I’ll admit it. I'm a selfish cheat. When we came up with ideas for our Summer Learn to Try Challenge, I slipped in one about learning to arrange flowers. It was selfish because it was more for me than the kids. It was cheating because I knew where to find the flowers and someone to teach. What I didn't know was how complex the process of putting flowers in water could be.
My mom, a retired teacher, grows flowers, flowers, and more flowers. She artfully arranges them for any and every occasion. Having a “small” country wedding with 200 guests? Great, no problem. Flowers! Impromptu hot dogs in the backyard (with Chardonnay)? Fantastic. Flowers! More recently, she started selling bouquets, potted arrangements, and cut flowers at her local farm and community markets. Business is blooming!
When I added arrangement-making to our list, I imagined a quiet afternoon at her farm with the kids. Instead, we did something WAY better. A couple of weeks into summer my mom floated the idea of hosting a “Snip and Sip” at her farm to benefit our family-run non-profit, A is for Africa. I thought, “Even better. Two goals, one event. Flowers and wine? We’re in.”
So, last Sunday became the first annual Snip and Sip. My parent’s Mount Airy community, several friends, and family members showed up in force. It was a gorgeous day with bright blue skies, low temps (for August), and big smiles all around.
Attendees got right down to business. They gathered, poured something to sip, and wandered the gardens in search of dahlias, sunflowers, and zinnias. Back in the house, more experienced floral arrangers were on hand to consult and coach the less experienced. (Psst, that’d be me.)
I quickly realized that some things are more involved than they appear. Just sticking cut flowers in water IS NOT, in fact, all there is to it.
Here are the flower arranging process steps I learned.
- Have the thought, Hmm; flowers would be nice here.
- Have another thought, Wine would be nice while I’m figuring out this flower thing.
- Pour a glass of wine. First things, first. Really people.
- Choose in-season flowers. Assume you're “good” on this one if you're cutting straight from the garden. If the flowers don't know when they're supposed to grow, I can't help them. Survival of the fittest!
- Choose a vessel. The vessel can be a vase, jar, or can. You also could just wait until the bottle of wine you’re drinking is empty.
- Use complementary colors. This might mean focusing on one color, selecting varying shades of a single color, or picking three colors that look like they'd have an interesting conversation at an airport bar. Note: if you’re working with an opinionated 5-year-old, skip this step. No matter what color scheme you pick, the kid will insist on adding a random bright red flower at the end and mess everything up. You’ll want to scream, “No way, wacko. That’ll look terrible,” but you won’t. Instead, you’ll mumble something through gritted teeth like, “Sure, honey, whatever you want." Trust me. I just know.
- Add some texture. I have no idea what that means but, if you do, please complete this step. If not, just move on. It's probably not important.
- Consider the location of the arrangement. Will it be in the kitchen, front hall, or bedroom? Or, maybe your car? That could be cool. Car arrangements haven’t yet caught on but I think there’s potential. You could start a trend as soon as you figure out how to avoid sloshing the water and obstructing your view. Think about it.
- Gather the needed materials. I guess this means the other stuff besides flowers, a vase, and water. Frankly, it was news to me that you needed anything besides the occasional steak knife to hack away at extra-long stems. Apparently, scissors, wire, and floral tape are important. I draw the line at protective eye gear and a sweat towel. Personally, I’m not planning on working that hard.
- Cut the stems and trim leaves. This is a good tip. I hadn’t realized submerged leaves start to rot immediately and make your flower water look more like a green smoothie. Avoid confusion and just trim the leaves.
- Prepare the vessel. Wait, what? No. I'm sorry. I’m not interring the flowers for a safe journey to the afterlife. If the vase is dirty, that’s fine. The flowers will deal. They were GROWING in the dirt. Let's move on.
- Add water. This is another good tip. Add wine to your glass while you're at it.
- Add large, more dominant flowers first. Just like in life, I guess, the bossy flowers go first. Please note 12 essential pre-steps happened before actually touching your flowers.
- Layer flowers as you go. You got this. Fall weather is coming, and we're all all about layering. It's the same idea. Speaking of which, add a "layer" of wine to your glass right quick.
- Use an odd number of flowers. This is BY FAR the most important design tip ever. It applies to anything and everything. If you’re arranging something and it doesn’t look quite right, it’s because you have an even number. Take away or add one and life is good again.
- Pay attention to height and width. Sure, whatever. But, this reminds me. You'll need a little more wine and a couple of crackers with cheese. Oh, there are cookies? Take three of those too.
- Add leaves, berries, or other greenery last. The pros say these extras don’t cost much and add interest. I like it but be warned not everyone does. They’re like the extra words my editor regularly tries to delete. F'ing filler, I believe, is the technical term she likes to use.
- And just like that, you're done! Pour a little more wine and step back to enjoy your work.
PS: A is for Africa has a wonderful circle of supporters. They generously remind us at every opportunity that they too believe we're all connected and the little things we do to help others can have a huge, positive impact. Big hugs to you all!
PSS: Nothing to do with flowers or wine but look at these veggies! Just thought I'd share.