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Southern Stems: Azaleas

by in Inspirations, Main on

We are thick in the middle of pollen season here in Chapel Hill, but I can’t be too depressed about that, since it means things are growing, leafing, and flowering! We’re lucky to have such beautiful blooms in the South, are we not? Including today’s specimen, of course: the azalea!


Azaleas are known as the “royalty of the garden,” which is a pretty awesome thing to be known as, if you ask me. Perhaps it’s because of their jewel-like tones? Azaleas bloom in every shade of red, pink, coral, white, and yellow.

Justin DeMutiis

The Indica azalea is native to Japan, and got its name because, at the time it was discovered, Asia was known as the East Indies. It made its way to the U.S. through Charleston, and as early as 1845, the largest and oldest collection flourished at Magnolia Plantation. Thousands of azaleas still grace their beds today, though only 40 of the 86 original cultivars can be positively identified (fascinating!). I’ve actually been to Magnolia Plantation, though not when the azaleas were blooming, sadly.

Knit, Click, and Stir

Many sources say that azaleas are the most common bush in the South, so if you’re interested in planting some Southern stems in your own yard, these beauties are a great pick! Most varieties like the filtered shade available beneath tall trees, making azaleas a great pick for where grass doesn’t like to grow. These bushes grow to all different sizes and shapes, up to eight to twelve feet tall and wide!

Pink azalea bouquet by Myrtie Blue (photo by Lauren Kinsey) via Wedding Chicks; white azalea bouquet by Flower Wild (photo by Jose Villa); red azalea bouquet by Central Market (photo by Christine Sargologos) via Style Me Pretty; white azalea bouquet by Isari Flower Studio (photo by Luna Photo) via Wedding Chicks

Azaleas are not as commonly used in weddings as other Southern favorites like gardenias are, but I would love to see that change! I think their vibrant colors and pretty trumpet shapes are perfect for bouquets and arrangements.

Orange azalea centerpieces by Christina Leigh Events (photo by Avenue Photography); potted azalea centerpieces by Central Market (photo by Christine Sargologos) via Style Me Pretty; pink azalea centerpiece via Royal Marigold

Even if you don’t end up incorporating azaleas into your bouquets or centerpieces, they make gorgeous backdrops for portraits…

Haley Sheffield, Justin DeMutiis, Jo Photo, and Anna Kirby

Do you love azaleas? Are you using them in your wedding or do you grow them in your yard? I’d love to hear!

Anna Kirby, Christina Leigh Events, Haley Sheffield, Jo Photo, Justin DeMutiis, and Myrtie Blue are delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Lauren reply

    I am going to be planting Azaleas as soon as we close on our house!! I’m thinking about planting them right at the ends of the front porch.

  2. avatar Christina L. Frederick reply

    What a fabulous post! I loved the beautiful orange blooms at Tamara and Braden’s wedding and can’t wait until my next bride uses them! I love azaleas and had them growing across the front of our Southern front porch growing up! I have one at my home now and can’t wait to plant more!
    xo Christina – Christina Leigh Events

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Southern Stems: Gardenias

by in Inspirations, Main on

With the promise of a sweet Southern spring around the corner, we thought it was time to dust off our Southern Stems column! So far we’ve covered south of the Mason-Dixon Line favorites camellias, wisterias, and Texas blue bonnets, and today, it’s the gardenia’s turn.

Though I have many loves, gardenias are without a doubt my favorite Southern flower. Aside from their gorgeous looks, their smell is absolutely divine. (Strong, but divine.) I also love how something so precious is at the same time so common, at least in the South. Almost every house in my neighborhood has a bush, and I snapped this perfect bloom — one of many we passed! — on a walk one evening last June.

Elizabeth Messina via Mindy Weiss, Martha Stewart Weddings, Beaux Arts Photographie

The most common variety of gardenias, gardenia jasminoides, is native to Southern China and Japan, but has found a happy home in the American South. No surprise, since they are a majorly heat-loving plant! Gardenias are also known as Cape Jasmine.

Elizabeth Scott Photography via Southern Weddings, Eric Kelley via Wedding Chicks

Another reason gardenias are perfect for the South? They represent grace and hospitality — perfect for planting beside your front porch! Gardenias are actually a species of evergreen, so they keep their gorgeous glossy dark green leaves all winter. The leaves are beautiful to include in wedding arrangements, too!

