Materials and equipment
For many arrangements, little is needed beyond a good pair of sharp, strong scissors and some florist’s wire, but elaborate displays on special occasions may need more support.
Canes: thin canes can be used to support hollow and top-heavy stems.
Carpet moss (sheet moss): this moss is useful for covering the surface of arrangements to conceal individual containers, creating the illusion that the flowers are growing in the basket or container.
Cellophane: is used for wrapping bouquets, as a waterproof lining for porous containers and scrunched up as an invisible support for stems in a vase.
Floating candles: a bowl of these surrounded by beautiful fragrant flowers makes a stunning table center piece, especially at night.
Florist’s adhesive tapes: water proof tape is useful for sticking plastic or cellophane to the inside of containers. Strong adhesive double sided tape provides a removable surface on which to stick decorative materials such as moss or vegetation to the sides of vases and containers.
Florist’s foam: as well as the brick shape, spheres and rings are available in various sizes. Rings have a built-in plastic drip tray to make table centre pieces without the worry of flooding.
Florist’s scissors: the most important piece of equipment that no flower arranger can afford to be without is a pair of strong and very sharp scissors. There are numerous designs for both left and right handed flower arrangers.
Florist’s wires: are useful for making false stems to fix cones and nuts to fresh flower designs.
Flower food: the correct amount of flower food should he used in every vase. This harmless preparation of mild disinfectant and sugar inhibits growth of bacteria in the water and encourages buds to mature and open.
Gilt cream paint: gives sheen to nuts, cones and fruits as well as containers. It is available in gold, silver and bronze.
Glass stones: these are widely available from gift shops and garden centers. The transparent ones are most versatile as they resemble precious crystals in the bottom of a glass vase or bowl.
Glue gun and glue sticks: the glue gun is a dream machine for instantly attaching fresh flowers to containers, wreaths and garlands. The liquid glue is extremely hot and potentially dangerous if left unattended and should be kept out of reach of children.
Nuts and cones: walnuts, hazel nuts, acorns and all types of cones can be combined with fresh flowers.
Pebbles and shells: these make decorative mulch and an attractive support for flower stems in glass vases.
Raffia: natural raffia is ideal for tying flowers together as it is strong but does not bite into the stems. Colored raffia is perfect for making lush trailing bows.
Secateurs (pruners): these are more practical than scissors for cutting wires and tough branches.
The type, size and color of the container you choose should complement the flowers you are arranging. Here are some simple ideas.
Baskets: shallow baskets lined with plastic and filled with florist’s foam concealed with moss provide a support for flowers, and deeper baskets can hide several containers within it filled with fresh blooms.
Glass tanks: are very versatile and are effectively used singly or in a group of varying heights. They can be used to contain a mass of flowers of just a few stems supported with colored glass pebbles or stones.
Glasses and jars: simple, straight sided drinking glasses are cheap and perfect for small posies and table centre pieces.
Terracotta pots: natural colored terracotta pots complement country style arrangements, and with a simple wash of diluted emulsion paint they can be gently colored in minutes to suit any number of styles. Terracotta is porous, so use an inner container or line them with plastic.
Metal containers: some metals react with water and can cause flowers to die prematurely and obviously shouldn’t be used. But galvanized metal is safe and rust proof. A tall metal bucket is ideal for supporting the height of long stems or large branches of foliage. Buckets in bold colors provide instant cheer.
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 he 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 taking 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.