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Arranging - A Good Way to Say it with Roses!

As you walk in your garden, in the park or through the fields, noticing the lovely colors, unique shapes and interesting textures, can you imagine bringing this beauty inside your home to enjoy again?

This will be an interesting task and very rewarding. When we paint pictures we create dimension by increasing or decreasing the depth of color and diminishing texture; however, in a flower arrangement, placing live plant materials side by side creates depth, width and height so that an arrangement has three dimensions. Since arranging is simply another term for organizing, what are some of the ways we do this? Nature itself supplies the answer. As we look about us we see a tall Lombardy Poplar, a classic Spruce, a large rose bush or —if we look in the mirror —men or women themselves. Some are objects with simple lines while others are more complex. Lines are the basis for traditional arranging. Here are three typical arrangements involving lines —the Line, the Line-Mass and the Mass. These illustrations will give you an idea of each.

How do we start?

You will find many everyday household articles useful as containers. Your amber-colored iced tea glass, an old pastel Easter basket or a used flower pot may take on a whole new life. Containers for arrangements are virtually everywhere —the extent of your imagination is your only limitation.

The Mechanics

What will help the flowers and other material stand up in the container and assume the position that you would like them to keep?

Using a layer of sand on the bottom might be the simplest solution. Other ways are to use crunched up chicken wire or commercial products such as Oasis®. Try different materials and see what works best for you.

If you have trouble controlling stems, buy a few “floral picks” (thin pieces of wood with short strands of wire attached) and gently wrap them onto the bottom of a stem. The wood will support the soft stem and help you place and keep the stem in a desirable position. Line material abounds! Plant material for lines and filler is growing everywhere. If your flowers are not as tall as you would like, you can use other materials to direct the eye up and out —as far as is necessary. Dowels which might have been removed from the floating (but now deflated) heart-shaped balloon that you received for Valentine’s Day, Scotch Broom with its delightful curves and branches from rose bushes themselves, such as R. sericea pteracantha which has huge triangular and beautifully semi-transparent red prickles are just some of the materials you will find at hand.

Line and Line-Mass

For a line or line-mass arrangement only 3 to 7 flowers are needed. If you do not have enough in your yard, borrow from neighbors, try the local flower shop or the many vivid stands in places like the train or bus stations. Think of the backdrop or line for the vase first. Place this line material towards the back of the container. Then, using three roses, place the largest one near the mouth of the vase, then one above and finally the smallest one above this in proportion to the amount of line material that is protruding above the mouth of the vase. For contrast, you may want to use some extra-interesting leaves such as Hosta (so popular in the Midwest), Eucalyptus from California or Euonymus, of which there are varieties that live almost everywhere. Your filler can be small blooms such as Baby’s Breath, Statice or Feverfew. The line-mass is very similar except that more material is used. Contrast and interest may be achieved by using materials such as garlic seed spikes, Coleus leaves, the beautiful stamens of Clematis after the petals have dropped, the spear-like leaves of the common Iris, or the furry seed pods of the ever-present Cattail which can be found in most ditches in the Midwest. Nature is out there waiting to be harvested!


Last, consider the mass arrangement. Perhaps when my Mother, who lived in a sod house in Nebraska after the turn of the century, thought of gathering flowers, it might have been sweet-smelling hay or daisies growing wild on the prairie. When pioneer women gathered herbs for cooking and medicinal uses, and hung them in the lofts of their cabins, a very comfortable feeling resulted. Then they picked other plants, such as Chicory, Queen Anne’s Lace and Loosestrife, gently placing them in a useful object such as a pewter pitcher. The bouquet was born! When women had more time and decided to bring a little organization to this same container, it became an arrangement. People soon discovered that there were many flowers that could be added to enhance the roses.

Consider the beautiful pale blue California Agapanthus, or white and yellow daisies from most parts of the United States, while the ever-abundant Pink adds fragrance which further enhances that of the Rose.

To add distinction to our effort, add some flowers that are tall, as these spikes carry the eye through the arrangement. Really charming in Mid-Michigan is the Harebell, the darling of English China decorators and which can be found in many backyards, virtually untended. Others in the blue-purple-lavender class are the Larkspurs, Delphiniums (very popular in the Northwest), Loosestrife, and Astilbe. Each is unique and adds interest, texture and contrast.

Essentially, in creating a mass arrangement, much material can be used but each flower deserves an area all its own. A special place is created by contrast of color and texture near the lip of the container, while flowers become lighter in color and smaller in size as our eye proceeds upward. All sides are to be completed so it can be viewed pleasantly from any side.

What a thrill to bring the outside inside! Arranging has had a long history, starting from very humble beginnings. Everyone can relive this thrill of taking flowers from the garden and making them into something really special! Being able to enjoy them again inside the home is a great part of it.

“If you are traveling through space why not have a few flowers along the way?”

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