Holiday arrangements primer

holiday arrangementsLast Saturday, I attended Master Gardener Steven Nokes’ talk on creating holiday arrangements. He had a lot of great tips and has given me permission to share them with you.

During his talk, he created a Thanksgiving floral arrangement and a holiday table centerpiece. I didn’t want to disrupt things by taking photos, so just sat quietly taking notes. Here’s what he had to say:

Working with cut flowers…

  • If picking flowers from your garden, place them into warm water first to avoid shocking them; when you’re ready to put the arrangement together, put cold water in the vase.
  • Whether the flowers are from the store or your garden, Steven says they’ll last longer if you cut them underwater; this keeps air from blocking water that needs to go up the stem.
  • He also suggests cutting the stem on an angle which exposes more plant tissue and prevents the stem from sitting flat at the bottom the vase, thus allowing it to more easily take up water.
  • Pick a vase that isn’t any shorter than half the height of the flowers you’ll be putting into it.
  • The smaller flowers and/or buds go at the top of the arrangements (to mimic nature), so those stems should be the longest.
  • Steven says there’s no need to add anything to the water (such as the packets that often come with store-bought cut flowers or other products) but he does “condition” the water he puts into the vase by filling it ahead of time and letting it set for a few hours; this allows any chlorine in the water to dissipate.
  • You can use “frogs” (a florist’s tool that has metal vertical pins that you push the stems down into) to hold plants up straight. Another item you can use are marbles, which you can find in the florist’s supply area of a craft store.
  • Before putting any flowers into the vase, remove leaves from any part of the stems that will be underwater. Those leaves can pollute the water as they decompose, which is a “death sentence for the flowers,” Steven advises.
  • Once your arrangement is satisfactory to you, dress it up by putting a placemat or table topper underneath. For Thanksgiving arrangements, you can add small ears of dried “Indian” corn or white pumpkins. Pine cones would work well for Christmas arrangements.
  • Mist the flowers every so often to keep them fresh-looking and make them last up to 2 weeks.

Working with greens for a table centerpiece…

  • When making dinner table arrangements, Steven suggests keeping it low and wide so guests can see each other over it.
  • He first soaked a block of florist’s “oasis” in water until it was heavy and completely saturated. This is what he would place into a shallow dish and then push the greens into it. He mentioned that if you feel like the oasis might tip over later, this is the time to use some green adhesive florist’s tape to attach it to the dish by running it from one edge of the dish, up and over the oasis and then down onto the opposite side of the dish.
  • Next, he pushed a florist’s green plastic candle holder into the center of the oasis, which he would use later.
  • He was using prunings from a juniper, but cedar, pine and spruce are ideal for use as greens, too.
  • To make greens last, use a commercial spray like “Wilt Stop” which prevents them from drying out. Spray the top and bottom of the greens.
  • Steven doesn’t cut the greens underwater like he does with cut flowers; he doesn’t feel it’s necessary.
  • The stem on each branch was pruned of side branches for the first few inches as that end would be pushed into the oasis. He pushed enough greens into the oasis until you couldn’t see it anymore.
  • Next, he had some trimmings from an Oregon grape; he added those to the arrangement for a pleasing accent since the leaves are shiny and have interesting shapes. It was also pruned in the above manner before being added to the oasis. The whole time, Steven followed his advice by keeping the arrangement nice and low.
  • Once he was pleased with how everything looked, he placed a candle into the candle holder. The result was a very simple yet elegant centerpiece.

I hope you’ll find Steven’s tips helpful as you start creating your own holiday arrangements!