IT SOUNDS LIKE a witch’s brew. Prickle together tilansia, pieris, green blackberries, green hellebores, a snippet of amaranthus and a sprig of pokeweed.
Hardly a horror: Thus begins the recipe for a glorious necklace, a breathtaking floral fantasy that also includes tiny phalaenopsis orchids, minuscule green tomatoes, beauty berries and then, most grandly, a sinuous drift of Tillandsia Xerographica to tickle the sternum.
“Oh, and bits of fern,” adds floral designer Françoise Weeks. Don’t forget the bits of fern.
“How gorgeous this would be for a bride,” I say, nearly eating the photo. “With headpieces and rings for the bridesmaids.” Like woodland creatures. Nymphs . . .
“It takes a particular client to appreciate it,” she replies with a laugh. “I love doing the jewelry, it has so much more impact than a corsage, whether it’s rings, earrings, necklace or a bracelet, they’re wonderful, and fun to make.”
Or shoes. Yes, shoes. “The plant material needs to be sturdier,” she says, as your heels will rub, and the construct is easily ruined.
But to get to wear such a thing once . . .
Born in Antwerp, Belgium, and living in Portland, Oregon, since 1977, Weeks started arranging flowers in her basement, eventually moving to a backyard studio. She’s never had a shop yet has done more than 800 weddings, among other projects and events.
Now more focused on teaching, she travels the country armed with secateurs and tweezers. “I happened on jewelry design by fluke,” she says. “I was in Los Angeles and a student showed me a ring, asking how it was made.” Easily, she thought, “I had some wire there and made one.”
Floral Couture, she calls it, quite accurately.
Like corsages, these floral fantasies, which start at $35 for a ring, $65 for earrings and $175 for a necklace, last but a day or two, though in some the more delicate accents such as orchids can be replaced with a fresh flower or leaf to extend the life of the piece.
Modestly priced for such splendor, I say. “They’re Portland prices,” she says, laughing out loud. “People say, ‘Oh, honey, you should charge blah blah blah.’ Well, if I priced it like that in Portland I wouldn’t sell any.”
She’s almost shockingly generous about technique and tools, but if you need more help she offers online tutorials. For instance, necklace collars are started on flexible one-inch-wide wire that she gets from Oasis Floral Products, which is best known for that green foam used in flower arrangements.
Leaves are overlapped and glued down to the wire frame to form a base, and then, going where your whimsy takes you, attach bits of this and that, an orchid or two, a berry and perhaps a pinch of purple cauliflower, until you have . . .
“Right,” we say. “Until you have glued your elbow to your eyebrow.”
“You always get floral glue on your fingers,” she reassures. “Just spray them with citrus air freshener—citrus oil takes it off easily.”
If nothing else, we can handle the clean-up.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” shares floral finds, mostly from her own garden, every Thursday.