Friday, October 14, 2011

Another use for okra


I'm really veering off subject today, but let me explain.

I attend Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, and back in 2002, our 7,000 member congregation moved into a new sanctuary.  We jokingly call it "The Methodist Cathedral".  It's huge.

The story of the above arrangement, photographed in October 2010, actually began the last autumn in our old church.  Our minister always called the Sunday before Thanksgiving "Harvest Sunday."  He would welcome all the people home for Thanksgiving and give the members a chance to stand up and say what you were thankful for (I never did; too shy).  It was always a warm and special time, and we'd sing my favorite Thanksgiving hymns,"Come Ye Thankful People Come", "Now Thank We All Our God" and "We Gather Together."

On Harvest Sunday 2001, I looked up at the altar, and on both sides of the brass cross were triangular shaped flower arrangements containing pink gladioli and pink carnations.  What?  Where were the autumn colors?  The church paid a florist to come in and do the flowers on Saturday for Sunday's service. I'd been noticing that he'd gotten more and more careless with his choice of material.  He obviously must have had a wedding that called for pink and used the leftover flowers for us.

What made it even more maddening was the fact that I had just attended a flower festival at a beautiful old Episcopal church downtown, where their flower guild had used foliage from their yards - maple and oak leaves and bittersweet and dried hydrangeas, mixed with fresh flowers in autumn colors.   They'd also used fruit like pomegranates, apples and red and brown pears in the arrangements.  It was breathtaking.

So my heart started beating wildly, thinking of our new sanctuary.  Why couldn't we do the same as the Episcopalians.  Our new space would need arrangements at least six feet tall.  That would cost a fortune, and I couldn't imagine the same old gladioli and carnations.

So, we formed a flower guild to arrange flowers for Saturday weddings that would stay up for the service on Sunday.  We specified that we'd use foliage from our yards and buy the necessary flowers for two arrangements - one on the altar and another big, round one in the rotunda entrance.

It's been a great success and tons of fun.  We've gotten better as we've gone along and learned from our mistakes, i.e., crepe myrtle flowers and foliage shrivel within an hour of being cut.

I am the hunter-gatherer for my team; I just don't have the knack for arranging, but I'm good at finding weeds and sticks and interesting foliage.  Benjie Jones and Peggy Witt are in charge of putting everything together, along with some very talented people.

The bride that week wanted cranberry to match the bridesmaid dresses, thus the Stargazer lilies.  We lightened up the arrangement with white hydrangeas.  Most of the other material is either from the roadside or my yard.  See if you can pick out the following:  Abelia chinensis, elaeagnus, Canadian hemlock, winter honeysuckle, Camellia sinensis (the tea plant) and, yes, okra.  I'm hoping the bride never knew about the latter.