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I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend, getting to spend time with friends and family as we graciously remember those who gave everything for the freedom we get to enjoy. For our team here at Carmen Johnston Gardens we have had a wonderful and busy spring with many projects keeping us on our toes but last week my husband Tommy and I were able to escape to Palm Beach for the long weekend and enjoy some restful quality time on the idyllic island. As we returned from our trip, I just knew I had to share a few of our favorite places in Palm Beach with you! From where to stay, what to eat, and what to see and do, Palm Beach is the perfect getaway for every garden lover and landscape enthusiast.

We had the opportunity to stay at the beautiful hotel, The Colony, for our extended weekend stay and let me tell you- it is a landscape and architectural masterpiece all on its own! From the iconic pink color to its well-manicured grounds and pool we enjoyed every aspect the hotel had to offer. The décor, done by Dorothy Draper, was stunning and created a wonderful atmosphere in which to stay. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the pleasant surprise that the island itself was not at all crowded! Now, let this just be our secret- but to have Palm Beach not be crowded on Memorial Day weekend was incredible! There was no traffic and no lines making our stay so peaceful! The Colony’s customer service was a highlight of our trip, making it one of the reasons I highly recommend booking your stay here! The location is ideal as well, as the hotel is within walking distance of shops and the beach and the hotel provided services to take us anywhere we needed to go. They have adorable bikes you can use to travel the island, the cutest pink golf cart they will drive you around in, or a fun Suburban with a surfboard on top! The weather was perfect for our excursions and for someone who works in the sun year-round to not break a sweat all weekend was just the icing on the cake!

The Colony has wonderful dining options and we enjoyed their famed tuna tartare, curried chicken salad, and lobster salad. Our favorite restaurant was Café Boulud at the Brazilian Court with food by Chef Daniel Boulud. I loved the Dover Sole and Tommy was a huge fan of the Parisian Gnocchi. We both devoured the Pommes Puree (truly the best mashed potatoes you will ever eat!). For desert, we visited Saint Ambroeus where their gelato, tea, and the flourless chocolate cookies are to die for! We also brunched here and loved all the menu had to offer. Another evening we visited Flories at the Four Seasons whose menu boasts of many seasonal and garden-driven entrees and drinks which we especially enjoyed. The Breakers Hotel was also a favorite brunch spot of ours during our trip. For a more budget-friendly meal, we definitely recommend Coyo Taco. The shrimp, grouper, and al pastor tacos paired with one of their homemade margaritas are perfect on a warm day!

While our trip was primarily for us to enjoy some much-needed R&R, we were able to use the bikes The Colony provided to ride around the island and take in the beautiful sights. The beaches are of course a wonderful place to spend time and we sure enjoyed some sand between our toes! We also rode our bikes around and admired many of the beautiful homes around the hotel. Each house was perfectly manicured, and the landscape and architecture were stunning! You sure know that you love what you do when you spend your vacation looking at landscape design! If you want to get out and visit some places on the island, we recommend the Worth Avenue shops with its charming piazza and enchanting stores. Of course, we had to visit some gardens on our trip and our favorites were Pan’s Garden and The Society of the Four Arts

We loved every second of our trip and cannot wait to go back and experience more of what Palm Beach has to offer. What are your suggestions for what to eat and do on the island? Do you have a favorite spot on your getaways? Let us know in the comments below! We hope our recommendations help you plan your next trip to beautiful Palm Beach, Florida!

Like many big cities around the globe, New York City boasts a wonderful array of florals and landscape design. From window boxes to restaurant gardens, displays of local and international flora can be found almost everywhere. Depending on where the city takes you, there is something for everyone from botanical gardens to community gardens to flower markets. 

New York’s botanical gardens are perfect to visit regardless of the time of year. With conservatories and greenhouses, these locations allow for collections of tropical and even local plants and flowers to grow year-round. One of my favorites is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Its great location and reasonable entrance cost made it a perfect morning trip. I loved the detail put into each aspect of the landscaping and appreciated the thought that went into areas like the Shakespeare Garden. Its stunning Japanese garden with dozens of Cherry Blossom trees and large collection of tropical plants located within its conservatories makes it a perfect Saturday morning or late afternoon visit. 

A great way to capture the local landscape is to visit community gardens and parks around the city. Many of the gardens are run by the community and if you are a NYC resident you can contribute to these gardens on a regular basis. Jefferson Market Garden is a perfect example and my favorite garden I visited on my most recent trip to the city.  I spent over an hour here enjoying the peace and calm. Located in one of the busiest areas in the city, it is a wonderful place to take a break from the city rush. Including shading trees, a goldfish pond, and a beautifully designed walking path, community gardens bring the calm of nature to the City That Never Sleeps.

One way to bring New York’s florals into your home is through the countless flower markets such as corner bodegas, many of which offer bouquets on a daily basis.  Areas like Chelsea and Greenwich Village also contain a number of flower markets open to both professional florists and decorators as well as individuals looking to make a home arrangement. I loved how no matter which corner I turned on to, I was sure to find a well-designed window box or quaint flower market. The High Line in Chelsea is a perfect place to enjoy both the cityscapes and floral landscape. Whether you want to spend the day in an idyllic garden or pick up a bouquet on your way to dinner, New York City has something for every garden enthusiast. 

About two weeks ago as we walked onto the plane to find our seats there was something very different about this flight than any other I had been on. Rather than the overhead compartments filling up with small suitcases, the bins began to fill up with large colorful boxes. Yes- hatboxes! People opted to put their luggage below in the plane to keep their hatboxes safe for one very special reason, it was Derby Weekend! And if the hatboxes hadn’t tipped us off, as soon as we stepped foot in the Louisville airport we were greeted with live music, bourbon balls, and red roses galore. This year at the Kentucky Derby I had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with a number of teams on one of the most amazing experiences in my career.

