Floral Wizardry of Riz Reyes

A familiar face in the Pacific Northwest horticultural scene, horticulturist Riz Reyes increasingly concentrates on his floral art outside of his full-time job as the garden manager for McMenamins Anderson, Bothell, Washington State. Reyes employs flowers and foliage locally as much as possible, and his adroit skills in creating sumptuous floral arrangements can be witnessed in his top ten favorites. He offers the following three tenets of his design philosophy:

1.) Cut flowers are a gateway to the art and science of horticulture celebrating the diversity of botanical wonder all around us.

2.) Whether it be texture, scent, or serendipitous movement as the bouquet is being held, floral designers always possess a natural element inspired by nature so anyone can fully engage with the composition.

3.) Acknowledge the hard work it takes to plant, nurture, and harvest the bounty available to floral designers by letting very little go to waste and allow what’s not used to come back to earth to nurture the following season’s growth.

Those who reside in the Seattle metro region are fortunate to have Riz’s talents at your tip of the hat as he is available for floral commissions. Riz can be reached by email at riz@rhrhorticulture.com.

Thank you, Riz!    ~ Eric

Left: Rosa hybrid unknown Clematis 'Etoile de Violette' Achemilla mollis seed heads Cornus elliptica, Lathyrus odoratus vine Phlox paniculata 'Nicky' Astrantia hybrid Allium 'Summer Beauty'; Right: Brunia albiflora Asclepsia curassavica, Schinus molle Akebia quinata 'Alba' Echinacea Supreme(TM) Elegance Fatsia polycarpa 'Needham's Lace' Celosia hybrid
Left: Rosa hybrid unknown, Clematis ‘Etoile de Violette’, Achemilla mollis seed heads, Cornus elliptica, Lathyrus odoratus vine, Phlox paniculata ‘Nicky’, Astrantia hybrid, Allium ‘Summer Beauty’; Right: Brunia albiflora
Asclepsia curassavica, Schinus molle, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, Echinacea Supreme(TM) Elegance, Fatsia polycarpa ‘Needham’s Lace’, Celosia hybrid
Rosa 'Auspastor' PATIENCE, Rosa 'Helga Piaget' Zantedeschia hybrid, Agonis 'After Dark' foliage, Blechnum spicant foliage, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Papaver somniferum pods, Scabiosa stellata pods Tillandsia xerographica
Rosa ‘Auspastor’ PATIENCE, Rosa ‘Helga Piaget’, Zantedeschia hybrid, Agonis ‘After Dark’ foliage, Blechnum spicant foliage, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Papaver somniferum pods, Scabiosa stellata pods, Tillandsia xerographica
Left: Leucodendron 'Inca Gold' Hyacinthus orientalis 'Blue Jacket' Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' Eucalyptus sp. Grevillea 'Ivanhoe' Brunia albiflora Tillandsia xerographica; Right: Dahlia 'Versa' Nelumbo hybrid pods Schinus molle Sorbus forrestii fruit Sorbus caulescens fruit Jacobaea hybrid foliage Euonymous fortunei 'Emerald 'N Gold' Hedera hibernica Eucalyptus sp. Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy' Tillandsia abdita
Left: Leucodendron ‘Inca Gold’, Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Blue Jacket’, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, Eucalyptus sp., Grevillea ‘Ivanhoe’, Brunia albiflora, Tillandsia xerographica; Right: Dahlia ‘Versa’, Nelumbo hybrid pods, Schinus molle, Sorbus forrestii fruit, Sorbus caulescens fruit, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Euonymous fortunei ‘Emerald ‘N Gold’,
Hedera hibernica, Eucalyptus sp., Echeveria ‘Topsy Turvy’, Tillandsia abdita
Rosa 'Ausdrawn' The Generous Gardener Lathyrus odoratus hybrid, Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost', Astilbe hybrid, Dryopteris felix-mas 'Cristata', Cornus alba 'Elegantissima'
Rosa ‘Ausdrawn’ The Generous Gardener, Lathyrus odoratus hybrid, Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’, Astilbe hybrid, Dryopteris felix-mas ‘Cristata’, Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’
Actaea 'Black Negligee' foliage, Clematis 'Etoile de Violette', Lilium 'Dimension', Allium hybrid seedhead, Astrantia hybrids, Jacobaea hybrid flower buds, Lonicera japonica 'Halliana', Alchemilla mollis seedheads, Lathyrus odoratus tendrils
Actaea ‘Black Negligee’ foliage, Clematis ‘Etoile de Violette’, Lilium ‘Dimension’, Allium hybrid seedhead, Astrantia hybrids, Jacobaea hybrid flower buds, Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, Alchemilla mollis seedheads, Lathyrus odoratus tendrils
Rosa hybrid unknown Equisetum hyemale Cornus elliptica Papaver somniferum pods Jacobaea hybrid flowering buds Echeveria sp. Sorbus forrestii fruit Polystichum setiferum 'Plumoso-Multilobum' Blechnum spicant
Rosa hybrid unknown, Equisetum hyemale, Cornus elliptica, Papaver somniferum pods, Jacobaea hybrid flowering buds, Echeveria sp., Sorbus forrestii fruit, Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumoso-Multilobum’, Blechnum spicant
Left: Vitis cognetiae branch with lichen Zantedeschia hybrid Jacobaea hybrid foliage Brunia albiflora Aeonium arboreum hyrbid Akebia quinata 'Alba' Eucomis comosa Tillandsia xerographica x brachyculous Right: Tillandsia xerographica Aeonium arboreum Eucalyptus sp. Leucodendron hybrid Cymbidium hybrid Cornus sericea
Left: Vitis cognetiae branch with lichen, Zantedeschia hybrid, Jacobaea hybrid foliage, Brunia albiflora
Aeonium arboreum hyrbid, Akebia quinata ‘Alba’, Eucomis comosa, Tillandsia xerographica x brachyculous Right: Tillandsia xerographica, Aeonium arboreum, Eucalyptus sp., Leucodendron hybrid, Cymbidium hybrid, Cornus sericea

