Flowers For Special Occasions

Flowers For Special Occasions

Once you have grasped the fundamentals of flower arrangement you can apply them to all kinds of decorations. Often, for a wedding for instance, all that will be necessary will be for you to make arrangements wider, generally larger and possibly more lush than usual. Even then you can exercise your licence and introduce materials which are not strictly floral such as ribbons or baubles, or you can embellish simple materials to lift them from their everyday role. An example of this would be an arrangement of mixed flowers, white and soft pastel tints, backed by a framework of cycas leaves painted to match and glittered with Christmas frost. For similar purposes bleached shadow leaves mounted on branches can be margined with glitter. Should it be winter and flowers scarce or expensive there are quite a number of dried materials which can be given a sparkle in this way.

How to give them ‘impact’

Large quantities of natural honesty can be used to blend with flowers. Bleached fern, grasses, foliage and seedheads will also look well. The important thing is to use plenty of fresh materials with them. If you are working to a low budget it is better to make several large arrangements like this and to give each an impressive centre of a few choice flowers than to rely on just one or two arrangements made entirely from fresh flowers.

Do bear in mind as you arrange them that you are looking at the flowers in comparative solitude. When they are on show there will be many people present. They really do have to be larger and fuller than usual if they are to make an impact.

Bear this in mind also when you decorate the tables. For a buffet one way of making sure that the flowers gain attention is to arrange them high. But if people are to sit at the tables at the same time you have to make sure that they do not obscure their view. Flowers can be raised in many ways by using water-retentive foamed plastic. One good way is to use champagne

bottles filled with water to weight them as containers. Fit a piece of well-soaked plastic over the top of the neck of the bottle and arrange the flowers in this. You will find it quite easy to push the bottle neck up into the plastic.

If the reception is to be held in a marquee it may be possible to hang floral balls from the supports or on the sides of the tent. Use foamed plastic for these also in just the same way. Flowers to go on the ends of the pews in church can be arranged by this method also.

Flowering trees: Little trees of flowers can be made by fixing canes in a cellulose filler (such as POLYFILLA) in flower pots and topping them with OASIS balls. It is advisable to pour some shingle into the pots first to weight them and then to put the plaster on this. Wedge the canes upright in the shingle and pour on the plaster. Once the cane is set in position the plastic can be pushed on the top and flowers arranged in it. To prevent it slipping down the cane (it is heavy once soaked) twist a thick rubber ring around the cane where you wish the plastic to be held.

This is a useful style of decoration because you can adapt it to suit many purposes. For a party, for instance, you can make little lemon trees. First cover the foundation with snippets of evergreen to make it look like a little clipped round tree. Use plastic lemons which are light in weight to decorate it. Mount them on wires first.

You can play many variations on this theme. A rose tree in midwinter would not use many expensive flowers and on such an occasion you could even use paper flowers.

If you use a plastic cone shape (STYROFOAM) as a foundation you can carry the tree theme a little further. Christmas trees can be made this way. A pair of them look delightful on a buffet or on each side of a door. The foundation cones come in many sizes. You may not want to mount these on a long cane but instead have them sitting on the rim of the pot. All kinds of materials can be used to decorate these, many of them quite simple such as individual lanterns of physalis, large strawdaisies, glittered cones, glass baubles, or posies of rose hips or holly berries surrounded by a little collar of leaves.

Christmas decorations: The tree theme is a good one to carry in your mind when planning Christmas decorations. If you study a branch of spruce and most other conifers you will see that it is naturally triangular, a tree in two dimensions. Such a branch can be fixed to a piece of felt or a piece of board and then to a wall. It can be given a ‘container’ which consists merely of a flower pot cut out of felt or brown paper and then decorated. This is a good decorative theme where space is limited.

The same kind of branch, but smaller, can be used at the back of a Christmas flower arrangement. You can then arrange a few flowers before it, leaving the tree outline unbroken. Flowers can be complemented by any kind of seasonal material, including baubles as well as cones, berries and foliage of all kinds.

Flowers are not essential for Christmas arrangements. Those made entirely from foliage look well and they can be made extremely colourful by using all kinds of tree ornaments with them as well as fruit, seedheads and even ribbons. Whether or not you want them painted or glittered is a matter of personal taste.

