It’s the time of year that Mother Nature likes to play tricks on us. After an unseasonably warm winter, we had a whole string of days that felt like spring was finally upon us. The stems of my rose bushes are slowly waking up and turning form brown to green, and around the garden are little specks of green where the spring bulbs are hesitantly starting to emerge. But those of us who live in Colorado know better. Within 24 hours spring had disappeared and winter had returned, and today I am bitterly watching the snow fall down on those poor deceived bulbs.
Knowing that we are still technically in the final weeks of winter, I wanted to put together an arrangement that brings together some of the flowers that are commonly found in winter, yet with just a hint of the glorious spring flowers that are around the corner. This is an example of the pavé style of flower arranging. The word pavé is French for “paved”, so when you think of a pavé arrangement, think of a cobblestone street – the flowers will be set very close together with very little space between the flowers, and will be a consistent height with the flowers covering the entire area of the container.
Choosing Your Flowers:
I normally like to choose flowers that are commonly found at the grocery store so that you, dear reader, can easily try these designs at home. Sadly, the variety at my local floral department was very limited given the time of year, so I did make the trek to a wholesale florist. The variety was SO much better, and worth the trip. Below is a picture of the flowers that I came home with in raw, uncut form. From left to right: Aster, Green Trick, Chrysanthemums, Tulips and Spray Roses.
And, just because I’m a flower geek, here are some close-ups of the flowers:
First, prepare your container. You’ll want to choose a container that is low and that has a liner for the floral foam and water. I bought this container at the wholesale florist, so sadly can’t give you the link to buy the same one yourself. For this type of arrangement you’ll definitely want to use floral foam. Prepare the floral foam ahead of time by soaking it in room temperature water. If you have flower preservative (the little packets that come with grocery store flowers), pour a little bit into the bottom of the plastic liner of the container (if you are using a container with a liner) and fill the container with room temperature water until it is about ¼ full. Once the floral foam has soaked for about 20 minutes, insert the foam into the container.
Now that the foam is prepped, let’s start arranging! The key to this type of arrangement is to cut the flowers so that the top of the arrangement is a uniform height. The flowers will also be cut fairly short since this is a low centerpiece. For all of the flowers, make sure that you remove all of the leaves and greenery from the stems before inserting them into the foam. This prevents the leaves from rotting in the arrangement and will extend the life of you centerpiece.
After removing any leaves from the stem, cut the stems as you go so that you have about 2-3 inches of stem to insert into the foam. Also, I recommend that you cut the stems at an angle for two reasons: 1) cutting the stem at an angle will create a pointy end that will make it easier to insert into the foam 2) a stem that has been cut at an angle has a larger surface area than a stem cut straight across the bottom, allowing the flower to absorb more water once it is in the arrangement.
Step 1: Starting with the Green Trick, insert the flower stems one at a time from corner to opposite corner of the container, as shown below. Starting with the center of the arrangement ensures that the arrangement is symmetrical and allows more control of the design. At the edges of the arrangement where the flower meet the container, angle the flower out so that it slightly peeks over the edge of the container, creating a more full look and avoiding visual gaps between the container and the floral foam.
Step 2: The next group of flowers will be inserted into the outside corner. For this group, we will use the larger chrysanthemums since there are not as many flower heads as the spray roses or asters. By grouping them in the corner, they will look more full then if we have a single, narrow line of them in the center of the container. Remember to angle the flowers out at the edges of the container so that there are no gaps between the container and the floral foam.
Step 3: Next, insert the spray roses into the arrangement. You will find that the spray roses have multiple flower heads per stem, and cutting each individual head may not give you enough stem length to insert into the floral foam. To avoid this, I will insert a group of flowers on the same stem. You can see in the picture that the heights of the spray roses vary because of this, which is just fine. If there are any spray rose heads that are very different in height, I will cut them off and tuck them into the corners of the arrangement where you can get away with having a slightly shorter stem length.
Step 4: Now, insert the tulips into the opposite corner of the container. Following the same technique as the chrysanthemums, angle them out slightly at the edges of the container. One little quirk about tulips is that they continue to grow and lengthen as they are in arrangements, so to adjust for this I will insert them into the floral foam so that the bottom of the flower head is as close to the top surface of the foam as possible – but don’t force them. The stems of tulips are delicate and will break if handled too roughly.
Step 5: Finally, fill in the last group of the arrangement –the asters. These are big, poufy flowers that are easy to work with, so tuck them into any corners or spaces in the arrangement around the tulips and Green Trick.
Whenever I finish an arrangement, I will make sure to create a “Watering Space” for myself. Flowers absorb a tremendous amount of water within the first 24 hours of being cut, so you’ll find that the water in your container may be close to empty tomorrow and in need of a top-off. When you are finished with the arrangement, find a little spot where you can insert the narrow spout of a watering can or faucet to refill the water. In this arrangement, you can see a little triangular space between the chrysanthemums and the edge of the arrangement in the top left corner – that’s my Watering Space. Check the water level of your arrangement every day or so to make sure that there is still water in the container.
One of the things that I love about floral design is that you can easily substitute different flowers if the ones in the pictured design aren’t available. If you can’t find these exact flowers in your area, don’t panic. Just substitute flowers that have dense, compact heads and try to vary the type of flower heads you are using. Think about flowers like roses, chrysanthemums, peonies, hydrangeas, ranunculus, and carnations. Flowers that grow on tall stalks like gladiolus or snapdragons and flowers that have distinctive, spiky petals like tiger lilies will not work well in this type of arrangement that should have a smooth, even surface when finished.