Floral Friday- Sweet Portugal Mix

Floral FridaysSome flowers stand well enough on their own to make a statement, without the addition of other foliage and flowers. These Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus, enhance the simple but beautifully adorned Portuguese pottery. Taking the same flower and just mixing with other varieties of itself proves successful.  Hope you have enjoyed this Floral Friday…- James

5 Favorite Tips

Zinnias1.   Joyous and carefree as the halcyon summer days can be, zinnias bedazzle us with their unabashed brilliance.  They look as if a child had gone unsupervised with a box of 1000 Crayola crayons, coloring with singular doggedness each flower. Zinnias are a fitting preclude before….. (Zappy Zinnias)

Magnolia petals2. Each year happens the same, the weather gets warmer and before we know it,  we are  barraged by this festival of blooms called springtime. It seems there is barely enough time to enjoy one flower display before the next one is vying for our attention, screaming out our name to be looked at and admired. Or, we can see this as the moment you can push the boundaries of  bloom time…. (Pushing Bloom Boundaries)

Cut Iceland poppies stand out against the pop art painting (private home, Tasmania, Australia)
Cut Iceland poppies stand out against the pop art painting (private home, Tasmania, Australia)

3. Poppies are best cut early in the morning when the bud begins to reveal some color. They then should be  plunged into… (Prolonging Cut Poppies)

Myosotis sylvatica
Myosotis sylvatica

4. Don’t forget to take notes, it is important to document your successes and failures including ideas you might want to improve upon for next year in the garden, such as…  (Noting Notes)

Jewel tones of Geranium [Rozanne] = 'Gerwat' and Eschscholzia californica 'Jelly Beans' with Nassella tenuissima
Jewel tones of Geranium [Rozanne] = ‘Gerwat’ and Eschscholzia californica ‘Jelly Beans’ with Nassella tenuissima
5. Geranium [Rozanne] = ‘Gerwat’ may be ubiquitous, dethroning ‘Johnson’s Blue’, but it doesn’t preclude it from being…. (Blue and Orange Deux)


