Well….. hello there. Anyone out there? So much for quarterly journal essays! I started my ‘summer essay’ many times in my head over the past 3-4 months, but one thing or another took precedence – rest, mainly. I always say, summer in NY lasts through Sept., and fall goes through December, thanks to climate change and the urban heat island effect. So by that metric, I’m not that late…

I do want to update you on what’s been going on behind the scenes since I last wrote… So much, that the sheer volume of experiences and number of gorgeous events and weekly bouquets we’ve had our hands in has also propelled me away from the herculean task of summarizing it all.

This year has been intense – no question. But, in a very good way. While there was no guarantee given the ongoing pandemic, 2022 has marked a full-on return to weddings and other events, and the continuation / Year 3 of the Seasonal Flower Project. I’m laughing as I type this, as it’s suddenly quite obvious why I haven’t published anything here since late April. We completed 24 weddings between April and early July; and will have fulfilled another 30 by the end of December. (We have 14 remaining for the year). (I am not even mentioning the weddings/events we completed Jan – March).

This is by far the greatest number of events I’ve taken on in one year.

Reason 1 for the density of events booked: A good number of 2021 events were postponed to 2022, and so my spring and fall calendars filled up faster than usual. I decided at some point in late winter/spring to not book anything mid-July to mid-August, because we didn’t need to and I do not relish working with flowers in hot and humid summer months. As I could see spring and fall would have me at or above capacity, I decided to plan a nice long break mid-year so Paige and I could recharge for fall. A real break! Summer weekends off?? Crazy, huh?

Best decision ever. So, I got to practice “saying no,” or rather, politely passing on summer events. I passed inquiries along again and again. While the Seasonal Flower Project kept rolling along, Paige and I were able to both take 1-2 weeks away and enjoy hiking and the outdoors and family, etc. Thank you Sophie (!!!) who made this possible by stepping in to fill Paige’s shoes for a couple of weeks.


Reason 2: Running any business is a numbers game. Are you going to do 50-100+ events with smaller budgets? 10 weddings a year with gargantuan budgets? Who are you poised to work with based on your years of experience, vendor relationships, values and aesthetics? What clients are you looking to serve? What is the lifestyle you want? Overhead in this city is $$$, and so economies of scale inevitably push most florists working with clients with average-sized floral budgets to take on 3-5/month. Whatever your ultimate goal for events booked and take-home pay for you and your employees, it likely won’t happen overnight. It will take years of building experience, meeting clients’ expectations, pushing yourself creatively and sharpening your design skills, satisfying and respecting vendor partners, watching your financials carefully and making adjustments to your spending and staffing as needed, and constantly refining about a hundred other aspects of running a small business. I’m far from there. I think that’s part of what keeps it all interesting though.

In sharing these numbers, I am not in any way trying to glorify hyper productivity. While I love my job, and feel incredibly grateful for the ability to support farmers and witness the beauty of passing seasons, I want to rest as much as the next person. I am definitely beyond capacity this month – October – and so I’m not always that great at saying no. Fear based thinking, partially a remnant of pandemic trauma, has you thinking you never know when the next inquiry is going to come through sometimes. It could all wash out overnight.

Achieving the ideal balance is an ongoing process. In many ways, 2022 was a re-launch of Molly Oliver… a floral design business with a full slate of events AND a subscription flower service. The new combo of revenue streams will bring and is already bringing new reflections and needs for adjustment. Finding something quasi human in capitalism is a challenge. We’re still working on it.

The BIG, HUGE positive is that having both revenue streams has made it possible to hire a full time employee, and to potentially take less weekend event work.

Here are some highlights from late April through early September:

A photo shoot with Allaire Bartel, with make-up and fashion support from natural beauty expert Jessa Blades. This was a first and it was not easy! I was far from relaxed, but Allaire and Jessa helped a lot. If you have never gotten a facial or had one where pinching and chemicals were a part of the experience, I can’t recommend signing up for a holistic facial with Jessa. From facial massage to aromatherapy and organic products, this facial felt like premium pampering. At 41, it felt worth it. This face has been through a lot! (Namely 15 years of farming in the sun).

