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In the Garden

Arranging tips from local pros



YOU'VE JUST COME IN FROM THE GARDEN WITH A BASKET full of fresh cut snapdragons, daisies and gladiolus and now it's time to put them in order. But simply cramming them in a vase may not achieve a look you want. If the fine art of flower arranging eludes you, consider taking tips from North Coast professional florists.

Mary Lou Goodwin, owner of Eureka Florist, has been arranging flowers professionally for 50 years. She recently won first place in the High style/Oriental category at Sun Valley Floral's annual competition this summer. Style is a key element, she said.

"Look at where the arrangement is going to be placed. Choose a low basket style that can be seen from all around if you are going to place it in the center of a table. A short triangular arrangement goes well in front of a mirror or at the end of a table," Goodwin advised.

Where to start an arrangement can be daunting, so Goodwin suggests filling your container with filler first. Filler can be leafy greens like camellia branches, ferns fronds, flax leaves or any kind of greenery used to accent the flowers.

"Start with a base of greens and then arrange your flowers. In basket arrangements use a holder, a pin frog or oasis cube. If you are using a vase, use some clear Scotch tape and make a grid across the top so flowers will stay put.

"Then put greens in first," she suggested.

Using greenery as a backdrop tends to highlight the individual beauty of each flower.

"Fifty years ago it was fashionable to make what was called a roundy moundy, which was a solid mass of flowers. Today we let the flowers breathe with space all around. This serves to show off each flower as being important," she said.

A novice can achieve a pleasing effect by creating a triangle form within an arrangement, said Goodwin. When choosing flowers, try to find ones with a long spike or long line, like gladiolus, snapdragons stock or Asiatic lilies. Place them in the center or toward the back. They will give the arrangement a linear form.

There are times when you just have to work with what you have, said Megan Strong, part-time florist at The Rosary in Eureka. Strong, a Humboldt State University physics major, recently won a first place award and Best of Show at the Sun Valley competition.

"Sometimes flowers tend to have a mind of their own, so you have to kind of work around the shape of the flower. If you have a stem that's all warped and bent, use that as a focal point and make your arrangement around that," suggests Strong.

Picturing an arrangement mentally helps Strong achieve her goals.

"I always keep a picture of where I'm going in my mind, what I want it to look like. Then I fill it in from there," she explains. Since it is difficult for some of us to do this, both Strong and Goodwin suggest a trip to a floral shop.

"Don't be afraid to go to your local florist and look at the pictures to get ideas," Goodwin advised.

Another way to learn about flower arranging is to join a garden club. According to Goodwin, garden clubs in both Eureka and Fortuna offer floral arranging classes.

It is frustrating to go to all the trouble to make a pleasant arrangement, only to have it deteriorate within a few days. There are a few tricks to getting cut flowers to last longer. Start with cutting the flowers from the garden. Goodwin says flowers need to be hardened before arranging. This process opens the capillaries in the stems which allows the flower to absorb a maximum amount of water.

"The most perfect situation is to go out in the evening after 7 with a bucket of fairly hot tap water, not scalding hot, but hot enough so you can put in your hand. Take the water out with you to the garden, cut the flowers, trim any bad leaves and place the flowers in the hot water. Let them sit out overnight in a cool protected area such as the garage. Then make the arrangement in the morning," she explains.

Foul water will also cause flowers to deteriorate. Goodwin says it is critical that all submerged stems be stripped of any foliage. "Anything that's under water must not have any leaves attached to it. No leaves under water, because that's what makes flowers wilt faster. The water becomes stagnant." Goodwin also suggests changing the water every two days.

 September Checklist

  • PLANT NOW FOR WINTER COLOR Fill planter boxes and pots with pansies, alyssum, primroses and Iceland poppies this month and you will enjoy spring time flowers all winter long.
  • SHOP FOR BULBS Spring-flowering bulbs arrive at the nurseries this month. Shop early for the best selection of daffodils, crocuses, anemones, Dutch irises, freesias and watsonia. Hyacinths and tulips bought now should be put in the refrigerator until November. A good chill makes them bloom better next spring.
  • FERTILIZE Roses will bloom abundantly in October if they are fertilized today. Remove spent flowers and water deeply.
  • REJUVENATE If your lawn is looking a bit unkempt, like a biker the morning after a rough night out, maybe it is time rejuvenate. Dethatching may be necessary. Raking, reseeding and patching bare spots helps. Aerate if necessary and fertilize. Water regularly to keep it green.
  • SPRAY Spidermites, aphids and whiteflies can become quite pesky this time of year, especially in greenhouses and plant rooms. If a problem surfaces, wash foliage thoroughly and spray with insecticidal soap, neem or a light horticultural oil. Inspect plants often.


Sept. 10, 1998 Table of Contents

The North Coast Journal

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© Copyright 1998, North Coast Journal, Inc.