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Table Flowers

A Winter Table Arrangement

Making floral arrangements is one of my hobbies, one of the reasons I became interested in gardening. The forms, colors, textures, and scents bring me such emotional pleasure. Every time I make one, I wonder why I chose this particular flower. The pictured arrangement was for a Christmas home tour, and I know I wanted a frosty winter feeling, so white roses just seemed natural.

I”m sure you have noticed how flowers are used in all our celebrations and ceremonies. We use flowers at church services, weddings, and funerals. Parties, banquets, and guests coming for dinner require floral centerpieces. We send congratulations with flowers. A blanket of red roses covers the derby winner, and Miss America also receives red roses when crowned. We give sympathy and condolences with flowers. Everyone receives flowers when grieving, or while in the hospital, or for the celebration of a birthday, new home, new job, or retirement. Every holiday has its plant or floral association. The only ceremonies I can think of that don’t are baptisms and graduation, but perhaps that oldish custom of corsages?

Florists are correct when they say we celebrate with flowers, and they certainly encourage us to spend freely. And while many arrangements have changed to plastic or silk flowers, nothing gives such pleasure as fresh flowers; still, why flowers? The giving of flowers and their use in all our rituals comes from ancient customs, usages so lost in time its roots are forgotten. Certainly in the beginning flowers symbolized fertility, but slowly the meaning evolved to encompass much more.

That flowers were used in the most ancient of burial rites is known. The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans celebrated with flowers, as did the ancient oriental cultures. Victorians codified the meaning of flowers, probably based on much earlier usages.

Everyone probably knows the rose represents love and the lily purity. These two flowers have been tied to mythology since Cleopatra slept on a rose-stuffed pillow. According to the Victorians, different colored roses told different messages. While the red rose said ‘I love you,’ the yellow rose spoke of infidelity. In today’s flower meanings, sending red and yellow roses in a mixed bouquet means ‘congratulations.’

If you want to find all the meanings, just get on the Internet and type in ‘flower meanings,’ or ‘flower language.’ Some have to have been recently devised. Who knew giving bells of Ireland meant you wished the receiver good luck? Or that a cactus plant represented giving endurance? And how did the cattail come to represent peace and prosperity? It’s all very confusing.

Flower usage changes over time. For many years white gladiolus were funeral flowers, now it’s the calla lily. I’ve seen calla lilies used in more weddings recently, too. Roses and carnations were traditional wedding flowers, but now anything the bride wants is used, often orchids, but occasionally even more exotic selections like bird of paradise.

If you pluck a daffodil blooming in your garden and give it to someone, it can tell of your regard, or of your unrequited love, or that individual is the only one for you. However, in mythology, Narcissus was a young man who saw his own reflection in a pool and fell so deeply in love with his image he stared at it until he turned into a flower. Narcissism is not a good quality to have and yet Narcissus is the botanical name of the wonderful daffodil genus. Send daffodils and you might be giving a mixed message.

Perhaps it’s better to just forget the language of flowers and give a bouquet of daffodils with the simple idea of bringing some springtime sun into someone’s day, or place flowers on the Christmas table to let your family or guests realize this meal is a very special occasion, so mind your manners, enjoy the company and food, and reflect upon the true beauty of the world as displayed in flowers.

Merry Christmas! (Put some flowers on the table!)

I was at the tri-refresher in Grand Rapids Sunday updating my garden study consultant credentials with NGC, Inc. The event was held in conjunction with the NGC’s Central Region Meeting. Designers from across the state had designs in honor of the states attending lined the corridors of the Plaza Hotel. One was done by Marge McGoff, a floral designer from Northern Michigan.

Honoring Iowa

I gave a program to the Sweetwater Evening GC last week on small and miniature designs. Small designs must be no greater than 8″ in width, depth, height and in scale so they look very much like a full sized design. Miniatures are under 5″ in any dimension. I had an enjoyable time and hope the SWGC members did, too. Afterward, they judged the nine designs for flower show awards.

Here are some of my designs.

table design

Tea on the veranda -- a table design

vignette design

A corner of the garden -- a vignette miniature

small collage design

An abstract collage (small design)

framed spatial miniature design

Framed spatial miniature design

At the recent judge’s symposium in Ann Arbor the instructors were great.

Horticulture instructor lectured about Heuchera and Moon Gardens, both interesting subjects. I came home with a strong desire to find better spots for my poor, struggling coral bells, and explore the internet for Heuchera capable of growing in my area. Most seem to be very cold tolerant, and like sharp drainage, so I should be able to find some great cultivars.

