Foam-free table centrepieces

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

Foam-free cascading bridal bouquet tutorial

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Shower bridal bouquet – with no floral foam

We all know the damage caused to the environment by plastics, but did you know that floral foam is made from plastic too?  Most modern shower bouquet’s are made in a ‘bouquet holder’.  This is a plastic handle with a small dome of floral foam in a plastic ‘cage’ – looking almost like a child’s toy microphone.  Floral foam is not biodegradable.

I’ve been trying to reduce my plastic and floral foam use – sometimes difficult when customers ask for a particular item that is easy and convenient to make using foam.  Changing from wrapping my bouquet’s in cellophane to sustainably sourced Kraft paper is easy.  Making a cascading, shower bridal bouquet is not.  Or is it?  I decided to give it a go and here are the results plus my tips for how you can do the same.

You will need:

Some flowers – your choice, but ideally locally grown blooms.  Try http://www.flowersfromthefarm.co.uk for a grower near you.  I used white roses, astilbe, pink toadflax, devil’s bit scabious, houttuynia (chameleon plant), small eryngiums, pink and white astrantias, stachys officinalis (betony), flowering marjoram.  Look for flowers with a variety of forms and textures.

small gauge chicken wire

wire cutters, sand paper, small hacksaw (and gloves)

something suitable for a handle – you can either use a rustic, sturdy stick (clean, strong and a comfortable fit for your hand) or I used a broom handle cut to size

damp moss

florist wire – longer length, medium gauge wire

a sturdy holder for your bouquet holder – I use a handmade wooden stand and wire the bouquet holder into place whilst I’m adding flowers

florist scissors/knife

Method:

  • Ensure all your flowers and foliage have been well conditioned and all the tools and equipment you need are within easy reach.
  • Set up your bouquet stand – this might be a bought stand with clamps (they are very expensive!), or you could use a strong vase or bottle to hold the holder secure while you design.  Remember the wet moss will be quite heavy so the holder has to be very secure.  I use a homemade holder made from a wooden log screwed into a base.  The ‘V’ of one of the branches is just right to sit the bouquet holder into – for added security, I wire the bouquet holder in place with bind wire.  I also use some cast iron weights to stop the holder tipping whilst I’m designing.
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Homemade designing stand to hold bouquet holder firmly
  • Cut a square of chicken wire – the size depends on how big you want your bouquet holder to be.  Mine was about 20cm square
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Square of chicken wire – this one about 20cm
  • Select a suitable, strong piece of branch or wood for a handle.  You can cover the handle with jute string, or hessian ribbon if you don’t want a bare wood finish.  I decided on the broom handle as the finish was smoother and cleaner in the hand than the very rustic branch.  The size depends on the size of the bouquet – larger moss ‘heads’ will need longer handle as part of it is embedded in the chicken wire ‘cage’.  My handle was around 20cm long, trimmed with a small hacksaw and then edges smoothed with some fine sandpaper.
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Choose a handle – cut it to length
  • Cut a notch around one end of the handle, about an inch from the end.  The notch needs to be just deep enough for some wire to help secure the handle to the moss ‘head’.
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Notch in handle to secure wire
  • Wrap a couple of lengths of wire around the handle, sitting the wire into the recess you have just cut with the hacksaw.  Twist the wire tightly to secure and leave the prongs sticking out at the end – you will secure these when you have fitted the handle into the moss head.
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Wires added to help secure to the ‘moss head’
  • Take a generous helping of damp moss and place it in a mounded shape in the centre of the square of chicken wire.  Be generous because loose moss won’t hold flower stems securely.
  • Take your handle and carefully push the wire prongs through the moss and through the chicken wire.  Just make sure they’re all the way through – no need to secure them just yet.
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Inserting the handle
  • Carefully fold up the edges of the chicken wire to enclose the moss, adding more if you think you need it to keep the ball full and rounded.  Tuck in all the edges near to the point where the handle pushes through the moss.  Make sure you tuck in any sharp edges.  You can bend some of the edges of the wire around other edges where they touch – adding strength and making the ball very secure.
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Add more moss if you need it – the ball should be very full
  • You should now have a kind of moss ‘lollipop’.  Secure the wire prongs that come out of the top of the handle – twist and then fold them back into the heart of the moss.  You can trim them a little shorter if necessary.
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Wire the handle to the moss head
  • Securely fix your new mossy lollipop bouquet holder to your designing stand.  Now you’re ready to start the design.  Have a clear down and get all your flowers to hand.

