Spring has sprung, and May flowers are at their loveliest. Two local businesses in particular are making the most of them. Using traditional methods that trace back to Fabriano, Italy, Cast Paper Art in Webster Groves has manufactured handmade papers for the past 22 years. But this is no ordinary paper. Sometimes scattered with wildflower seed, sometimes with petals, confetti or even glitter, this paper—like the company name suggests—is art.

Owner Steve Deines says he originally was inspired by his mother, who was a fiber artist, and began the business with one employee from his garage in Glendale. “I took some of her concepts and started out making dimensional ornaments from pulp, and that led to sheets of deckle- or feather-edged papers for wedding invitations, memorial cards and other products,” Deines says. Now, with six papermakers and two office workers, Deines recently has added another service: Floral Expressions stationary speckled with petals from wedding bouquets—the perfect wedding thank-you card. “This is our new baby, and we’re very excited,” he says.

Cast Paper Art owner Steve Deines

To make these papers, newlyweds snip the heads off their bridal flowers and mail them to Cast Paper Art in postage-paid envelopes. Deines says the turnaround time is about 10 days; thank-you cards are usually ready by the time the couple return from their honeymoon. Deines says he prefers the blossoms to be as fresh as possible, but stresses that Mother Nature has a hand in the finished product. “Any flower works, but you can’t predict what each one will do—some will ‘bleed’ and create a beautiful marbled effect; some, like the white rose, will change color.” He says gerbera daisies work particularly well, and blue delphiniums are especially pretty.

The process is remarkably simple, and there isn’t much equipment involved, Deines says. Pure, recycled cotton rag is torn into strips, hydrated and ‘pureed’ to an oatmealy mash in a machine called a pulper or Hollander. Water is added, and petals are stirred into the mix by hand. A ‘mould and deckle’ is used to capture the pulp, which then is pressed and dried on racks for 12 to 18 hours. No chemicals are involved. Deines notes that ‘blooming papers’ are sown with different varieties of wildflower seed, including corn poppy, blue salvia, white yarrow, crimson clover and black-eyed Susan. Cast Paper Art yields around 2,000 sheets of paper per day.

Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack of Urban Buds

In South City, another business brings natural floral design to new heights. Urban farmers Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack are the green thumbs behind Urban Buds, a city flower farm, also home to three hives of bees and four chickens. The one-acre plot on Tennessee Avenue one block east of South Grand Boulevard has a long and fertile history that dates to 1870. For three generations, it was owned by a German family, which grew flowers and vegetables to sell. The business was sold in the mid 1990s and, after a period of spotty ownership, Davis and Duschack took over in 2012, expanding to another two lots at South Grand Boulevard and Osceola Street.

They, too, have an essentially local focus: ‘Locally grown not flown’ is their slogan, referring to the huge number of flowers ‘consumed’ in the U.S. from overseas. “The whole point of locally grown flowers is that they can be cut at the perfect time and last so much longer because they don’t spend time in a box,” Davis says. Urban Buds specializes in the kinds of flowers that don’t travel well and that the public can’t find as easily—sweet peas and old-fashioned stock, for example. “And they smell wonderful because they haven’t had the fragrance pressed out of them on an airplane,” Davis adds.

The urban farmers also offer an alternative to traditionally designed wedding flowers. ‘Weddings in a Bucket’ gives brides the opportunity to design their own bouquets or centerpieces. Flowers, in this case, are sold by the bucket for around $150. Each bucket holds 80 to 100 prepared stems. “We don’t guarantee specific flowers, but we work with the couple’s color palette and teach them tricks of the trade for arranging,” Duschack explains.

This summer, the business will expand into a second heated greenhouse, which will allow it to grow flowers year-round. In addition to weddings and events, Urban Buds supplies florists, gives tours and has a stall at Tower Grove Farmer’s Market.