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!

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day five – basic floral design I at longwood

Roman fresco with garland of laurel leaves, pomegranates, sheaths of wheat, and pine cones - photo courtesy of metmuseum.org

In today’s class we talked about garlands, which were popularized during the Greek and Roman Periods.   “Garland:  a wreath or festoon of flowers, leaves, or other material, worn for ornament as an honor or hung on something as a decoration.”  Personally, I like the idea of festooning long garlands all around the house and wearing a head garland at the same time.  In ancient Greece, head garlands (also called chaplets) were made of predominately foliage, and were awarded to honor athletes and heroes as symbols of allegiance and dedication.

Apollo crowned with a laurel wreath / photo courtesy of http://www.theoi.com

During the Roman period, garlands and wreaths were heavy and elaborate with fragrant and colorful blooms.  An abundance of lavish flowers was seen as a sign of opulence and wealth.  According to our teacher Jane Godshalk, there’s a story of one rich Roman Emperor who had a dinner party with a fragrant surprise: ceiling panels full of roses and other flowers. The idea was to let the canvases fall deliciously over the heads of his guests.  But it didn’t go like that –  a few of his guests were in fact smothered by his fabulous flowers.

party gone wrong at Elagabalus the Roman Emperor's place

There are a few ways of going about making a garland, and though we weren’t able to cover actually doing them all in this class, we were given a quick demo on how to make a wire garland, using pre-soaked Oasis blocks wrapped in plastic wrap and enclosed in chicken wire.  You just stick the materials into that, careful of the dripping.  A rope or twine based garland seems easy enough – just wire bundles of flowers/foliage around a stretch of rope or twine, making a loop with the twine on either end to hang it easily.  Work from one end to the middle, and then the other end to the middle. These are good for wrapping around pillars or poles, hanging swags on a table, or framing a window or door.

small garland of purple limonium, seeded eucalyptus, and bupleurum made by Jenny in class

And then there’s the table garland – essentially a wreath formed out of Oasis that you poke your plant materials into. Start with a basing of greens – in this case we used Ruscus, Myrtle, Galax and Seeded Eucalyptus.  Place them inside and out of the ring at varying angles.

my table garland/wreath in action - dinner courtesy of Dad and Julie with the wonderful company of Meg

Then add your main flowers – in this case spray roses and carnations.  Group them evenly throughout.  I used the seeded Eucalyptus as a filler flower really, but Limonium or I hate to say it Gypsophila also work well as a filler.  All of these items except the carnations (these were left over from another class) will dry pretty well and therefore this table garland borders on everlasting.

my first table garland/wreath - put a candle in the center and call it a day

All of these garlands are quite labor intensive and therefore should be done the day before an event.  That goes for head garlands too. In fact, I had just enough time in class to squeeze out a quickie for my niece June.

Niece June modeling the head garland I made

This was super fun to make and not too hard at all.  I measured out a piece of honeysuckle wire (just a wire with a brown wrapping, also comes in green,) making one end into a loop.  Then I made small bunches of daisy mums, Bupleurum, and Gypsophila or Baby’s Breath in my hand, which I then wired onto the main wire using bind wire.  Many mini bundles later the garland was filled, and I added some white ribbon on.

Head garland of Bupleurum, daisy mums and gypsophila on June

I really, really liked making the head garland.  I love the idea of wearable flowers – this might be a niche for me.  And when you put them on you feel like a total princess! (Or Greek goddess!)

Despite it's small size, I couldn't resist putting on the garland myself. photo courtesy of Juliet

day two – basic floral design I at longwood

I was eager for class #2, possibly because I felt a little more confident after the previous weeks of floral experience at the shop, and because it seemed we’d only scratched the surface during class #1.  There’s so much to learn when you’re dealing with plants, and that’s part of the reason I like it.  I never want to run out of new things to learn.

We are encouraged to make a little sketch before we begin, this is mine.

While waiting for the rest of the class to show, a few students and the teacher were discussing the upcoming Longwood lecture on Sustainable Floral Design.  Someone wondered about the lecturer, Jane Clark, and because I had been researching this topic, and her, I piped up that she had once had a shop called Fleurish which was no longer in business.  Our teacher’s immediate reply was, “that’s because you can’t do sustainable flowers.  Is organic impossible? To be competitive, yes it is.”  She went on to say that if you’re bidding against a non-sustainable florists, their prices are always going to be lower.  Organic flowers cost much more. But..isn’t there a market (maybe small, yes) of people who want “green” flowers, who don’t want the flowers at their wedding flown in from Columbia, dripping with pesticide? This will be a big topic for me, I think, and I’m just starting to research how others approach it.

