arrangement of the day

Gerber daisies in a parallel design

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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!!