Flower Decorating

Just as each room in the home serves a different function, so will different floral displays in appropriate styles enhance their environment.

The dining room has a high profile in flower arranging terms, as it becomes the centre stage whenever the family gathers for a leisurely meal whether at Sunday lunchtime, or when entertaining friends. If you have more than one arrangement in the room, it is a good idea to compose them with a linking theme. You could choose similar flowers, but in different colors, deep pink Peruvian lilies, for example, in one case and the palest of pinks in another. A tall pitcher of white iris on the sideboard could be interpreted by floating similar flowers in a glass bowl on the dining table, by placing a single flower in a specimen vase at each place setting, or by blending white iris in an arrangement with anemones or roses.

In the living room, the well of the fireplace forms a dramatic arch for a flamboyant arrangement of seasonal plant materials chosen according to the color and texture of the fireplace. You could arrange a large earthenware jug of horse chestnut buds in spring, a cool blend of blues and greens in summer, and the fiery hues of red, orange and yellow as winter approaches.

In summer, fresh flowers especially if placed on a sunny window sill are vulnerable and will fade quickly. In these circumstances, achieve the best of both worlds and choose the brightest and boldest of containers to display sun-bleached seed heads. Fill a large white jug with a burst of fresh or dried gypsophila and strawflowers; pack a basket full of wild oats and decorative grasses, and wrap it with a brightly colored paper-ribbon bow; or arrange some arching stems of translucent, dramatically back lit foliage.

Flower arrangements for a bedroom or guest room are unashamed tokens of indulgence, and should be both romantic and restful. Try filling a pretty jug with a handful of fully opened roses or a nosegay of roses, lilies and larkspur in muted colors. Arrange a posy for a dressing table with spray carnations and daisy chrysanthemums in apricot and peach tints, or compose a miniature group of moody blues with forget-me-nots and cornflowers tumbling over the side of a blue glass pitcher.

In a bathroom, take account of the likely temperature and humidity changes and select the sturdiest and most long lasting of blooms. These include chrysanthemums of all kinds, marigolds, carnations, spray carnations, lilies and tulips.

For a dried-flower bathroom arrangement, choose, again, from the best tempered examples, which include all the everlastings: strawflowers; rhodanthe; andacroclinium; statice; honesty; Chineselanterns (winter cherry); and other seed heads. Also you can protect more delicate flowers under glass: an arrangement composed in dry foam on a hoard and covered with a glass dome a modem cheese dish or an upturned container for preserves satisfies both aesthetic and practical considerations.

The kitchen is another room that is subject to rapid temperature changes, so many of the same ground rules apply as for the bathroom. A jug of marigolds on the kitchen table signals a cheery early morning greeting; a pot of herbs on the window sill has both decorative and culinary properties; and a hanging basket of foliage plants, or grains and grasses, lifts floral decor to a high level.

PREPARING FLOWERS

If you are picking your own flowers, gather them in the morning, when the sun has caused the dew to evaporate but before there is a danger of wilting. Ideally, have a container of water with you to hold your harvest. Once back in the house, re-cut the stems, remove all foliage that will be below the water line, then plunge the stems into a bucket of deep water to allow them to have a good, long drink. Stand the bucket in a cool, draught-free room, in the dark if you wish to slow the development of the blooms, or in indirect light to accelerate blossoming. During the conditioning time which should be a minimum of six hours, check that the flowers are raking in water. Drooping foliage and limp heads indicate an air lock, roses are particularly susceptible to this problem.

All stems must be cut again before the flowers are placed in the display container. Research has shown that a single, diagonal cut provides the best uptake of water. Fill the hollow stems of flowers such as delphiniums with water and plug the ends with cotton.