Beautifully Imperfect

So much of my life has been about flowers.

Bleeding Heart
Creeping Phlox

I was raised with a great appreciation for the Lord's amazing creation. I stripped the lawn out of a 50+ square foot area of my parents' front yard in my late grade school years for the creation of a bulb and perennial garden. I worked with a landscape crew throughout my high school years. I then graduated college with a degree in Horticulture. Since then I've worked as a landscape crew member, Landscape Designer, gardening blogger, and a florists' assistant. 

And even though I no longer work directly with plants or flowers in my actual occupation anymore, I still think about flowers quite a lot. And this spring has been no exception.

I've always been so amazed at the intricacy and seemingly exactness of blooms and their petal patterns. I'm continually in awe of the way these flowers return year after year, even after harsh winters, extreme dry spells and all of the other cruel elements surrounding them. They emerge each year with the same beauty and grace out of what seems to be nothingness.

Forget-me-nots

Only this spring, I've been focusing more on a different aspect of them. Their imperfection.

Have you ever taken the time to really look at a flower or the flowering plant as a whole? I would challenge you to find one without a single flaw. There is not a flowering tree with an exact perfect branching structure or the exact same amount of flowers per limb. But yet they are beautiful -- one could even argue that it is their imperfection that makes them so.

Recurvus Daffodil
Dinnerplate Dahlia

Isn't it kind of the same way with our personalities and places in life? Do we have our faults and weaknesses? Of course. And while we continually strive to overcome these faults and purge our weaknesses, God continues to use us (and them!) for His glory and good. He has a plan and purpose for each of us that only each of us could fulfill -- together with all of our imperfections. 

Lily of the Valley

Maybe you tend to be a bit rash in your decision-making. But you also probably effectively get things done and keep conversations moving.

Maybe you obsess over cleanliness and organization. But I'll bet your household remains relatively healthy and that you can find anything your child needs to complete his science project.

Maybe you struggle with getting out of bed when your alarm tells you its time (me!). But perhaps this gives your child great delight when she gets to climb in bed with you for a few minutes before the race of the day begins.

Maybe you find yourself in frequent stages of depression or anxiety and wonder why you can't get your act together. But as a result, you are most likely more sensitive and aware of what others may be going through and can listen to a friend like no other.

And the list goes on.

Whatever you consider your "weaknesses" to be, each one can be a strength in raising your family, loving your spouse, encouraging a friend or reaching another for Christ. Our Heavenly Father working through and using our imperfections in personality may just be what breaks down the wall of resistance in someone's heart, encourages them in their walk with God or inspires them to live more fully without hiding behind a mask of someone they are not.

Double Daffodil

So maybe instead of constantly viewing our personality weaknesses in a negative light, perhaps we can see them as gifts. Gifts which God Himself chose for each of us.

And you know what else? No two flowers are exactly alike. Just like no two of us are the same. But together, we create a beautiful garden. His.

Floral Arranging 101: From Grocery to Gorgeous

Title Image I don't know of many women who don't appreciate a nice bouquet of flowers -- in fact, at this moment, I cannot think of a single one. Flowers have always fascinated me: the tens of thousands of variations, the intricate parts, the slightly different shapes to the petals, the stems, the leaves, everything about them is astounding. And to think that God could've achieved pollination in any other, much less beautiful way. . . it is true proof that God loves each and every one of us.

So maybe you are someone who receives flowers a lot. Maybe that special someone in your life fully knows the simple truth that flowers make women smile. Or maybe he doesn't. Or maybe you don't happen to have a special someone but you treat yourself to the lovelies once in a while. If that's you, kudos. With Sweetest Day approaching the weekend (for those of you rolling your eyes, I get it...my husband and I barely even mention it to each other), I thought it might be a good time to explore the possibilities of a grocery bouquet.

As a former floral shoppe employee, I can honestly tell you that the time taken with each stem, the expertise and skill used in each arrangement and the quality sources of the flowers warrant the higher prices paid at such a specialty place. But let's be real for a moment: many of us cannot afford to spend that kind of money on something that seems to be pure luxury. As much as a hundred dollar bouquet of flowers from my husband would look amazing on my dining room table, I think I may be more upset with him than happy if he actually purchased them given our current financial status.

Enter the grocery store. Sure, there may not be anything particularly unique about the mixed arrangements sitting in the buckets at the entrance. They may not be beautifully arranged in a $20 vase. But they are still beautiful. And they're still flowers. And believe it or not, you can make them look a little bit more like something that came out of your local specialty floral shoppe in just a few short minutes..

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One of the main issues when purchasing flowers at the supermarket is that they are all cut to the same height without much thought given to the placing of each variety within the bouquet. Therefore, you get them home, maybe give them a quick fresh cut and place them in a vase -- as a result, you end up with a bouquet of beautiful flowers which were simply cut and thrown into a vase (similar to the "before" picture above) because, well, that's what they are. But with just 10 minutes and the help of a few common household tools, you can create an "after" arrangement which is much more pleasing to the eye!

