Arranging natural beauty on Palouse

Local business owners taught class on how to best arrange beautiful bouquets



After listening to the demonstration by Swallowtail Flowers owners McClory and Talbott-Williams, classgoers were provided with flowers to make their own arrangements.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen life editor

The coordinators at University of Idaho Extension, Moscow Food Co-op and Backyard Harvest want to expose more Moscow-Pullman residents to the beauty of the landscape around them.

While support for food farmers is clearly high, Iris Mayes, UI Extension Idaho small farms and local food educator, said she thinks more people should also support local flower cultivators like Swallowtail Flowers’ owners Jodi McClory and Hillary Talbott-Williams.

Mayes started her career in event planning and community development but moved to her current position, which focuses more on horticulture, in 2014. She planned on promoting all local products, not just food products.

Last Wednesday evening, McClory and Talbott-Williams led the initial demonstration at Flower Arranging with Local Flowers, the sixth free class in the HomeOwner Garden Series 2018.

As they displayed and explained the different tips and tricks to arranging flowers, McClory and Talbott-Williams emphasized the importance of being unique during the process.

“Anything can look neat in the right setting,” Talbott-Williams said after explaining that each situation and personal preference calls for different arrangements.

Talbott-Williams said during the spring, peonies, apple blossoms and Icelandic poppies were some of their favorites to use.

While she encouraged creativity, McClory said to pay attention to contrast and complementing color palettes when arranging.

“If you have all these bright colors — orange, yellow, purple — it can look jumbled,” McClory said as she offset the brightness of her own arrangement, a collection of yellow “Golden Glow” flowers and purple dahlia in the center, with a few leafy green stems.

Co-owners of Swallowtail Flowers Hillary Talbot-Williams, left, and Jodi McClory instruct a room full of participants on the basics of flower arrangements on Wednesday in the Latah Country Fair and Event Center.

Talbott-Williams said to try to avoid perfect symmetry while arranging and to pay attention to factors such as the “temperature” of the arrangement.

“You can learn from experience and trying new things,” Talbott-Williams said.

McClory grew up gardening but studied biology before Swallowtail Flowers became a reality for the two. About five years ago, McClory partnered with longtime friend Talbott-Williams, and they took over the business from McClory’s parents.

Talbott-Williams has a background as a soil scientist, which she said helps her better understand the flowers they grow in their Moscow greenhouse.

Since then, their business has grown from smaller gigs like arranging flowers for friends’ weddings and setting up booths at farmer’s markets. McClory said the process has been very rewarding and exciting for them. This is the first class they’ve taught and McClory said they’re interested in teaching more.

Mayes said she wanted Swallowtail Flowers in particular because of McClory’s and Talbott-Williams’ shared passion. She said supporting local flowers is an underrated practice and that many people don’t realize how important the growth of local flowers is for the Palouse.

“We try to engage with farmers about educating people more,” Mayes said about UI Extension’s involvement in the series. “Flowers are actually so important for our food system and they bring joy to people.”

Amy Kaucic, a recent UI graduate and volunteer helper at the flower arranging class, said these classes help people get in touch with where they live.

“When you buy local you’re [spending] your money so it goes back to the community,” Kaucic said. “It helps the community as a whole.”

McClory and Talbott-Williams wrapped up their demonstration by inviting class attendees to arrange their own flowers. They provided buckets overflowing with colorful bouquets from their own inventory, mason jars and vases for placing the flowers, shears and chicken wire.

As flowers were moved, the fresh fragrance filled the Latah County Fairgrounds Grange Building and Mayes walked around taking photos of the class’ arrangements, moving with the air of a proud mother. Attendees ranged in age from infants to older — even Mayes’ son and McClory’s daughter were in attendance.

“Just have fun,” McClory said before setting the class loose to make their own unique arrangements.

This story has been updated to reflect the correct job title for Iris Mayes.