Grasses can be lightly frosted, especially those kinds that hang prettily, such as bromus, because they will then become a little heavier and hang just a little lower. Incidentally, the easiest and least messy way of applying glitter is to put a little in a strong paper or plastic bag. Touch the material to be glittered very lightly with a little varnish or paint and then put it inside the bag and shake it up well, being careful to hold the top tightly closed. It is best to mount any materials that have false stems before doing this. You can then stand them in some vessel while they dry.

Frost and snowflakes: Paint and glitter need to be applied discreetly. Decorations are usually more effective if there is contrast between natural and glittered or painted materials. Sometimes it is more attractive to make a little frosting on a line down the midrib oflarge leaves or the centre of a branch, or around the margin of large leaves and the tips of side stems on a branch, even on the tips of cone scales, than it is to cover the whole area. The flat tree-on-a-wall looks charming if a little artificial snow and frost are applied to the ends of the tips and if these also support a tree bauble. You can hang these on with black cotton or with fine wire.

Flat branches, usually those cut from the stem ends of larger branches, can be made into snowflakes, again by using a piece of plastic as a foundation. Slice a small cylinder of OASIS in half for this, or you might need a whole cylinder for a large arrangement. Select six (always six because a snowflake is six-pointed) equal lengths as uniform as possible and insert these around the outside of the cylinder at equal distances apart. Then arrange other different and shorter materials, again keeping to six, until you reach the very centre.

Fir and candle table centres

These same flat branches of spruce or some other conifer can be used as foundations for table centres arranged either in or out of containers. One very simple method is to place them end to end, stem ends overlapping for about 2 in. Lash these stems together. On them tie one of the little rolls of plastic covered wire netting which are sold by stores for flower arrangement, or alternatively fix on a piece of plastic instead. Make sure that all stands firm. Insert a candle firmly so that it stands in the centre. If you are using wire netting don’t worry if the candle does not immediately stand vertically and firmly. When you arrange materials around it their stems can be used to wedge it in place. Keep these materials low so that the candle stands well above them. The candle is really used for colour and atmosphere and is not intended to be lit. If you do wish to light the candles in such arrangements, see that really tall ones are used or that any shorter ones are raised. You can lash them to thin canes, one on each side.

Having made this basic start from two stems you can then add anything you wish, following the rules for making an all-round arrangement, with the candle as the centre stem. As you arrange all the stems point their ends towards the base of the candle and let each one rise a little further from the flat foundation stems.

These first two stems can if you wish be lashed to a small mat to ensure that they will not scratch a table top or other piece of furniture. Or you can begin by arranging them in the manner of any flower arrangement by using a container. There are many shallow expendables that will do for this, such as the plastic trays in which mushrooms are packed for retail sale. If you want the table decoration to last fresh for as long as possible then it is best to use well-soaked owns inside a waterproof container of some kind.

Strip the stem ends and slant the cuts for easy arrangement. You can often use the little laterals which are stripped off. If these are small, like fern fronds for instance, make five or more into a fan. Wire these by mounting them on florist’s wire and use them as clusters. Really small snippets of bright leaves such as variegated holly, elaeagnus or golden privet are all that are necessary if you are trying to make a little go a long way. If you have the time and patience you can arrange them around a little cluster of berries.

Extending a stem: Sometimes it is difficult to arrange individual leaves because their stems are so short. You can ease this situation by extending the stem. Insert something such as a cocktail stick or a portion of florist’s wire up the short stem, leaving enough protruding to go easily into the arrangement. If the leaves have to be in water it will be enough for the last fraction of an inch of the stem to be moist, so do not attempt to push the leaf in as far as its blade.

Cocktail sticks can be used quite often for all kinds of materials and in many types of arrangement. Individual leaves cut from the beautiful ornamental kale, for example, are seldom quite long enough to let you arrange them at whatever angle appeals to you. The stick in the stem gives you just an inch or two more, which makes all the difference. I use them also to give apples and other fruits a good stem and for adding the final decorations to garlands, swags and other kinds of Christmas decorations; materials such as tiny crab apples, physalis lanterns, tangerines, helichrysums, beech nut clusters and cones.

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