Janet was five, when her parents bought the cottage on Grenell Island, and it's where she spent her summers. She became engaged in the summer of 2008 and the wedding planned for July, 2009. Her mother, Kate, asked if I would be in charge of the flowers - it was to be a "Grenell wedding with Grenell flowers" and I was thrilled to be asked!
Grenell is blessed with gardeners. The wedding was set for the end of July and by then, the cottage gardens would be brimming with blossoms. I met with Janet in June and she told me the colors for her wedding—hot pink and orange. She knew she wanted daylilies and Queen Ann’s Lace. She was surprised when I told her that if you put Queen Ann’s Lace in food coloring it would soak up the color. I could make her orange and pink Queen Ann’s Lace. Then she asked if I would make boutonnières, wrist corsages and her wedding bouquet.
I faltered. I wasn’t sure if I could do that, but I told her I would try. She told me she would like to have calla lilies in her bouquet and hopefully orange and pink flowers. I told her I couldn’t make any promises. I could only use what was blooming that day and I wouldn’t know what was available until the morning of the wedding.
On the Thursday before the wedding, my neighbor, Helve and I gathered buckets of Queen Ann’s Lace. I sorted them into three containers. One would stay white. I added food coloring to the other two buckets. Through the next two days, the Queen Ann’s lace slowly took on orange and pink hues. Thursday afternoon, I walked around the island with the bride’s mother. We looked at flowers and talked to garden owners. Everyone was happy to donate whatever flowers we needed for the wedding.
On Friday, I picked armfuls of cedar and ferns. I arranged the greenery in vases provided by the bride. Now I only needed to add the flowers. I woke at five, the day of the wedding. The bride had decided she liked the hot pink geranium flowerets in our neighbor’s window boxes for the boutonnières and corsages. The stems were soft and hard to work with, but I managed to wire them together.
Meanwhile, my willing helpers began cutting flowers from gardens around the island. The screened-in porch of our little cottage became “flower central.” As my flower helpers returned with buckets of flowers, we slipped into assembly-line mode.
Helve stripped the leaves from the flowers and cut the stems to a manageable size. Charlene gathered the flowers for the arrangements in bundles—five day lilies, three black-eyed susans, three zinnias, etc. I arranged the bundle of flowers into the vases of greenery. Linda took the finished arrangements, two at a time, from “flower central” to the Community House, where the reception would be held. By the time she got back, we had two more arrangements ready to go.
Slowly, my small porch was emptying of flowers and the Community House was filling with table arrangements. The last arrangement for the head table was made in an old soup tureen. I took it over to the Community House myself. I couldn’t wait to see how the flowers looked on the tables.
Now for the bridal bouquet. I crossed my fingers and went out searching for just the right flowers. The calla lilies were still blooming! There were barely enough, but I’d make it work. I wasn’t worry about finding orange for her bouquet. Day lilies are rampant on the island in late July. But hot pink? I looked high and low and lucked out finding hot pink oriental lilies almost covered over by sprays of airy cosmos. The cottage owner had already given the bride’s mother the okay to take anything we wanted. They were perfect!
I got the kudos for the flowers, but in reality only the cedar and the zinnias came from my garden. I certainly couldn’t have arranged the flowers without my flower team. The flowers themselves represented the generosity of the islanders.
Janet decided to get married outside, using the chapel as a backdrop. She stood amidst the blossoms of the Grenell Island Chapel flower garden, lovingly planted and maintained by Betty, Winkie, Charlene, Joan and other gardeners from Grenell. And the arrangements that we made for the Community House reception added an extra Grenell Island flavor to the rest of Janet & Ben’s special evening. How beau
tiful it was to have island flowers for an island wedding.
By Lynn E. McElfresh, Grenell Island
Lynn E. McElfresh is the author of children stories and is currently working on several projects as a ghost writer. Lynn explains that she came to Grenell Island for the first time to meet her fiancé’s family in 1975. Lynn became part of the family and the island became part of her life. Lynn and her husband, Gary, spend their summers in the Thousand Islands and their winters in Dunedin, Florida. (Editor’s note: Lynn, I think you can give up your day job and take on the flowers!)