A Flowering How-To with Studio Choo


We were thrilled when we first heard that Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo of Studio Choo's artfully unruly flower workshop were going to share some simple tricks-of-their-trade in a Flower Recipe Book, and happier still when we recently got a chance to talk with the ladies themselves. Telling us a bit about the book, their tips for buying fresh cut flowers at market, and what they're giving Mom this year, Alethea and Jill were also kind enough to share one of their favorite flower recipes: a "Hyacinth with Company", for those of us still on the lookout for a handmade addition to our Mother's Day gift.

terrain: How did the idea for a flower “recipe” book come about?

Studio Choo: Our book is designed to make flower arranging approachable for everyone. We tried to take the intimidation out of what to choose and where to cut with clear step-by-step instructions and tons of photos. The Flower Recipe Book shows readers how to identify and use the flowers they have access to at their local grocery stores and farmer’s markets, and maybe even trees and shrubs they have in their backyards that they never thought to use in an arrangement.

terrain: Do either of you have a recipe from the book that’s particularly near and dear to your heart?

Studio Choo: A few of our favorites are the “Sunflower with Company” for the unusual color palette, and the “Cyclamen with Company” for its elegant quirkiness – we use a science beaker as the vessel. At home we tend to use one type of flower in a collection of vases or tiny arrangements with scraps from our gardens.

terrain: You two are known for your seasonal arrangements -- what are your favorite fresh flowers this time of year?

Studio Choo: We have so many- the edge of spring and summer has such a wide variety to choose from! Lupine and foxglove are our favorite spires right now. Branches and greenery are newly leafed so the dogwood, olive, plum, and mock-orange are particularly beautiful. For focal flowers we are working with peonies, ranunculus, poppies, and an early crop of garden roses- hard to go wrong with any of these.

terrain: Speaking of fresh cuts, what should we be looking for when we're headed to the market for cut stems to use in your recipes?

Studio Choo: When shopping, look for tight to halfway open buds and avoid leaves and foliage that are limp. Touch the blooms (gently) - they should have a firm feeling. When you first bring flowers home (especially if they have been in the car/out of water for a while), give the stems a fresh cut and place into a bucket of water to allow them to re-hydrate before using them in your arrangement. Keep your flowers in a cool place away from direct sunlight.

terrain: With Mother's Day on the horizon, do either of you have any special floral traditions with your own moms?

Studio Choo: Our mother's day traditions are not about huge bouquets, but emotions triggered by scent and a few dainty blooms.
I (Alethea) give my mom a small posy of violets whenever I can find them. And a tradition I keep up from my grandmother is to place a small sprig of daphne in a tiny vase on our bedside tables.
And I (Jill) put a small bunch of Lily of the Valley in a special cup in remembrance of my mom. She was also a florist and one of my fondest floral memories of her is assembling a bridal bouquet made from lily of the valley that I had plucked from the woods near our house where it grew wild.

terrain: Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us ladies - we can't wait to try our hand at the recipe below!

Hyacinth With Company
(pictured above)

Studio Choo: We love this little hyacinth recipe. The ingredients are not fussy- it is simple and sweet and the flowers and container could be easily tailored to mom's tastes. Quirky little handmade vessels like these are often our go-to for arranging small bits, but the recipe could easily be placed in a more refined porcelain teacup or sturdy stoneware mug. Just layer in some unruly mint (or any other available herbs like basil or sage) and fill in the rest with her spring favorites. We have used fragrant hyacinth here to really layer on the scent, but you could easily place in a single, large peony to mimic the clustered effect of the hyacinth!

5 sprigs of mint
5 stems of hyacinth
3 stems of ranunculus

Ceramic creamer

1. Choose a creamer in a dark shade that contrasts with the flowers’ springlike pastel colors.

2. Trim the sprigs of mint and add them to the creamer so that the bottom leaves rest on the rim.

3. Trim and add the hyacinth stems in a low cluster to one side of the creamer. Adjust the mint sprigs so that they pop up between the flowers.

4. Trim and add two stems of ranunculus to the left side of the creamer so that the blooms line up with the top of the hyacinth. Finish by trimming and nestling the third stem of ranunculus among the hyacinth.

Excerpted from The Flower Recipe Book by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2013. Photographs by Paige Green.

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