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Building Raised Beds for Your Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Apr 17, 2015


I’m looking at the thermostat hanging on the deck and can’t believe my eyes…  It’s almost fifty degrees out in Boson and the sun is shining!  The change in weather is calling me to begin organizing my garden tools in the shed and plan my list for what I’ll need at the garden center.  Rakes, trowels, mulch and other odds and ends will have to be bought but this year due to all of the snow, I’m going to need to replace a few things in the yard.  One fixture that will be at the top of my spring chores is rebuilding the several raised beds that unfortunately couldn’t take the severe winter that just passed.  Pre-made box gardens can be extremely expensive and can range in cost anywhere from fifty to several hundred dollars.  For me, it’s just not worth the expense so I prefer to pick up a hammer and nail and create them myself. 


Without becoming anxious about the task, I’ll make sure that I design an accurate blueprint of what supplies will be needed and a clear list of steps for construction so I’m not wasting precious time that I could be spending elsewhere.   If you’re like me, you might be in the same predicament but don’t worry.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been a do-it-yourself kind of a person because there is an easy and affordable method that I’ve found.  See if this works for you, too and soon you’ll be planting and weeding before you know it!


                    photo credit: awaytogarden.com

Visit a trusted home improvement store in your area and grab a cart to make selection and transportation of the materials simpler.  To make one raised bed, find the lumber department and browse the different varieties of wood that are in stock.  Depending on your green thumb’s tenacity, pick a length that will suit your needs.  My previous boxes measured at eight feet long, which provided ample space for a large variety of flowers and vegetables.  The height of the lumber reached six inches that might seem too short but worked well once the soil was added.  The width of the wood was cut much shorter than the length, which was half in size at four feet.  The rectangular shape was perfect and enabled me to make a pretty pattern with three other boxes erected in a square allowing me to set up a table and chair in the center.  Now I bet your asking what type of wood should you buy?  Well, there are a lot of options including cedar, oak, pine and reclaimed wood.  Keep in mind that the price will fluctuate with the variety you choose so be sure to ask a salesperson what the total will be before you bring them to the register. 


Once you’ve bought your wood, take the pieces home and arrange them in the size and shape that you would like the beds to be in.  Then take a four-inch nail and attach the corners of the sides in a ninety-degree angle.  You will need two nails per corner, one for the top and one for the bottom.  Once they have been constructed, place in the location that you want them to be displayed.   After they have been filled with soil, you wont be able to move them so choose wisely.  The last step is to fill them with an earth friendly soil mix and begin planting!

Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, Gardening in Boston, #EXFL

Top Card Messages for Administrative Professionals Week

Posted by Rick Canale on Thu, Apr 16, 2015

secretaries gift bostonWhether you call it Secretary's Day, Administrative Assistant's Day or Administrative Professional's Day, Boston bosses are usually befuddled regarding what to order for the holiday. Naturally flowers are the best choice and even scientifically proven to increase production at work.

Boston bosses often find themselves at a loss for the card message for their admin. 

Here are some of the top card messages that the staff at Exotic Flowers in Boston has run across for the holiday.

Administrative assistant gift in Boston"They say a combined effort can break down the wall of impossibility. Thanks for helping break down the walls !"

"Dedication is the fuel for progress and growth. Thank you for your dedication."

"Someone once said that ingenuity plus work equals miracles. Thank you for all the miracles you perform every day."

Secretaries is not just for admins. Do you have a house manager or personal assistant that make your day better ? From the nanny in Newton to the home health aid in Arlington... show them your appreciation with flowers.


Tags: Secretary's Day, Administrative Professional's Day, Card Messages, APW

Spring Inspired Salads

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Apr 15, 2015

Things are starting to warm up out there and its that time again to find yummy vegetable and fruit dishes!  For some, it’s because bikini season is right around the corner but for me, I love the freshness and bright color that is seen in springtime meal options.  The yellows, greens and reds are just a few shades that are appearing more and more as the temperature rises.  Breakfast, lunch, dinner and desserts are all being created with a new rainbow flare that promises healthy and happy glow in Boston foodies.  One section of the menu is also heating up with promise- and that’s the salads!  There are now other options available to us “greens” lovers that step outside the winter boundaries of garden and Caesar salads.  Restaurants all around the city are showcasing their newest creations that envelop interesting and tasty ingredients that vamp up the classic salad plate.  Whether you’re someone who enjoys simplicity or someone who enjoys eating dangerously, here are a couple of favorites that grazed my palette with scrumptious perfection!