During the time that I lived in Columbus I got to meet the wonderful Chenalt James of Chenalt James Interiors. Recently Chenalt’s roots have pulled her back to Louisville, Kentucky where much of her family still resides. And as I found out very quickly, it is pronounced LOU-a-vul, not LOU-iss-vill. Chenalt and her two sisters, Louise and Carrie, are fourth generation Van Winkles, of the Rip Van Winkle Bourbon Empire. The sisters have founded Pappy & Co, a line of bourbon inspired products to share the passion and dedication that their Great Grandfather “Pappy” embodied. Through my friendship with Chenalt and her family I was invited to collaborate on the Derby Party of the year, a party to recreate the great Van Winkle parties of the past. My collaboration with Chenalt James Interiors, Pappy & Co, Kat McCall Papers, Lisa Bailey, and others led to the incredible experience that I had at the Derby this year that I cannot wait to share with you all! 

In the 1930’s the Van Winkle family began hosting what Life Magazine then called “Mint Julep Parties” before the derby in the afternoon. Mrs. “Pappy” Van Winkle was the ideal hostess, providing an exquisite menu and of course plenty of mint juleps to go around in glistening silver cups. She would pick fresh flowers for the occasion in her yard and one year came across a four-leaf clover. After sending the clover and a couple of mint juleps across the street to the racetrack for a visiting neighbor’s horse, with instructions to put the clover under the saddle for good luck, the horse defied great odds to win the race. The next day, the entire horseshoe of red roses was sent across the street to Mrs. Van Winkle. The legend of the clover and also her love of all things coral colored was a great inspiration to the party that the sisters threw this year.

 

We had the privilege of staying in an incredible Kentucky home with a number of old and new friends and because we arrived a few days before the Derby, we got to see everything that goes on around Churchill Downs before the big event. On Thursday- or Thurby, as it is known in the area, we awoke early for a tour of the track where under a perfect sunrise we got to watch the trainers prepare. For most of our events we fly in flowers from all over the world and the Derby was no exception. With peonies and tulips coming in from Holland and of course roses flying in from South America we headed to the airport that afternoon to pick up our flowers. While there we happened to see Air Horse One, yes Air Horse One! It was quite the experience to watch the horses unload from their private jets. All throughout the days leading up to Saturday we continued to collaborate with our wonderful team in great anticipation for the Derby!

Finally, the greatest day in the year of the Kentuckian had arrived. We were all brought to tears as My Old Kentucky Home was sang across Churchill Downs and in homes all across the state. All of our collaboration had let up to the brunch which was held at the sister’s parent’s home, right next door to the old “Pappy” Van Winkle Home! Guest’s invites had been sent out weeks before with coral details and the famed clover image from great collaboration with Kat McCall Papers. The menu was a wonderful tribute to the parties of the past with classic dishes such as beaten biscuits made especially by Chenalt’s dad and aunt, Bennidictine spread, bourbon balls, and of course the party would not have been complete without sweet ice-cold mint juleps. One of the party’s most incredible details was the use of “Pappy” Van Winkles actual silver for the mint juleps! The party was the perfect start to a wonderful day in the rolling hills of Kentucky. Collaboration with Pappy & Co, Chenalt James Interiors, Kat McCall Papers, Chef Michael Crouch, Jess Graves, Lisa Bailey, The Wooks, Bartender Kyle Higgins, and many others made this event a highlight of my career!

Through our incredible collaboration with so many wonderful friends, recreating this event of the year was such a wonderful experience. The party was a great success and watching the Derby with great friends afterwards let us experience all the Derby Weekend had to offer. We love doing events for friends and clients and the Derby Party was no exception!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to lead a floral class and teach a wonderful group of ladies my favorite arrangement tips and tricks. Every year the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl holds a charity golf tournament at Lake Oconee for NCAA coaches, professional golfers, and celebrities. The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge has given a total $8.4 million to charities since its beginning in 2007. As the coaches and others play across the course, their wives are invited to attend various events and luncheons as the weekend commences. This year we were asked to lead a floral class for the wives and got to spend several wonderful hours creating arrangements, developing friendships, and eating delicious food! 

The arrangements were so fun and easy to put together that I wanted to share them with you!  We used simple and elegant glass vases for this arrangement- you can find a similar one online here. They work best to group several of the vases together! Below we have written out our instructions for the breakaway arrangement and have included images of the types of flowers we used. Also, you can find a gallery of images from our event below.  

Recipe for a breakaway arrangement:

  1. Braid mini lavender callas. Place one on each end of the 4-tube vase and wrap
  2. Weave the curly willow – place on either end and wrap around the vase (Remember this does not need to be perfect…just stuff and shove 😉)
  3. Fill the vase with water
  4. Anchor the ends with mini green hydrangeas
  5. Anchor the center with roses: 4 pink mondial, 3 white vendela, and 3 lavender cool water
  6. Layer 3 pink or purple sweet peas, 3 double pink or purple Lisanthus, and 3-4 yellow or pink tulips.  Remember to remove the foliage and peel back like a banana …it helps the stuff and shove process 😉
  7. Extend the arrangements. Place 2 long pieces of mini clematis one on each end
  8. Fill your two tube vases with water
  9. Anchor the end of the break-away arrangements using your 2-tube vases with flowers like ranunculus (Clooney ranunculus), roses, or tulips.  Nestle your clematis between the vases.  I also love to use confederate jasmine growing from my garden if I can’t find clematis.  
  10. And don’t forget the mint! It always adds a refreshing element to any floral arrangement.