day three part two – advanced floral design I at longwood

After our lunch break, we came back to a lecture on the History of Floral Design.  This is too big a topic to blog all at once, but it’s fascinating to think of borrowing from the past and really knowing the era you’re trying to reflect.  Our parallel designs are inspired by the Egyptian period, our garlands a toast to the Greeks and Romans, our Roundy Moundies mirror the tightly massed, garden-inspired designs of the Victorian era.   And now that I’ve been studying floral design, I’ve been noticing floral arrangements in movies and television – and just like everyone else, I’m in love with the PBS Masterpiece Classic Downton Abbey.  In the scene pictured, we are in a late Edwardian time period, but the flowers behind poor Edith Crawley (who has just not been proposed to, alas) are Victorian in style – packed to the gills with flowers, softened with greens, spherical and opulent. I think a whole blog entry at a later date on the flowers of D.A. is in order, don’t you?

Edith Crawley from Downton Abbey with Victorian style arrangements behind her - when more was more

Sigh.  In today’s class we created an arrangement from the Art Nouveau period, which lasted from the 1880’s to around 1920 and slightly beyond, and was defined by it’s sinuous whiplash curves and highly stylized yet organic look. Look at Hector Guimard’s subway station designs he did for the Paris Metro – (transportation built to accommodate the many visitors for the Paris World Fair in 1900.)

Guimard's Art Nouveau Metro entrance courtesy of lartnouveau.com

Alphonse Mucha turned advertising into miniature Art Nouveau romantic masterpieces.

poster by Alphonse Mucha 1896

So how do you translate the stylized, curvy look of Art Nouveau into floral design?  I think choosing flowers that already have that look is a start – like the calla lily.  Calla lilies, with their sensuous curves and lines, could just be the perfect representation of the Art Nouveau period.  They probably also work with the Art Deco period too.  Then there’s the overall shape of the design itself.  In today’s class, we’re creating Jane’s very favorite design, the Cascade Design.

Modern cascading bouquet from Jane's slideshow

The Cascade or Waterfall design is characterized by a steep flow of materials in an extended cascade.  Alternating layers of flowers and foliage of delicate textures creates depth and a flowing effect.  Non-floral, reflective materials like metallic thread are often used to capture the splashing light of a waterfall.

the cascade starts with a lot of greens for layering

Jane begins with a tall vase containing floral foam held in by a chicken wire cage (lashed on with waterproof tape.) One side of the floral foam is a little chunkier to accommodate for more hanging plant material.  She creates a base of greens to cover some of the foam at the top, using Apidistra leaf pinned in on themselves to create a bullkier look for the front, and the ever useful Galax leaf at the back.  Then the fun begins – using long flowing greens like Springeri Fern (prickly!) and Italian ruscus to start the cascade effect.  She also scores some Apidistra so it seems like it has many long thin leaves.   The cascade should go “out and down.” The key here is layering.

jane adds line flowers, focal flowers, and lightens with a string of roses

Jane then adds the line flowers – Calla lilies in this case – which she coaxes into a bendier shape and wires the end of each stem to help it stick in easier.  Callas don’t need too much water.  She adds focal flowers, like mums and carnations, and then some lisianthus.  Don’t forget, not all the stems need to point down, because “Water falls down, then splashes up,” she says, quoting a favorite designer of hers, Gregor Lersch.  Gregor Lersh is amazing! More on him later.

string wire through rose's calyx

To create a string of roses, just thread wire through the rose head’s base (calyx) – the first one will have the wire closed off as seen above.  Then just add more and more and more rose heads and you can adjust where they sit by sliding them up and down, and they’ll stay there pretty well.  Wrap the end of the wire around a floral pick, and boom, insert it right into the foam at the top.  The silver of the wire adds the splashing light effect and lightens the density of the design.  Lighten further with other lacy plant material like Genista, and voila! Cascade design is done.

