One way to prolong the life of certain florists flowers is to immerse them, blooms and all, in lukewarm water. This works especially well for roses, camellias gardenias pansies and violets, though handle them very carefully, because they are easily bruised. As for mimosa-that all too short-lived promise of spring that can turn to hard dried-out bobbles within a day of buying-if you place its crushed stems in boiling water for half a minute and once arranged, spray it regularly with cool water it should keep its color and fluffiness for a week.
NB. Before finally arranging any flowers strip all leaves from the lower part of the stems, so that they don't contaminate the water.
Aids to arrangement.
Most books on flower arranging (most classes too) will tell you it's almost impossible to get good results unless you anchor flowers firmly by artificial means. This may be true of very elaborate and formal arrangements, but if you prefer flowers to look simple and relaxed, you will find they often fall into graceful shapes naturally. Even with fairly complicated large-scale arrangements, it's frequently possible to create a net work of flower-heads and stems that prove mutually supporting.
In general, it's better to manage without aids to arrangement, because they encourage stiff and artificial results. However, if you feel more confident with some help, here is how to use florist-shop mechanics in a sympathetic way:
The most commonly-used aid to arranging flowers is artificial foam, sold in block from under various brand names. This holds flower stems firmly in position particularly is stems are cut at a very sharp angle which makes them easier to insert. The foam should be soaked in water before use, when it will retain moisture for up to a week, and more water can be poured on as it dries out.
How big a block of foam you need will depend on the size of the container in which you are arranging the flowers-but beware the mistake of only filling it to the rim. If you do this the completed arrangement will appear to sit on top of the container. as if it has been dumped there in a solid lump. Instead, use nearly as much foam above the rim of the container as blow, so that some flowers can droop downwards over its edge, giving a more casual and free result.
If you are using heavy materials like sprays of leaves that are too weighty to be held by foam alone, you can cover the foam with lightly crumpled medium-gauge chicken wire, pushing if firmly against the sides of the container to ensure a good grip. With this method you get total obedience from your materials-but you rule out the chance of happy accidents.
Pinholes are flat metal discs covered with vertical spikes but because the spikes are all set at the same angle, they can lead to very hard and rigid arrangements. Indeed it's so difficult to introduce life and movement penholders are best avoided except in special situations. They can be useful for instance, when only a single or a few flowers need supporting-although you could use damp foam or even damp sand for the same purpose. And they are particularly useful if you want to arrange flowers-not in a conventionally deep container, but in something quite shallow or flat like a plate. Then you can use a penholder as an anchor for some dampened foam, inserting enough flowers and leaves into the foam to render the mechanics invisible.
Other florists aids include a clay-like material-occasionally useful for fixing penholders in position, especially where large asymmetrical arrangements are concerned; and flowers wire, for making individual stems behave. As this latter aid is guaranteed to give a stiff result it's best kept as a last desperate measure.
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