Standing a bunch of fairly uniformin water, and making a flower arrangement from them are two very different things. There are, it is true, some flowers which never seem to call for arrangement: snowdrops, primroses, forget-me-nots, wallflowers, nasturtiums, , even roses can stand in a favourite vase or pitcher and look simply lovely. However, if you adopt this method for all flowers, especially the large long-stemmed kinds, results can be very unsatisfying. Arrangement’s great advantage is that, like good cooking, it gives you full value for the ingredients you use and you can make a little go a long way with delightful results.
If you are able to visualize how you want a flower arrangement to look when it is completed, and if you have suitable vases or other vessels, you really should have no problem in assembling it. Style, size, colour harmony, content, are all personal matters. The trick, shared by all, is to employ some aid which will securely hold any material the way you want to see it, so begin by spending a little money on a water-retentive foamed-plastic stemholder such as Oasis or Stem-fix. This is good practising material. One large block should suffice for several average-size, so you can use the piece several times. Sappy are not easily inserted into this so avoid these, but any firm should stay in place immediately it is inserted into the block, even if only a short length goes in. This means that you can use many short-stemmed flowers effectively, and stems can be arranged at any angle, even downwards. Well-soaked plastic nurtures all stems it holds, even those outside a vessel, but it must be kept moist.
You will have most scope if you cut a block deep enough to stand a little way above the rim of a vessel. Once the arrangement is complete, the plastic should be well hidden.
Once you have grasped the essentials and found a style you like, you can switch to wire netting as a stemholder. This is cheaper, adaptable and lasts for ever. It accommodates all thicknesses and textures of stems. These are held in place by the mesh. You can insert them deeply or just below rim level. At first they may not stay in place instantly as they do in the plastic, but you will soon get used to the netting. Use large, 4 cm (1 ½ in) or 5 cm (2 in) mesh, which will crumple up easily and tightly, yet give way sufficiently to accommodate thick stems.
To fill a vessel, cut a piece of netting (kitchen scissors or old secateurs are best for this purpose) which measures twice the depth of theand as wide or even a little wider than its widest part. Fold the piece into a u and squash it down into the container. Hook a few of the cut ends over the rim to keep the netting from moving if you think this necessary.
Sometimes it is helpful to combine a block of plastic and netting, for instance when you arelong, firm stems and short, sappy ones, such as, say, blossom branches and little flowers and individual at rim level. Stand a block of plastic, or place a mass of much-used pieces in the bottom of the container and rest wire netting on top.
When using clear glass containers, restrict stem-holders to the top part of the container only. So long as it has had a good drink beforehand and so long as you keep the water level topped up, it is not necessary that a great length of stem goes under water, Stems can be arranged in the top few inches only. Low-lying flowers,and other materials arranged early on in assembly will hide all traces of the stemholder, leaving just clear water visible through the glass.
If you fancy arrangements in low dishes, troughs and bowls, foamed plastic or metal pinholders can be used. Wire netting is not suitable for these except to be hooked on the front of a pinholder to take flowers whose stems are too slender to be impaled on or wedged between the points. The way you hide these holders becomes an important part of the design.
Flowers that are just placed in water usually stand all round the rim, but most arrangements are best made with flowers facing one way. These call for fewer flowers, etc. than all-round designs. It helps first to establish a centre stem and to make the heart of the design at its base. Work from the outer stems to the centre, which should be the focal point. The important thing is to stand the first stem as far back as possible. This way you provide plenty of space for the other stems.
When filling a bowl for a table, the centre stem should stand vertically in the middle, and it should remain the tallest. All the others should radiate from its base. Turn the bowl as you fill it to get all stems evenly balanced.