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.

Earth Day – urban agriculture in Montreal

Today is Earth Day and in Canada, in 2014, the theme is sustainable cities.

There are several ways that cities can work towards sustainability. These include: investing in adequate green space, responsible community design, “green” buildings and energy efficiency, public transportation, cycling infrastructure, reliable waste and water treatment, effective recycling programs and ensuring access to healthy food.

We’re interested in all of these issues, but right now it’s Spring and access to healthy food is front and centre. Local asparagus will soon be available, followed by strawberries and more, signalling the start of the early harvest. We can, if we wish, become “locavores” for a few precious months in the Northern hemisphere when we can choose to eat locally grown food that’s in season.

Quebec strawberriesQuebec strawberries, source: food and foto

For much of the rest of the year, despite the fact that we have unparalleled access to an abundance of exotic foods, we’re geographically disconnected from our food supply. This means that much of our produce travels hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from the farm to our tables.

Montreal’s Lufa Farms is working to reverse this. It’s a farm located on the roof of a building in an industrial park, which provides access to fresh vegetables all year round through innovative agricultural production in the heart of the city.

lufa farms - aerialAerial view of Lufa Farms, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Started in 2011, Lufa Farms was the first urban rooftop commercial agricultural production in the world. By 2012, it was feeding 2,000 people, using half the energy, water and nutrients of traditional agriculture. And that was just the beginning. We want to share its story to mark Earth Day and celebrate Lufa Farms’ contribution to making Montreal a more sustainable city.

8904340397_bdbc5a3169_bLufa Farms cherry tomatoes, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Mohammed Hage is the founder and president of Lufa Farms. His family is from a small town in Lebanon that is completely food self-sufficient, begging the question whether local urban food production is a new and innovative phenomenon. Hage acknowledges that modern urban agriculture is a re-creation of something very old, but he explains that the innovation comes from the fact that it is occurring in, around, and above ‘concrete jungles.’

This meeting of the old and the new is reflected in the hydroponic production process employed at Lufa Farms, which relies on a finely tuned balance between ancient techniques and state-of-the-art technology. For example, the greenhouses are pesticide- and fungicide-free relying on a pest management system that utilizes other insects; bees are used to pollinate and ladybugs to control the aphid and white fly populations. And no chemical fertilizers are used; green waste is composted to feed the plants.

Yet, in conjunction with these low-tech approaches high-tech technologies are employed.  Lufa Farms relies on solar energy and cutting-edge micro-climate management software, which captures energy efficiencies and carefully controls temperature and humidity levels throughout the greenhouse encouraging maximum yields for each crop. And a sophisticated closed-loop water system harvests rainwater and re-circulates the run-off from the plants.

bokchoyBok choy and Lufa’s hydroponic growing system, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Lufa Farms operates on a subscription basis, which is a great way for farmers to reduce crop waste because only the product that has been ordered is harvested. Customers sign up for a weekly box of food that can be customized up until midnight the night before the harvesting, picking and packing. The food is then delivered to one of several pickup points across the city, where it is collected by the customer.

lufa farms - pick and packPacking food boxes, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Hydroponic production is not eligible for organic certification in Canada, which is ironic in this case, considering the many economic, environmental and social benefits of this model of urban farming.

Healthy food. The produce is safe, uncontaminated by residues from chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, some local produce (broccoli, green beans, kale, red peppers and tomatoes) may even have a higher nutrient value when it’s given more time to ripen, due to the shorter time between harvest and consumption. The produce is picked at their peak of ripeness and is in the hands of customers within 24 hours. The short turnover means it will tend to taste better, encouraging us all to eat more veggies! In fact, when farming locally, farmers can choose to plant cultivars for taste, rather than for transportability, so that the most flavourful varieties (rather than the hardiest varieties) are grown.

eggplantA perfect eggplant, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Environmental benefits. The environmental benefits from a hugely reduced carbon footprint as a result of drastic reductions in transportation, and energy efficiency in the greenhouse, are significant in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, the plants themselves remove carbon dioxide from the air, doing their bit in the battle against climate change. Efficiencies in water use and capturing run-off conserve and protect water resources, and promoting the cultivation of non-hybrid heirloom varieties helps protect the planet’s genetic diversity for future generations.

Food security. In a time of urbanization this type of local urban agriculture contributes to feeding increasing numbers of city dwellers and to ensuring a secure and sustainable food supply.

lufa-farms-food-process-diagram

source: Lufa Farms via myhealthywire.com

Strengthening communities. Drop-off points in communities encourage exchanges of ideas, recipes, and even produce. And when the people who produce your food, live and work in your community, you, your children and your neighbours know a lot more about that food.

Supporting the local economy. Money that is spent with local farmers stays close to home and is typically used to provide employment to local people and is reinvested in businesses and services in the community.

All of this helps explain why projects like Lufa Farms are so important in an effort to build sustainable cities.

“Forty years ago, prior to the construction of the industrial building, there used to be a farm and a farmer used to work here, feeding people. For thirty seven years that spot was replaced by an industrial building that contributed to heat islands and displaced the farmer. The good news is that this spot is, once again, a fertile plot of land employing many and feeding many, many, more and helping make our world become a better place. So, imagine cities that feed their own inhabitants. Imagine communities that are connected by farms. Imagine knowing your farmer and knowing your food.” (How rooftop farming will change how we eat, Mohamed Hage TEDxUdeM)

heirloom tomato

A perfect tomato, source: Lufa Farms flickr

Lufa Farms has formed partnerships with other local food companies with similar values and offers an online marketplace where customers can shop for most of their groceries. This model has been such a big hit with Montrealers that a second greenhouse has been built to keep up with local demand and further expansion is in the pipeline.