Jim's design uses anthurium as a focal flower, and because he used a glass container, he filled it with fishtail fern - a lovely effect!!

another student's cascade design - pure flowing movement!

My cascade design also used Anthurium as a focal flower – some of the ‘Obaki’ left over from our Abstract design class.  I chose the smaller white Calla lilies and bound them together with bindwire to achieve length (since they can survive out of water for a while.) Purple lisianthus was pushed into the greenery, and I accented with some light purple Genista and strings of roses on silver wire on both sides.

My cascade design on the mantel

another shot of my cascade

To water this beast, use a thin spouted watering can to get the floral foam at the center.  Mist the rest.  Mine lasted about a week, with Obaki drooping and roses withering, but that just “added to the cascading effect,” or so my family told me – I think they were just being nice.  I LOVED this assignment, and so did most everyone else in the class.  I will certainly repeat the Cascade again, and would love to see a Cascade or Waterfall design on the set of Downton Abbey in Season 3…wouldn’t you?

About these ads

day three part one – advanced floral design I at longwood

There is a lot of oohing and ahhing at the beginning of today’s class, for the counter is covered in a array of bright tropical flowers and lush foliage, the likes of which many of us have never seen before. These are for us! To use! In an abstract design!

King Protea

Cibotium Kakuma Curl Fern

Heliconia hanging 'Sexy Pink'

Zingiber 'Chocolate Ball'

Tropical flowers work great in modern and abstract designs. But they do require special care – remember, they’re from a warmer, more humid environment and often cannot survive in a cold climate or standard floral refrigerator. Use room temperature water when working with tropicals – most love to be misted on a daily basis!

Anthurium 'Obaki,' I love you

Anthurium – called Flamingoblumen in German- come in many shades and sizes, and because they drink from that pointy thing or spadex, they should be submerged under fresh water for 10-20 minutes before using them, and misted daily in an arrangement.

Jane's winning design using Heliconia Torch 'Emerald Forest'

The Philly flower show this year was full of tropicals (obviously, with the theme being Hawaii!) Our teacher Jane loves using Heliconia Torch ‘Emerald Forest’ and won a blue and gold ribbon with them in her design at the flower show this year. Here they are in another Jane design that shows you that modern/abstract design can look good in a home setting:

Jane's design - the tops are not chopped, off that's how Heliconia really are!

Then we talked about Abstraction, which in the art world indicates a departure from reality. This departure from accurate representation can be only slight, or it can be partial, or it can be complete. Jane brought up the Tree series by Piet Mondrian as an example of varying degrees of abstraction.

Piet Mondrian, Avond (Evening), Red Tree, 1908. Collection of Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Piet Mondrian, Gray Tree, 1911. Collection of Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

Piet Mondrian, Flowering Apple Tree, 1912. Collection of Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.

The essence of the last Mondrian tree is distilled into lines, forms, color, space. In abstract floral design, some of the same principles apply. “Abstract floral design: A contemporary design style in which plant material and other components are used for their intrinsic qualities of line, form, color, and texture.”

Eleanor creates an abstract design - sphere of mums, heliconia hanging 'sexy pink' - container is part of design

So how does one go about creating an abstract floral design? These qualities are important to consider:

  1. Bold, high impact
  2. An emphasis on space
  3. Dynamic tension
  4. RESTRAINT! in use of plant material, often no transitional material
  5. Interest distributed throughout the design
  6. MORE THAN ONE POINT OF EMERGENCE for plant material, often unconventional placements
  7. Container (if used) is part of the design
  8. Non-naturalistic use of plant material
  9. MINIMALISM

Jim uses all green tones. His grassy sphere creates TENSION by looking like it might roll away

And the RESTRAINT award goes to....Jenny! This design was probably one of my favorites today. One colocasia leaf, one driftwood stick, one black container. Some glue. Gorgeous.

