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!

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day one – basic floral design I at longwood

Basic Floral Design I, my Xmas present from the Huzz, began this week.  Combined with what I’ve been learning at the shop, there’s one thing I know:  I have a LOT to learn.   But I feel alive when I’m learning! Even though some of the growing pains are quite painful, like when you do something stupid in front of a bunch of people, the end result can be valuable.  This class is full of supportive, nice women who all want to improve their floral design skills.  I would say they range in age from late 20s to early 60s, but I’m guessing. And so far, I LOVE the teacher Jane Godshalk. She’s witty, expressive, and inclusive – and she’s a freelance floral designer.  In fact some of her stuff will be in the upcoming Philly Flower Show(she said she’s working on a big hula guy or something, whose mannequin she keeps in the basement – quite a surprise when her husband goes down to get wine.  haha.) We went over the tools and materials you need, from pruners to ribbon scissors to wire cutters.  I hope someday I’ll have an organized bag full of sharp clean tools!  Right now I’m just using my old ARS pruners that a gardener whose name I can’t remember gave me out in the Hamptons.   I definitely think gloves are also a good idea, the ones we use at the shop are great and I want to buy my own pair of those to keep with me.  Gotta get the brand tomorrow.

We touched on the Elements and Principles of Design, which was just a teaser really – there’s so much to learn there that a 20 minute power point presentation barely scratches the surface. Elements: Light, Space, Line, Form, Color, Texture, Pattern.  Principles: Harmony, Unity, Balance, Dominance, Rhythm, Proportion, Scale, Contrast.  And COLOR – oh boy this is a big one – we got out the old color wheel and poked around it for a little while.  I’m still massively confused about choosing colors.  It’s safer to go with colors that are analagous or next to each other on the wheel as opposed to complementery colors which are opposite on the wheel.  The hue is the color name – like BLUE for example – add white and you get a tint, add black and you get a shade, add grey and you get a tone.  More on this later.  A LOT more.

jane teaches us the basic basics


Onto the class exercise, a “Three Flower Design.’  Jane showed us all three designs, starting with a base of Baker fern and Pittosporum and adding 3 Gerbera in varying ways, and then some huckleberry (botanical name? don’t know.)  Then we had to choose which design we wanted to do.  Personally I wasn’t too turned on by any of them, but decided I would go for the looser more natural looking one.  The class split into Group A and Group B – the A’s chose their flowers while the B’s soaked their floral foam.

Oasis Floral Foam:  this stuff is my new favorite thing!  It will hold your flowers/foliage exactly where you put them, and let your materials drink at the same time. It comes in lots of shapes and sizes.  Max Life is the kind our teacher likes the best.  It’s VERY important to soak this stuff correctly, though:  put the holes facing down and don’t try to drown it yourself, just let it float until it sinks on its own and turns from light to dark green.  Cut to fit the container before you soak, and soften the edges of the foam with a knife for maximum surface area to work with.

UPDATE: UH OH OASIS ISN’T SO GOOD FOR US OR THE ENVIRONMENT  – IT’S NOT BIODEGRADABLE AND IT CONTAINS FORMALDEHYDE – LONG TERM EXPOSURE TO THE DUST FROM THE DRY FORM IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU…HMMM…I’LL BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR BIODEGRADABLE NON TOXIC FLORAL FOAM AND USE OASIS SPARINGLY – info from Sustainable Floristry blog

everyone else is in a floral trance too! jane inspects our work.

We then worked on our designs for…I don’t know, I lost track of the time.   Arranging flowers puts me into the most pleasant trance!!  To me, it was amazing how differently the designs turned out, given that we all had the same materials to work with.  It just shows you how different people really are!

melissa's arrangement matched her personality and the gerbera's feeling

Afeefa - a jewelry designer and crafter - is going to do just fine here!!

flower power

I loved Afeefa’s arrangement – she found these curly wood thingies to put in that added some whimsy.   She was awesome and I loved her necklace – I think she made it.  Everyone got up and said a little about their background and how their ‘design’ went.  I think I said something stupid about having some horticulture background and that I liked how my arrangement was more ‘natural looking’ or garden-y.

my arrangement

In retrospect I think I did this assignment totally incorrectly.  Jane kept saying, “listen to what the flowers are saying to you,” and I know that sentence sounds kooky but I think it’s probably a very good and solid basis for flower arranging in general.  And I didn’t listen: I forced my own desire for things to look natural on Gerbera, which by nature are very formal and synchronous and, well, perfect.  Later, at home, I ripped the Gerbera out and put them in a vase with water.  They just didn’t look right to me popping out of a hedge.  And then I used the hedge parts for something else.  Can’t wait for the next class!!