The New Urbanists: Megan McHugh and Denise Richter
Megan McHugh and Denise Richter have cultivated their green thumbs in every way possible—from working with the Edible Schoolyard program to integrate vegetable gardens into New Orleans schools to nurturing seedlings in a greenhouse with Parkway Partners, a local nonprofit that helps build urban community gardens. But it was their work beautifying overlooked Crescent City lots with scads of flowers that blossomed into a full-time floral business, Pistil & Stamen. “We are products of New Orleans,” Richter says. “This is a deeply celebratory place, and we’ve found our niche as deeply local florists.” Because many New Orleanians are also foodies, they naturally appreciate the fresh herbs, berries, fruits, and peppers that McHugh and Richter weave into their arrangements among fragrant Southern sweet peas, gardenias, and jasmine. While Louisiana’s long subtropical growing season keeps them in fresh blooms year-round, the sultriest heat of summer actually challenges their productivity. “Thank God for zinnias,” McHugh says, laughing. “They keep us in business in August.”—pistilandstamenflowers.com
While Megan McHugh and Denise Richter have backgrounds in poetry and fashion, respectively, it was their green thumbs that brought them together. Richter, who met her business partner while working with the Edible Schoolyard Program, says "The beauty of tending school gardens is that we always had flowers. They're important for teaching about life cycle and pollinators and all that." Both women are passionate about educating young palates and minds, but these days, they're focused on their New Orleans-based floral business, Pistil & Stamen Flower Farm and Studio. Not afraid to get their hands dirty, this duo is growing their own blooms and creating whimsical, organic designs that mix in homegrown elements like berries, herbs and foliage. Here, they teach us how anyone can bring seasonal beauty into the home.
“Some people in the country may have enough room to have a whole bed dedicated to cutting gardens, but in the city, the best way to get started is to mix your annuals into a perennial bed or to extend a perennial beds a few feet to make room for annuals,” McHugh said. “Some people worry that their gardens will look raggedy if they’re cutting flowers all the time, but the fact is that they’ll look that way if you don’t because plants will go to seed.”
McHugh has an excellent point: If you must deadhead flowering plants anyway to ensure that they continue blooming, why not collect your cuttings and put them in a beautiful vase? Sounds simple enough, but McHugh said there are several factors to take into consideration when planning to have flowers in your home and garden at all times....
Your crawfish are from down the bayou. Your beer is from the Northshore. And your live music is just a streetcar ride away. The best things in life are local. So why should your flowers be an exception?
Welcome to the "slow flower" movement, and its New Orleans outpost, Pistil+Stamen Flower Farm and Studio....