I'm breathless. Jean's design uses heliconia, carnation, and monstera leaf, plus bear grass bundled together with silver wire. It's like that CONTAINER would be lost without exactly what's inside it.

Weren't you wondering what someone would do with the 'Chocolate Balls?' Here Parul schools us in abstract design! Talk about NON NATURALISTIC use of plant material!

Rosemary the volunteer helps out with some words of encouragement.

For my design, I used the two Protea ‘Van Rooys White’ which I had been eyeing from the beginning of class since they matched the container I brought so perfectly. In these Advanced classes, it’s BYOC! There are many many Protea species, South African flowering plants that I would love to see growing in the wild. In fact, Protea was named for the god Proteus, who could change his form at will – because Proteas have such variety of form. Tim Snyder, a graduate of the Professional Gardener program at Longwood, now gainfully employed at Chanticleer, recently visited South Africa with a group of students. Here’s a really cute video with great music that Tim and his wife made of his trip — keep your eyes peeled for Pincushion Protea growing in the wild!

my abstract design uses two protea 'van rooys white,' one hanging in mid-air

I wanted to do something playful with one of them hanging in space unrealistically. You have to think long and hard about how to have more than one point of emergence, and this seemed like an easy way to achieve that. I wired the stem using fairly heavy wire, sticking it into the floral foam inside the container. Then I covered the wiring mechanic with brown paper packing material. The apidistra leaf stem pokes right through and with the remaining space I poked in a few yellow pom pom mums to peek out.

other side of my abstract design, pom pom mums peeking out

This class was totally mind-bending. It really makes you throw away a lot of the rules to see that anything’s possible in the world of floral design!

day 2a – advanced floral design I – longwood at home

A nasty stomach bug prevented me from attending a day of classes, so I attempted to do the first design we learned this day at home, following directions from the book The Art of Floral Design by Norah Hunter (with Jane’s blessing, of course.) My teacher was very understanding about me missing the class, and I’ll be able to attend at least the lecture portions during the class held this fall.

First stop - PRODUCE JUNCTION - I wanted it all!

Here’s what I’m making: the New Convention design, which is a structured, linear-style design. It’s like the parallel design on steroids – with the addition of horizontal materials. Vertical lines are reflected at sharp right angles forward, backward and to the side using identical materials. Contrasting textures are used at the design’s base where all the lines converge. The book gives you a pretty good how-to diagram.

new convention diagram from book

To begin, select a low rectangular container. Cut floral foam to extend above the rim of the container (to allow the horizontal placement of materials) and secure with tape. Plan your design by placing stakes in areas where flowers will be grouped. I wanted my end geometric form to be triangular, with the top point in the center.

foam, in retrospect, perhaps a little too high above edge.

What’s really exciting is that I bought a cake decorating spinny thing which makes floral design so much easier.! (Purchased on Amazon for $18) Maybe that’s only exciting to me. Anyway – next, add your vertical materials. I chose snapdragons, agapanthus, and tulips which I bound together with a little wire. I thought it might be neat to see how the tulips keep growing while confined in a bunch.

add vertical materials

Part of this assignment was learning to unite materials, something our class handout talked about. But the book didn’t really mention these techniques as part of the New Convention design, so I didn’t go overboard on it. However, I think I probably should have done a little more of the following:

methods for uniting materials

Banding: Tying materials for purely decorative purposes.

Binding: Tying materials for functional purposes, physically joining the materials together.

Bundling: Tying or wrapping similar materials together into one unit, such as sheaves of wheat or a bundle of sticks. The bundle may then be placed in the floral design.

Wrapping: A technique in which fabric, ribbon, raffia, cord or wire are used to cover, coil, or twine a single stem or group of stems to achieve a decorative look.

