Pot-Et-Fleur Flower Arranging

Pot-Et-Fleur Flower Arranging

The recently acquired knowledge that plants do not have to be grown in a terracotta pot with a hole in its base has led to a change in our entire concept of how plants can be displayed. And thanks to progress in greenhouse production there is now a great range of inexpensive pot plants from which to choose. Some you can grow yourself from seed or cuttings.

My own interest in mixing cut flowers and pot plants came from a natural tendency to embellish and generally tidy-up ! Someone had given me a bowl of mixed plants for Christmas and by early spring it was looking tired so I ‘arranged’ it, bringing in a fresh plant and inducing it to ‘bloom’ by incorporating cut flowers with the existing foliage. The improvement was instant and even dramatic.

It occurred to me that rather than beginning with a fading bowl it would be worth while building an arrangement which was a blend of both flower arrangement and plant decor. This seemed to be a natural projection of the art of flower arrangement. Pot-et-fleur, as such arrangements have come to be called, is something which appeals particularly to the man and woman who lik to grow plants rather than merely to cut them.

Pot-et-fleur arrangements are highly individual and they never are any-think like so hackneyed as many styles of flower arrangement have become. One accepts the plants as they are. There is seldom any pruning, shaping or denuding. As you would expect, you often need to tilt, angle or coax to get them to assume the position you require, but nearly always the arranger has to fit in with the plant rather than the other way round. The main concern should be that the plants are arranged in such a way that besides looking lovely and contributing to the decoration as a whole, they will continue to grow happily for a reasonably long period.

This is where the arranger who has a greenhouse or conservatory, or even a suitable window-sill, has an advantage, for tired plants can be removed and given a period of rejuvenation before they are used again.

Containers can be as varied as they are for flower arrangements except that generally they need to be deep enough to hide the rim of the flower pots. However, it is possible sometimes to hide these behind driftwood, cork, bark, stones or pebbles.

Planning for later additions

Generally speaking I prefer to arrange individual pots rather than to plant them, but this depends on circumstances. Pots may be tilted (an essential for cryptanthus and other rosette plants which look so well as a focal point) by wedging pebbles under them or by using a piece of OASIS as a holder and securing them in this by pushing them in at the required angle. The plastic is kept moist and in this way helps to succour the plant without swamping it. Secondhand crumbly plastic left over from flower arrangements is also good for packing plants in place, as are also peat and sand.

If you prefer to plant a bowl with plants knocked from their pots then be sure also to plant one or more empty flower pots as well as a container or two for cut flowers. If you do this at the time of planting you will not damage the roots of the existing plants when you come to change the bowl’s contents, or if you wish to add another plant or perhaps a short-stemmed posy of flowers to add a knot of colour.

Naturally one must use what plants are available, but if you are starting from scratch keep the few basic rules of flower arrangement in mind. Colours need to harmonise and you will find that there are many more hues in a green plant than you might realise. Look, for example, at leaf-stem, bracts or stipules and also on the undersides of the foliage. You may find magenta, ruby, violet or even blue, and from these hues, no matter how small the amount, you can take your cue when choosing flowers to go with the plants and decide which of these hues to accent.

The most suitable flowers

The more colourful the foliage of the plants the more simple your flowers can be. Those which grow from bulbs and corms, such as narcissi, lilies, gladioli and freesias, are the most suitable. Arums are ‘naturals’ since so many house-plants are aroids. Orchids always look well; their stems are uncluttered and their shapes sculpted. Greenhouse carnations, orchids and garden peonies and dahlias look delightfully opulent and their colours blend well with the plants. Roses look rich but are sometimes too leafy and so tend to confuse the outline. Tulips need to lose some of their leaves.

The flowers themselves can be arranged in a variety of means according to what space there may be in the main vessel for their containers. In some cases it is best to arrange each stem in a separate container, a cigar or tablet tube perhaps, either of which can easily be pushed down into the soil or foamed plastic. The conical metal vases sold by florists’ sundriesmen are useful because being green they can be easily disguised or hidden and because they can be so well anchored. It is sometimes advisable, however, to fill them with a stem-holder.

Small pieces of driftwood are invaluable, not only for hiding the rim of a flower pot (the curve of the wood can follow the curve of the pot) but also for linking one component with another. Small pieces, arranged to look like one unit, come in useful here. Driftwood can also support climbing plants in an attractive way. You can fix, say, a Philodendron scandens to a tall piece of driftwood and arrange flowers in tubes hidden behind the wood. It is preferable to other woods because it is sterile and not likely to contain pests of any kind.

Hidden aids: Plants knocked from their pots should be planted in a good compost so that they thrive and those which are plunged in their pots should be fed from time to time. One essential item is charcoal. Fortunately this is easy and cheap to buy at hardware stores, chemists’ and garden centres; it can be used again and again. This forms a good drainage medium if you place a generous layer on the floor of your container, it has the additional advantage that it absorbs any noxious odours that might arise from the small amounts of stale water that might possibly collect at the base of the container.

If you use a plant which should be kept on the dry side, such as a cactus or sansevieria, first envelope its pot in a polythene bag so that excess moisture is kept from the roots. The bag can easily be hidden.

Once the arrangement is completed spray the contents from time to time with clean water, especially if some of the plant pots are tilted and hence difficult to water properly. Most flowers will also enjoy this. And don’t forget, the moment a plant looks tired, to take it out and replace it with a new one. This way your pot-et-fleur will never be a ‘still life’ but always full of interest and colour.

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