Arrange Flowers for the Holidays

Gardeners like flowers. Now, with snow on the ground, we find other ways to get our flower fix. One approach is to arrange cut flowers and winter greens.

While I studied horticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, I minored in floral design. My classes included work in weddings, sympathy and even designs for big theater productions. I worked as a floral designer for a few years for the florist that served Disneyland.

One of my instructors in professional flower arranging was Mr. Gordon. I can still remember him saying to us “Face and space, as you place.” He was telling us to remember the overall design as we were putting it together. From what direction will the design be viewed? That’s the direction the flowers should face. Spacing is very important in creating a successful design. Flowers are closest together at the focal point and furthest apart at the top and sides of the arrangement. The focal point is the center of interest and is usually at the lip of the container. Depth and change of plane are additional factors for success.

Another of his sayings was “line, mass, form and filler.” He wanted us to put the arrangement together in this order. Line flowers are those in which the individual blossoms grow along a stem to make a line such as gladiolas, stock or snapdragons. Line foliage materials might be eucalyptus stems, willow stems or grasses. They establish the nature of the design and build depth. Mass flowers give weight and body to an arrangement and include mums, daisies, yarrow, roses, carnations and geraniums. Mass flowers establish a different pattern from the line material to add interest. Form flowers have a distinctive shape such as orchids, iris, birds of paradise or poinsettias. There is form foliage too as in croton. Form materials create a focal point. Filler materials fill out an arrangement and include baby’s breath, fern, Queen Anne’s lace and other greens.

Arrangements come in all shapes and sizes depending on where they will be displayed. Centerpieces can be round or oblong, but must look lovely from all directions. One-sided arrangements are appropriate with a wall as a backdrop and can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.  If placed in front of a mirror, the back needs to be attractive too.

With a little practice, a sharp knife, some fresh or dried flowers, greens and an interesting container, you can brighten the gray days of winter with a creative floral design.