Flower Play

With Valentine’s Day just ahead, I took advantage of the many bargain-priced blooms currently available to offer tips on flower arranging in my Saturday garden column in The Greenville News.

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Store-bought blooms and foliage are in abundant supply because of Valentine’s Day.

I can’t name retailers in the newspaper, but I can tell you here that most of the flowers were found at Trader Joe’s and a few, such as the mixed group of roses, were from Costco. In all, I bought 114 stems, including 32 roses, for just under $75. The most expensive were white hydrangea clusters, which cost $2 each. Others, such as iris, alstromeria, stock, heather, tulips, and lilies, cost much less. For filler, I also bagged a few bundles of eucalyptus foliage and cut a variety of evergreens from my garden, including stems of camellia foliage with fat flower buds. Glass vases, which I think make the prettiest gift presentation, had been collected from resale shops.

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Despite imperfections, or perhaps because of them, homemade arrangements are especially pleasing.

With these supplies at hand, I created five offerings for Valentine’s Day, plus a handful of more modest arrangements to use at home. None are perfect, but luckily perfection is not required or even desired when “making your own.” A homemade bouquet is always the most charming…and the most appreciated.

Though many of you likely know the basics of combining blooms (from your gardening experiences), arranging in glass (without the benefit of a frog or block of foam) can be a bit tricky, as a number of crossed stems are required to hold a design in place. I begin with several cuttings of foliage, crossing their stems in the middle of the vase, before outlining the shape of the design with its dominate flowers, and then layering in smaller flowers, more foliage, and any decorative details like berries. A Lazy Susan, if you have one, makes the job easier.

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Colors near each other on the color wheel create a harmonious mix. As you can see, red works well with either purple (between red and blue) or orange (between red and yellow).

When combining colors, I prefer those that fall next to each other on the color wheel. White blooms, I’ve discovered, look best when softened with gray foliage, such as eucalyptus.

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Soften the “light-bulb effect” of white flowers with gray foliage.

What are your best tips for flower arranging?

To see what others are showcasing today for In a Vase on Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

29 thoughts on “Flower Play

  1. johnvic8

    A great perspective, Marian. We shouldn’t feel guilty about using bought flowers. Often, they are the only choice. My Arranger loves yellow roses. I don’t grow them (and they wouldn’t be available for Valentines anyway) so I go to Harris-Teeter. She’s happy!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      John–Harris-Teeter is my favorite grocery and I’m happy to say they are coming back to Greenville soon. Do you have a Trader Joe’s? Their flowers are a loss leader; they almost give them away to get customers in the door.

      Reply
  2. Christina

    Some good tips Marian; thank you. In the UK the cost of flowers around Valentine’s double or quadruple; your prices sound incredibly low. Maybe if I could buy flowers as cheaply as that I wouldn’t grow them – just maybe!!

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Christina–What I wouldn’t give to have a sunny patch among my acre of shade to grow a few glorious blooms like yours! I enjoy having flowers in the house, arranged or not, so store-bought is usually my only option. Today, however, I have a little vase of iris unguicularis on my desk and they are proving to be delightful company while I work (and procrastinate).

      Reply
  3. An Eye For Detail

    I’m going to Trader Joes, but not until tomorrow…wonder what will actually be left by the 14th! But yes, Harris Teeter almost always has wonderful flowers and good prices! I do use glass vases, though not often, and will put some pretty stones in the bottom for texture and design.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Libby–The stones would help hold the stems, but I refresh the water every few days (without removing the flowers) so I’m not sure how well the stones would work in that case.

      Reply
  4. Julie@peonies&posies

    You are very lucky to have a store like Trader Joes to shop from – my local UK supermarket had flowers at an astronomical price today for Valentines Day. Although I feature flowers from my garden on a Monday I do often have bought flowers in the house – especially in the winter when pickings are scarce. Right now I have a lovely vase of hyacinths, hellebores, ranunculus and cherry blossom on my kitchen window ledge. Thank you for sharing the tips.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Julie–Yes, Trader Joe’s is quite unique. It also features wine at very low prices and a good variety of foods from around the world…some very good English cheddar, if fact.