IMG_6495        Let me start by translating, you see, PEIM! PEIM! PEIM! really just transcribes to BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! At least this is what I was told by a true Valenciana, but I choose to believe her since she is a reputable source that I have known for a few years. I have visited Valencia many times in the past few years, since having family here, but never had I been during Las Fallas. I knew it was going to be loud, crowded with visitors and extremely chaotic but needed to experience it firsthand since my family has been talking to me about it since first visiting them in Spain. Las Fallas is a celebration that takes place over five days, happening each March to commemorate Saint Joseph in Valencia and the surrounding area. Valencia is the third largest city in Spain.


Each and every day at 2 pm, there are earth shattering fireworks, known as mascletas, that take place in the main square of the city, Plaza del Ayuntamiento. First thought was why are the fireworks not set off at night, so you can see them? Wrong… It is not about the beautiful display of light but about the incredible amount of noise set off by professionals that erupts from the square, with crowds upon thronging crowds vying for the closest spot, to be as close to the action as possible. People line the streets surrounding the square, every local terrace and even on side streets with no view, because remember you are not here to watch but to feel. Each display starts off slow, not so loud and builds up its tempo during the process, with crackles of light bursting before your eyes. The momentum builds up so much that during the end of the display you feel your face cheeks vibrating from the sound waves bouncing off of them: it is that intense. Each day the momentum is different making the proud people cheer so loud they rival the just finished mascleta symphony. Are they crazy? Yes, and I went 4 days out of the 5, each in a different spot trying to get as close as possible, and loved every intense second.

los ninos
The youngest children are pushed on a wagon while the adults march in the parade.

Las Fallas is a long standing tradition in Valencia with each neighborhood having its own Fallas Club, and since birth you have the choice to be part of everything. The beautiful costumes are usually handmade and worn with pride during these times. The time, thought and effort is apparent in the stunning visuals that make up the details of this tradition of customary dress. Each neighborhood’s club marches in a parade-like fashion, towards Plaza de la Virgen to bring offerings of large arrangements and of flower bouquets to Virgin Mary. Many participants have been involved since children, causing it to be a highly proud, extremely satisfying and emotional experience.  IMG_6797IMG_6803

Marching through the streets to Plaza de la Virgen, you can see that each handcrafted dress is exquisite, ornate, with each more beautiful than the last, with each lady being infinitely proud of her Valencian heritage. Their smiles shine brighter than the expensive and bright textiles that adorn their bodies.


For the women, men, and children every outfit is planned carefully with nothing left to chance.

MaryFrontUntitled-1Upon walking through many small and narrow streets, they reach the square called Plaza de la Virgen, where they first encounter the sight of Virgin Mary, who is fastidiously adorned with flowers upon flowers by volunteers. With each arriving group, each person brings a bouquet of carnations, or other flowers, which are used to fill out the body of the Virgin Mary, previously a wooden framework. This processional parade reaches an apex when arriving in the Plaza, which takes over the course of two days with people marching through at all hours of the day and night.


Untitled-1Untitled-1At this time, flower arrangements, both large and small, are deposited and placed in the square, put to good use in decorating the festive Plaza. It was clear to see how involved the Valencian people of all ages were, from newborns to adults, some of which I am sure have not missed a year in the chance to be involved. Touching it was, to see so many of the women enter the Plaza, kissing their bouquet before handing it over, and even taking a keepsake of a single bloom. Many women and men leave the Plaza while wiping tears from their eyes, understood since this is such a deep rooted experience for them.

IMG_7031Once Virgin Mary is fully adorned with flowers, remaining bouquets are put into walls that encircle the church, as seen on the left hand side of the photo.