Add horizontal groupings that reflect vertical ones

Next, insert stems into sides of foam at right angles to the vertical groups. Horizontal lines are shorter than vertical groups. I used the exact same material to reflect the vertical groupings. Then, complete the base of the design with short flower heads, mosses and leaves using basing techniques (remember pave, clustering, tufting, terracing, etc from the parallel design?) I went totally crazy here, but I wanted it to look full and I had tons of material to work with. I wasn’t sure about ‘point of emergence’ for this one, so I just did my best. I think my foam was too high and we have a lot of competing elements here because I needed to fill up the space…

after basing added - in basement - hours have transpired - i'm in trance

from a carpet of gerber daisies springs white ornithogalum, eryngium, and some euphorbia x martinii 'ascot rainbow' (euphorbia from my cutting garden, yew foliage from parent's yard)

new convention design in a diningroom

Our handout talked about dominance – which is the greater effect of an element – it must be clear in a design and imply subordination.

Linear Dominance – a certain type of lines take the role of importance by either quantity or size (for my design, I think the agapanthus wins because of size and rhythm of lines)

Color Dominance – one hue or strong colors (the purple of the agapanthus draws your eye, but the orange gerber daisy is a dominant focal point I think)

Form Dominance – clearly developed

Textural Dominance – one type of texture (my design has lots of textures and I don’t think one dominates – do you?)

Space dominance – either very full or very open space (it’s pretty full eh?)

And as far as the focal area goes – the dominant place within a design which has the strongest visual impact – I think there are multiple focal areas in this one.

why is this one so hard to photograph?

other side - roses are pave-d

An accent is a subordinate element that contrasts or complements the dominant element – the accent is often connected to the focal area of a design. Here, the ivy is the accent to the roses.

from above

I sent some pics to my teacher Jane and I’m waiting to hear back on whether I’m anywhere in the ballpark here. (Maybe she’ll comment right here on my blog! Wouldn’t that be something?) I welcome any comments and criticism on this design – advanced Longwood students, I would really like to know what you thought of this assignment.

Stay tuned for more adventures in floral design!

ADDENDUM: I talked to Jane over the phone and she gave me a thumbs up on my design. We got to talking about all the foam used for this particular bad boy, and she’s thinking the New Convention won’t be taught in next year’s Advanced I class in order to conserve the use of Oasis to a minimum. I really enjoyed making this design, but I can see how 24 students x 2 blocks of foam starts to add up!

day one – advanced floral design I at longwood

I was on the waiting list for this class, and at the last minute I got in! It’s a Saturday class that meets from 9-4, an all day affair, and was actually a bit intense, because we squeeze two classes into one day. The teacher is the same as my Basic class, Jane Godshalk, thankfully, but there were only a few students that I recognized. The rest seemed to be on some other plane of advanced floral design! I felt as if I were coming from the minor leagues to the big time, looking around at all the creative touches I never would have thought of going on around me. Jane kept saying, “you’re in Advanced now, people…”

Instructor Jane Godshalk's Linear Design

We started by discussing Linear Qualities in Design. Line can be static or dynamic; there are both primary and secondary lines. Here are some of the many line types:

Linear Qualities in Design

In a Linear Design the line is dominant – the negative space powerful. The lines can become a geometric form – circle, square, triangle and every combination of those forms.

All geometric shapes are some variation of circle, square or triangle (the fundamental forms of nature)

There are a few really important ideas to consider when conceiving of a design plan: the vertical axis, which may be visible or invisible in the design; the binding point (the central binding point) and the point of emergence (the point from which lines of a design begin, also usually the binding point. confusing.)

think about the vertical axis and binding point!

Also, consider the focal point or focal area – this is the area of greatest impact in a design – to which the eye is naturally drawn. It’s usually close to the binding point. There are many ways to achieve focal interest:

  1. Color – darker flowers have more visual weight than lighter colors
  2. Size – larger, more open blooms have more visual weight
  3. Shape and Pattern – form flowers have greater interest
  4. Spacing – closer spacing makes flower appear heavier
  5. Texture – contrasting textures create visual interest – Shiny foliage is focal
  6. Line Direction – radiating lines attract interest to center of design

Here are some basic flower arrangement designs. This gets you thinking that there’s no end to what you could do!