                         photo credit: tutzone.org

For the Fruit Lover

Salads infused with berries are growing to be one of the most requested dishes by patrons.  You might think the combination is strange but trust me when I say that strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and even blackberries drive a sensational sweetness when combined with spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and shaved carrots.  The best matches for dressings are wide in variation but I prefer balsamic vinegar with this type of salad because it intertwines the sweetness with a pinch of tart. 

Tree fruit also makes wonderful additions to salads, making them both tastier and healthier.  Clever chefs have incorporated apples, peaches and plums to romaine lettuce based salads, causing an incremented draw to these out-of-the-box options. 


                                              photo credit: epicurious.com

For the Vegetable Lover

I’m definitely situated in this department because I’ve been known to throw in a handful of chopped broccoli and cauliflower to my dinner salads.  The benefit from doing this is to charge up your vitamin intake while still keeping the meal low on calories.  If you want to get fancy, sample an Asparagus Farro Salad that has ingredients including spinach, cranberries, walnuts and Parmesan cheese.  Or how about throwing in some Lima, wax, green, red or black beans to infuse some extra protein?  Recipes I’ve tasted that were stupendous were Super Duper Bean Salad and Easy Pea Salad created by allrecipes.com that have simple instructions on how to make your own.  Tear off a piece of pita bread and constructed a salad sandwich to really get decadent with salad dining!

Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA




Tags: Chef, cooking, Spring

Filling Your Springtime Bud Vases

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Apr 13, 2015

Boston flower lovers adore filling anything that will hold water and a few stems of blossoms.  Typically, we think of larger pieces when designing floral arrangements believing that bigger is always better.  For me, it’s the smaller details that catch my eye and inspire new creations in and around my home.  One of my favorite flower displays is my springtime bud vase collection that I’ve gathered from hand me downs, family heirlooms, yard sales and wherever else I might spot a unique vessel.  The array of color and material are eclectic to say the least, which is the most beautiful characteristic that they possess.  Different sizes and different shapes when filled with the right flowers can sometimes make a bigger impact that an enormous centerpiece.  The trick is to select the right stems for the right budvase and place them in the right section of the room utilizing the interior décor and lighting.   Since Boston is finally beginning to show signs of spring, you’ll have no trouble finding stunning sprigs of life that will compliment this look.  Here are a few suggestions for designing smaller floral displays that I hope will help get you into the creative mood!

 cocktail party flowers boston

                                                photo credit: Flower Factor

Clean Your Vase Ware

Making sure that the budvases are thoroughly clean is one of the most important aspects of successfully displaying a smaller arrangement.  Smudges, dirt and grime can distract the eye line and create a messy and tattered look.  Giving the glassware a nice soaking in the sink or a good run through the dishwasher is imperative before arranging the flowers.  Use a gentle soap such as Dove and stay away from any cleaner that is strong and stringent.  If you have a piece that has an opening that’s too small to scrub with a sponge or even your finger, grab a Q-Tip because it works wonders. 


Pansies or Posies

Once everything is sparkling clean, the big decision lies within choosing the right flowers for the right budvase.  Luckily, we have some excellent options available to us now including lily of the valley, grape hyacinth and crocus.  Depending on the width of the mouth, only place a few sprigs within each to avoid overcrowding and breakage.  Boston florists can also be helpful because items such as gerbera daisies, roses and other imported varieties might also be delightful additions. 

 orchids boston

                                             photo credit: Flower Factor

Colorful Matching

The shading of the vase may seem to control what flower fits inside but don’t be afraid to design out of the box.  White does not always have to go with white and blue does not always have to go with blue.  Try to flip your color control and break away from traditional matching techniques.  The more we bend the rules when designing tiny bouquets, the more attractive it will become and the stronger the reaction to the piece.  Go out on a limb and pair red with green or purple with orange.  Place these beautiful specimens in a well-lit window and watch them wow anyone who passes by!


Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Tags: Floral Design, DIY Brides, Flower Arrangements, Vases

Top Ways to Spend Your Tax Returns to Improve Backyards

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Apr 10, 2015

Are your pockets bulging from your recent IRS tax returns?  Is it burning a whole through your wallets?  Are you wondering what to do with this windfall of cash? Unfortunately, that trip to the Keys or shopping spree to the mall might have to hold off until next year…


For homeowners, many of us suffered a pretty hefty handling of damage from this winter’s blizzards and need to do a ton of clean up and repairs to get things back to where they used to be.  Gardens and landscaping particularly took a hard hit destroying sheds, pool coverings and recent shrubbery plantings.


                                               photo credit: marthastewart.com

 It’s not as depressing as it sounds, I promise.  Purchasing supplies that will rebuild your surrounding property will not only increase its value but also provide a visually appealing oasis for you and your family to enjoy during the summer months. 


But where should you start?


The first thing you should do is to take a walk around your house and write down everything that looks like it needs to be replaced.  Include broken fences, rotted raised flowerbed wood, tree destruction, shrub decay and lawn tile breakage.  Once you’ve got everything listed, go through and mark the estimated cost for repair.  Choose one issue that is on the more expensive side and one that is less expensive.  That’s where you want to begin buying materials to fix these impairments.  If there is something that you know you just can’t wait to see new again, go ahead and put it as the top priority.  After all, it is your money!  


                                 photo credit: williams-sonoma.com

Patio and lawn furniture is unfortunately one of the most commonly replaced summer products for New England homeowners.  Although they are supposed to be stored once the snowfall arrives, we sometimes get bogged down with other winter chores and preparations and simply forget to.  That’s why its so important to find places in your area that sell second hand tables and chairs for the outdoors so that you don’t have to spend a ton of your tax return replacing the originals.  If you don’t have any of these treasure troves located close by, seek out confinement or reparation stores that might carry these items at a bargain price.  You’ll love the retro feel and be pleasantly surprised as to the money you’ll save!


  photo credit:Flower Factor

Unfortunately, we’re all going to be replanting many of our favorite perennials this year due to the severity of the ice that Bostonians experienced but that doesn’t mean we have to blow our wad entirely!  There are plenty of deals for these blossoming beauties; you just have to find them.  Try visiting garden club sales where you can usually pick up stunning clippings from other people’s gardens at a low cost.  Lamb’s ear and lady’s mantle in particular are fabulous specimens to be on the lookout for.  Don’t forget to drop by local farm stands too because often, they carry samplings from their own harvests and sell them at cheaper prices than larger greenhouses.

Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Suzie will be spending the spring at our Westwood home rehabilitating her garden.

Tags: Gardening, Garden Show, Outdoor Living, Spring, Yard Work

Exotic Flowers in Boston Garners FTD Quality Star Award

Posted by Rick Canale on Wed, Apr 08, 2015




CONTACT: Rick Canale



Roslindale, MA, (April, 2015) – Exotic Flowers was recently presented with the FTD Quality Star Award for its achievements in 2014. This important designation is only bestowed upon FTD Florists that consistently fulfilled and delivered high quality arrangements in a timely manner for the entire year. Recognized by FTD for quality and excellence, Exotic Flowers is dedicated to consistently providing exceptional customer service by delivering quality products for their customer’s most memorable occasions.  

worldwide flowers

Exotic Flowers is receiving the elite FTD Quality Star Award as a result of its continued commitment to quality improvement, customer service and proper care and handling of flowers.  Exotic Flowers is an example for fellow florists in the industry.

"To achieve this award once again is an awesome testament to the attention to detail that our staff provides on every transaction." - Rick Canale

Exotic Flowers remains a family owned and operated business in Boston for more than eighty years. Exotic Flowers imports flowers from around the world to offer its clients the unusual and outstanding.

Since 1910, FTD has stood for innovation, leadership and quality in the floral industry. FTD’s achievement is proudly embodied by the most recognized floral symbol in the world - the iconic black and gold FTD Mercury Man logo. The story of FTD would not be possible without its network of thousands of dedicated artisan florists that have created a great tradition of same-day delivery flowers and gifts over the past 100 years.

