Welcome back, flower fans and alphabet zealots! We have arrived at our final installment of Flowers A–Z, which can only mean that “z” is for zantedeschia (more commonly known as the calla lily). Although there are a few other worthy “z” flowers (zinnia comes to mind), the calla is both in season and the most elegant example of a tubular bloom I can imagine.
The calla is native to South Africa, was cultivated next in Australia and has slowly been introduced around the world to other arid climates, such as Latin America and southern California. The calla comes in the traditional large, white, cup-shaped bloom (made popular in Mexican modern art) with a yellow stamen, as well as smaller “mini” versions. Mini callas come in several rich hues — from the two-toned “Picasso” pictured above and the deep burgundy “Schwarzwalder” (also pictured above) to other red, mango, peach and yellow shades. The classic white callas have been popularized as an Easter flower, particularly in Great Britain, and are sometimes called “Easter Lilies” in England and Ireland.
I thought the most appropriate way to wrap up the “A–Z” series would be to recap all the fundamentals of floral design in one final arrangement demonstration. No fancy tricks or special additions in this post; just a summary of design basics.
My favorite calla is the Schwarzwalder pictured above. This calla incorporated into fall and winter arrangements yields the perfect amount of texture and drama.
Luckily, callas have essentially no foliage to clean. Simply cut the stems at a sharp angle (with clippers or a knife) and place them in fresh, cool water. IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT CALLAS: If you are using callas alone in a simple bundle, place them in only 2 to 3 inches of water. The clean, blunted ends of callas begin to peel and curl up around the stem if they are immersed in too much water. If using them in a mix (as I will do below), throw caution to the wind. Those other blooms will need to drink!
Callas fall into the category of a “tubular” shaped bloom. We have previously discussed the two basic bloom shapes: tubular flowers and “face” flowers. Tubular blooms are long and lean, while face blooms are round. A basic design principle is to use a balanced mix of tubular and face flowers in any given arrangement. As always, we have broken this rule whenever necessary :) But it is helpful to note this concept as a foundation of floral design.
The easiest way to begin an arrangement is to create a structure of “greens” for yourself. Your greens will serve as the skeleton and scaffolding into which you will place the other florals. Clean off all the foliage that falls below the water line. You always want the vase to be comprised of clean stems and fresh water, exclusively. Lastly, the greens should sit just above the neck of the vase, obscuring the rim from view. Here, I am using olive branches. I love the pop of color and texture provided by the adorable olives.
Never fear texture! I have added some Privet Berry to my greens. Whatever seasonal greens or other elements you decide to use in an arrangement, be sure to experiment with color and texture. Often, I use up to 5 to 6 greens, pods, berries, etc. in an arrangement before even reaching for a traditional bloom.
The addition of Daucus (a relative of Queen Anne’s Lace) and French tulips add another layer of color and airy height. Because I already had a stable structure of greens in the vase, these taller elements are free to stand securely. You can also add the taller elements at the end, but I wanted to give myself a few stalks around which to design clusters of other blooms.
An autumn cornucopia! Feminine spray roses, soft ranunculus and, of course, our callas, fill in the spaces. In almost all my designs, I use some combination of distributing individual blooms throughout the container and clustering them together in bunches. I find this mix creates a visual feast and that certain blooms (callas, in particular) are much more interesting when clustered.
Even when utilizing a more pave design (a flower-on-flower look, where the blooms are mostly on the same plane) you can achieve great texture by integrating greens, tubular blooms and face blooms. Color also provides texture within the structure of your design.
Movement is achieved using tubular florals and greens that drape away from the vase.
If you want a specific bloom to really shine, try placing it within a patch of elements that have a completely different shape and hue, as I have done here with the Picasso callas. With this cluster of callas against a backdrop of Privet Berry, the eye is drawn directly to the gorgeous bell-shaped blooms.
PHEW! So those are my ultimate floral lessons in a nutshell. I truly believe that you don’t have to spend a lot of money or select really exotic flowers to create fabulous arrangements. The basic concepts of using only fresh flowers and greens, cleaning them well with proper technique and changing out the water every other day can go a long way. If you bear in mind shape, texture and color, you can use any seasonal blooms that you find at the supermarket, corner bodega, terrace or backyard. Finally, if you develop the confidence to test out new techniques and LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING while you are doing it, you absolutely cannot go wrong. This can be achieved with local carnations and baby’s breath as easily as with California garden roses and Dutch hydrangea. I promise.
Go forth and DESIGN and stay tuned for my future Wilderness floral adventures.