Happy Earth Day everyone!

 

Do you have an experience with urban agriculture? How are you recognizing Earth Day? We’d love to hear from you. You can comment below, tweet us @GalerieCO or leave us a message on our Facebook page.

International Women’s Day: spotlight on Wola Nani

March 8 marks the 102nd International Women’s Day (IWD), when thousands of events put on by governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, companies and communities celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women.

This year’s official theme is ‘Inspiring Change’.

It’s a theme that resonates with us at CO where we are trying to inspire change on a daily basis. We do this through sustainability and design, and by supporting communities and small businesses from around the world who are working responsibly with a social conscience and an environmental awareness.

Since we opened in 2008 we have worked with Wola Nani, an NGO located in the Western Cape of South Africa with a focus on empowering women and inspiring change. This year, Wola Nani is celebrating its 20th anniversary and we want to help celebrate with a short profile to mark IWD at Galerie CO.

wola nani logo and image

In the Xhosa language (South Africa’s second most common language), Wola Nani means “through our embrace, we develop one another.” The organization was founded by South African activist Gary Lamont in 1994 with a clear mission: “to improve the quality of life for people living with HIV and AIDS.”

wola_nani_logo

It began with an entrepreneurial spirit focusing on bringing relief to the communities hardest hit by HIV, recognizing that women have been disproportionately infected with, and affected by, the pandemic. Income generation and the need to provide women with a practical means to support themselves financially was quickly identified as an urgent need for women testing positive with HIV and the women at Wola Nani began making paper maché bowls and beaded objects to generate income.

Through its staff, which is made up largely of women many of whom are HIV-positive themselves, Wola Nani now delivers services and pursues activities that fall broadly into three categories: client support, education and awareness, and skills development. Through counselling, care, training, increased awareness and community support, individuals with HIV are empowered to take control of their lives with confidence, dignity and hope.

Wola Nani 2

At present, about sixty craftswomen are employed by Wola Nani, enabling them to earn a regular and sustainable income. These women report that Wola Nani has provided them with a means by which to feed their families, send their children to school, and live positively.

This is Ruth’s story. Hear how Wola Nani changed her life and the lives of her children.

When you purchase a Wola Nani product, it makes a difference in the lives of these women and their families.  At Galerie CO we stock the colourful paper maché bowls, each signed on the bottom by the woman who made the bowl.

Wola Nani

We also stock the intricately decorated “Ithemba” light bulbs, which were designed by well known fashion designers (Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Nina Ricci and more) and decorated with beads and wire by the women at Wola Nani. The designer bulbs are part of a project called “Fashion designing Hope”.

To learn more about Wola Nani and to hear more stories about the women whose lives have been inspired and changed by the organization’s vision visit www.wolanani.co.za.

Wishing all our #COclients an inspired International Women’s Day.

#sustainabledesign

Sustainability — the ability to last or continue for a long time or the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level — is a word that often relies on its context for clarity of definition. The concept of sustainability as it relates to human development first appeared in 1987 in the idea of “sustainable development” as follows:

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

—World Commission on Environment and Development’s
(the Brundtland Commission) report Our Common Future
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Meeting the needs of the future depends on how well we balance social, economic, and environmental objectives–or needs–when making decisions today. For example, at a broad level, industrial growth might conflict with preserving natural resources. Yet, in the long term, a balanced approach that advocates the responsible use of natural resources now will help ensure that there are resources available for sustained industrial growth far into the future.

sustainability and CO

As applied to policy making, sustainability requires us to question what are the needs of the present? How do we decide whose needs are met? What happens when needs conflict? When there has to be a trade off, whose needs should go first? What gets prioritized?

The decision with respect to which “needs” are most vital and should weigh most heavily in the balance is a subjective exercise and depends critically on immediate hardships, challenges, value structures and expectations. If you did not have access to safe water, and therefore needed wood to boil drinking water so that you and your children would not get sick, would you worry about causing deforestation? Difficulties notwithstanding, the balancing of objectives is vital in the short term – by individuals, communities, cities, countries and groups of countries – if we expect to sustain our development in the long term.

We recently asked our Facebook friends and our Twitter followers what sustainability meant to them in the context of design.

Consistent with the breadth of the concept of sustainability, we got a diverse set of responses. So we built a word cloud around the definitions where the larger the word, the more frequently it was used in a response. Within the diversity, the similarities stand out: “environment”, ‘materials”, “beautiful”, “creating” and “long-lasting”.

The words in the cloud touch on the many facets of sustainability and those used most frequently are consistent with the values in a society with a robust social safety net, access to services, relatively low levels of gender inequality, and where our basic needs are met in terms of subsistence, education and health. And importantly it reflects not only the importance of the responsible use of resources, but also the idea that design can be a driver of sustainability through original ideas and innovation.

The construct of a sustainable balancing act exists.  #COclientsarethebest!

sustainable design word cloud

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