Holiday entertaining: a beautifully simple table setting with flowers

For those of you who have followed the Chez CO blog since the beginning, or who are regular clients at Galerie CO, you have already been introduced to Caroline Boyce, the creator of Floralia. She has been supplying CO with beautiful bouquets of fresh, local flowers grown in the summer on her plot of land in the Eastern townships, and in the winter sourced from a fair trade supplier.

resized.IMG_2955This week, we asked Caroline to share some of her ideas for creating a beautiful holiday themed table setting. Her approach shows that by adding a few carefully selected elements, even a little bit of effort can make a big difference.

• Keep the table simple. You can use the same cutlery, plates and glasses that you use throughout the year.

resized.IMG_3485• A simple runner adds a lovely visual element without overwhelming the table setting, and is especially suited to a long rectangular table. Linen adds texture and works well with wood. A linen runner can be matched to linen napkins.

resized.IMG_3426• A colour theme helps tie the elements in the table setting together and to set a mood. Feel free to select colours outside the traditional red, green and gold. In this case the table is highlighted with orange, inspired by clementines, which are always available over the holidays and often appear in Christmas stockings. Orange works beautifully with silver, white wood and shades of grey and beige. It also complements, and is enhanced by, the warm glow of the candles.

resized.IMG_3352• Choose flowers that you love and can afford, mixing textures to create interest. In these bouquets, kangaroo paws and rosemary give the bouquets height. Volume comes from cabbages, tulips, spray roses and dates, which add an interesting visual element.

resized.IMG_3274• Select candles that are low and that don’t compete with, but that complement, the flower arrangements.

resized.IMG_3370• Add festive name tags as a final touch. Make your own by simply attaching small branches of evergreen (you can cut a few pieces from the Christmas tree) with a string and paper tag (available at any art or office supply store).

resized.IMG_3413There is still time to order your own centrepiece from Floralia, for delivery (within Montreal) in time for the holidays. Order Christmas bouquets here.

Or, learn how to create a holiday centrepiece at the next Floralia workshop: December 20, 7-9 pm. The theme flowers will include amarylis and seasonal evergreens,  combined with local freesia, lilies, paperwhites, citrus fruits, holly, mosses and berries. Under Caroline’s guidance you will create a beautiful centrepiece, which is yours to keep.  The workshop will be held at Galerie CO (5235 Blvd. St-Laurent, Montreal,  514 277-3131). You can sign up for the workshop here.

All the photographs in this post were taken by Melodie Hoareau, from Instant d’une vie, and made available to us courtesy of Caroline Boyce of Floralia.

 How do you decorate your table for festive occasions? Which flowers would you choose for a holiday centrepiece?

Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page, on Instagram or Twitter @galerieco.

Ode to June: peonies and Pimm’s

June is without a doubt my favourite month. It marks the transition between spring and summer. Fresh growth carpets the city; green, and bursting with life. The sun is bright and the days are long and warm; the nights temperate.

But it gets even better: with peonies and Pimm’s.

Peonies appear like clockwork at the beginning of the month, starting with the tree peonies followed, for a glorious few weeks, by herbaceous varieties.

peonies

(Source: Sarah Richardson, Chez CO)

The quintessential, perennial, peonies have it all going on. They’re easy to grow, drought-resistant and hardy to zone 3. They’re outrageously beautiful and sweetly fragrant when in bloom. When not in bloom they sport lush green foliage with handsome glossy leaves. And your peony may well live longer than you do. Some varieties have been known to live for 100 years.

Peonies

(Source: Sarah Richardson, Chez CO)

Peonies have inspired many a writer, and literary references abound. My favorite is that of poet John Keats. In his Ode on Melancholy, Keats wrote of the “wealth of glob’d peonies”— peonies in their final stage of development before they burst open—as a moment when anticipation of the beauty to be revealed by the opening of the bud represents the joy in life, even if it is fleeting.

And that’s the thing about peonies. They’re around for a month and then they’re gone. I have peonies in my garden, but never quite enough to harvest them en masse to fill the house for those few precious weeks when they are available. So I buy them.

Pale peonies

(Source: Sarah Richardson, Chez CO)

My absolute favourite source for cut peonies in Montreal is a small family-run flower stand at the Atwater market (across from the fish store). Starting in May, and only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they will sell you what is in their garden beginning with blossoms, lilacs and lily of the valley – and in June, buckets of peonies going for a song.

