STEM classes — those heady amalgamations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — are all the rage these days. But at Colonial Village Flowers on Weaver Street, a very different kind of stem class is abloom, one using, well, actual stems. Roughly once a month, fans of flora gather to receive expert tutelage in creating breathtaking, seasonally appropriate arrangements.
The lessons, which cost $85 and are about 90 minutes long, are a natural extension for the store, which has been a fixture in town since 1971. At a time when businesses in Scarsdale can come and go faster than a rose can bloom and wither, Robert Sloop feels that his and his staff’s extensive experience accounts for his shop’s staying power.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, 33 years or so — I’m an experienced event planner in New York City and all over the tristate,” he said. When approaching a new project, he continued, “I say to myself, ‘All right, I’ve done this before. What can I do? What can I bring into this picture to make it a little different from everybody else?’”
The flower-arranging classes emphasize individuality. “Basically, when I taught one of the classes, I had everybody use the same products, the same materials, the same flower,” Sloop said. “But when I did the arrangement myself, I used other flowers — the same type of flowers, but different colors, to show examples [of variety]. There are several thousands and thousands of flowers out there. So we show the basics of how to start their foundation of the arrangement.”
Before arranging flowers, students learn, it’s crucial to prepare them. “Anytime that you buy flowers from a store, you don’t just put them in water. You have to recut them,” Sloop explained. This is because once the stem ends have been out of water they will dry up, preventing uptake of water to the top of the flower. Removing most or all of the foliage will help the flowers last longer, keep the water cleaner, and prevent the leaves from taking up too much space in the arrangement.
Next, there’s the water quality and quantity to consider. “Sometimes a drop of bleach [in the water] is good because it kills the algae in the water. Sometimes when it comes down to a calla lily, you don’t fill the vase all the way up to the top because, if you do, it’s going to rot. You fill it just an inch up. There are little methods and techniques you can do with flowers. Also, after a week, you recut [the] ends, and that will extend the longevity of the flower,” Sloop said.
Students got a chance to assemble their own well-balanced and long-lasting arrangements at the shop’s class on Dec. 13. Some half-dozen pupils gathered in the arcade area adjacent to the store, standing at long tables, with fragranced candles strategically placed to heighten the sensory experience and a tray of exquisite mini pastries for nibbling. “This will be the third class I’ve taken,” said Scarsdale resident May Lee. “It’s always easier than expected, and I’m always pleased with the end product, which is beautiful.”
Each student was given a 5-by-5 inch glass cube, which they then filled with room-temperature water. Next, they visited the store’s refrigerated case to collect large-form flowers such as white and mini green hydrangeas. “You add sturdier flowers first,” instructed class leader Peter Morello. Around those heady blooms, they nestled white Eskimo roses, pieces of Dusty Miller (a type of plant with lovely, silvery-gray foliage that offsets blooms nicely) and other plants. Morello repeatedly urged his pupils to cut their flower stems short, so they would stand up well within the cube.
“I’m a first-timer,” said Carolyn Carter, of Rye, as she trimmed her stems. “I’ve never arranged flowers, but I buy some every Friday. I’m hoping to learn techniques that I can recreate with my Friday flowers.”
As the class continued, the arrangements began to take shape — gorgeous green-and-white creations, perfect to grace a winter table. Morello led his pupils back to the refrigerated case to collect some finishing touches, including lisianthus and ranunculus. Last of all, he distributed small pine boughs, and black or gold berries to add a bit of seasonal flair to the final result.
“Three hundred dollars, we’ll sell it in the front!” quipped one student, delighted with her final result. Everyone, in fact, was thrilled with what they had created. “I’m very happy,” Lee confirmed. Talk immediately turned to what sorts of classes Sloop and Morello might offer in 2020, including arrangements to celebrate the New Year and also Shabbat. If you want in (and you should), the next class will be held Friday, Jan. 24, at 11 a.m. Colonial Village Flowers is located at 1497 Weaver St. For more information, call 723-2888 or email email@example.com.