&flowers spreads environmental awareness throughout Pittsburgh


Image via & Flowers, Laura Rembold Photography

&flowers florals at Blue Sky Kitchen and Bar in East Liberty.

By Gabriella Garvin, Senior Staff Writer

In an effort to spread awareness for Earth Day and the environment, local floral design studio &flowers of Highland Park has orchestrated a series of events around the Pittsburgh area that are free of charge. 

The design studio hosted a few events this past week across different locations in the area, including a “Wine and Vines” event that took place this past Tuesday at Blue Sky in East Liberty. Participants went to partake in one of several workshops that involved creating artistic spheres out of invasive vines pulled from the local area during happy hour at the restaurant. The remaining two events will take place this Saturday and Sunday in Highland Park at the Children’s Museum in Allegheny Square.

Karen Toole, owner of &flowers, said she pulled invasive vines from trees in her local area and wanted to come up with a fun way to teach others how to clean up their local environments.

“I pulled vines from my neighbors trees and made a sphere with them and thought it would make a great project to teach other people how to do the same,” Toole said. “I wanted to teach people how to help protect the trees and bring awareness to invasive vines, and to make something cool out of them.”

An &flowers event at Blue Sky Kitchen and Bar in East Liberty. (Image via & Flowers, Laura Rembold Photography)

To spread this awareness, Toole said she reached out to local organizations such as the Phipps Conservatory and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to partner on planning Earth Day events.

“I organized different ways to pull vines out of the park trees with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to create a meet up and advertise on Eventbrite as well as my website,” Toole said. “I’ve met a lot of people from a lot of different areas. We had past clients who came out last weekend and pulled vines. I took them to the Children’s Museum, and 26 families made spheres.”

Toole added that the pieces made at the free sessions will contribute to a larger piece of artwork that will serve to remind people of the importance of partaking in the preservation of the environment.

“It’s completely free, and the intention is to pull the vines out of the trees and make something terrific with them. We are asking people to make two spheres, one that they can take home to let other people know what they did and why they did what they did,” Toole said. “And then another to donate back to us so that we can do a public installation and make an environmental art piece that will bring awareness to the need of being good stewards.”

Laura Rembold, a local photographer and a former client of &flowers, said she will photograph this weekend’s events to highlight the collaboration involved.

“I will attend the event and just capture the moments that the clients are preparing their flowers and putting things together and just interacting with one another and interacting with a community which is the mission of &flowers,” Rembold said. “That is her mission, to bring people together.”

Ariella Miller, an employee at &flowers and a real estate agent, said a lot of people only see the flowers in &flowers and assume they cater to an older crowd.

“When they think about flowers, they think of flower arranging. A lot of people think it’s for older people,” Miller said. “It’s actually not, it can be super therapeutic. With Karen’s model, you can order food and she’ll set it up right in her studio. With the mixture of drinking and eating, it’s very social. It can be for a girls night or a date night, but really it works for any type of group event.”

Rembold said one of her favorite aspects of the &flowers company is the way Toole consistently goes “above and beyond” for her customers.

“My biggest thing with &flowers is that no idea you have is too out-of-the-box or too difficult for her. I wanted peonies in my wedding bouquet, and my wedding was in August, and apparently they are not in bloom in August,” Rembold said. “She right off the bat told me it probably wasn’t possible. Then, two days before my flower event of making my bouquet, she said she had contacted this peonies farm in Alaska and flew these peonies in for my bouquet.”

Beyond these events, Toole said &flowers plans to host regular biweekly get togethers that people can find on their website.

“We are hosting workshops every other Tuesday at Blue Sky Restaurant and Bar. It is a great way to meet us, and gather with friends,” Toole said.

Rembold said the upcoming events highlight finding treasure in another man’s trash.

“It was a lot of preparation of highlighting, cleaning up the parks and bringing to life what you can do with recycled flowers and recycled natural elements from the earth and how we can make those beautiful, emphasizing that it doesn’t always have to be an extravagant bouquet,” Rembold said.“You can make something pretty out of what some people might look at as trash or what may just need to be burned. Karen comes in and does something beautiful with it.”