Tags: FTD Florist in Boston, Flowers Worldwide, FTD, Worldwide Flowers

I Celebrate #OpeningDay by Sharing Baseball Cards

Posted by Rick Canale on Mon, Apr 06, 2015




Below is a copy of a letter that I sent out to baseball fans that I share cards with every year. Please let let me know if I can put you on the list.

Happy Opening Day,

If you are getting this letter, you know how much I love baseball and especially Opening Day. I did sign the petition to make it a national holiday. Alas, we celebrate things like Columbus Day instead.

My Opening Day tradition of ripping open a pack of baseball cards remains. I love sharing that tradition with you. No gum in these cards, sorry they took that out years ago. They should still infuse the cards with the scent though. That smell sparks nostalgia.

This year, our friend Kenton Jacobs opens a barbecue stand on Yawkey Way at Fenway Park. He makes the best barbecue. Make sure you tell Jake, that Rick at the flower shop told you to stop by !

See you at the ballpark !



Tags: Baseball, Traditions, Holidays

Pretty Flower Arrangements for April

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Apr 03, 2015

April is the best month for spring when things are becoming greener and blooms are beginning to poke their heads up from a long winter’s sleep.  Of course New England’s know rain season helps with this too as things defrost and adjust to temperatures (hopefully) rising into the mid 60’s.  As we become inspired about the changes occurring outside, Boston florists are utilizing the environmental transitions towards offering customers a new selection.  By focusing on color changes, textures and new varieties available during April, floral professionals are wowing their clientele with a fresh and bold array of bouquets.  Here are the top choices that I’ve found being advertised-I can’t wait to try them all out! 


                                 photo credit: Flower Factor

Pastels are still really beautiful for this month although they are sometimes seen as traditional.  Soft shades of lavenders, blush pinks and creams all create a stunning impact when combined in vases.  Their easy blend brings a sweet aura to homes and does well to emulate the stunning characteristics the month of April brings.  Suggested varieties include grape hyacinths, tulips, lily of the valley and crocuses.  Since in general, they are petite in size, arrange these flowers in bud vases or miniature china pieces.  Also, hunt in your attic for unusual antiques that might work just as well for displaying flowers.  The delicate patterns and eclectic vase material will compliment these spring favorites by providing interesting holders display as well as utilize some of your favorite treasures that you already posses in your home.  Don’t forget to check the trees in your area for seasonal blossoms like magnolia and cherry that are also excellent options for softer textures and tones. 


                                                   photo credit: Flower Factor

If pastels seem all washed up to you, try going in the other direction and vamp up the bold in your blossoms!  Our backyards are starting to burst with offerings of forsythia, fritalaria, hellebores and crocus so do yourself a favor and go scout things out.  Braches are stunning when cut and put in a clear cylinder holding warm water or bubble bowls of deep colored ground coverings such as daffodils will also keep onlookers in awe.  If you are hoping to pick something up from your florist, ask for peonies that are just starting to be imported from France and Holland or California garden roses, which also grow in majestic jewel tones.  Bearded iris, gerbera daisies and freesia are also excellent options that are becoming more and more popular for April arrangements! 


 Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Tags: Floral Design, Flower Arrangements, Flowers, April

How to Make A Fun Easter Basket

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Apr 01, 2015

It’s Easter Bunny time!


Who can stand the wait as we’re planning and plotting our to do’s for the upcoming holiday!  What’s at the top of our lists?  Well, our Easter basket necessities of course!  We’ll need the staples such as plastic eggs for the hunt and a pair of bunny ears to be festive for the children but what else should we be on the lookout for in order to make this upcoming April 5th the best Sunday ever? 

 Easter-Basket                                              Photo credit: 1061evansville.com


I don’t know about you but creating a fun and different basket for my boys is something that I always look forward to.  Sure they always contain the traditional items of Cadbury eggs, rabbits molded out of chocolate and jellybeans in every shade of the rainbow but I want to add a little individuality to this year’s creations. 


In order to do this, I like to reflect on what makes the holidays treats so appealing for children.  First and foremost, the premium factor is the brilliant colors that we see pouring from the brims of the containers.  The spectacular spectrum brings and automatic positive sensation to the brain causing the feeling of excitement and joy.  Because of this, I love to be sure to make their baskets look like a Crayola crayon set, adding shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue purple, pink and any other tint that I might see. 


