Monday, November 8, 2010

Native Plant Flower Arrangements

And now for something completely different! Arranging with Florida's native flowers is easy and fun. Not to mention economical. Even a couple of stems in a miniature holder placed on shelf or ledge are such a treat when you bring them outside indoors. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

There is always something interesting to put in an arrangement if you have a native yard. Fall is a time when the wildflowers are at their peak in Florida, so its easy to gather a bunch of things you like and stick them in a container. Sometimes people are put off doing their own arrangements because they are worried about design rules, or because they think they aren't "artistic." But honestly, you don't need to know any rules, although I will give you a few. The beauty is in the plants themselves. Let's get started!



It would have been great if I had had time to get this in front of a backdrop, but I didn't. This is one of my favorite ways to arrange flowers: I love a full, exuberant look. This one is made up of firebush, beautyberry, and Walter's viburnum.

There is only rule you really have to pay attention to, and it has nothing to do with design. Pick your flowers (as with herbs) in the early morning or at the end of the day, when it has begun to cool down. You don't want heat-stressed, limp, sagging flowers, you want nice standing-up, moisturized flowers. They look better and last much longer. Early morning is my first choice, when plants have had the whole night to rest. This one is constructed without the use of any tape, oasis (floral foam) or other holders. I found a excellent video segment that shows you one way to put one like this together:
http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-arrange-flowers. With a tall vase and lots of long stems, you really don't need to worry about about how it will stand up; the plants support each other.


Gather more than you think you will need, because you will need it! Take a big bucket of just-warm-to-the-touch water with you and dunk whole stems into it as you go along. Don't worry yet about having all the leaves attached. Just gather and get the stuff and get in out of the sun quickly. Once the plants are cut, you don't want them to stay out in the sun any longer than necessary. Then work in a shaded, cool area where you can spread things out to look at them and make a bit of mess without worrying about it. Have good sharp tools for cutting your stems.

Fall display by Ann Redmond
 When you get into the shade, choose the stems you think you will start with and strip them of leaves that would be below the water, to keep it clean. You have chosen a container that you love, of course, a mason jar or a ceramic jug or a silver vase -  just about anything that can hold water and has interest, whimsy or beauty.  If your arrangement is going to be tall, because your stems or your holder have length, then follow this simple general rule. The container should be roughly one third of the overall height. Proceeding upward, your flowers should be roughly two-thirds of the overall height. This will give you a basic balance that works well. The arrangement on the right illustrates this, although the container here is hidden in the photo by the accompanying pumpkins, it follows the rule, roughly!

Now comes the fun part of just sticking things in. Another general rule you can follow if you want to is to put the more massive things toward the bottom. If you have a very heavy or large bloom, put at least one of them near the edge of your container to kind of anchor the look. Even in a symmetrical arrangement, use uneven numbers of blooms, or groups of blooms. Three, five, seven, one. In the teapot below, it looks like a heavy bloom is up on top, and you can see how it feels kind of uncomfortable. Actually, the bloom was not bigger, but it was falling out to the side and was that much nearer the camera. I was going nuts trying to get the whole thing, including the muhly grass, in the camera frame, and still be close enough to see some detail. Sigh. My photographic skills frequently lag my ambition.

The muhly grass seedhead makes a wonderful addition to an arrangement this time of year, as do many of the grasses, or even stems of seedpods from matured flower stalks. You can have these either hanging out the sides, or floating above the other things all by itself. If you have it out to the sides, stick a few stems in the middle too, or it will look awkward.
It's the uneven number thing. This arrangement features our friend the beach dune sunflower, just another of its many attractions. When you pick this flower to put in a vase, you will notice that the stems are often curved just below the flower, (as it was trying to get into the sunlight) so be aware of the curvature when you place it. Don't go crazy trying to fit it into a spot you want filled where the curvature is not working with you. The one yellow droopy thing is necklace pod.

Here's my last trick. If you are using firebush, you may find that you have too many leaves and not enough of the flower in the picture. Take the stem and gently strip or cut off all the leaves under the flower. Now you will be able to easily insert a nice red piece right where you want to see red.

 Now that you've read this, you're a certified Native Flower Arranger. So go out and look around, the hunt is part of the fun. And hey, send us a photo of your creation! We'll post a collection of them, along with any tips you have for us. fnps.online@gmail.com

3 comments:

Loret said...

Fabulous! Left outside they make great natural bird feeders too!

Elizabeth Smith said...

Beautiful arrangements - Beach sunflower and Firebush are both favorites!

The Jolly Bloggers said...

Thank you, Loret, great idea! And thanks for the compliment, Elizabeth. When will I see photos of your arrangements??!! sue