Decorating With Flowers, Succulents and Miscellaneous Finds

| December 4, 2013 | 0 Comments


Tony Alvarez gave ideas for decorating with flowers, succulents, and miscellaneous items found outdoors.

Tony Alvarez gave ideas for decorating with flowers, succulents, and miscellaneous items found outdoors.

In October several Garden Club members attended the San Diego Floral Association’s meeting which featured Tony Alvarez who gave us ideas for decorating with flowers, succulents, and miscellaneous items found outdoors. Alvarez had myriad half-started arrangements, and before beginning his talk he continued assembling bits and pieces.

Probably the best information I garnered from Alvarez’s talk was about new products. . . or new to me. The most exciting is floral glue. It is made by Oasis and does not harm blossoms or foliage. I glued phalaenopsis blossoms to flax several weeks ago; they all look fine! Another product I was unaware of is decorative aluminum wire which comes in at least 60 colors and various shapes including flat ribbons and various diameters of wire. Of course it helps to have Alvarez’s talent for shaping the wire. He uses it as both an armature for an arrangement or as a means of directing one’s eye. Crimping 26 gauge wire makes it sparkle.

Alvarez’s arrangements may incorporate anything that catches his eye. Last spring’s hydrangeas remained hydrated on his bushes so he picked them, pulled them apart, and used them as a base to cover his wet floral foam. I discovered they also hide kenzans or pin frogs as well, and they maintain enough of their original color to use with other flowers. Alvarez had one incredible arrangement which began with left-over green hydrangea blossoms encircling a tower of chartreuse gladiola. He used binding wire to hold the stems tightly together. Later he augmented this arrangement with bells of Ireland and eventually more flowers including some red ones. Gold aluminum ribbon completed the design although I preferred it with just the hydrangeas and glads.

Using heavy red aluminum wire, Alvarez created a base for a wrist corsage. Gluing various succulents and bits of bells of Ireland to each other and to the wire, he created a charming corsage.

Another clever way to create a lasting arrangement is with potted plants such as phaleanopsis which do not require soil. Clean the moss from the roots and either replace it with proper orchid mix (bark, perlite, and perhaps charcoal) or with nothing in its pots. If you are planning to use floral foam, make holes in the Oasis for each pot. Be sure your orchids’ pots have no openings and that the sides are tall enough not to take on any water. Then make your arrangement. If you want one that will last months with little care, add various succulents to your creation. The orchids will give height, and the succulents can be used as a cover for the oasis or as other focal points in the design. Consider hanging a branch over the container’s edge (Alvarez used rhypsalis, a type of epiphytic cacti).

Alvarez gave us a few miscellaneous pointers as well. Always strip off all leaves below the water line. The little packets of plant food and water purification that come with pre-packaged flowers should be in the water. Change the water frequently. Group plants together the way they grow in nature. Use light and dark colors to define of space. If you use a pumpkin as a container or as a decoration, wipe the interior well with lemon juice after you have removed the seeds and strings. This prevents it from collapsing with age. Succulents can grow in sphagnum moss or even oasis.

No matter how many floral designers I see, I always learn new things. Alvarez taught me a great deal and subsequently I spend a bit of money on new toys.

Last month our own Frankie Hartwell, famous for her arrangements for weddings and events, made holiday arrangements. She says centerpieces should be no taller than the top of your vertically extended hand when your elbow is resting on the table top unless it is a tall, very skinny arrangement which won’t hinder conversation. Hartwell had two arrangements, one finished and one ready to use as a demonstration, for her Thanksgiving dining room table. One, a pumpkin, appeared to be spilling over with succulents. The second was an intact white pumpkin. Any gourd will work for this arrangement as long as it has not been punctured. To show how she had done the orange pumpkin, she sprayed an adhesive over the white one’s top. Then she affixed a thick layer of moss to it, mounding it to the desired shape. Using a variety of succulents, she grouped like-clusters together creating a pleasing arrangement. She used trailing succulents to drape over the pumpkin’s sides. A brief spray of leaf shine completed the arrangement.

Her final arrangement began with damp floral foam (Oasis) in a container. A variety of ever-greens mixed with berry-covered branches made a base for the creation while a few branches with dried rose hips helped to create her horizontal line. The length of the line should be in proportion to the table. Then she began adding a variety of red flowers: deep red roses whose petals she peeled back exposing a darker red stripe on the inside of each petal, red cock’s comb, red anemones, more red berries and a chartreuse colored flower related to the carnation. To add interest, she added a few white roses. Hartwell reminded us to consider textures, line, and grouping like materials as they are found in nature. Pine cones, apples, magnolia leaves, rose hips–all can be found in the neighborhood. Let your imagination run wild, but ask before you cut!

There will be no meeting this month, but on January 24 Gabe Selak will speak on the Panama-California 1915 Exposition. (Selak says it is “locally known as the Garden Exposition.”) Fausto Palafox will also share information on where the money we make goes as well as letting us know how to be a part of the 2015 Panama-California Expo Centennial. The meeting will be from 6 until 8 p.m. at the church at 4070 Jackdaw in Mission Hills between Fort Stockton and West Lewis.

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.