Foam-free table centrepieces

UPDATE – photos of both arrangements taken 8 days later now added below blog post – 

Following on from my experimenting with a foam-free cascading bridal bouquet, I thought I would trial two matching centrepiece arrangements – one with foam and one without – to see how they compare.

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Wonderstuff

Florists have used floral foam for arrangements since it was developed in the 1950s by the Smithers Manufacturing Company in Ohio, USA.  Back then, it was hailed as a miracle product.  A time saving, convenient, effective way to design with flowers.  The product retains water well without leaking and the dense material holds stems firm – even when being transported.

Before floral foam

Until the launch of Oasis foam, designers worked with containers filled with moss, made grids of twigs or bamboo, used flexible mesh such as chicken wire or nestled stems amidst submerged stems of willow or twigs.  They also used glass or metal ‘frogs’ or kenzans.  The convenience of floral foam saw the creative ingenuity of floral designers use of clever mechanics gradually fade until the use of the traditional techniques was seen as ‘old-fashioned’.

Back to the good old days?

More recently, the old-fashioned techniques have made a come-back (indeed for some designers, they never went away!).  Why would you go back to something that has been replaced with something more modern?  For me, this is about the impact my business has on the planet.  I want to find a way to provide the same designs, but without single use plastics and without a material that doesn’t biodegrade.

Can you make the same designs without foam?

I’ve heard designers say they can’t make the same design without floral foam – so this is my experiment to see if it is possible….and if the final design lasts as well in moss as it does in foam.

The experiment

I took one floral foam ring (the plastic backed type that doesn’t include a plastic tray) and one empty floral foam ring tray.  I reused an old floral foam design – scooped out all of the old green foam and scrubbed away as much of the plastic residue as I could.  This is tricky as it is glued in within an inch of it’s life!

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Whilst the green oasis ring was soaking up clean fresh water, I filled the empty tray with well soaked sphagnum moss.

I then cut some lengths of chicken wire to around 3 inches wide and tucked them into the tray, bending the sharp edges down and overlapping where needed to cover the whole of the ring.

Then I placed the mossed plastic tray and the oasis foam ring side by side ready to begin designing.  I tried to design them almost exactly the same – to show that the design can be replicated in both moss and foam.

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The mossed tray is not quite as deep as the oasis foam ring – and therefore the finished article is slightly shallower, but overall, looks very much the same as the foam design.

Designing in both mechanics was easy – stems were easy to place and both types held the stems firmly.  The depth of the foam design meant that more flowers were needed at the sides of the design to disguise the foam at the edges.

The overall verdict (so far) is that it was simple and easy to fill the tray with moss and wire.  It took no longer than waiting for the floral foam to soak for the normal time.

Both designs are now being displayed indoors and will be kept topped up with water, out of direct sunlight and in a cool room.  In 3 days time, I will post more photos of the final results of the experiment – the longevity of the design being as important as the ease of the initial construction.  Though for wedding and event designs, 3 days is probably the maximum time needed to squeeze out of a design – mainly to allow time to make items in advance.  As long as the design stays fresh for the full day of the event – that is all that is really needed.

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Both designs were made with British grown flowers and foliage from my cutting garden.

Let’s see how well they last.

Anne-Marie x

UPDATED – 23rd September 2019

Three days later!  Well…I’ve had a busy week and I really didn’t get time to post photos of the arrangements when I planned.  So, here goes.  You won’t often find a florist who is willing to post photos of arrangements that are way past their best!

Both arrangements were kept in the living room, out of direct sunlight and in relatively cool temperatures (we’re from Yorkshire, the central heating doesn’t even get a mention till November).  Both were topped up with water regularly.  The floral foam design needed topping more frequently than the mossed design – daily instead of every other day for the moss.

Here they are 8 days later.

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Both are looking a bit tired but considering they are over a week old, not bad at all.  Calendula really don’t last very long in either moss or foam.  Dahlia’s are usually pretty short lived, but both designs have kept them going quite well.

Moss Design – after 8 days

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Moss design – after 8 days

I think the moss one looks fuller and more vibrant than the foam design – apart from the dark coloured dahlia which has definitely dried out!

Foam Design – after 8 days

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Floral foam design – after 8 days

The foam design does have some grey mould, particularly around the calendulas  as they went over a couple of days ago – but in the moss, the calendula haven’t deteriorated quite so badly.

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Mould in the floral foam design
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Moss design – calendula deteriorated but not mouldy

Overall verdict

The moss design lasted very well – if not better than the foam design with no sign of mould.  The moss, chicken wire and the tray can easily be reclaimed and used again (and again!).  The foam design can only be disposed of in the household waste.  I also found the moss design easier to maintain – quicker with less spillage to top up with water and frequency of watering was easier on my time than the floral foam design.

My only concern is finding a source for a replacement to the plastic trays.  If only a manufacturer would design a set of compostable, sustainably made trays for florists to use in designs like this.  If they were made of sturdy waxed cardboard or perhaps bamboo (or whatever ingenious product can be molded and will hold water and moss) in the shapes and sizes that we use when buying floral foam trays – I know which ones I would buy – every time.

If you’re in the business of ‘making stuff’ – here is your gap in the market!

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Moss design – nearest, floral foam design furthest away

What designs shall I experiment with next?

Anne-Marie x

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