Untitled-1Each Fallas club brings a large arrangement with them that has been carried during the course of the parade from their respective neighborhoods.  IMG_7160Each Falla club is also responsible for designing and building large sculptures which are then displayed prominently in the corners of the corresponding neighborhood during the festival. Each year a theme is issued and each club is judged according to how well their idea has been thought out and executed. Prizes are then awarded and on the last night of the festival, the sculptures are burned signifying the end of Las Fallas. Flames lick the sides of each piece until nothing but burning embers, smoldering in the street, are left behind.




It is a week of chaos, with the sound of firecrackers bursting loudly at all hours throughout the streets of Valencia. Coming from a country where I would never witness such an event, I was ecstatic to see and feel so many things during this time. It was incredible to see how another culture celebrates their heritage while mixing in flowers, such as the carnation that so many of us overlook, into something that is held so dear to them in tradition. If you ever have the chance, I recommend at least one day to revel in the festivities: it is an opportunity not to be missed and one that definitely will not be forgotten.


Gracias, Valencia – James

An affair to remember..

Dear Eric,

There was a wonderful wedding here in Holland, she was a beautiful bride with a radiant smile and he an equally handsome groom with a sharp sense of humor,  there was happiness and laughter all around. The ceremony was in Dutch and English, with delicious food and drink at the reception, and everyone got in some serious dance time with the amazing band that performed. It was a joyous time for all, for good reason.

It was my first time doing floral arrangements for a wedding and found the whole experience to be challenging but a wholly satisfying creative process.  Most of the foliage and flowers were grown on and harvested from the estate, from which there was plenty to choose from.  Church interiorThe church looked small from the outside, but upon entering, it was as if we had stepped into a jewel-box, with such colors and ornate details inside, we thought it best to keep the color schemes of the arrangements simple, to enhance rather than compete with the exquisite surroundings.  We thought some large green and white arrangements would suit the church interior best, and took notice of some of the details on the walls too, which could come into play later.

Church interior detail

 Some of these details that stood out were the leaves and acorn ornamentation painted onto the columns.

Church arrangements

Once back at the estate, we harvested young oak saplings (that needed to be thinned anyway) of Quercus robur, which surprisingly lasts well in water for a few days. We used these to connect with the oak leaves painted within the interior of the church. The edge of the woods were lit up with foxglove blooms so we harvested all the white ones, Digitalis alba, to add some major height to the arrangements. Mixed with the oak, they were simple, large, and very effective.  To some of the other arrangements red dahlias were added to highlight the red used throughout the frames of the religious icons and triptychs in the church, again keeping within the simple color scheme chosen.

Dining areaFor the reception dinner,  the arrangements were kept simple too, using glass vases of sweet peas running down the center of the table.

Untitled-1Table space was limited, partly due to large plates that were to be kept on the table as ‘dishes to pass’, as well as all the glasses and cutlery, so we found we were restricted and could not make many large arrangements. A solution to decorating the table was pressing some ferns, specifically Blechnum spicant, which was done a few weeks prior to the wedding, and running the dried fronds down the center of the tables.  Blechnum spicant, which was harvested from the ‘Wild Garden’ on the estate pressed really well, holding its shape and color while adding that other dimension needed to the beautifully set tables.


The area where dinner was held is actually a large garage that was converted into a more welcoming space by hanging swags of fabric and ribbon while using a some large arrangements to help soften the space.  In these tall but thin cylindrical vases, I squeezed as much as I could fit, not wanting to make too heavy of an arrangement, so I focused on height while keeping them light, airy and somewhat open. All materials were foraged from the garden and the estate which included Cornus alba ‘Aurea’, Astrantia major ‘Ruby Wedding’, Prunus branches from the kitchen garden (it was either us or the birds that harvested the cherries) and for height a variegated Miscanthus and reeds that grow alongside the moats.


 Elsewhere, I used pear branches, heavy with young fruit, mixed with the scented Philadelphus coronarius, which were surrounded by pots of wild strawberry plants.


