedding destination, so in a way that made my job much easier. There’s a big demand from couples in search of floral arrangements. A lot of the brides come from out of town. The beauty of technology is that by having a website, Facebook page and Instagram account, couples can easily see your work and then contact you. That said, the majority of my brides are from Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and then some local brides.
The Okanagan being the destination that it is, and seeing so many brides coming through, what trends do you see emerging this spring?
A lot of the demand is for more garden-style flowers. I’m getting requests for bouquets that are made with seasonal flowers, which is nice because it feels like brides are catching up to what I’ve always done. They seem to be more conscious about where the flowers are coming from and how you can get the freshest flowers. And here in the Okanagan—in such a hot climate—it can be very difficult to keep a bouquet fresh. The beauty of using more local flowers is that they’re already acclimatized to the environment here.
Speaking of acclimatization, we’ve noticed brides using air plants and succulents in their bouquets and tablescapes.
I’m glad you mention that. Succulents are so popular and because of the climate here, I grow so many succulents. These plants last really well out of water and they are heat resistant.
Do you grow most of your own flowers and plants? What other sources do you use?
I try to get as many flowers and greenery directly from my farm as possible. Sometimes I will go to the forest and forage as well. I also dry my own materials. In a dry climate, that can help a bouquet last longer. Other than that I order from wholesalers. Vancouver is actually the flower mecca of Canada, so we’re very close to everything and have easy access.
Beyond the bouquet, how else do you see florals being used in weddings this year?
Brides are straying away from traditional. For example, instead of a veil, brides are opting for a flower crown or a broach. Also because of the looser style of florals now, I’m finding that in a bouquet or arrangement not everything needs to match. For a groom and groomsmen, for example, every man can have a slightly different boutonnière that loosely follows a colour scheme.
I’m also seeing a movement of bringing the outside in. So on a tablescape you might have an arrangement around a branch or moss or something more forest-like. I’m even seeing some arrangements with mushrooms. Also big displays like hanging wreaths, ceiling suspensions, curtains and arches. It’s less formal in a way. It seems at odds, but I see florals being both looser and less formal, but still more detailed at the same time. Brides are selective about each little piece. If there’s one word to describe brides’ style now, it’s elegant. Their taste and simplicity and detail is more elegant.
Another trend I see is more edibles like herbs, fruits and vegetables making their way into florals.
You’ve mentioned wearable florals a bit. What kinds of pieces do you like to do most?
It’s endless the things that you can do. Corsages, flower shoes, boutonnières, bracelets. With technology, I find it’s fun to put together bridal shoots that are a little more out there. A bride may see a picture and say to me, ‘I really like that crown you did but can you make a simpler version?’ I’d really love to do more floral jewellery and shoes for weddings.
A couple of quick questions to wrap things up here: What’s your favourite colour for florals?
Well you’re not getting a quick answer because I don't have a favourite colour. I’ve never been shy with colour. I love mixing colours, and playing with bold colours. Through brides I’ve been exposed to softer colour palettes and pastels, and I love it. My favourite colour tends to change with the seasons.
And do you have a favourite plant or flower?
Again, no quick answer here. I’m excited about hellebore. They’re the first ones blooming in the garden so that’s part of the excitement. They remind me of the trillium flower from Ontario as well. But maybe top of the list is sage. The sage bush is so fragrant. It’s deeply rooted, and it’s such a survivor. Sage was the first plant I grew when I moved to Kelowna. I remember my neighbours questioned what I was doing with all those weeds.
What a great-smelling weed, if you’re going to call it that.