This two-toned, mass-produced flower that can be seen on every street corner has a number of very beautiful varieties and colors—including mesmerizing soft oranges, a rich purple, an unusual ruby red and a very pure white. In a tailored, graphic styling, they may remind you of butterflies, extremely full and large en masse—and they’ll last up to two weeks. Buy hydroponically or homegrown blooms from Canada if the opportunity presents itself. The prices will be higher, but the alstroemeria will be at their healthiest, with large, well-developed florets at the stems. The South American varieties found at greengrocers are a more readily available and affordable option, but they’re grown outdoors in less sophisticated conditions—as are most of the flowers from this part of the world. Although they’ll be more tattered from exposure to the elements and dubious caretaking procedures, even this should not deter anyone from arranging the always beautiful alstroemeria in abundance.
Carnations are the perfect summer house gift, if a particularly American one. Brought out during the weekends, with refrigeration during the week, they will last from midsummer to September. In a tight minimalist bouquet of variegated blooms with a red line running through the middle, the flowers are very chic. But don’t worry: I don’t aim to change their synonymous relationship with Mother’s Day, a father’s boutonniere or even a corny green remembrance on St. Patrick’s Day (in fact, I recommend that next March you try a green “Prado” carnation from Italy). Calling them by their old-fashioned names, “dianthus” or “pinks,” your grandmother would have recognized carnations in a red tone and may have grown them in her yard. Italian blooms are considered superior in quality, though at half the price, the Colombian flowers are most practical. Because of their overexposure in diners and supermarkets, carnations are often known as “the flower we love to hate”—but don’t let that deter you from using them. They come in hundreds of varieties, including popular minis. And according to The American Carnation: How to Grow It by Charles Willis Ward, they owe much to the experimentation of a botanist named W.P. Simmons. It was his personal challenge to create a pure white carnation. From 1885 through the end of the century, he obsessively engineered lighter and lighter hues of the flower, but he was never fully able to manufacture unblemished white. Always somewhere, often at the center, there was a small fleck of red. To this day the conundrum remains unresolved; tear apart a light-hued carnation and the small stain is there. Today we call this mark “Simmons’s signature.”
The wild red or pink cosmos went the way of most flowers: Botanists successfully created a white variety and then took it to the opposite end of the color spectrum. Deep chocolate-colored cosmos, with blooms hardly bigger than a quarter, are the result. Rich and dark as Godiva—and in low light, virtually indistinguishable from black—these flowers boast a multisensory genetic achievement: Scientists have been able to imbue them with a chocolate fragrance. My wife and partner, Lisa, saw the flower’s potential for autumn gatherings and weddings. She began asking for it in the wholesale market and using chocolate cosmos in design. Others followed her lead. Soon enough pressure was put on growers worldwide to begin supplying this bloom regularly. We prefer Dutch product because it is available in truly massive quantities. Chocolate cosmos give a freeing alternative at today’s weddings, and can masterfully extend the color spectrum for any occasion.