Would you believe a guardian angel came to Don Haynie riding a plumber’s helper? The story behind this innovation is as much fun as making the topiary itself.
Back when I had a floral business in eastern Virginia, a bride insisted upon herbal topiaries for the church and for all the tables at the reception. I’d always made topiaries by tying a plug of floral foam to the top of a stick stuck in a pot and poking sprigs of herbs into the foam. That was OK for a day, but this bride also wanted to display her topiaries the night before and then give them away as gifts. I could see all sorts of problems: I didn’t know how we would keep them watered, I was afraid they wouldn’t last, and I knew that the arrangements would slide right down the stick if they were moved around too much. This dilemma actually kept me up at night.
Then one night, I awoke from a dream in which my guardian angel was flying around on a bathroom plunger like a witch on her broomstick. I got up and jotted down the idea that had come to me—to stick a plunger upside down in floral foam and create the topiary arrangement inside the rubber suction cup.
The next day, I went to the hardware store. I had never bought a plunger before, and I was kind of embarrassed when I had to ask the young woman at the front counter where they were. There were only about three in the bin, so I asked the elderly gentlemen who was taking inventory if I could get thirty plungers. He didn’t even raise an eyebrow. While he was in the back, I spotted little baby plungers that would work perfectly for making topiaries to put on the smaller tables. “Oh, how cute,” I said as the man emerged from the back room. “I suppose you want those, too,” he said. I assured him that I did, and when I took all those plungers to the cash register, the clerk said, “You know, you can use these more than one time.”
Plungers make excellent herbal topiaries that keep for days. If you’re planning your own event, it’s worth any embarrassment you may experience at the hardware store when buying in quantity.
Don Haynie offers workshops on how to make topiaries and other herbal crafts at his Buffalo Springs Herb Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. For information, call (540) 348-1083.