Southern Bouquets, Part I

Southern Bouquets **** by Melissa Bigner with Heather Barrie and photography by Peter Frank Edwards

I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.

I have more photos than would load easily in one post, so this Edible Review has two parts. There is a link at the bottom that will lead you to part II.

This is my “coffee table” book contribution for this batch of Food for Thought reviews~ I’m a sucker for books with flower eye candy and this one fits the bill, especially since my own yard is past its peak (about 8 years past). I can get a floral-fix, in the comfort of my A/C and dream about blooms, flowering branches and bulbs. Only 128 pages, I would have liked more arrangements, interiors and garden views~ which is why I gave it 4 stars instead of 5. But I am a more is more, not less is more kind of girl. I (and you) should be thankful, because any more pages to this book and this would have ended up being a three-part review instead of two!

North Carolina native Melissa Bigner is editor of Charleston Weddings magazine and senior editor at its sister titles, Charleston and Charleston Home.  After graduating from Northwestern University’s journalism school in Evanston, Illnois, she landed a job at Southern Living magazine in Birmingham, Alabama and has been whistling Dixie ever since. She has also written for Southern Accents, Better Homes & Gardens Decorating, Coastal Living, and Cottage Living magazines. She lives in a small cottage in downtown Charleston, SC, where confederate jasmine takes over her picket fence and porch.

 Heather Barrie is founder and creative director of Gathering: Floral + Event Design in Charleston, SC.  By mutual agreement, Heather and Melissa made a pact to gather blooms from their own yards, friends’ gardens, abandoned lots, local parks & area farms~ staying away from florists’ refrigerators for these arrangements in this book. Combining talents, they celebrate down-to-earth blooms and  share arranging advice that allow you to re-create the simple and elegant looks yourself, no matter your zip code.


“Browse these pages to see how a tabletop spread of perky daffodils can sweep out the winder doldrums; how floating a few camilia blossoms adds a touch of easy elegance in any setting; how zinnias are a no-brainer summertime flower for zesting up a party and more. Flower tips, flower trivia, and Southern tales abound here.”

“Look around old homesteads, and even if only the foundation still stands, there’s sure to be a garden growing on, effortlessly stunning and wildly romantic. In my neighborhood–politely called a ‘transistional’ area–I come across centenarian houses that are falling in on themselves, but at their feet, hydrangeas grin, naked ladies dance, daffodils show their brave faces, wisteria sigh, and spiderworts wink at passersby. Someone mothered these plants, and now folks like me are reaping the benefits.”

 Hydrangea Heaven is the name given to Atlanta resident Penny McHenry’s garden. Starting with a pair of hydrangea bushes received as gifts a few decades ago, Penny and her exuberant green-thumb multiplied the parent bushes into four hundred flowering shrubs that spilled over to the church lot next door. In 1994 she founded the American Hydrangea Society, and in 2006, the Atlanta Botanical garden named its collection in her honor.  ‘Penny Mac’ hydrangea was named after her along with ‘Mini Penny’ developed as a tribute to her. Her followers still celebrate at the Penny McHenry Hydrangea Festival, in her memory after she passed away in 2006, drawing thousands each year.

 Hydrangea Meanings: Earnestness and Understanding

Vase Life:  Four days to one week, thereafter they can begin to dry

 Azalea Meanings:  Fidelity, Passion, Temperance and Womanly

Vase Life:  One to two days at most

“When working with flowering branches, place in your vessel first, as the delicate blooms fall off easily and because they tangle, making them tough to maneuver and manipulate.”


Daffodil Meaning:  Rebirth

Vase Life:  Three to six days

Camellias Meanings:  Evanescence and Long-lasting Love

Vase Life:  Four days to one week

 Roses Meanings:  Admiration, Enthusiasm (orange); Friendship, Freedom (yellow); Love (red); Purity, Innocence (white); and  Success (peach)

Vase Life:  Old, a few days; Modern, up to ten days

 Trivia:  Tyler, Texas, is known as the Rose Capital of America, as nearly 50 percent of commercial roses in the United States come from that area.