Locally grown arrangement created by Jennie Love, photo courtesy of lovenfreshflowers.com

Some just grow their own flowers and are done with it.  You have to admire that approach, and that’s why someday I want to meet Jennie Love, proprietor of Love ‘n Fresh Flowers.  She grows her own flowers in an urban location, which she sells through local stores and a Flower CSA, and also creates unique floral designs for events such as “eco-lovely weddings.” She’s doing a Floral Fun class at Longwood in the summer I hope to attend.

Arrangement in shape of Hogarth's Curve of Beauty

Ok, back to class.  We discussed the Shape of floral arrangements.  They can be round, horizontal, crescent, vertical, oval, symmetrical and asymmetrical triangle, fan, Hogarth (curve of beauty,) or parallel systems.  Gosh, I hope I never have to make a Hogarth arrangement…too hard!  We talked about Balance, Proportion and Scale within the context of these shapes, and then moved on to the flower and foliage forms.

Lily is example of a Form Flower - distinctive shape - this has been blooming for 2 wks

For example, line Flowers are linear in shape, and create height in an arrangement.  Like Delphinium, Snapdragon, etc.  Form flowers have distinctive shapes which add interest to a design: like Gerbera, Amaryllis, Lily.  Mass flowers are solitary flowers with a single round head like Roses, Carnations.  Filler flowers – Baby’s breath, Waxflower, Queen Anne’s Lace.  And then the Renegade flower is one which may be used as more than one type or just doesn’t fit into any category, like Bird of Paradise.

Florida Ruscus is 'mass foliage' hiding the mechanics, baker fern is filler and adds a dainty edging

Similarly, foliage has its’ forms as well.  Linear like spiral eucalyptus, flax, or some grasses.  Form foliage has an interesting shape or texture, color or pattern, like papyrus, monstera leaves, caladium.  Mass foliage adds bulk and covers the mechanics of an arrangement, like pittosporum, huckleberry, camellia, leatherleaf.  Filler foliage is smaller in scale and sometimes wispy, like fern, boxwood, ivy.

After the greens, Jane adds stock flower - the "line flower" always goes first

For this class, we were to make a round arrangement, or a “Roundy Moundy” using line, form, and filler flowers in a Revere bowl.  Ours were not real silver, mind you.  Roundy Moundies are “the most useful” shape for arranging, says Jane.  Also, the “Golden Rule” of floral design is that your flowers are 2/3 of the design, and your container is 1/3.  We started off with Oasis, again (but this time, Jane admitted that you should use floral foam “sparingly,” as it’s not recyclable) making sure that the floral foam actually rose ABOVE the lip of the container a bit.  This gives you the ability to point stems at a downward angle to hang over the container, achieving a fullness and roundness.  Next, we created our base of greens.  Then we added our line flower or Stock in this case.  On top of the Ruscus and Fern, here’s what each of us had to work with:  6 Stock, 10 roses, 4 carnation, 3 Waxflower or Baby’s Breath, 3 Pussywillow for accent if wanted.

After form flowers (roses+carnations) and filler (waxflower,) Jane adds pussy willows for accent

And…GO! I went into a MAJOR trance while arranging this time – sorry Melissa if I seemed out of it while you were chatting me up.  I was in the zone.  Once again, everyone had such unique designs given that we all had the same material, and I’m just mesmerized by this expression.  Here are some of the lovely results:

line of roundy moundies

the "cupcake"

purple pride

afeefa's rocks again

melissa's! nice!

airy one by pat


my roundy moundy - i bunched flowers instead of spacing them perfectly

Oh, wait there’s one more.  Our classes are enlivened by Betty’s presence.  She is the class “loudmouth,” (her word,) and always has a funny comment to make.  During this class she had us all laughing by creating new “technical terms” like ‘big ol honking flower’ to refer to the Stock we were using.  She’s a hoot – and talking to her in the parking lot I found out she’s a landscape gardener who lives in DE.  I got an invite back to her place to talk Cutting Gardens!  Sometime soon, I’ll have to do that.

these arrangements look way different in daylight i noticed - VIVA BETTY !!