Symposium design June 2010

Symposium design June 2010

Instructor's design

Our design instructor talked about texture and form in design. Her designs were all wonderful, as were the practice point scoring designs. Now, if I passed the two point scoring exams, I’ll remain a flower show judge in good standing.

Meeting friends who are flower show judges from around the state is the added benefit to attending symposiums and workshops, as well as getting to know others in our group better.

Practice Point Scoring Design

Practice Point Scoring Design

This was for the library, but they are moving into the new section of the library, so AI didn’t take the design. Uses the very last of the daffodils. One twig is misplace. Of course, I didn’t see that until I took the photo.

spring design

spring design

One of the problems of no longer having a design group to work with is that I have to rely on my camera and analyze my own mistakes.

Roger at the library sent me a photo of my wall hanging design today, so I’m posting that, too.

The design uses dried gourds, artemisia, lavender, dried seed heads and feathers attached to a round basket tray. The nice thing about anything dried is that is will last all winter long; however, I usually take them down when I put up Christmas decorations. In January and February I much prefer to see blooming plants like Cliva, Christmas cactus and Amaryllis.


Gourd Wall Hanging

Due to a new job teaching writing at a community college, I missed my September design and forgot to take a photo of my October design, but I took the November design yesterday.

As far as design style, I’d have to say this falls into what NGC would call a designers choice. It is an all dried arrangement in a hand made bucket although you cannot see the handle.

I used the seed pods I found yesterday, but looking at the design, I probably shouldn’t have used them. They confuse the upper line and destroy what little rhythm is there. Also those feathers are probably too dark and heavy, also affecting the overall quality. Why don’t I see this while I’m making the design? Drat! Oh, well, it’s always a learning experience and I’ll try again next month!


Dried Arrangement

if you haven’t already, now is the time to walk through the weeds. All types of seed pods are showing their stuff. Yes, they are usually dark brown, tan and otherwise unappealing, but look at their interesting shapes and forms. You can work them into a floral design as is, or spray paint them to the color you desire.

I cut these seed pods from my Asclepias tuberosa, or common butterfly weed. While stripping the withered leaves off the stems, I scattered the seeds in my field, so that some might eventually take seed there. Don’t the pods look like little bunny ears? Hmmm… flower show next July with Peter Rabbit theme… perhaps these are just the ‘flowers’ needed.


Seed pods from Asclepias tuberosa.

Asclepias tuberosa are one of my favorite perennials. While not much to look at during the spring and early summer, they come into their own in July or August with brilliant orange or chrome yellow umbels, and then these wonderful seed pods appear in October and November. They are a native plant, drought tolerant and hardy in my zone 4 garden. A relative of milkweed, they have the same milky sap that identifies the genus. My plants were grown from seed, but they are available from certain nurseries, but don’t try to collect them from the wild. They are tap root plants and seldom survive transplantation.


Butterfly Weed in the wild

Well, it was supposed to be a traditional mass design. I got the lots of flowers part right, and I think the colors work, but the form of the design and the placement of the flowers is off. See how the orange lily at the top throws off the balance? And the two Liatris next to it destroy the symmetry. The point of interest is too high, and the yellow roses seem static rather than helping to create rhythm. I’ll have to work on this style.

Traditional Mass Design (attempt!)

Traditional Mass Design (attempt!)

I’ve belonged to three wonderful design groups, Garden Guild in St. Louis, Missouri, West Michigan Flower Arrangers Guild in Jenison, Michigan and a group that met in Traverse City, MI. Designs groups are great because they keep your hand in the game of making designs. These are not your local florist type designs, but competitive and display designs following specific rules as laid out in the National Garden Clubs, Inc.’s Handbook for Flower Show Judges.
Today, most of my former clubs are a bit far for me to travel.
So I decided to form my own Group, My Design Group. For this, I asked the local library if I could place my designs there, and Barb S. said she would be glad to have them.

So at the first meeting of My Design Group on July 3, I placed my design and left it in place over the July 4th weekend. Here is my try at a line-mass design, titled 4th Fireworks.

4th Fireworks line-mass design

4th Fireworks line-mass design

Would I award it a blue? I don’t think so. There are a couple major flaws, too open in the middle, needed another mum at container’s edge in front, but it is close. That’s why I have to keep practicing.



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