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Before beginning the steps below, fill your vase with water (within an inch from the top to insure that all stems will be reaching) and gather the proper tools: scissors, tape and a pruners if dealing with particularly thick and rigid stems, such as those of roses. Tip: When determining what temperature of water to use, consider the flowers. In most cases, cold water will be best as it will help your flowers last longer. However, if your goal is to open the blooms a bit quicker, for instance a bouquet of tightly closed roses or lilies, then use somewhat warmer water to encourage the flowers to burst forth in a shorter period of time.

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Step #1: The trick which I was most impressed by after beginning my job at the floral shoppe was that of "gridding" the vase. Take a piece of tape which is long enough to span the vase opening and also reach at minimum 1/2" down the side of the vase and carefully cut it in half lengthwise. Making sure that the top of the vase is as free from moisture as possible, attach the tape to one side and pull it as tightly as possible across the mouth of the vase before attaching it to the opposite side. Continue by placing additional pieces of tape in a parallel and perpendicular fashion, thus creating a grid of sorts across the opening of the vase.

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Step #2: Separate all stems out of the bouquet and arrange according to variety.

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Step #3: Begin with any filling "greens" which the bouquet may contain. Make the most out of the stems by breaking them apart into smaller pieces which can be used to better fill the vase. Place them within the grid at varying angles and heights. Tip: Having a hard time determining how short to cut a particular stem? Don't be afraid to hold it up to your vase to get a rough estimate before making the cut.

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Step #4: Continue on by selecting the most numerous of the flowers in your group. These will work to set the overall frame, shape and height of the finished arrangement. Again, break apart the stems as necessary to make the most of the number of blooms you have. When placing them into the grid, put some low, some high and some angled out a little further than the others. Tip: Keep in mind that you can always cut more stems or cut them shorter, but once they are snipped, they cannot be glued back together. Therefore, start small and cut more if necessary.

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Step #5: Select the next flower by considering which you have just as much of or a little less than the first. If not as numerous as the first, these flowers act more like accents in the arrangement but still can fill in some good holes. In this case, the yellow flowers are alstromeria, which tend not to have long stems which can be broken apart but rather have groupings of blooms at the top of shorter stems. Cut these as before and place where they best fit, being careful to give the bouquet equal amounts of each color throughout for good balance.

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Step #6: Finally, cut and insert any accent or focal point flowers (usually just one or two as to not compete with each other) to complete the arrangement. This is truly the "icing on the cake" as it should tie everything together and add a pop of pizzazz to an otherwise mediocre grouping of flowers.

And there you have it! While it may take a time or two to feel confident in your skills, I know you have it in you to take those supermarket flowers to the next level. Sound too involved and like more work than you're willing to do? Try a simpler method by creating a "hand-tied" bouquet: place all of the stems in your hand, one at a time, arranging them by height and variety as you go. When finished, take a piece of string or twine and tightly bind the stems together to keep them from moving out of place. Cut all of the stems at once and place in a vase!

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these! ~Luke 12:27

 

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The Yard Story, Part Two

When we left off last week, I was recapping the progress that we made of essentially stripping our yard of its current contents. This week, thanks to the first morning of sunshine in probably a week, I am able to share with you some photos of a little of our planting progress. For those of you pursuing yard projects at your homes, I encourage you not to lose heart. The planting step is the most rewarding part! Trust me, I understand that all the work up until this point feels like you haven't accomplished anything. We have been digging out trees, weeds, and shrubs for weeks. I didn't want the power of the internet making you believe we are superhuman, and that this all happened super fast. For those of you curious, here is a little shot of our landscape design. You can see how easily marked each plant is-- both with name and location. Seriously, it is a no brainer when it comes to planting. The only hard part was finding the plants at the store. I have no actual knowledge about plants or planting so we were wandering the aisles repeatedly trying to read every little plant card. That really is a fun time if you add a 19 month old who hasn't napped! :) Learn from my mistakes people.

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Last week I left you with the beginnings of some garden beds that we were digging on each side of the house. We were able to finish digging those out. One suggestion our lovely landscape designer suggested was to use water based spray paint (I think the stuff we used was specifically for yards) to draw out your bed lines so you can easily dig-- kind of like a coloring book. We found that super easy, and the paint lasted for about 2 weeks (though not much rain at that time) so I had plenty of time to dig them before the lines disappeared. Another suggestion I've heard before is to use a garden hose to create the outline so you can find the shape you like. You can even run your lawn mower around it to make sure it's easy to mow. I would probably then spray paint and dig.

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And here's a little shot from the front so you can see our spindly little crab apple tree. Isn't he sweet?

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And a little before and after of the front. (We got a new car too!)

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Here is the before and after of the other side of the house.

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Don't you just love different shades of green? God is so apparent in some of the simplest things.

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Finally, the before and after of the front.

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Nothing like a little (or a lot) of yard work to remind me of the awesomeness of our Heavenly Father. Only He could have come up with all of these plants!

Isaiah 64:8 - Yet you, Lord, are our Father.     We are the clay, you are the potter;     we are all the work of your hand.

Anyone up to some landscape fun? Have any helpful hints for those of us not experienced in horticulture? Please share!

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