Kallie Brynn via Southern Weddings, Kate Harrison via Style Me Pretty, Simple Color via Elizabeth Anne Designs, Brookelyn Photography via The Bride’s Cafe

Gardenias were particularly popular in weddings in the ’60s and ’70s, and are still a favorite with classic brides today. A few tips if you’re planning on using them in your own celebration: Make sure you like the smell! As noted above, gardenias have a strong scent, so even one bloom in a bouquet can make an impact.

Ashley McCormick via Southern Weddings, Eclectic Images, Elizabeth Messina via Style Me Pretty, Laura Gordon via Southern Weddings

Also, while gardenias’ petals are delightfully creamy, they’re also exceptionally fragile, and too much handling can cause the petals to turn brown quickly. If you’re planning to pin a bloom in your hair, reserve two blossoms with your florist — that way, you can change it out post-ceremony to keep things fresh for the reception. Or, opt for a faux version — DK Designs makes a clay beauty we love!

Nancy Ray via Southern Weddings, White Loft Photographie via Style Me Pretty, Martha Stewart Weddings

Speaking of faux gardenias, sugar flowers are a perfect option on a wedding cake!

A Bryan Photo via Martha Stewart Weddings and unknown

Do you love gardenias as much as I do? Anyone out there who can’t stand the smell? Will y’all incorporate them into your wedding? I’d love to hear!

Nancy Ray is a delightful member of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Kristyn M reply

    I love Gardenias! We always had them in the yard growing up and the smell instantly brings me back to my grandmothers yard! I plan on using them in my wedding but not too much because I’m sure not everyone loves the smell like I do!

  2. avatar Jessica B reply

    Gardenias and magnolias both will having starring roles at my wedding! They are so undeniably Southern. Delicate looking, elegant, but both make an impact! Gardenias with their smell and magnolias with their size.

  3. avatar anna reply

    Love the idea of handwritten notes for family members at their seats!

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Southern blooms hold a special place in the heart of the South. We’re lucky to boast the most beautiful flowers, from sweet honeysuckle to romantic wisteria. And you can bet your tail that we take great pride in the flowers of our birth states, as they never fail to remind us of home. It’s only appropriate then, that in each of our issues, we highlight the bouquets that represent the South in subtle but meaningful ways. We’re loving the way this came together with the help of Haute Horticulture’s floral design, Annabella Charles’ great photo eye and pretty calligraphy from Natalie Chang.

While the blooms in these bouquets speak for themselves, part of the fun is coming up with a creative way to wrap them. We loved the idea of using a white pleated ribbon on the gorgeous arrangement above. After a fruitless online search, we just made one ourselves!

We couldn’t resist tying off the strawberry fields-inspired bouquet below with a matching bow tie from Mo’s Bows. Oh-so-Southern, indeed!

Y’all know monograms are our thing. We flipped when we saw this sweet embroidered charm from Daydream Stitching.

If you’re looking for more Southern blooms, pick up a copy of V5 here or take a peek at our Pinterest Board dedicated to them!

Which one is your favorite?

nicoleyang Written with love by Nicole
  1. avatar annabella charles reply

    xoxoxo thank you for the pretty feature. We just LOVE SWmag

  2. avatar Rhiannon reply

    So stunning! Each and every one :)

  3. avatar Madelynne Moulton reply

    Strawberry fields is my favorite but I LOVE how unique Midnight in the Garden is as well!

  4. avatar Kat reply

    I loved this spread in V5! I’m a HUGE fan of bouquets… in my mind they are the centerpiece for the wedding! Midnight in the Garden is by far my fav :) The deep red, blush & creme are so rich & warm together. I’m also a huge fan of Mint Julip!

  5. avatar Ashleigh reply

    LOVING the mint julep! How perfect is that?!

  6. avatar Emily reply

    Such gorgeous work, ladies! I think either Southern Charm or Strawberry Fields is my favorite :)

  7. avatar Dee Shore reply

    I can’t choose just one, I’d be more than happy with any of these arrangements. But if I was forced to choose one… Southern Charm would be it.

  8. avatar lauren g. reply

    all of them are to die for but my faves are a close tie between ” amazing grace” & “mint julep” (i’m a sucker for monogram & gingham).

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