“Heather Barrie–the floral guru behind the bouquets on these pages–runs Gathering: Flora + Event Design in Charleston, South Carolina, and is known nationally for natural arrangements that have a deceptively simple, organic yet elegant style.”

 “Morning, Heather and other experts agree, is the ideal time for cutting, though early evening is a distant runner-up if you’re in a pinch. At the beginning of the day, plants are ‘less stressed,’ says Heather, since they’ve had a night to rest.”




Sunflowers Meanings:  Adoration and Longevity

 Vase Life:  Five days to one week

Zinnias Meaning:  Friendship

Vase Life:  Five days to one week

 Barbara Planthold Melera “swapped her corporate togs for gardening clogs” and today beside her husband, runs D. Landreth Seed Company, the oldest seed purveyor in the U.S. ~ founded in 1784. The seed company offers more than thirty varieties of zinnias, in part because of her passion for the humble flower. Barbara remembers at the age of five, the bottom of her “shoebox garden” collapsing when wet, with her tiny seedlings, only a week old.

Barbara says:

 “I have a huge soft spot in my heart for all zinnias. That very first experience taught me how abundant life is, how fragile it is, and how incredible it is to watch it unfold. From that first, sweet experience came a lifelong love of gardening and a respect for that most precious of gifts–life itself.”

I thought I would use flower varieties for Food for Thought as my food cues~ starting with my favorite color of Zinnia, Tequila Lime.

Lime Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Tenders, recipe courtesy Southern Living, here

 and to accompany your chicken, Black Beans and Mexican Rice~ recipe here.

And for the Tequila part~ a Pomegranate Margarita :-)

 Strawberry Fields Salad

Mixed Greens, Strawberries, Blue Cheese, and Candied Pecans

 Or substitute Spicy Pecans if you prefer, recipe here.


I divided this review into two parts once again, to help the photos load. To continue to part II for more food & flowers,  go here~

  5 comments for “Southern Bouquets, Part I

  1. Carolyn
    July 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Mary, I love this post! The way you mirrored the live flowers while showcasing the pictures in the book
    is so lovely. The clever way you related the edible part was not wasted on me. The strawberry salad, inspired by the variety of Gomphrena, is not only creative , but oh so beautiful in the way that it was constructed on the plate. Only an artist, stylist like yourself would put that much thought into a salad.
    This looks like a wonderful book and will definitely add this to my collection.

  2. July 30, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Great post! I’m starving…lol!

  3. July 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm

    Mary, this is another one I’ll be adding to my list. Your blooms juxtaposed on the pages of this book are perfection. Ditto what Carolyn says above ~ your are an artist and stylist par excellence. The strawberry fields salad is just the type of salad that hits the top of my favorites list. Love the idea of blue cheese crumble and the candied pecans. Perfection! ~ Sarah

  4. July 31, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Oh Mary….you are a pro at this! Such wonderful connections between the food & the flowers. Very creative & beautifully photographed, as usual.

    I picked up Paula Deen’s book, based on your last FFT reviews. Now I see I’m going to have to get this one, as well. I seem to love exactly the same things that you do!

    Thank you for the links to all those wonderful recipes, too. I will try several, I promise. :D

  5. July 31, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    good morning, took my dogs for an early walk, finally i have time for my favorite pastime, fft!

    8 years past, cracking up!

    of course i am wild about this book… gardens, come on, who are you talking to! so love that hydrangea heaven… and all your placements! the glass is so pretty… i love snow in the summer, been a few years since i grew that, a favortie~

    oh you must have had a blast placing all those pics… i love love love them all!

    zinnias, how i love boatloads of them…

    and TEQUILA LIME, YOU ARE BRILLIANT! oh and the beans and rice pic is perfection… oy, you are so clever… and the margarita, i just bot pom tea, we are on the same wave length, well except you are getting drunk and happy ;-)

    your pics are just truly wowing me… food and garden combo, it does not get any better…

    strawberry salad… girl, you got it all going on!

    yeah part 2, there is more fun to come!

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