It is all about the mechanics, dahling.
~ Peggy Latham
(as quoted from Flower Camp 2011)
The 2013 edition of my favorite Flower Camp once again took place the day after Mother’s Day. While the star of the 2011 Flower Camp was unable to attend due to airline issues, I was delighted that my own mother had the chance to see the Latham Ladies in action. As in prior years, our floral designer friend, Anne Latham Martin of Fleurs de Vie, had her kitchen filled with garden delights and some fabulous finds from Sieck’s wholesale.
Her sister, Madeleine Latham Elmer of Fleur de Vie Houston, was this year’s guest instructor who generously shared her design knowledge, which continues to broaden as the demand for her creative services rises all over Houston.
To begin our morning, Anne gave a brief recap about the pointers we shared on Prepare Your Home for Garden Week with Supermarket Bouquets and then addressed the first issue that must be considered for every floral design: MECHANICS. After recommending the book that her mother always has on hand,
Anne revealed one of her favorite tricks:
Continuing the mechanics theme on which Anne and Madeleine’s mother, Peggy, raised them, Madeleine got down to demonstration business. Her concept was how to build a design using natural materials as the mechanics.
1. Use foliage as the foundation of your mechanics.
Madeleine started with three cuttings of oakleaf hydrangea that had leafed and set their budding stalks. After removing the lower leaves, she layered the branches on top of each other. By going on top and not from underneath, you are pushing the mechanics down into the vessel and not pushing the greenery up and out.
2. Save those 32-ounce food containers from the grocery store and reuse them inside your design containers.
Madeleine set one of these containers down into her demonstration urn. It proves the perfect size for lots of different vessels and can simply be cut down if needed.
3. Always keep a pair of clippers in your car
You never know what you might find on the side of the road. While none of the cuttings at Flower Camp was road-kill, this was a great reminder that your flowers and greens don’t always need to be precious.
4. Experiment with new and immature foliage before using in an arrangement.
If it is too soft, it will likely wilt within a couple of hours, but sturdy immature foliage will stay fresh in the fridge for a long time.
Prime examples on display at Flower Camp: the small green viburnum balls (top left) went limp quickly and wanted to shrivel up, while the oakleaf hydrangeas’ budding stalks (front right) were sturdy and should survive longer than the flowers in the demonstration arrangement.
5. Go green with your greens.
Consider your carbon footprint and look for greens in your own backyard (or on the roadside). Like we said above, don’t worry about finding the perfect greens. You want to use what is in season and readily available to you.
And if like our friend, aFh, you have a yard full of Solomon’s Seal and Poet’s Laurel, please don’t hesitate to share the wealth.
6. If the wholesale florist tells you that an item is “off-crop”, avoid it.
This term means that the plant is in transition, and even if you can get it, the plant likely won’t last because its infrastructure is not yet strong enough.
7. Your flowers will tell you what they want to do.
When we got down to the business of creating our own arrangements, I was excited to be able to use some yellow parrot tulips that I had received on Mother’s Day.
This baby demanded a starring role, and I was happy to oblige.
8. Keep working the arrangement until you get the balance and scale right and take digital pictures to help you tell when that is.
During the demonstration, our leaders suggested that you generally want the height of the flowers to be at least as tall as the container.
This 12″ tall urn demanded the flowers reach at least 24″ above the counter. Anne even set her measure tape to use as a guide. (See it on the left side?)
As I was making my arrangement in this shallow blue and white planter featuring the yellow parrot tulips, I was trying to counterbalance the weight up high on the left where my favorite flowers and foliage really wanted to be. The right side proved difficult to take low because I was using a frog for my mechanics rather than oasis, so we went through a few re-arrangements taking pictures as we went
until it all felt right.
9. Peonies are tough.
If you need to get them to open earlier than Mother Nature wants, you can force them. First, swish them around in hot water to get rid of the outside sticky sap that the ants clean off. Pull off the outer green bracts. Then start banging the base of the flower where the bracts had been.
Use your fingers to spread out the petals and blow on the inner petals. Keep working the flower until it has opened.
10.Classic garden design is all the rage.
Everyone wants the look of Carolyne Roehm, the inspiring designer whom Ellen described in Starting Seeds ~ Gardening from Scratch. Fortunately getting her look means using garden flowers appropriate for the season and the location. While exotics can be fun to feature for really special events, local seasonal flowers will always feels right, just like these made by my fellow campers:
With lots of flower events coming my way, these words were good to hear, both for my soul and the budget. Once again Flower Camp provided a great reminder of the joy that being surrounded by flowers brings. While there may be some guidelines for arranging the flowers, if you follow your heart and the Latham Ladies’ tips, you really can’t go wrong.