We recently said farewell to one of the finest, kindest and most elegant ladies we have ever known. The mother of a good friend, she was the epitome of someone who lived life to the fullest. A gourmand and avid gardener, the meals we experienced in her homes over the years were amongst the best we have ever had. I also owe her a tremendous debt of gratitude, for she (and her crew) were the first ones to teach me how to roast a lechon from start (live piglet) to finish. She was later amused by my lechon adventures, and chided me for the “Best Pig, Ever!” quote, but deep down inside, I am sure she knew she provided the first spark years ago, in her fabulous backyard and private lechon roasting pit. So when I got the very sad news of her passing, I immediately booked a flight back from Cebu…
I knew the floral tributes would be spectacular, but I also knew that making something ourselves might be more personal, more heartfelt, more appropriate. I know most folks are extremely busy, and would rather leave the flowers to professionals, but my gut said to head to the wholesale flower market instead. Friday before Mother’s Day is a zoo at the market, and I formulated a plan in the car ride from the airport at 5am… I purchased 60 dozen small white roses, which were drastically cut back to just 3-5 inches of stem remaining, and soaked in cool water for a couple of hours to condition the blooms and bring them back to life.
We also purchased eight butterfly orchid plants, which had just arrived from Taiwan, and had the largest, most abundant sprays of blooms.
Back at home, we picked out an old, used wine crate and sawed a piece of plywood that we nailed to the bottom of the crate to support the floral foam. My crew could sense this was a very special project in the making, and I couldn’t have done this without them. Read that as I would hammer my thumbs if I actually attempted to use the hammer… :) The detail of the crate having housed wine from a less famous chateau, albeit Grand Cru Classe, wasn’t lost on me, even if only I would know this…
Next, we trimmed floral foam or oasis and placed it around the outside of the wooden crate.
Mark the oasis to trim and be flush against the top of the wooden wine crate.
Dip the floral foam in water, place them around the crate, and secure with some straw. Inside the crate, I added some plastic bubble wrap, some more floral foam to “raise” the bottom of the box. You could do without the bubble wrap, since the outer floral foam would inevitably dampen the box anyway…
Next arrange the 700+ roses onto the foam surrounding the wine crate.
This took me and Chief of Stuff roughly two hours to complete! And at first, it ended up looking like a large box of kleenex from afar! :)
I broke many rose stems (they were not firm) and resorted to punching holes in the foam with a barbecue stick, then pushing in the blooms so that they had a better chance of getting properly imbedded in the foam.
Next, position the orchid plants inside the box. Steady the plants with remnant pieces of floral foam.
The crew worked on finishing the back of the piece, and we had just barely enough roses to finish off the job.
Cover the base of the orchids with dried moss dampened with water. Wipe the orchid leaves with damp paper towels.
Done and ready to be delivered. Except that I hadn’t counted on it weighing in at some 70-80 pounds! Yipes!
It turned out quite nicely for a homemade project. And I hope it met with the lady’s approval… On a final note, the last time Mrs. MM and I saw her, she had startled me with a comment that for years she had been eating “fake sotanghon” and where could she buy that “good sotanghon”… When I looked at her quizzically, she smiled and said, “I read some of your posts, you know…” Hahaha. I was honored, and I promptly headed to Binondo the next day and sent her 5 kilos of Pagoda sotanghon. The day after that, she sent a handwritten thank you note, along with a basket of sweet corn grown in her gardens… She was one of kind, and we will all miss her dearly.