 

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Moss lollipop ready to start designing

 

  • You will need to wire the flowers that are hanging downwards in the design (plus any that are particularly heavy).  Here you can see that the single leg mount has been used on the rose stems.  The wire is passed up through the ball and secured on the top of the chicken wire ball.  Make sure the flower stems are embedded in the moss as this is now their water source.
  • Begin with the longest stem of your main flower at the bottom of the design – and then work up through the design so that there is a ‘flow’ to the design.  Cut the stems and wire them as you go.  Think about the profile of the design as well as the outline from the front.
  • Step back and look and don’t be afraid to take out stems and reposition (you can’t do this with floral foam!)
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Wire in heavy blooms and all the blooms hanging downwards
  • Unlike most flower arrangements, where you tend to define the edges of your design with your longest pieces of foliage, I find it easier to place the main flowers in the design first – here the roses – to define the length of the cascade and some rhythm up through the design, and then fill in the gaps with your other flowers and foliage.
  • Leave plenty of room for the bees and the butterflies
  • Try not to have blooms sitting parallel to each other – graduate them and aim for a teardrop shape.
  • Keep looking from the side to make sure you have a nice curved fronted profile.

 

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Build up the design – step back and check as you go

 

  • Continue to build up the design – make good use of the natural curves of stems
  • Make sure you look at the bouquet from where the bride will view it whilst she’s holding it – her view needs to be as nice as from the front.
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Finishing the design – check from all angles
  • Once you’ve finished adding your flowers and foliage – you shouldn’t see any of the mossy base.  You can add foliage at the back to completely cover any remaining visible moss.  Here you can also cover the handle if you would like to.
  • Make sure the moss is damp and you can also lightly spray the flowers with a mister to keep them fresh.  Keep in the shade and somewhere cool.
  • The bouquet will stay fresh overnight (possibly longer depending on choice of blooms and the weather).  Ideally, you would make on the morning of the wedding – but you can get ahead by making the lollipop in advance and keeping it damp.
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Finished shower bouquet
  • Here is the profile of the finished bouquet.  No plastic, no floral foam.
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Finished bouquet profile

How easy? – a bit of a faff wiring some of the flowers in, but you would be wiring them in with a plastic bouquet holder anyway.  Very soft stems needed a small hole making in the moss with a kebab stick.  After a VERY HOT day in my workshop today – the bouquet is still fresh and damp.  My final verdict – worth it, and the faff will get easier the more I practice.

I think my own design could have been improved – stem placement is a little tricky without floral foam (more wire to navigate through) and this can affect the design slightly.  I will keep practicing though – and I think I would much rather spend an extra 20 minutes making the mossy lollipop than buy a pre-made floral foam handle that will still be around in hundreds of years time in landfill somewhere.

Try it…honestly it’s fun 🙂

Anne-Marie x

Spring Wood Flowers

 

 

Spring Wood Flowers

Spring Wood is the view from my kitchen window.  We are very lucky to live in a beautiful rural location with a backdrop of woodland. Part of our garden is wooded and filled with ferns, primroses, hellebores and foxgloves.

After many years of working in the civil service and charities, I took the hugely brave decision (for me!) to completely change my career.  I’ve loved flowers and gardening all my life – and dabbled with amateur flower arranging  including gifts for family and friends.  But I wanted more, and in 2016 took the opportunity to begin a professional floristry course.

It was the best decision I ever made and I’ve taken my passion for flowers to a new level of obsession!

Spring Wood Flowers is officially launched and open for business.  Wish me luck.

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