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?

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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 six – basic floral design I at longwood – last day of basic!

There was overlap with Advanced and Basic this past week.  But this was the last Basic class, boo hoo! I never wanted it to end.   In today’s class we reviewed the principles and elements of design, and then did 2 arrangements.  The first was a simple market bouquet in glass, taken apart and re-designed with added greens and a few extra flowers.  I think we’ve all had experience with this- you bring home a bouquet from the grocery store and you can’t just stick it into a vase “as-is.” You need to break all the stems into groups and analyze what you have.  Often the bouquet from the market has the different flowers placed in a very regular pattern all around – but maybe you’d like it better and there would be more impact if some of the flowers were grouped together.  This was quick and easy but important as it was our first design in glass with water – no Oasis!  So how will the stems stay in place? We had a few options for the mechanics – the first was to create a grid out of clear tape, creating 1″ holes on a dry vase and running tape all around the rim once finished.

clear tape grid method for designing in glass

The second, and the one I went for as it would create interest in the lower half of the arrangement, was the branch structure with willow.  Wrap a stem of curly willow around your hand and smush it into the glass, adding a few big stems in a criss cross pattern for more support, and 2-4 more wrapped stems as needed. You could use any other flexible stems for this, like red stemmed dogwood for example.  Just make sure they’re pretty bendy.

using natural stems to create supporting mechanic for arrangement

Personally I know I will use this method again, it was really easy to work with – the stems stayed put – and I really liked the way it looked especially after you put water into the design.  Of course there are many other ways to support stems in water – by using kenzans/frogs/pin holders, or using foliage or large flowers at the base to keep other flowers stable.

my market bouquet in glass - curly willow added last to reflect the basing stems

isn't this tulip delicious?

branch structure looks even cooler when you add water!

Next up, the one flower/one foliage stem design in glass.  We were given a glass cylinder vase and a quick demo from instructor Jane on some unique things you can do to various foliage stems to create drama.  Here she’s wired Equisetum to get it to conform to the shape she wants – a long rectangle – that will contain the single lily flower like a frame.   She’s also revealed a very important trick of the trade – called U-Glu dashes which are tiny dots of clear tacky glue that can help stems stay put and so much more.

Jane explaining that the level of the water is part of the design

In a flower show competition, none of the mechanics should be visible unless they are purposefully part of the design, like using bind wire repetitively around a wrapped stem.  As she’s doing her demo, I already have an idea for what I want to do, using Phormium or Flax, and one single Anthurium.   And because the practice of sketching has been pressed into my brain from the Advanced class, I do a quick sketch of a possible arrangement.

my sketch idea for the one flower/one leaf design

Of course, once you start working with the plant material, it might tell you it wants to do something else, which it did in my design.  First I wound the phormium leaf in a spiral around my hand, and sunk it into the container.  I fussed with the spacing and at the top used a bit of U-Glu to adhere it to the vase.  Then, I tried wiring the anthurium because I wanted to to be taller and I wanted to play with it’s form, but that was harder than it looked and I couldn’t get the wire all the way up the stem, so to disguise the wire sticking out at the bottom, I wrapped another phormium leaf around the stem and then bound the whole thing with bind wire in a hopefully decorative way.

bind wire holds the anthurium stem inside the phormium leaf

my one flower/one leaf design after i got it home - had to rejigger things a bit

What was so amazing about this class was again the hugely varied results given that we all had similar material to work with, and all the same vase.  Jane gave us big kudos and we all felt very good about ourselves!

Jane lined up all our designs and had fun playing flower show judge

here all the lily designs are grouped together, giving us the idea that you could create sets of these designs for an event - getting a lot of 'bang for your buck'

this very simple design using a mum and an aralia leaf reminds me of a lotus

one tulip, poked through a flax leaf. i also loved jenny's design using willow and a tulip but didn't get a good pic. sorry!

Mary Jo always has a smile! Love what she did with her flax leaf.

I will miss all the great students of this class! Hope to see you in Basic II in the fall. And thanks, Jane, for getting me hooked on Floral Design.