Tuesday, April 30, 2013


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.
Love, Harmony and Floral Fabulosity . . .

Monday, April 29, 2013


Hello again! We are nearing the end of the alphabet here at Flowers A–Z, but the creativity does not wane. For this week’s post, I selected a regal fan favorite: the tulip. This particular variety of tulip — yellow crown — opens beautifully and is the perfect remedy for any spirit anticipating a long, chilly fall/winter season. “Y” is for yellow crown tulips.
Although tulips are spring-blooming perennial bulbs, they are generally available for import year round in major cities. Tulips come in myriad hues and shapes: every color of the rainbow (except blue), cup-shaped, star-shaped, variegated, fringed . . . you name it. Typically, people associate the tulip most closely with the Netherlands, where they are grown in spectacular droves and shipped all over the world. However, tulips were originally commercially cultivated during the Ottoman Empire and are extremely popular in Iran and Turkey, where they have been featured over the centuries in art, literature and cultural celebrations.

The yellow crown and her crown jewels (okay, fine, vintage brooches, but STILL).

Tulips are such a dynamic bloom; after you bring them home, they continue to open and even grow in water, which changes their shape from a stiff stalk presentation to a courtly bow.
I am attending a baby shower this weekend, and it inspired me to use yellow crown tulips in a gift bouquet for the hostess. In addition to bringing the gift of fresh florals, I thought to embellish the bouquet wrapping with a few vintage brooches. This way, long after the flowers have faded, she’ll be left with a more permanent token. 
The full post continues after the jump…
Oh, so many options from which to choose. Select a few vintage brooches or another trinket that your gift recipient might adore. If you select an item that cannot be fastened directly to the bouquet handle, you can always tie the bouquet with a simple ribbon and hang it from one end of the bow.
Gather your yellow crown tulips (or any bright tulip bunch) and prepare to make a hand-tied bouquet. For the record, tulips are generally inexpensive and widely available. If you pick up a bunch at your local florist (or street kiosk or market), lovingly cut the stems at a sharp angle and plunk them in fresh water, you could be perfectly contented. But let’s take it to the next level.
SIMPLE TRICK: I always get my floral tape ready before filling my hands with flowers. You can snip off two pieces for your wrap and do like I do: Stick them to the edge of your workstation for easy access with one hand. You will be grateful for this step when you have an unwieldy bouquet to tame!
I like to feature the tulips a bit higher than the other blooms in the bouquet. They have the opportunity to drape and show off this way. For my bouquet, I selected soft pastels for the accompanying blooms to go with the baby shower theme: peach cyrtanthus, silver spray roses, peach ranunculus and a little dusty miller for soft texture.
To create the bouquet, I hold the flowers in my non-dominant hand, add one bloom at a time using my dominant hand, twist the bouquet about one degree, readjust and repeat. This technique assures a round shape and allows you to keep the stems gathered in straight lines.
Good thing I had that floral tape at the ready! Use your dominant hand to grab the tape from the workstation and slip the end under the thumb of your non-dominant hand. Hold the end of the tape tightly with that thumb and use your dominant hand to wrap the tape all the way around the base of the bouquet.
Repeat an inch or so down from your first taping, and you will have a tidy bouquet handle that is ready for wrapping.
So fresh and spring-y! You can double down by using a stretchy floral tape overlay on the bouquet handle or simply move straight to your ribbon wrap.
When you have reached the end of your ribbon wrap, fold the edge under neatly and secure with pins. Some people might stop there. Not us, my friends.
I twisted the bouquet around and fastened three of my favorite brooches to the handle, an extra something special for the weekend’s event. Anyone can bring flowers to a social engagement, but not everyone decides to make the bouquet themselves and attach jewels to the wrap. You know who does something like that? A Flowers A–Zreader, that’s who :)
Waltz into your next party or gathering with a Cheshire Cat smile as you present the host or honoree with your bedazzled bouquet. Go ahead; feel smug about your accomplishment. And join me back here TOMORROW when “z” (Z? Are we already at z?) will be for . . .

Saturday, April 27, 2013


And they said it couldn’t be done. Greetings, flower fans, and welcome back to Flowers A–Z! This week, I was confronted with perhaps the most challenging of all letters, and although I seriously considered something along the lines of “eXcellent dahlia,” I knew I had to dig deeper. While not exactly a flower, the bold Xanadu philodendron fit the bill. “X” is for Xanadu philodendron! When I heard that this variety of philodendron was called Xanadu, I was immediately transported back to the 1980 Olivia Newton John film (hello, Aussie readers!) and my six-year-old fantasies of being a roller-skating muse. SOLD! 

Although we typically think of philodendron as primarily foliage, they are considered a flowering plant (and many species produce gorgeous tropical blooms). There are hundreds of species within the philodendron family, and they are native to the tropical regions of the Americas and the West Indies. Philodendron like water and humidity and can just as easily climb trees and rocks as they can spread in thick outcroppings on the jungle floor. Some of my favorite tidbits about philodendron come from their role with indigenous cultures in the Amazon: Tribal peoples use the leaves to make ropes, nets and poison fish, and witch doctors use the leaves both in cures and for ceremonial purposes.

Because I wanted to use cool colors to complement the philodendron leaves for this week’s arrangement, I decided to incorporate succulents. For our little “how-to,” I’ll demonstrate staking succulents, so they can be used as flowers in a bouquet or arrangement. Follow me after the jump for this quick DIY. 
The full post continues after the jump . . .
This project requires only a few tools:
  • wooden floral stakes from any floral supply store
  • thick waterproof floral tape
  • thin stretchy floral tape
  • floral knife or clippers
  • your succulents
Although floral stakes are already pointed, we need to make them into sharper spears in order to poke them into the base of the succulents. Use your clippers or knife to carve the end into a finer point.
Now you can spear into the center of the succulent’s base, creating a stem for the succulent “flower.” Be sure not to poke all the way through the succulent. Just about halfway into the bloom is the way to go.
If you are lucky enough to find a succulent with a little tail, even better!
Take the floral stake and tape it right to the tail using the thick waterproof tape.
For either technique, start the process with the thick waterproof tape. It creates a more solid foundation. Follow that step by wrapping over the thick tape with the thin, stretchy floral tape. This yields more security and a smoother feel. Now you are ready to use these succulents like you would any flower with a nice, sturdy stem! The beauty of floral stakes is that they can be cut with clippers just like a floral stem, so while designing, you are not constrained to the height of the stake.
Now back to the philodendron — tuck them into any bountiful arrangement. Here I used a mix of tropicals (like mini callas) with more traditional/garden-y parrot tulips, brassica and hydrangea. Couldn’t you go bananas over that luscious violet antique Dutch hydrangea? I used the philodendron throughout the arrangement — as an accent around the neck of the vase, nestled in with other blooms, up high for some flair . . . whatever suits your fancy, please do!
And look at how the majestic succulents can masquerade as any full “face” flower.

Despite what you may have heard, never be afraid to mix tropicals or unusual foliage with more typical garden flowers. The trick is in your palette selection and the way you design. When in doubt, if you keep all the elements on relatively the same plane, the results will look clean and modern.
Don’t hesitate to play with color and form in your selection of florals, and join me back here when “y” will be for . . .


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