The first in a series of ‘look books’ with inspiration for your 2021 wedding flowers. The first is my own personal favourite style. Soft & romantic. Bursting with scented roses, softly muted tones and an ‘English country garden’ feel.
Follow me on Instagram for access to future look book inspiration (@springwoodflowers)
Hello, and welcome back if you’re a returning reader or welcome to my flower tutorial series if you’re here for the first time.
This is a quick tutorial for a pair of foam-free flower urns. I made these back in March 2020 just as the Covid-19 lockdown started. It feels like a very long time ago now and I feel somewhat guilty that I’ve promised to share photos of the tutorial on at least 3 occasions now! So here we go. The tutorial is about designing as a pair without making perfect mirror images and also about learning to leave things out of a design and using photographs to help you critique your own work.
What you’ll need
Pair of urns. These are approximately 30 cm tall by 23 cm diameter.
Waterproof liners/bowls. I used plastic oasis posy bowls as they fit perfectly into the rim of the urns. I reuse these bowls over and over again as they fit well into all sorts of containers.
Damp sphagnum moss.
Gloves and wire cutters.
Florists tools – snips/scissors or a knife. Secateurs if you are using woody foliage stems.
A selection of flower stems and foliage.
Fill your pair of bowl liners with very damp moss, mounding it up as high as possible. The higher the mound, the easier it is to add stems that drape downwards over the rim of the urns.
Wearing your gloves, cut 2 squares of chicken wire that are around an inch bigger than the bowl liners.
Add a single layer of chicken wire over the top of each of the mounds, tucking it in carefully around the edges of the bowls. Try to maintain the mounded shape as much as possible. Fix the bowls in place inside the urns. You can use pot fix or tape to help secure the bowls in place.
Ensure that all of your foliage and flower stems are well conditioned and prepared ready for the arrangements. When working with moss and wire, it helps to make sure that your stems are very clean with no side-shoots that can catch as you are inserting them. Any side stems can also make it impossible to take a stem back out and re-insert. I use a knife to remove any side stems (like this little nodule in the image of a stem of flowering currant) and also to make the stem ends very sharply pointed to make it easier to insert into the moss.
The height achieved by the mounding of the moss, means that draping foliage over the edge of the urns is really easy to do without having to only use trailing stems in that part of the design. Add a little more water to the moss before you start designing.
Greenery – and lots of it
I find it easier to work on a turntable and usually begin by adding all my greenery. Some design books tell you to always have at least 3 types of greenery to add variety and texture to the design. I quite often will use even more that this depending on the style of the design. Here I used eucalyptus parvifolia, eucalyptus populus, eucalyptus gunnii, fatsia japonica, ivy and a couple of stems of asparagus densiflorus ‘myersii’ (more on this later!)
Do you really want them to be exactly the same?
When designing a pair, I often find it difficult to make them the same, but to be honest, who wants two absolutely identical floral designs? I am quite happy for them to be obviously a pair but to not be exactly the same. I’d follow the same formula in terms of content, but would intentionally add the stems so that they’re not perfect mirror images of each other. Perhaps it is due to my style of floral design, but they really don’t look right if they’re too matched. I suspect with a more modern, clean lined almost ikebana style design, getting them mirrored would be far more important and indeed they may look wrong if they’re not almost exactly the same. Who knows – tell me what you think.
Designing side by side when you are making a pair is always easier. Work on both together, flitting between each, adding one or two stems to one design and then back to the other design. Step back and look at your work regularly. I added some stems of flowering currant and made sure they ‘almost mirrored’ each other in the design pair.
If in doubt, leave it out
The advantage of stepping back and looking at the pair together means you see mistakes. Here is where I realised that the foxtail asparagus really looked very odd in the designs. If I’d had a few more stems, I may have kept them in as they add movement and line and they’re such a lovely light green colour compared to the rest of the greenery stems. But a single foxtail sticking up out of each design really did look odd. So…If in doubt, leave it out.
Out with the foxtails and in with some lovely white roses. Again working side by side and regularly stepping back to look at the shapes and lines created by your designs. If you’ve remembered to trim all your stems carefully, you should be able to easily remove any stems that don’t look quite right and re-insert them (just what you should avoid if you’re working in foam!). This is one of the reasons designing in moss is so good for practising your design skills.
Critique your own work
I often take photographs of my designs whilst they’re in progress to help me critique my own work. Seeing your design in a photograph can help you see shapes and patterns (and good bits and bad bits!) far easier than ‘in real life’. Make a habit of practising and photographing and going back over your work again. Designing in moss makes this easy as you’re not wrecking your oasis base and making it impossible to re-insert stems. In the image you can see that one of the roses in the centre of the design on the right is a little too short and inserted at a rather flat angle (in truth this is only because the rose is a different variety to all the others and I didn’t have enough to complete the design, but you can see my point about looking critically at your own work and seeing where things could have been improved).