Peonies at the market

(Source: Sarah Richardson, Chez CO)

Even if it’s across town, it’s so well worth the visit if you get excited about the prospect of the early summer’s wealth of fresh local cut flowers!

Welcoming in the summer brings me to the second great pleasure I associate with June: Pimm’s. As soon as the weather warms up, Pimm’s becomes my drink of choice. It’s the perfect summer cocktail, made more perfect by the addition of seasonal strawberries, cucumber and mint.

Pimms bottle papermag 1

(Source: papermag.com)

Pimm’s originated in 1840 in an Oyster Bar owned by James Pimm in the City of London. He created the Pimm’s ‘House Cup’, later called the No 1 Cup, using gin, quinine and a secret mixture of fruit extracts and herbs to aid digestion. It caused quite a storm at the time, and remains as popular as ever. It’s a staple drink at summer events  in the UK,  such as Wimbledon where over 80,000 pints are sold every year.

pimms keep calm (keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

(Source: keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk)

I came of age in the UK and cut my drinking chops on shandies (beer and lemonade) and Pimm’s. When I moved to Quebec in the late 1990s, Pimm’s wasn’t available at the SAQ and so I stocked up each summer in Ontario. But things have changed and it’s now widely available throughout North America, including here in Montreal. I urge you to pick up a bottle this summer and mix up a batch of the Original Pimm’s No 1 for your drinking and entertaining pleasure.

Pimms spoonstosporks

(Source: spoontosporks.com)

Here’s how:

  • Fill a jug with ice.
  • Pour over the ice: 1 part Pimm’s No 1 with 3 parts ‘lemonade’ (in Britain ‘lemonade’ refers to a clear carbonated lemonade soft drink that has nothing to do with a home-made lemonade made with real lemons and sugar. British ‘lemonade’ is only available in specialty UK food stores. Good substitutes are Mountain Dew, 7-Up, Sprite or Ginger Ale).
  • Add mint leaves, thin cucumber slices, orange slices and strawberry (you can play around with the fruit accompaniments, but mint and cucumber are essential).

cut up fruit

(Source: foodcomas.com)

It’s so tasty that you will forget it’s actually alcoholic (25% proof).  You’ve been warned.

Happy June everyone.

– Sarah

Galerie CO’s Proust questionnaire: Foekje Fleur van Duin

In the North Pacific Ocean there are areas where plastic debris accumulates as a result of global ocean currents. The garbage, which sits just under the surface of the water, is estimated to cover an area roughly the size of France.

ocean debris

Debris in the Pacific Ocean

This man-made plastic debris is not biodegradable. It’s consumed, with tragic results, by sea birds, fish, and marine mammals and it does not belong in our oceans.

In 2009, Foekje Fleur van Duin was studying art in the Netherlands when she read an article about this ever-accumulating mass of plastic. The debris finds its way to the North Pacific comes from all over the world, including from the Netherlands. What she learned inspired her to go down to the Maas River near Rotterdam where she found all kinds of plastic objects from toys to detergent bottles. Continue reading

Fair-trade flowers in February

A few years ago Caroline Boyce came into Galerie CO and presented us with her concept of a local, environmentally friendly flower service. If we paid up front, we could have a bouquet every week all summer created by Caroline using flowers that she grows herself, without pesticides, on a small lot in the Eastern Townships.

valentine

She had just started her business, Floralia. Love of flowers aside, we felt a strong connection to Caroline and her business model. She shares CO’s values and cares deeply about the impact that her products have on people and on the planet. We said “yes, please” to the flower service and have been working with her ever since selling her bouquets, hosting workshops, and acting as a distribution point for the subscription service.

Since that first meeting, Caroline’s business has grown steadily and she now provides her gorgeous bouquets all year round. Consistent with her philosophy, she has spent endless hours carefully sourcing the flowers that she will use when she can’t grow them herself during the winter months. She takes great care to understand where the flowers that she works with come from. We are the beneficiaries of all that hard work – now able to enjoy her uniquely striking bouquets all year round!

flowers

On Valentine’s Day, The Globe and Mail will identify Floralia as one of the ten coolest florists in the country. We couldn’t agree more.

Where did your love of flowers begin?

Long before I went to art school I was into organic agriculture. I worked on farms growing fruits and vegetables to save for my fine arts education. Even while I was in school, my focus was on environmental issues like consumption, and how its effect on nature. The environment has been a recurring theme in my work. After studying fine arts for several years, I took a break to go back to farming. Continue reading