By Grace Kuikman
More than a century has passed since Victorian friends, lovers and enemies used flowers to communicate feelings they were unable to aloud, but the tradition of giving flowers to send best wishes, express sympathy, or deepen affection is very much alive. And on Valentine’s Day, the message is usually “I love you.”
Erin Cox, owner of The Bloom Bar, 9909 S. Walden Pkwy., is a floral designer who gains inspiration and meaning in the wide variety of flowers and greenery she uses in her arrangements.
“Each person who calls or walks in has a ‘story’ of why they are purchasing the bouquet, and, oh my gosh, I love each story,” Cox said. These stories are kept in mind as each stem of flowers and greens are added to her arrangements.
“Every element has a purpose,” Cox said, explaining that each arrangement combines fragrance, color, texture, and intention.
Professional floral design has its roots in Victorian era, when it was first taught as an art. Published in Paris in 1819, “Le Language de Fleurs” is among the earliest books to explain the meaning of flowers. In 1879, Miss Carruthers compiled “Flower Lore,” a guide defining the messages delivered in bouquets, nosegays, and bunches of flowers.
These days, the restrictive rules of the Victorians seem silly. But calling on your favorite florist remains an important way to express the grief, love, and concerns that are often so hard for people to put into words. Flowers brighten the day for someone who’s struggling, sooth grief during a time of loss, and spread joy when sent to welcome a new baby or congratulate a couple who just got engaged.
“And flowers remind people that someone is thinking about them,” Cox said.
Her love for the language of flowers began when she was in high school. A job blossomed into the inspiration to take floral design classes. Eager to know more, Cox began searching out designers to learn more about the art form. Her work as a student of design and a freelance designer took her from Chicago to California, Hawaii, Mexico, and beyond.
It was during her travels that Cox embraced the true beauty of flowers: they are the same all over the world; they have no borders. A dear friend gave Cox a book called “On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist.” The author, Amy Merrick, echoed Cox’s experiences as a traveler who loves flowers, when she wrote “A rose in Paris is a rose in Morocco is a rose in the Chinese mountain village where it first bloomed as a wildflower thousands of years ago. And while the varieties shifted with each passport stamp, a thread of commonality wove its way through my travels.”
Flowers not only connect you with the world, they connect you with who you are. “What we learn from our grandmothers about flowers is beautifully shared between friends, families, generations,” Cox said.
The flowers and greenery Cox uses in her uniquely beautiful designs are personally selected from flower markets, local growers, and her own garden. “I use a ‘star of the show’ flower in all bouquets,” she said. “When I go to the market, I try to find something that I’ve never seen before.”
Committed to sustainability and inspired by the seasons, Cox loves having her own garden from which to supply flowers for her arrangements. For home gardeners she recommends planting tulips and daffodils for spring bouquets and showy flowers like zinnias, dahlias, cosmos, and sunflowers that bloom from summer through fall. Marigolds are a favorite not just for their bright flowers but also for their attractive foliage. Herbs like sage, dill, lavender, and rosemary are excellent for adding greenery, texture, and fragrance.
For people who want a hands-on experience in creating their own arrangements or wreaths, Cox offers classes that include charcuterie, beverages, and a floral piece to take home. Classes are scheduled for Thurs., Feb. 9 and Feb. 16, 6 to 8 p.m. Space is limited so call 847-347-9617 for class availability and reservations, and to place orders for Valentine’s Day.
The Bloom Bar is open Tues. through Fri., 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sat., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.