Finally, I added some large green chrysanthemums taking care to not perfectly mirror them with each other.
Two designs (a pair but not identical thankfully!) made with lots of greenery, a few stems of flowering currant and some very nice quality roses and chrysanthemums. Not a huge amount of flowery content, but a very nice simple design that is long lasting in a moss base.
These would look lovely for a wedding either side of a doorway on plinths, or as table top or pedestal designs for a wedding or event (but only after replacing the wrong rose!)
Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope the tips are useful. Share your mirrored designs with me, I’d love to see them.
I’ve been so busy with orders that I have yet again neglected my blog posts! I realise that I still haven’t posted the photos of the foam-free pair of matching urns and promise I will post those sometime this week.
In the meantime, I had a request on my Instagram account to show how I wrap my bouquet’s in tissue paper. I often design a ‘flat-backed’, presentation style bouquet and the style suits a wrapping that is lower at the front to show off the blooms but still gives good support and protection to the flowers at the back.
This is where my ‘V-necked’ wrapping comes in! It’s very easy to do and can be replicated with your own bouquet’s.
Here’s what you need –
4 sheets of waxed tissue paper in your choice of colour. I use 2 sheets each of a nicely coordinated or contrasting colour, but you could use all the same colour if you like.
rafia, ribbon or string
If you’re using contrasting/coordinating colours, divide them into 2 piles of 2 sheets – 1 pile with the contrasting colour on top, and one with the contrasting colour underneath.
Fold your first pile of 2 sheets in half along the diagonal so that you have a long straight edge at the bottom and 2 pointed ‘flags’ heading away from you. At this point I always slightly offset the 2 sheets. Just a couple of centimetres shows the layers of colour and I think looks more decorative. Do the same with your second pile of sheets.
Take your first pile of sheets and fold one side of the long end so that the point is around the centre of the two pointed ‘flags’ that are still facing away from you.
Do the same on the other side of the long edge. Fold it in to meet the other fold almost in the middle. The tighter the points are together, the narrower your finished bouquet will be – so you might need to play around with how far in you take your folds if you have a very large handtied bouquet. You get used to looking at the bouquet and gauging how close together your points need to be.
Now do the same with the other pile of 2 sheets so that you have two sets of shapes like this.
Sit your shapes one on top of the other with the folds facing upwards and place your handtied bouquet carefully in the centre. I leave my stem ends uncovered as I keep them in water until I’m ready to deliver them.
I’m right-handed, so I always fold in the right hand side of the top grouping of tissue paper first, followed by the left hand side. Give the paper a squeeze to nip it in place. When I first did this, I obsessed about not creasing the paper too much as I thought it looked messy. Now, I realise the more careful I am with it, the messier it looks, so I really do just squeeze the paper together in one quick movement!
Then take the second grouping of tissue paper and fold it in the same way – right hand first followed by left hand second (I guess this would be easier reversed if you’re left handed?). As you’re folding in, just drop the paper slightly lower than the one you’ve already folded so that it shows through to the first layers in a nice decorative pattern.
Tie off the bouquet using your choice of tie. I often just use jute string, but also sometimes use natural undyed rafia or a wired hessian bow depending on the occasion.
Here’s some photos of the finished wrapped bouquets. Hope you find the tutorial useful.
Hello again and welcome to my series of free floral design tutorials.
Today’s design demonstrates that it is possible to create a large scale design with traditional foam-free techniques.
If you’d like to have a go yourself, this is what you’ll need:
Large urn. This one is a fibreglass urn with an aged-look, but you could create in anything that is of a similar shape in a decent size. This urn is 40 cm tall.
Waterproof bowl or liner that fits snugly into the urn without dropping down into the depths. My 24 cm diameter plastic bulb bowl nests in the top like a glove. Be creative – ice-cream tub, plastic milk bottle with the top cut off, tupperware box – whatever is the best fit.
Damp sphagnum moss
A biodegradeable compost caddy bag
Wire cutters and gloves
Floristy tools – a sharp knife and/or scissors, string/wire, pot tape (or florists tack depending on the best method for securing your waterproof liner)
A couple of skewers of different diameters
A selection of ready conditioned flowers and foliage of your choice.
Another item that is useful but not necessarily essential is a footstool or step (the finished design will be tall!)
Check the fit of the waterproof liner in the urn. You may need to pack out the very bottom of the urn with some scrunched chicken wire to prevent your bowl dropping too low. The rim of the bowl should be a little higher than the rim of the urn and the moss should mound up higher still. This will give you the space to insert stems so that they can arch downwards in the design. Remove the bowl from the urn and set aside ready for the mossy filling.
