Review: A Workshop by Kelley Flower Farm

Monday morning I declared to my husband I would not be home much that day. My mother and I went to Rainbow Fabrics and Joann’s for Labor Day sales in the morning. After a two-hour break, we enjoyed a French Dip Panini and wines from Lodi and France at Camp 4.

With this enjoyment and the bonding that comes with sitting down and conversing away from children, we headed way out west to Kelley Flower Farm for our first floral workshop.

Magazines taught me to arrange flowers. One year, in the same month, Real Simple and Better Homes and Gardens featured the same theme. Start with your greens as a base, add your face/diva flower, then fill in with other smaller flowers. While I did not always follow it exactly, these tutorials served me well.




There is always more to learn.

Along with a professional’s tips and insights, workshops give you access to their materials, in this case…dahlias!

We arrived ten minutes late and were discovered knocking on the wrong door. The workshop was in the back, a metal building with cement floor. Tables with bright pink plastic table clothes were arranged in a row with antique chairs, large vases filled with water, and pruning sheers for each attendee to use. On the wall atop two folding tables were buckets and buckets of flowers. Under the tables were more buckets of flowers. To the side of the table was a chair with another bucket of flowers. Throughout the workshop, if we ran low, they offered to go out and get more flowers.

Face flowers like these dinner plate dahlias are expensive and for the flower lover, this access is the equivalent of rolling around in a pile of money.

Kelley and Sharon led the workshop. I met Kelley when planning flowers for my grandmother’s 80th birthday party. I got to know Sharon this spring through the Farmer’s Markets as I came and relieved my sadness by taking in the wonder of their incredible flowers. The two have different styles, they explained as they began their demonstration.

Kelley methodically placed greens, in sets of threes evenly spaced, in her vase while Sharon dove in and built up a wild foundation for her flowers. The arrangements ended as differently as they began but held one thing in common, they were beautiful.

It was our turn now. I felt like a kid when the piñata breaks, but I refrained from running and elbowing as I picked my greens from the bucket. I spent Kelley and Sharon’s demonstration mentally picking the colors for my arrangement. Would I do yellow for Regina? Pink for Miriam? But oh, those deep purple dinner plate dahlias. I melt a little when I see them. I chose purples and reds, fall colors. Deep greens would be their foundation. A variety of basil with green and purple leaves made my base, along with a host of other greens (because when you have buckets and buckets, why not?).

After my foundation was full and secure, I went for the dahlias, and then more dahlias, and then more, sticking to deep purples and reds, using a handful for bright orange “Darcy” dahlias for accent. Use varying sizes, they recommended. After dahlias, I added celosia in deep reds and oranges. In Alexandria, Virginia, I eyed flower vendor booths at the Farmer’s Market’s, where we attended weekly as newlyweds. When I finally purchased a bouquet for myself, it had this brainy celosia. Those fuzzies held a place in my heart ever since. After sprinkling a little deep purple scabiosa and sweet williams, I called it complete.

As with most of my projects, I had a basic plan in mind when I set out. The finished product came quickly and happily.




For those who requested help, Kelley and Sharon were hands on in guiding their selection and placement, offering tips, cutting extra flowers when they had one in mind that was just right. I watched Jenny DiAnna of Bella Fiori Flower Farm create an airy arrangement evoking spring, peace and all good things.

Better than the flowers was hearing my mother with an open mind say, “I guess it just takes practice,” a changed tune from, “I don’t know about arranging flowers.” Sometimes all we need is a teacher or demonstration to make the impossible seem possible. I felt that way about the calligraphy workshop I attended.

Workshops are a luxury, but because they teach you a skill, you take more with you than the finished product. It is the “teach a man to fish” perspective. I’ll buy that.


Target Marketing

Target is intriguing.

In my childhood, it was the exciting version of Walmart. As an adult, it was a one-stop shop with diapers and personal beauty products. I occasionally browsed, but usually bought what I needed, lamented that our society has to offer 50 different kinds of toothpaste and went on my way. I enjoyed going for the colors, but did little else.

Target has developed a new store layout it will gradually implement in tester stores throughout the country. Target’s website improved and offers free shipping with a lower minimum purchase. The retailer collaborated with big names so we all feel we are getting a piece of Lily Pulitzer, improved in-store pick up options, and in some places will bring your items to your car. Overall, Target is working to adapt to the trends and preferences of people shopping the market.

One such trend is the movement of purchasing items closer to the maker. Rather than a product made in Bangledesh, purchased by the supplier who negotiated with Target corporate, who then ships to their warehouse, then to their stores, people are buying direct from the maker at Farmer’s Markets or local craft fairs like the First Friday Street Faire in Modesto. In these environments, you talk to the maker, can learn their techniques, you can special order. You pay more, because this is the person’s livelihood and it takes a lot more money to live in Modesto than Bangladesh.

Now Target, doing their good work of staying relevant, is offering global goods. The press release:

“As part of Target’s celebration of global style, we’ve also partnered with online marketplace Accompany to bring our guests Accompany Us to Target—a limited-edition assortment of products from six different countries. Among them? Ecuadorian beaded bangles, block printed cosmetic bags made in India, and wooden Kuni bowls from Kenya. It’ll be available at 12 of our stores and, while supplies last.”

Its products are sourced from Accompany, a fair trade company. The fair trade label matters. It assures the purchaser that those who make are receiving a just compensation. Looking online, the items are much pricier than the usual Target faire. Too much? Threshold is still out there, labeling items like a hand carved bird for $15.

This is brilliant marketing. You see the news release or Apartment Therapy’s glowing review of what you “have to buy right this minute.” You are at Target buying wash clothes because IKEA is too far away and you see a gold elephant and a hand carved bird and they certainly look global. “$15, hmm, well, it’s more than I would normally pay for something like this, but it’s hand carved. It’s probably supporting someone across the world. I like it. I’ll get it.”

But you didn’t buy the fair trade product made in Kenya sourced by Accompany. You bought Target’s brand, Threshold, an item whose history we do not know because there are no photographs of its maker on the website like there are for the $18 key ring and $98 tote.

You did not buy the key ring or the tote but bought the bird. Now, to support the local community you go to the First Friday Street Faire. The hand carved bird is now $30 there. You speak with the artist, admire his work, but it is too much and you just bought something similar for less. More likely you will return to Target to shop and just enjoy browsing at the street faire.

Target is doing what a business should do. It is trying to make a profit, staying relevant, giving the people what they want. But it comes at a cost. India’s throw maker may receive a just wage, but I wonder about those other items. If this bird went through at least four hands before reaching yours, what did the maker receive? And just because $1 a day will get them by in that remote-from-us country, is it right that $1 a day is all we pay?

It’s just stuff I think about, on my way to buying more cotton balls.