so, what do you do with flowers?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

As you saw, my padre left some gorgeous flowers on my doorstep.  This was the perfect gift because...
A: flowers are one of my favorite things in the world
B: he got me un-arranged flowers (important, so that I can do them myself)
C: He got me flowers barely opened (most people go for the ones that are fully opened because they think that it's prettier, in reality those are about to die.)

Good job, padre.

So, in high-school (and as extra help on Valentine's and Mother's Day in college) I worked at the local florist.  It was one of my all-time favorite jobs (Delivering flowers is awesome. Who doesn't like getting flowers?  All you do is make people happy!) and gave me some seriously useful flower arranging skills.  I thought I'd take a few pictures documenting how I used those skills and arranged the flowers my dad gave me.

First thing to consider?  Your container.  You don't have to use a vase; you can use a drinking glass, mason jar, flower pot, a sugar bowl, etc.  In fact, in terms of proportion and scale, I think it's easier to create a "good" arrangement in the beginning if you're using something short and fat rather than a tall vase - but that's just my opinion.  Today I used an old trophy cup I found at Goodwill, it says "H. T. C. H. T. 1979" and I have no idea what that means, but it cost me $1.99, so I love it.
See?  There are hundreds of similar items for a couple bucks at your local thrift store.  I could probably use a little silver cleaner on it, but I kind of like the "aged" look it has.

An important preparation step is to take off any leaves on the bottom of the stem.  The rule is that there shouldn't be any leaves that touch the water in your container.  If leaves stay in water, they start to disintegrate and make your water really gross/smelly.  This also helps everything fit in the container properly.

Then, you want to put the container you're using on the edge of the counter or table you'll work on.  (Or in my case, the stove... Why did I do that again?)  You'll place the flower (outside of the vase) at the height you want it in the final arrangement.
Doing this lets you know where to cut the stem.  With a normal vase or container, you'd cut it just at the edge of the counter top (or stove in my case), since I was using a footed container, I simply cut it at the bottom of the cup.  This is a really important step, because if you don't, you're just cutting blind.  If you cut a flower too long, well, fine... You just shorten it a bit.  If you cut it too short, however, you're kind of screwed.

You always should cut the end of a flower stem at as much of an angle as you can.  This gives the stem as much open surface area as possible to soak up the water.
Even if you're using flowers that you don't want to shorten, make sure you trim the ends just a bit.  You need to angle them like I've shown and you want to cut off  the end.  It has died between being harvested and ending up in your hands and it won't soak up water as effectively as you need it to.

With these flowers and the trophy cup I used, I went with short and round arrangement.  This will be easier to keep proportional and even than a tall, thin shape.
If you feel nervous about arranging your own flowers (as opposed to letting the florist do it) I'd go with a single type of flower.  Create a tight, even, round arrangement and it'll look chic and effortless.   If you want to do multiple kinds of flowers, I'd pick them yourself.  Those "mixed bouquets" that the grocery store sells aren't going to be the freshest (were each of those kinds of flowers picked on the same day?) and going to be full of less than desirable flowers.   If you want a variety, get a main flower with an interesting shape (I love peonies and ranunculas) and a filler flower or greenery with some fullness (those are invaluable for filling in the holes) in complementing colors.  If you pick colors with some similarity, it's easier to keep things even and balanced. (i.e. never worrying, "I need to put some more filler on this side, but I already have too much of that color over there.")

Like I said earlier, the smart way to buy flowers is to get barely opened ones (good job, padre.)  Of course, if you need flowers for a specific event, then you'll want to buy them looking perfect, but flowers that aren't fully opened still have a gorgeous sculptural quality to them.  This gives you more time with them (duh) but also a little more flexibility.   With these flowers, for instance, after they start to open, they'll be too big for the base they're in now, so I'll have to divide them up.  I'll probably use a little sugar bowl I found at (wait for it...) a thrift store for a couple of bucks.
Then, I get two arrangements for the price of one.

This has been a ridiculous 885 words about flower arranging.. but!  It's something that people are scared to do themselves and that's just ridiculous.


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