Archive for July, 2011

Design definitions – how to communicate with your florist!!

In reading over some of the blogs I’ve just posted I got confused about designs and their meanings. You must be too!  I imagine by now you’ve decided to never order flowers again because it’s all to doggone confusing! Allow me to clarify all of this for you (and for me!).

  When a client calls me and wants flowers sent to someone I ask this question: “Do you want a traditional design, a contemporary design, a exotic design or a natural design?” The flower recipient has decorated his or her home or office in a particular style. For example: it could be unsettling to have a way out contemporary design in a very traditional home full of antiques. I design the arrangement to suit the person the flowers will be delivered to.

First of all, never ask for a European design. A European design could be traditional, contemporary or exotic or natural! It would be like asking for a cup of tea in a restaurant specializing in teas. Do you want organic? Earl Grey? Plum Blossom? herbal? Well, you get the idea!

The picture on the left is an example of a traditional design. This design idea harks back centuries. Artists in Renaisance times painted flower arrangements that looked similar to this. These designs are symetrically balanced with lots of colorful flowers of all kinds. When sailing ships returned to their European ports from their explorations they brought back all kinds of new flowers. The wealthy were excitedly trying them out in their home arrangements. Tulips were one of the first new flowers to be discovered. Then roses, camellias, and eventually exotics like orchids!

In the late 1800′s through about 1959 this was the standard design. Any movie buff watching the early black and whites or first color movies will see arrangements like this. They could get to a pretty good size!

With a contemporarydesign the sky is the limit! In the picture at the left the palm fronds have been braided. The design itself is not perfect. It definitely needs some work, but, in its simplicity, you get a better idea of where this is all going. A single large hydrangea blossom can be placed in a bed of cabbage leaves, broccoli can march down a table looking like trees in a park, peppers and related vegys can be stuck with toothpicks to mimic cactus. These are very simple ideas that take a minimum of time to make.

European designers are going off the charts with incredible structures made of grasses, sticks, limbs, and branches. Flowers are used in masses in very small designs or huge, towering edifices. Hours and hours of work go into these designs. Google European Floral Designers and see what you come up with! And don’t forget the folks from down under. New Zealand and Australian designers are utilizing the unusual flora in their countries, making designs that are a real eye opener. Check out:  or or google Gregor Lecsch or Jeurgen Potthoff to name a few.

Exotic designs have a basis in Ikebana and ancient Chinese design. They are asymetrical (usually), simple, elegant. There are usually three general “levels” taken from the Japanese philosophy of earth, man, heaven. I have seen designs with only one beautiful flower placed in a vessel that perfectly suits it as well as outrageously ostentatious over the top designs.

The flowers can be your local garden flowers. Hawaiian designs use antherium, ginger, orchids, protea, bamboo, tea leaves, philodendron leaves. A piece of knarled, curling drift wood used as the basis for a design is great. Or a piece of bark, an unusual rock. There is a sense of delicacy, a reverence for the plant material, a subtly usually lost in traditional design work.

Training in an ancient Ikebana school under a master takes years of concentrated effort. To view a modern take go to . 

Last but not least is the natural design. It’s an idea I’ve come up with because I love to use materials directly from nature. In the picture on the left there are no flowers, only grasses, reeds, a branch covered in lichens, and moss. That’s all. If you walk through a forest or on the beach or through a grass land (to name only a few areas on earth!) look around you. Look closely. Look at each individual growing plant. Look at the rock formations, stones in a creek, dirt(!). The pattern rocks make in a creek or stream are caused by their size, weight and the force of the water. Wind transforms branches. Water carves rock formations. Let your design be dreamed by what you observe in nature.

And there you have it. Although I’m barely touching the surface, at least this gives you some idea of how to communicate with your florist on a closer level, to give you the design you and the recipient of the flowers will truly enjoy. I would love you know how this works for you. Please let me know! Pipper

From traditional to exotic…

21may 012

In the last post I talked about traditional and European design. In this post I would like to give some definition to “exotic” design.

In this catagory I would place Japanese Ikebana as a primary definition. There are several main schools of traditional Ikebana that take years to become proficient in. The most simplistic way of explaining the schools to you would be the following main ideas. The designs are asymetrical. There are 3 levels: heaven, man and earth. Heaven being the tallest material, earth the lowest. The plant material is used in odd numbers: 3, 5, 7, 9. Believe me when I say this is a very simple explanation!

The Asian influence in these designs is unmistakable. There is a sense of delicacy, a reverence for the plant material, a subtlty usually lost in traditional design. The history of this design work goes back centuries and can require years of formal training. Check out this website: Here is Ikebana taken into the 21 century.

I also place more exotic flowers in this catagory as well as the usual. Orchids of course, antherium, heliconium, ginger, bamboo… I could go on and on. A reverence for nature is essential in this work. Natural materials are used in unique ways, yet the basic structural foundation remains.

If you find this facinating google some of the key words like Japanese floral design, Ikebana, or traditional Chinese floral design. You may be surprised…

When a client calls me with an order I always ask: “Would you like a traditional design, a contemporary design or an exotic design?”  When you call a florist to place an order you might want to ask if they can make a design for you in one of these three catagories. Then make sure to ask them to give you their description of what they will be doing for you. You are spending a great deal of money on something that will not last. Therefore, you should be given assurance by the florist that you will be paying for flowers designed the way you want, that the flowers have been processed appropriately to enhance their longevity. With the new cell phones everyone has it should be no problem for a florist to take a picture and email you the finished design!

Enjoy the flowers! Pipper


ok 030

Thank you all for your comments! It makes it all worthwhile to know this blog is helpful. So far there has been no negative feedback at all!! The picture on the right was taken by my husband. He is a bird watcher. Among those who spend a good amount of money on optics to view birds there are two definitions. A bird watcher is one who is truly interested in birds as a  species. A bird watcher gets into the  scientific aspects. This person will watch one bird for hours if necessary to determine as many aspects of the bird as possible and take notes, draw pictures, take pictures. A birder just wants to see the bird, check it off the list and rush on to the next one. My husband comes by this naturally. He started watching birds as a small boy when his dad took him out on the ocean (his dad was Coast Guard.) He majored in wild life management. Hence the bird pics when I post a thank you to everyone.

If there are any questions about anything and you would like a response or a specific blog on a subject relating to flowers please let me know. Another blog which is full of very useful information to moms and dads about children is (I think that’s how it goes.) It’s my daughter’s blog and it is excellent!

Enjoy the flowers! Pipper