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Huntington Highlight: Flower Arranging, With a Bit of Huntington History

The historic orange groves of The Huntington estate provide the inspiration for an upcoming class on flower arranging with citrus, taught by the sister team Flower Duet.

’s past is firmly grounded in the agricultural history of California—literally, as the site was once home to hundreds of acres of commercial crops such as avocado, walnuts, stone fruits and (of course) orange trees. Today, there are still remnants of the original orange groves that once graced the land Henry E. Huntington purchased back in 1903. Those groves provide the inspiration for the "Flower Arranging With Citrus" class coming up this weekend, taught by the dynamic team from Flower Duet.

Sisters Casey Schwartz and Kit Wertz started Flower Duet 13 years ago and have been featured on shows such as PBS’ “Creative Living” and E! Network Television’s “That Morning Show.” In 2006, they began teaching classes at The Huntington and from the beginning the goal was to find ways of connecting their designs to the art, literary and botanical collections. For example, recently they showed students how to put together a hand-tied bouquet with flowers that hark back to the Regency period, to complement the current Revisiting the Regency exhibition.

"We try to tie in to a garden or an exhibit," Schwartz said. "It's challenging, but it's also fun."

For “Flower Arranging with Citrus”, Schwartz said that while flowers will be the main focus of the arrangement, "we're actually going to be using citrus. [We’ll] slice it and use it as decoration in the vase." The team will also talk about the history of the citruses, especially in California. 

The Huntington played a significant role in what is called California's "second Gold Rush"—the citrus boom. (It was also home to what may have been the first avocado orchard in the state.) But little evidence of its commercial purpose remains. According to an article in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Huntington Frontiers, only eight acres of orange trees remain on the property, just north of the Botanical Center and adjacent to Henry and Arabella Huntington's mausoleum. As the article says, apart from that orchard, "[f]ew other signs linger from the once-massive enterprise, save for a small group of mature orange trees in a neighboring front yard in San Marino that likely had formed part of Huntington’s massive grid 100 years ago."

The trees may be mostly gone, but the spirit of the enterprise remains, just waiting to be tapped into at the Flower Duet class on Saturday.

Students will have plenty of time to put together their own beautiful creation, which they will take home at the end of the class. Flower Duet guides the entire process and demonstrates how to clean and prep the flowers, talks about how to identify them in the future if you want to do another arrangement, and discusses care and conditioning.

Flower Duet designs their classes to accommodate every skill level, whether you’re an accomplished floral artist, or a complete novice. “Our class is for everyone,” Schwartz said firmly. “We take you from start to finish, and you will not be disappointed when you walk out the door.”

“Flower Arranging with Citrus” will take place June 11 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. To register, call (626) 405-2128. Cost for members is $80; for non-members, $90.

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