Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Glamorous and Exuberant Book on Gardens and Floral Design

“Garden Bouquets and Beyond”
Creating Wreaths, Garlands, And More In Every Garden Season


Garden Bouquets and Beyond: Creating Wreaths, Garlands, and More in Every Garden Season

Suzy Bales’ latest book is exhibit A in the case to be made why coffee table books need to be renamed. 

True, the book’s gorgeous, jaw-dropping color images hypnotically capture your imagination and render you motionless. 
You are under its charmed spell. 
So there you sit – presumably with that cup of coffee at your “coffee table” -- not wanting to turn the page, but like a good dream, you are led to the next unexpected adventure.

On the other hand, “Garden Bouquets and Beyond” is a How -To book – a veritable pocket book of seasonal design tips and ideas and care instructions you can use every day. 
You’ll look at your garden in a whole new way, too. 

Suzy introduces you to the idea to view the garden as a treasure-trove of unlimited cutting garden gathering opportunities. 

“Why stop at the blooms when there is foliage?” She posits.  Or bird baths to fill with spring blossoms or a “posy topping a gift-wrapped package.” (Source:

The creations are all the more exciting because Suzy helps us, the reader, discover plants and blooms commonly found in most gardens, including honeysuckle, blueberry, witch hazel, sage, allium, yarrow, hosta (as a table cloth ^:^), ivy, nandina, seedpods, ornamental grasses. swamp maple, dogwood, viburnum, and azalea blossoms.  Betcha’ never thought of these candidates for glamorous floral arrangements!
What Suzy designs with floral foam confirms her reign as Eden’s sorceress. 
Her creativity sparkles with suggestions that range from wet and dry wreaths to candelabra confections and joyful runners and Anais Nin headbands, eye candy garlands, and mock topiaries – she literally “paints with nature’s palette” to borrow a heading from the book.

There are tips on color, texture, proportion, balance. 
Then she throws it all to the wind and claims “there are no rules.” And in the same breath, admonishes us to have fun! 

Then there are the words – the text!  This is a book, after all J

Who couldn’t love chapter titles such as “Naked Ladies,”  “Belting Out The Blues,” “Dahlia Daze” “Berry Madness” and “Get the Joint A-Jumpin?”
So much of the book reads like a best girlfriend’s diary she lets you peek at. 
She refers to the morning glory’s flowers as a “perpetual wink.”  
Amassing flowers for a vase she says is akin to a “group hug.”  

These cute as a button, down-home sparklers reflect the conversational style and wit Suzy “gifts” to the reader.
You just know she’s a dame you want to share a cocktail with.  Over an irresistible and eye-catching arrangement that is…

But for all the charm, the book offers a very serious, well-researched series of conditioning flower guidelines, an entire section devoted to how long a cut flower’s Vase Life is, seasonal favorites “at a glance,” and tips on water quality and extending blooms.  There is a source page too. (,,

And it seems every other page has an easy to understand highlight box explaining things we were too self conscious about asking, including “bugs,” debunking myths or old wives tales. 

Buy this exuberant book for its fun and charm. 
Refer to it and use it for its garden and floral design inspiration and expertise. 

I love the book jacket blurbs from some of my favorite garden journalists.  They say it best.  Here’s what Valerie Easton wrote:  “We’ve learned that fresh, local organic food is best, so why are we still buying hothouse flowers, shipped halfway around the world for our home?” (Why indeed?)  … “Only Suzy could transform pachysandra into a showpiece of a wreath?”
Mario Bosquez, host of “Living Today” on Martha Stewart Living Radio, says “Suzy Bales always strikes the right note in making gardening and arranging accessible and educational, and, most of all, the ultimate in all things fabulous and floral.”

And be sure to check out how to dress up the ice “bucket” for a magnum of champagne. How glamorous!

The Horticultural Society of New York ( hosted author Suzy Bales’ launch of  “Garden Bouquets and Beyond” as part of their Important Books and Author’s Series.  Suzy’s has authored 14 books.

The evening was a fundraiser held at the swanky Sherry-Netherland Hotel in New York City.
Friends and supporters mingled.

Cocktails and hors d’ouevres passed while Suzy autographed her book. 

Me and Suzy:

The lecture was the main event, with an introduction by the Hort Society’s executive director, Sara Hobel, who also noted that the evening’s fundraising would go to help support HSNY’s varied programs including the Rikers Island program.

With great humor and self-effacing wit, Suzy led us through the research, writing, and production of her delightful new book, accompanied by seductive images from the book.  The oohs and ahhs from the guests confirmed the designs' drama and appeal. 

The lecture was followed by a robust Q&A.

Check out author Suzy Bales’ web site for a calendar listing of her upcoming national lecture and book signing schedule, including the New York Botanical Garden (, April 15th, Shepard Pratt Conference Center in Baltimore, The Hampton Garden Club, and The Cosmopolitan Club, NYC, November 15th.  (we love your namesake cocktail, the Cosmo!)


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