Some last minute arrangements thrown together, using more oak and peonies, a combination that I would like to try more of. IMG_0044It was an honor to be part of such a wedding and to do flowers for wonderful friends, and pleasurable to have acres of greens and flowers at your fingertips to choose from. It was so much fun thinking of ideas, trialling cut branches for longevity (Salix did not last at all, surprisingly, while Castanea sativa lasted really long, can you believe it?), and seeing everything come together as one hoped for. I only wish time slowed down during this day, so the joy and pleasure of the day could’ve been savored longer by all who attended..  Hope this finds you well my friend…….        – James

meadow outside/inside


Meadows, even if we love them, the reality is not all of us have the space for one, or even a garden for that matter.  A simple and easy arrangement is take a handful of meadow* and take one cut with your pruners/secataurs.  Using a glass frog, disperse the cuttings throughout, putting the tallest pieces in the center and add water.  The arrangement will last over a week; giving that relaxed romantic look we admire the meadows for.


*Please make sure you are not cutting any rare or endangered flora and have permission from the meadow owner.

Yellow Rattle

DeWiersse Meadow
DeWiersse wildflower meadow with Taxus cubes

They have always been the romantic idyll of summer, evoking visions of blanket picnic lunches in the sun or maybe under the shade of a mature tree, beautifully marked butterflies erratically making there way to a destination, the sun casting a glow on all the flower colors dotted throughout with grasses swaying gently in a warm summer zephyr, causing that soothing rustling sound that makes you feel like time is standing still. Meadows are always a breathtaking sight, whether created by man or in a field taken back by nature’s own hand,  we have no say in how things play out in this theater.

DeWiersse Meadow
DeWiersse mix with Ox-eye daisy and Camassia quamash

Meadows are the free-spirited child of the gardening world and we admire them because we can try to guide and coax them but they do what they want, as they please. We can add ingredients to the meadow but how the recipe turns out is always a surprise. What flowers will end up where? And next to whom? We relinquish control and give in to those seasonal vignettes of chaos, a true pleasurable experience, which in the end is always an admirable result.

Meadows are always at their best in poor soil, with plants reaching maximum potential sans nutrients and fertilizer. It is what is, and I like the mystery in that, nature knows best. Through the season they move through different phases visually and there is one plant that has a part in this equation. This plant is a true workhorse in this environment and is known by the name Hay Rattle, Yellow Rattle, or it’s Latin name Rhinanthus minor. I first saw this plant in the Great Dixter meadows years ago and have been a fan ever since, it is because of this plant that doors open for  the possibility of a more diverse mix of plants in the meadow.

Rhinanthus minor and Camassia quamash

This annual, which flowers from May to August, is native to Europe and Western Asia and is commonly found throughout fields, grasslands and roadsides. With its innocent looking yellow blooms and serrated leaves, this plant does is it’s work on the sly, by parasitizing  surrounding grasses growing around it in the meadow.

Nature reserve meadow
A mixed meadow in a local nature reserve not far from DeWiersse

Underneath the soil, the roots of Hay Rattle steal the nutrients from the roots of grasses, slowing down their vigorous growth enough that other plants have the chance to establish themselves and grow without getting pushed out . Grasses can grow at such a quick rate, easily out-competing other plants trying to grow in the meadow, easily taking over, with the end result being a less diverse plant mix. Rhinanthus minor changes that, holding the door open for all the other blooms you might see flowering alongside it, and is by far, the most superior plant in the meadow. How can a plant that does such good not be anything but loved?

Nature reserve meadow
One field, which is almost entirely devoid of Hay Rattle is almost overcome by vigorous grasses.
Nature reserve field
The more Hay Rattle, the more diversity.


Nature Reserve Orchids
Space in the meadow opens areas for native orchids such as Dactylorhiza fuchsii and a night blooming Orchid (still trying to i.d. its Latin name)
Orchid Meadow
Only this many orchids in one place can happen with the help of the yellow blooming Rhinanthus minor