Pair like piet
Have you ever been swept away by the river of salvia in Millennium Park's Lurie Garden or watched bee balm sparkle against its swaying grasses and wished to take that home? Now you can.
Some of the Lurie's most loved perennial combinations -- pairings that are tribute to the genius of famed designer Piet Oudolf -- go on sale at garden centers this spring. Each of the four combinations, offered by Garden Artistry, comes in a flat of 10 pint pots of two kinds of plants, with a diagram suggesting how to arrange them in the garden.
In "Cry Me a River" you'll find two of the salvias used at Lurie; "Onions 'n' Mint" includes allium and frothy white calamint; "Home Sweet Hummelo" pairs Autumn moor grass with wood betony; and "More to Bee-Hold" combines a lavender-blue bee balm with native prairie dropseed grass. Each 10-plant set is expected to sell for about $55, depending on the retailer. For local retailers, see gardenartistryinspires.com.
Cascading vines and bloom-encrusted surfaces sound like standard-issue fare for a florist. But interior designer-turned-floral impresario Mike Hines, who founded Epoch Floral in Chicago's West Town in 2000 and Mike Hines Signature in 2012, takes such creations to genre-bending heights.
The lush, 60-foot-long ropes of emerald foliage and fuschia hydrangeas he suspended off the Park Hyatt's eighth-story terrace last spring is a local case in point. Others have run the gamut from fields of blooms in a desert outside Dubai, complete with camels nipping at the buds, to the canopies of daisies he crafted to sheath the ceiling of the The Ritz-Carlton's grand ballroom in Kapalua, Maui. Hines was out to make waves in the field from the start.
I sell concepts, not flowers," he explains. "I use fewer elements, but they're graphic and bold. Less is more," he says. Today his client base includes style-setting retailers and celebrities, from Barneys New York and Bottega Veneta to Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Hudson and Michael Buble, and chic locals with global abodes. Not in that stratosphere? Here's what Hines suggests for those who arrange blooms at home.
Pare it down: "Whatever you choose to do, keep it simple and impactful. You need two or three kinds of flowers. You just need to know when to stop, and that's really the hardest part of the whole thing," says Hines.
Skip the vase: Hines has laid blooming cherry blossom branches directly on tables and stuck dozens of daisies in test tubes and pushed them in the ground to create big beds instantaneously. "You have to make a statement that forces people to take note'' says Hines. Placing a ring of potted ficus trees flanked with benches in the middle of a room,for instance, forces a pause. "If someone just stops for a minute and looks at it, or better yet lingers for a while, I've done my job," he says.
Planter to plate
Craving battered and fried cardoon? Searching in vain for red-striped mizuna, or want an endless supply of radicchio at sub-supermarket prices? Thanks to companies like Gourmet Seed International (gourmetseed.com) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (rareseeds.com,) you can grow your own. Specializing in hard to find and heirloom seeds, these suppliers offer the promise of a summer supply of not-so-ordinary vegetables.