      Reply
  5. Brenda

    Lovely arrangements, Marian. I can use all the tips you can give. Unfortunately, we don’t have a very good selection of flowers at our local stores. Blue-dyed orchids that make me shudder. Still, a few tulips will do me just fine.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Brenda–I’ve seen those blue-dyed orchids and you are right, they are unspeakable. Oddly enough, I saw many spray dyed flowers in Italy on my last visit and they were equally terrible. Tulips are lovely and though I did use some in mixed arrangements, they are really best in a vase on their own because their stems continue to grow. In a mixed group you have to pull them out every few days and shorten the stems.

      Reply
  6. Cathy

    I like your suggestion of criss crossing some foliage first. Chrstina is right about the price of flowers in the UK increasing in advance of Valentine’s Day but I noticed that Aldi (a discount supermarket) is selling 100 red roses for £25 this year which is ridiculously cheap – but what life will there be in those roses? They are so pristine with their long vertical stems that they look almost artificial, and will definitely have no scent

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Cathy–We have Aldi! But you are right about store-bought roses…and other flowers too. They are no substitute for the real thing. In many ways, its terrible to think about what we do to plants, the environment, and the humans who work in the industry, to produce this glut of cheap blooms. Many of the flowers are covered in pesticides and other chemicals that are a great danger to those who harvest and package them, as well as the florists who arrange them.

      Reply
  7. Eliza Waters

    Golly, no wonder big retailers are putting florists out of business. The prices you paid are practically wholesale. Who can compete with that? It’s sad because we need florists to do our weddings and funerals! 😉

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Eliza–I take the point but perhaps florists need to change with the times. Most weddings and funerals are simpler these days and the trend is toward more natural, farm to table flowers. One of my great aunts, Bessie, arranged for her funeral spray to be made from evergreens, branches, and berries collected from her farm and it was lovely…and such a beautiful reflection of the life she lived.

      Reply
      1. Eliza Waters

        Oh, I love that. Bessie must have been a special person.
        I agree with the need to keep current with the latest trends. However, still there are high profile, flower-heavy weddings. Most folks don’t want to deal personally with flowers during milestone events. The other service that makes florists necessary is when someone lives far away, yet wants to send something freshly made. 1-800-FLOWERS can send flowers but the recipient has to make it, which would be wonderful to you or I, but a nightmare for some! 😉

  8. Chloris

    Lovely arrangements. I never buy flowers, but when I look at your beautiful vases I think that it would be fun now and then to be able to play with these bright colours which aren’t available outside in winter.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Chloris–Yes, store bought is a poor substitute. Plus, a garden jumble is more romantic. Grocery flowers, especially the roses, don’t lend themselves to the soft caress that can be achieved with home grown. The hydrangea vase came closest, I think. It looked better after the flowers were more hydrated…and less “bag smashed.”

      Reply
  9. Sharon Lanier

    M, you certainly have the “eye” for putting together those arrangements. And my, oh my, you certainly got a lot of flowers, and subsequently, arrangements for your $75.00 !!! Having a hard time deciding which would be my favorite.

    Reply
  10. digwithdorris

    Interesting that your flowers are cheaper, here they get more expensive at valentines. I think white flowers work best with other whites or the palest pastels. They don’t go well with colour.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Dorris–Perhaps that is why there are so many white gardens. But I like white with blue, especially when tempered with gray, and I like white with bright yellow. In fact, I saw a white and yellow garden once with touches of blue (it was the Vean Garden at Bosvigo House, Cornwall) and I thought (and still think) it was the most perfect garden I’ve ever laid eyes on. Check it out here: http://www.bosvigo.com/the-gardens.

      Reply

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