This morning we do two linear designs. Jane recommends really planning out your design – choosing your style (decorative, vegetative, form+ line, abstract,) choosing the dominant element, flower forms, color palette, and planning your vertical axis. Make a sketch before you begin! The first design we do will have a visible axis and will incorporate some techniques from Basic like pave and terracing.

my sketch, vertical axis will be off to the left. all i know at this point is that snapdragons will be my line flower and a lily will be the form flower and focal point.

My linear design with visible axis. Jane had to help me remember about point of emergence!

another student's linear design with visible axis

Moving on, we are to create Design 2 – a Linear design with an invisible/imaginary axis. We have a nice white Ikea vase to play with. Again, we make a sketch and plan all the elements: dominant element, flower forms, palette, and where is the imaginary vertical axis. All I know is, I’m using those Bells of Ireland (I will have to wire them to make them the shape I want) and green mums, and my imaginary axis will be in the center. I want to do something curvy.

my sketch for design #2

My linear design with imaginary axis - Jane says "it's almost a Hogarth Curve!" I think the imaginary axis ended up being slightly left of center.

After lunch break, it’s time to tackle the Phoenix Design, for which we’ve brought containers from home. I was lent a beautiful silver Revere bowl by Juliet. The Phoenix Design, interestingly, is the only design we’ll be learning that is attributed to American designers. And yes, it is inspired by the mythological bird that cyclically sets itself on fire and rises from it’s own ashes to begin another long life. So the design is all about renewal and rebirth.

Phoenix depicted in the book of mythological creatures by F.J. Bertuch (1747-1822)

The Phoenix design is a composition in which tall materials burst from the center of a round arrangement in a radial fashion with a triangular shape.

slideshow - one of Jane's Phoenix designs she created for a party

Our mechanics for this arrangement, which is great for big parties, begin with a block of soaked Grande oasis put into a liner and then into the container. Others had varying shaped containers and needed to secure the foam with chicken wire and tape – mine was steady so I didn’t need to do that. Start by grouping various foliage at the base, leaving a hole in the center for the fireworks. Remember the base is to be a round shape. We used Ruscus, Ming Fern, and Apidistra leaf (Jane’s fave,) which she showed us how to bend in on itself, and poke the stem through the leaf to create a bulkier shape. Then put in your line flowers, in this case Gladiolas, using radial lines. These tall line flowers should create an upside down triangle from all sides (easier said than done!)

Jane demonstrates the Phoenix design

We did create a sketch first but I think you get the picture here. After a mad rush to get our flowers, we spend an hour or so making this one. The person next to me seems to require a lot of space so I move to the counter space behind me – it’s really hard to see your line and form with so much happening visually in the room. After putting in the line flowers, we fill in the rounded form at the base with roses, alstromeria, carnation, waxflower, etc. I end up using more roses instead of carnations, because there are some left over. In these classes, you try to play by the rules regarding how much plant material you’re allowed, but if you pay attention you can often grab some extras after everyone has taken what they need.

Sisters with their Phoenix designs

my phoenix design with a few extra glads and roses thanks to jane

In choosing the colors, I started with the green glads and wanted pink roses to complement them, especially because the intended location for this guy was June’s house (June is 2) and her favorite color is pink. I accidentally cut my glads too short and ended up putting a bunch of myrtle in to compensate – which during our evaluation in front of class, Jane took out, leaving just the curly willow. I’m glad she did this, I think in Basic she doesn’t critique our designs quite as much but how are you going to learn, right? Anyway, this design is very big and didn’t end up fitting at the intended location! So it’s up at the ‘big house’ lasting quite well though because of it’s size it’s a bit thirstier than other arrangements I’ve made.

my Phoenix design in a home setting


After a long day in Advanced I’m pretty fried- in a good way. I made it!