Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844
Spring has been slow to really present itself this year, and the peonies I was hoping to have bursting in my home are still the size of golf balls and incredibly expensive. For now, calla lilies, ranunculus and hyacinths are taking center stage, and so I have a vase of gently curved stems sitting by my computer compelling me to talk them up a bit.
Through my work, I've been lucky to have come in contact with some incredible florists and purveyors of flowers. At 19, I worked for a remarkable woman named Krislyn Meyer now Krislyn Komarov who saw flowers more as art supplies to be molded and manipulated into art pieces, and the flowers she bought from Holland, New Zealand, various parts of Asia and South America seemed like other worldly species that had traversed into our solar system. I started to learn about their needs, their quirks, which were sturdy and which would falter and which would start growing roots and creating offspring if you left them in water long enough. It was a bit of a science lab and art studio and the appreciation for flowers and plants as more than clear vase fillers began.
Shopping for Flowers
There really is no simpler way to add a burst of color to your home than incorporating the vibrant blooms of spring flowers. With access to one of the largest flower districts in America, I'm fortunate to be able to go to the Los Angeles Flower Mart, where I can create arrangements with both aesthetic and aromatic appeal. When selecting flowers, allow its beauty to consist not only of its petals, but also of its stem and leaves. Although a bit of dew on a rose in the morning is lovely, getting the heads of cut roses wet will cause them to begin to rot and turn brown. This a good time to mention that when you are looking at purchasing flowers, be mindful of lifting them and allowing the wet stems to drip on the tops of other flowers. You could upset the seller and ruin someone else's arrangement.
Prepping Your Flowers
To insure the longevity of your flowers, remove all leaves that will fall below the waterline and insure that the vases are clean and free of debris. Cut the bottom inch off the stems at an angle under water, preventing an air bubble from rising up the stem, blocking water, and causing the flower head to fall over. Place immediately in water and away from heat and sunlight. Although cool temperatures preserve flowers, do not keep your arrangement in the refrigerator as the food, along with a very arid environment, will cause them to wilt. Flower Food will help your arrangement last longer and can be purchased wherever flowers are sold.
Creating a Flower Arrangement
There are a few items that you should have handy when you're creating an arrangement that will give you more ways to display your flowers than plunking them in a vase.
* Floral Foam which can be cut to fit in your vase or container, and should be fully immersed in water for at least an hour before arranging
* Floral tape (To create a visual grid and add security to vase arrangements or to secure floral foam onto containers)
* Floral shears or hand snips
* A stem stripper (Although, if you have the patience to cut off the leaves and thorns by hand, it's advisable as stem strippers can damage the cane and cause the flower to wilt sooner)
* Wired 3" wood picks to give un-insertable branches and twigs an insertable-ness and lengthen or strengthen weak stems and bundle items such as bows or ornaments together
* An array of vases from clear, ceramic, mint julep cups and wood (although you must line the bottom of porous vases with cellophane wrap)
* Banana leaves or flax to line the inner part of a clear vase for a unique look and to hide the stems. (Above is an arrangement I did for a luncheon using floral foam inside and a banana leaf to hide it.)
* Additional leaves, greenery, feathers, etc. to fill out the arrangement and add some personal touches
Play up the shape of the stem, molding them and allowing elements of form to enhance your arrangement. Let their shape tell a story. When cutting the flowers, it's best to cut them at an angle, underwater, if placing in floral foam or a vase as the angle allows for more water absorption and allows the flower to be inserted easier. Look at your arrangement from all angles (high, low, front, back) to make it three dimensional and eye-catching no matter where you are in the room. Experiment with different techniques such as bending branches around from one side of the arrangement to the other, creating clusters of similar textures and colors, monochromatic arrangements of all different flowers and have fun!
From a recent event, a monochromatic arrangement of white tulips, roses, hydrangeas and orchids created by Yvonne Van Pelt of Empty Vase.
Place flowers throughout your home, such as a small arrangement in the powder room, and another to set the tone for guests right in your entryway. Keep dining table arrangements low to allow the conversation to flow freely, or if you're having guests over, consider creating smaller arrangements before each guests’ place setting that they can take with them as a memento of their wonderful time with you.
You can also find great sources of information and courses at your art supply, your local gardens, nurseries and adult education courses which can show you some tricks of the trade and help you create beautiful floral creations in your own home. Get a group of friends together and have a floral arranging session with rose or jasmine infused tea and cupcakes with edible flowers on top. It's a great way to tap into your creativity and add beauty to your world.