Here are a few of my favorites of me, Paige and Sophie:

Hard to summarize our event work — but here are a few highlights:

  • We’ve been loving small and simple bouquets this year. They seem to be popular with clients, too!
  • It’s the year of the pin frog (photo middle/right): The kenzan, or pin frog – like a spike-y pin cushion – originated as part of the Japanese floral art form Ikebana. While there are multiple schools of Ikebena, in one, Saga Go-ryū, gardens are meant to be observed from a boat… hence, a pin frog designed to be a mini island of flowers!
  • Large scale modern, unexpected installations, like our curtain for Rachel and Josh in early Sept. (far right) are our new obsession:)

This year we’ve had the pleasure of designing a lot of “ground gardens,” or freestanding designs reminiscent of flower gardens, to frame ceremony spaces (see images 1 and 2 below – both designed at the Greenpoint Loft). I love these more natural, whimsical designs that remove the heaviness or arbitrary framing of square/rectangular wooden arches, especially in large open spaces.

We had a lot of fun creating a subtle summery suspended chuppah in creams and mauves for Jared and Krysta in early July.

We also love a large, asymmetrical statement piece bursting with seasonal blooms (middle/right)!

Another fun update — we’ve found a colored beeswax candle partner!

That might not sounds like news to you, but vetting and cultivating relationships with vendors that help suppy weddings and events in a sustainable way is not easy. A lesser – thought about element for sustainably-minded weddings and events is candles. Most wholesale’d votive, taper and pillar candles are made with paraffin wax. And while paraffin creates less drip / less smoke and allows for a longer burn, it is a synthetic petrochemical and known to be toxic to humans when breathed. Most weddings command a candle count of anywhere from 50 – 300+ individual candles, and so imagine all the single-use, basic paraffin wax based candles being disposed of for events the world over!

The most earth-friendly candle material is beeswax. It’s a natural, organic substance that can be composted (so long as you remove the wick).

This year, we have been so fortunate to come across beeswax maker Petra Ahnert and her s small company, Beehive Alchemy, based in Milwaukee, WI. Petra has been down to custom dye beeswax based candles for us. Below is a sampling of tapers she made for us this year, featuring dusty rose tapers, classic golden beeswax tapers, smokey blue tapers, and peach pillar candles. We love the way colored candles can really cohere a tablescape…

What else…?

In late June, I organized a tour of the 28th St. historic flower district for attendees of the Slow Flowers 2022 conference, and also opened it up to Seasonal Flower Project members and wedding clients. It was so much fun to share the magic of this incredible universe. It’s taken me years to really understand it, and now I have many relationships with wholesale businesses and their staff, and so the place really feels like a frenetic but loving community. It’s a fascinating space, where you can watch floral artists pick and choose palettes and textures, all before 8am under a fair bit of pressure to avoid a parking ticket:)

This was popular and we may offer a tour again in 2023!

The Seasonal Flower Project has been swimming along, running more smoothly that ever. It’s amazing to find ourselves headed into Week 34 of 40! This year has really been amazing. We have had a lot of returning members and it feels like people are responding to the new subscription packages, and the options for weekly or biweekly frequency.

It has been absolutely amazing having Paige take the lead on SFP coordination and customer communications, and a life saver to have Sophie return for Tuesday processing and packaging. We are working away on a more consumer-friendly website now and packages and add-ons for 2023, which we will (hopefully) launch Dec. 1!

Pictured below: a late spring Seasonal Flower Project bouquet, a ‘Lovely Rose’ Styer’s Peony, farmers of Styers Peonies (father + son), July and August flowers including Scabiosa, Godetia/Quaking Grass, Lisianthus, Rudbekia/Sunflowers, and a screen shot of some of our wonderful SFP host sites — all who returned agin for a second year!!

It’s not too late to sign up for our remaining 6 weeks. Head here!

Last but not least, some major staff appreciation! Pictured below from left: Sophie Bromberg and Paige Haroldson, SFP team extraordinaire; Terry Dhillon, our all-star volunteer who assisted with SFP Tuesdays and some events throughout the month of September; Mollie Jones, Katie Bloom and Paige at a large Brooklyn Winery wedding set up in July; Jesus Martinez and Terry after completing our large flower curtain in early Sept.

I’ve been so, so lucky to work with such wonderful people this year. What I love about this job most, aside from the creative piece and getting to be around such gorgeous, fresh, locally-grown flowers, is the company I get to keep. The conversations we have around the processing table about politics, food, music, and any topic under the sun help me digest the news, life, and always recharges me with laughter, ideas for what to cook or watch next, and creative inspiration.

This epic year wouldn’t have been possible without them. Missing in action from these pics: our drivers Carolina, Migle, Magenna, new SFP assistant Corinne, and breakdown assistants Josh and Krystal.

Thank you to each of you – you’re rockstars!

That’s a wrap on this “late summer” round up of MOF news. Thank you for reading and for your support, always. I hope to get out some “fall” news before December 🙂 Wish me luck.

With love and flowers,

October 16, 2022 — Molly Culver

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