Take a very generous quantity of very damp moss (you won’t be able to easily redampen it when the design is made, so cram as much water in from the start as you can) and stuff into the compost caddy bag. Fill the bag almost to bursting, add a little more water and then twist the bag top very tightly and tie off with string or a paper covered wire. Turn the bag upside down and push carefully into your waterproof container so that the tying point is hidden underneath. The bag should fit snuggly into your container and ideally be mounded a fair bit higher than the brim. If not, keep adding moss filled bags.
Cut a square of chicken wire just a little bigger than your liner. and place it over the top of the moss filled bag. Carefully tuck all the edges down between the bag and the bowl. Try not to over fill with wire as this just makes it harder to get stems into the moss. Try not to tear the bag if you can as this not only holds more moisture in, it also helps to hold stems firmly.
Insert your liner bowl into your urn and fix securely so there is no ‘wobble’! Depending on how snug the fit, you might want to use either pot-fix around the edges of the bowl or put a cross of pot tape across the top of the chicken wire and tuck under the rim of the urn where you’ll disguise with foliage. If the liner is still wobbly – now is the time to faff with it until it is really secure. The finished design is pretty big and carries some weight – so be absolutely sure it’s fixed well.
If you follow ‘the rules’, your finished design height for an upright design should be around 1/3 container to 2/3 flowers. So for my 40 cm urn, the height of the tallest flowers/foliage would be around 80 cm and the overall height of the design would be 120 cm. Even when working on a traditional style design, I sometimes go with the flow and go a little bigger or smaller depending on the shape and style of the container and the kinds of flower materials I’m working with. The key is to put in a few of your outline stems and to step back and think about the design and the proportions you want. For a big design, don’t be afraid to go big!
Flowers and foliage
Most stems I’ve used last well in moss – some have a slightly shorter lifespan in moss than in water or floral foam. I’ve found gerbera and germini to be a bit fussy about moss, but if you are designing for an event, they’d be fine for a couple of days before going all diva on you. Make sure all your stems are very well-conditioned, trim off any nodules on the stems as these rip up the bag and make inserting into the moss quite tricky. I always use a florist knife to trim the stems to a sharp point as this makes them much easier to insert.
Begin by greening up the design. Insert stems firmly and deeply in the mossed bag. Strong stems pierce the bag really easily and if you’ve very tightly filled the bag, they will feel very secure. The chicken wire gives even more security with the grid holding stems firm.
I used pittosporum, a few different kinds of eucalyptus, ivy and these gorgeous big fatsia leaves. Cover any mechanics and the bowl, drape a few stems downwards and remember to keep stepping back to check the shape of your design. Allow for plenty of greenery for a large design like this and I like to use at least 3 different types to give variety, texture and to give different shades of green.
Once you’re happy with your green framework, begin adding your flowers. I find it easier to add all of the same type of flower before moving on to the next type. This helps to stop the urge to put the flowers into ‘lines’. Begin at the top (this might be where having a footstool comes in handy) and then step the blooms diagonally downwards so that there is a rhythm through the design. You don’t want the flowers being all on the same level. You also don’t want them to be perfect mirror images on either side of an imaginary line running up the centre of the urn. Insert the stems so that they look like they’re radiating from the same point deep within the design. Continue to add your flowers in the same stepping diagonally downward motion (or upward if you find it easier). For any delicate stems, I use a skewer to pierce a hole in the bag and moss before inserting the stem. I always leave the really delicate stems to the end as it’s easy to damage them as you are inserting other stems around them.
This design is for a pedestal display and is to be viewed mainly from the front (a little from the sides). Therefore the back of the design doesn’t need to be flowered and can be relatively flat. The front profile of the design is curved – this gives balance to the design, both physically and visually. Some stems are placed deeply into the design and some not so deep so that the surface of the design doesn’t feel ‘one-dimensional’. If you’re struggling with the outline shape or placement of the blooms, I find photographing the design and then looking at the photo rather than the design itself to be really helpful. Oddly, your eyes can somehow pick up on problem areas easier on a photo – for example, they’ll see a group of stems too bunched together or one that is set too high in the design. Don’t ask me how, but it works!
When you’re happy with the design (keep stepping back to check), you can add more water to the top of the compost caddy bag and some should drain down into the moss through the holes pierced by the stems. You can also spritz the flowers and foliage with a light mist of water to help maintain freshness before the design is needed. The bowl can be removed to make transporting the design easier if necessary and then re-fixed in place when needed.
Here is the finished design which lasted 3 days in moss (and would have lasted longer except on the 3rd day the gerbera’s had already started to sulk). For a longer lasting design, you may want to experiment with different blooms). I re-use my chicken wire, moss and plastic bowls so this design has minimal wastage.
I hope you find the tutorial useful. If you have a go – please share your design with me, I’d love to see it.
Next up: Designing a matching pair of smaller table centrepieces (when, like me, you find matching pairs hard!) Again, the next design will be foam-free.