Wedding flower arranging equipment

Church arrangers need certain basic equipment to help them to arrange flowers and to extend their ideas. This equipment is often spoken of as the ‘mechanics’ of flower arranging, that term being used to cover any material aid which the arranger employs. The following are all part of the mechanics.

STUB SCISSORS

These, which are available from most flower shops and garden centres, are one of the best inventions. They cut not only wire of any sort but also plant material, from the most delicate variety to large branches of foliage. An instrument which carries out both these operations is worth its weight in gold. They are now almost golden in price, so do watch that they are not swept away with the rubbish! I sew a large piece of tape onto mine, with my name on it, particularly when I am working with other arrangers!

WIRE CUTTERS

Although stub scissors are excellent for small amounts of wire cutting, persistent use in cutting large pieces of chicken wire inevitably makes them blunt, so it is advisable to have a pair of wire cutters as well. There are small, neat ones which most florists sell.

CHICKEN WIRE

To-day there are very many aids to help to anchor your flowers in position, but much the most basic and essential is 2-inch gauge chicken wire which can be cut up into suitably sized pieces to fill your vases. If I am buying chicken wire for a church I buy a large roll. This will last for years and is far more economical than the small pieces which may be bought from an ironmonger or a florist’s shop. When you are using chicken wire you must have a piece of exactly the right size. If you use too much, it is almost impossible to get the flowers into place. If, on the other hand, you use too little, the wire will slip and the flowers will topple over, probably scattering water onto a precious polished surface in the process.

A vase needs at least three layers of wire inside it and when you are cutting your wire from the roll to fit the vase in question you will probably find that to have the correct amount you will need a piece rather bigger than you at first visualize. In time and with practice you will gauge the right size correctly. Fold the piece of wire at each corner until it is crumpled up into layers and gently push it into the container, taking care not to squeeze it too tightly. When you have finished the container should have wire reaching right down to the bottom and forming a dome right over the top. If you look into the container from above you will see the holes in the ball of chicken wire. The stems of the flowers and other material will be placed into the holes which should accordingly be fairly evenly spaced. If the layers of wire seem to be too closely jammed together, take the piece of wire out, loosen it a bit, and put it back. If it is still wrong, you may have to cut a piece of it off. On the other hand, you may not have enough wire, in which case push it down into the container, cut another piece and wedge it firmly in, pulling it over the top of the container to form the required dome. At one time I was always cutting further pieces of wire: now I usually get the size right the first time. A container which has a handle at each side, like a tureen or an urn, is very useful as you can put a piece of string through the handles to tie the chicken wire in. When an arrangement is complete the string can be cut away as by that time the flowers will be well balanced. If a rather shallow container is used and the chicken wire seems to be slipping, tie a piece of string right over the top of the wire and underneath the container, and then again cut away the string when the arrangement is complete. Plastic-covered chicken wire should be used if the container is a valuable copper or silver one, to avoid scratching. It is vital to get the mechanics right before you start arranging. It is no good persuading yourself that it will be ‘all right in the end’, because it will not. I remember an occasion very early in my career as a florist when I was doing the flowers for a huge wedding and working against time. An enormous pedestal arrangement hurtled to the floor because the chicken wire was wrongly arranged. Total panic ensued as my fellow florist and I re-did the arrangement almost as the bride’s guests arrived at the door. The verger was rightly furious at the floods of water pouring over his lovely clean church — so be warned!

CONES (known as aquapics in the USA)

To enable you to bring your shorter flowers up to the required height very good metal or plastic elongated cones of various sizes are available. They hold water and can be pushed into chicken wire. If an even taller arrangement is required, cones can be lashed onto long sticks and these fitted into the chicken wire. Do remember to fill the cones and when you are topping up the container to top up the cones as well. I remember going back to a church before a wedding to top up the vases and finding that half the arrangements had died because my junior had failed to fill up the cones. If the arrangement is very big it is sometimes easy to overlook a cone — there may be as many as five — so it is as well to make a note of the number so that none are forgotten.

OASIS

This is a useful substance which holds moisture. It may be bought in large oblong bricks or in smaller drum-shaped pieces, and while dry it can be cut with a knife into the size and shape required. Before use it must be soaked for at least 20 minutes. If after that time there are still bubbles, it is likely that the Oasis has not fully absorbed all the water required. I use Oasis for a shallow container which will not take chicken wire. I put water in the container and then wedge in the Oasis. The container must be kept filled with water as otherwise the Oasis will eventually dry out. Oasis is invaluable for making garlands. If the Oasis cannot stand in water, it must be put into a plastic bag, because this will keep it reasonably moist. Hard stems can be pushed through the plastic, but for stems which are soft, holes must be bored into it with an instrument such as a knitting needle.

PIN-HOLDERS

These are round metal bases from which numerous spikes protrude upwards. The pin-holder sits at the bottom of the container and provides an additional anchor for heavy branches.

STUB WIRES

These wires, which come in various lengths and gauges and are sold in bundles by weight, can be used in many ways. In the ordinary way one should avoid wiring fresh flowers but if a stem is very bending, as, for instance, in the case of tulips, a wire pushed up the stem will strengthen it; this procedure should, however, be adopted only very sparingly. The natural bending of flower material makes for an interesting arrangement. If a stem has been fractured, a wire can be put up the stem to secure it. Other uses of stub wires are mentioned in the section on garlands.

REEL WIRE

Silver reel wire varies in gauge, but it is used sometimes to provide a backing for a leaf . There is a strong brown reel wire which is very useful for tying chicken wire into a container and for lashing cones securely into a vase. Reel wire can be bought at ironmongers or through flower clubs, and sometimes commercial florists will sell reel wire and stub wires in small bundles.

In addition to these vital mechanics, there is also other equipment which will be found to be very useful.

DUST SHEETS

It is essential to spread a dust sheet on the floor in front of and round a vase which is going to be arranged. All surplus bits and pieces can then be thrown onto the dust sheet and easily removed.

POLYTHENE SHEETING

It is very helpful to have some large pieces of thick polythene sheeting, which should be used, when working on a good wood-block floor or a valuable carpet, as a protection against damp flowers. The sheeting should be laid with a dust sheet on top of it.

TRUG

This is a useful kind of basket both when carrying flowers about the church and when picking flowers.

STRONG STRING

This is useful in many ways and all churches should keep a ball of it.

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