The texture of the things I put in the baskets is another important issue when selecting treats.  I like to always have egg shaped items but I also like to mix it up with hand wrapped specialty candies, swirl lollipops and beautifully foiled chocolate morsels.  The interesting combination of the different heights and sizes causes a pleasing presentation instead of a flat looking bulk of candy.  Take a look around your area and try to find a local candy shop or chocolate baker who might sell unique and distinctive options other than the regular supermarket and CVS stock of holiday wares.


                                              Photo credit; Gifttree.com

Don’t be afraid to walk outside the “sweet” realm and incorporate things such as small spring themed stuffed animals, yo-yo’s, customary toys such as paddleballs and jump ropes or little games and puzzles.  One of my son’s has an adoration for books, specifically written and illustrated by Mo Willems so I found and elephant and piggy novelty that I’ll prop up with a copy from his series.  For my older son, I think I’ll make a trail of treats leading to a new basketball, his newest favorite sport this year. 


The point is, never be afraid to try new themes that work for your kids.  Make their Easter as special as they are by utilizing their interest and hobbies within their baskets.  Be as sneaky as you can with candy trails and hiding spots and watch the joy of Easter egg hunting work its magic! 

 Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Tags: Traditions, Easter Traditions, Holiday Memories, Holidays, Kids, #EXFL

Dyeing Easter Eggs

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Mar 30, 2015

Easter is a celebration that entails several dimensions and traditions.  For those who observe this holiday, customs include religious rituals, family gatherings and special feastings that bring loved ones together.  For some, the anticipation of dyeing Easter eggs is also part of the excitement, particularly for those who have young children.  Over generations, there have been several strategies and techniques that have been passed down claiming to be the best way to create these festive decorations.  Even the process of readying the eggs has become debatable on whether pricking a whole at each end and blowing out the yolk or otherwise keeping the contents and simply boiling them before crafting.  What to color the eggs with is also a complicated choice because of the extensive products that you can purchase in stores or otherwise making your own dye concoction using kitchen ready ingredients.  Easter egg dyeing is serious business and one can feel overwhelmed when deciding just how to go about it.  After careful research, I’ve found some effective and efficient ways to color your eggs that will leave even the Easter Bunny speechless!

 egg-dyeing-app-d107182egg-basics0414_vert                                     photo credit: Emily Kate Roemer via MarthaStewart.com 

 Although millions of eggs are dyed each year in totality with food coloring, there’s nothing that says you can’t decorate using plain acrylic paints.  Not only will they be bright in color but kids and adults can put their own original touch within design and shading that a store bought brand wont allow you to do.  Patterns of stripes, polka dots and elaborate pictures are just a few of the possibilities when using crafting paints and will also encourage the little artist in you and your family.  One tip to keep in mind, water or oil based paints will not give the desired results that you’re looking for so be sure to have the right variety. 


                                      photo credit: MarthaStewart.com

If you’re looking to make some fancy eggs, try using this recipe to create marble eggs quickly and inexpensively.  Take 3 to 4 mugs and add 7 droplets of food coloring.  Add to each container 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.  Fill the rest with water until it is about ¾ full of liquid.  With a spoon, stir the contents to make a spinning whirlpool.  Carefully place the egg on the utensil and gently lower into the moving vessel.  Count to 10 and then remove to allow drying.  For this method, a hard-boiled egg works best because the lightness of an egg that has been hollowed out may crack up against the mug during the dyeing process. 


                                                  Photo Credit; Emily Kate Roemer via MarthaStewart.com

This idea is my favorite so far…  Visit your local hardware store and buy a small canister of chalkboard paint.  Paint the eggs (again, this works best with hard-boiled eggs) and set aside on a paper towel to dry, touching up spots that may smudge in the process.  Find some regular chalk and let your family stencil their eggs anyway that comes to their imaginations. This is a wonderful tactic for small children because if they make a mistake and want to change it, all they have to do is erase and draw again. 

Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA

Suzie will be coloring eggs this week with her two boys.

Tags: Traditions, Easter Traditions, Holiday Decor, Holiday Memories, #EXFL

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