Floral Design Using Stuff on Hand

| April 1, 2013 | 0 Comments


Citrowske presented an arrangement of yellow gerbera daisies and a new variety of green carnation that looks like moss on a stem.

February’s Mission Hills Garden Club meeting featured a repeat speaker, Diane Citrowske, who spoke on floral design. This year she focused on designing with armatures and grids. She also included a few tips on prolonging the life of cut flowers.

Citrowske began with an overview of the mechanics of floral design. Throughout history, we have used various materials as armatures for arrangements. However, in 1950 floral foam became “ubiquitous in the industry.” It’s easy and fast to use. Made from petroleum products, this foam, also known as Oasis, crumbles into sand-like particles but never decomposes. In Europe, businesses are taxed if they use non-biodegradable products. Many European floral designers have turned to methods from the past for providing structure in floral arrangements. The Japanese still use sticks, branches, or even stems for their arrangements. When they use a non-biodegradable material such as their metal kenzans (pin frog), it will last forever. I have some from my family that are at least 80 years old.

Citrowske incorporates items found in the home, yard, country, hardware, craft or grocery stores such as wired ribbon, paper-covered wire, colored spooled aluminum, miniature trellises. Most of these items can be used for what Citrowske calls “natural mechanics.”

Before creating a design, Citrowske showed us her materials. One can make a grid by tying sticks together and setting them on or in a container; but for those who find tying tedious and time-consuming, a structure of Mason jar lids linked with plastic or metal zip cable ties makes an easy grid for your container, and can be used over and over. Citrowske presented an arrangement of yellow gerbera daisies and a new variety of green carnation that looks like moss on a stem. The flowers were held in place with mason jar lid rings which rested on top of a simple structure of sticks placed outside the four corners of an apple-green ceramic cube. To stabilize the structure, she tied diagonally crossed dowels about two inches below the rings while two more crossed dowels rested atop the square vase. The flowers’ stems created a vertical effect accented with a few strands of hanging sheer green ribbon. The rings were barely visible, but the arrangement was unusual, exciting, and the structure was re-usable. We learned that this is a way to keep gerberas happy; they do not like having their stems deep in water. These blooms hung with their stem bottoms just above the ceramic floor suspended in less than an inch of fresh water.

Another design had pale green sheer wired ribbons wrapped vertically around a tall, rectangular clear vase. Each ribbon segment ended in a bow forming a barrier to keep bunches of a few daffodils each in place. Like the gerbera composition, this separation enabled the stems to make their own design statement.

Citrowske also may use a wire wreath frame with a diameter larger than the vase’s rim. Using a sturdy vine, weave the vine throughout the wreath frame, and across the opening. She then gathers the ends of the vine, like a bouquet, and place the cut ends in the water, so the vine doesn’t wilt. Now you have a bed of foliage doubling as a grid to in which you use to organize your flowers as you wish with their stems poking through to the water. Citrowske angled roses and hydrangea deep in the water. The crossed stems further supported the display. Then she added more roses for height. Finally she added a few euphorbias allowing them to hang almost to the table just as they grew.

As she worked, Citrowske gave us tips on flower preservation. Euphorbia and daffodils have a sap which is toxic to other plants. Before using them in an arrangement, always cut the ends and place them in a bucket of water for several hours or overnight. This allows the sap to run out and seal the cut edge. When designing, do not re-cut the stem. Just place them in the vase. The flower still absorbs water through its stem, but it does not contaminate the water for the other flowers.

To keep hydrangeas looking fresh, submerge the entire head in fresh, room temperature water for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully lift out each flower. Gently (petals are fragile and break off easily) shake the excess water from the plant and re-cut the bottom of the stem at an angle. Hydrate in water for at least an hour, then design. Daily misting adds to their longevity. You can buy products to “seal in” moisture. (Fausto has some.) If you don’t need much for one small arrangement, “Hairspray works in a pinch,” Citrowske told us.

Another tip from Citrowske is to use a knife instead of clippers to cut stems. Clippers or scissors may crush the stem, hindering its ability to take in water. For efficiency, when you need two hands, you have to drop the clippers, whereas you can hold a knife loosely in one hand and still use that hand to place flowers.

As Citrowske continued embellishing the various structures she had built, she explained what her vocational floral design classes involve. These are five hour laboratory classes consisting of lecture, floral design, clean up, and math. Many of her students hope to run a business. Most florists go out of business within two years. Unless they know exactly what the various expenses are, what jobs are involved, the availability of perishable product, among other things, the entrepreneur will fail. Citrowske’s students will understand exactly what the cost of the final product is — retail and wholesale — and will have a better chance for success.

April 24 Mission Hills Garden Club meets from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church on Jackdaw between West Lewis and Fort Stockton Drive for a presentation by Sky Jeanette: A Tower Garden for Small Spaces. Tickets for the Garden Walk, Saturday, May 11, are available at the nursery.

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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.