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Flower power

27 February 2023
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Christchurch-based florist Alexandra Valle of The Flower Press shares some trade secrets to try at home. Words Alexandra Valle Photo Dianne Kelsey

You’ll need sharp scissors or secateurs, a vase/vessel filled with water, chicken wire and/or a flower frog (kenzan), a selection of flowers and foliage and a clear workspace, ideally with natural light and time to design.

Choose your vessel. You don’t have to use a traditional vase to arrange flowers in – a breakfast bowl is actually a great size for creating a table centrepiece. Second-hand shops are also great for finding interesting vessels.

Collect your flowers and foliage. Take a jar/bucket of water and some sharp snips and wander around your garden. Cut the flowers/foliage low to give you plenty of stem length and put them straight into water. If your garden is lacking in flora choice you might want to go foraging for some stems or picking from a local grower (such as Christchurch’s Moon River Flower Farm) or even purchasing from the supermarket. If you’re picking your own flowers, early morning or evening is best for freshness.

When selecting flowers and foliage for design, I find it easiest to think of the ‘four Fs’. Foliage, filler, focal and floaty. I recommend choosing one to three varieties for each element.

Foliage is self-explanatory, but if you’re not a big greenery fan consider choosing flowering foliage for this element.

Filler: these flowers are not the stars of the show but help to fill out the arrangement. Choose colours that will support your focal flowers. Choosing taller stems for this element can add interesting lines to a design.

Focal flowers are just that, they are usually the more dramatic and beautiful flowers. They will draw your eye in a design, so placement of these needs added consideration.

Finally, and my favourite step, is to add the floaty flowers. These sit above the other elements and create a sense of whimsy in a design.

Prepare your stems. Remove any thorns, any damaged petals and make sure all greenery that will sit below the water line is removed.

Prepare your vessel with a flower frog at the base and/or a pillow of chicken wire that will provide support for your stems in the arrangement. You may need to tape over the top of the vessel to keep the wire position.

Give yourself time and a clear space to make your arrangement. I find working in natural light best for floral design. Turn on some music you love and take your time with your arrangement – literally stop and smell the roses, appreciate the miracle of mother nature.

Arrange by working through the four elements with your selected ingredients, placing and repositioning as necessary. If you’re unsure of the result, take five minutes and come back to it, or take a photograph of it. I find this most helpful if I’m unsure if something is quite right.

Most of all – enjoy the process and trust your creativity.

Top up your finished arrangement with water and place in a position you can enjoy it.


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