Beginning the weekend (Friday evening) doing an audit of the contents of the fridge and cupboards (after shopping) does not bode well; what am I avoiding I wonder? In Morrisons I decide my financial situation is currently healthy enough to buy cut flowers; the presence of lilies and tulips in particular raise my spirits a kin to a non alcoholic tonic. As a child I watched my mother arranging flowers, something shehad attended evening classes to learn and it is from this observation my overly precise approach comes. Frankly it’s more of a curse because if the relationship between the height of the vase and the length of the stems isn’t just right I can’t look at them! There are preparatory steps that must be attended to before one starts snipping (at an angle) the base of the stems. Bear with me as I share the trials and tribulations of creating the perfect floral ensemble.
Before enthusiastically rummaging through the buckets of plastic coned flowers one should consider where the flowers will reside. Ideally this decision should be considered before leaving the house; there will be a range of options depending on the lifestyle one leads, the presence of children and pets. The additional occupiers are important especially if they have less than sympathetic habits where flowers are concerned; you will be familiar with the tendency to nibble the foliage or worry the blooms in an overly intrusive manner. Four legged friends are often the accomplices of small persons whose exuberant unco-ordinated dashing about can render ones crystal vase airborne! If this is your challenge I recommend regular visits to Ikea where a range of simple inexpensive glass vessels can be purchased (as frequently as your patience allows).
Then there are the persons (I include myself in this category) with poor spacial awareness; the people with an invisible exclusion zone around them leading to an uncanny ability to draw water filled vessel magnetically towards them. You may also know this category as clumsy or a clutz as our American relations refer to them. The urban dictionary handily defines a clutz as ‘Someone who is extremely careless, stupid and a hazard to be around. Trips over shoes constantly, breaks anything he touches, should not be allowed around heavy machinery or anything that might put other’s lives in danger.’ (Note to self this is a description of practically every man I’ve been unwise enough to allow to linger in my company). One may review the displaying of flowers until these persons are no longer in residence on account of the spiral of stress that is created in their wake!
So having assessed the locational options suitable for floral display it’s useful to check the current availability of vases or other appropriate vessels to stick the stems in. I’m especially fond of jam jars – Hartleys are particular pleasing and the Red Cherry jam is rather nice too! With my special skill of shaking not being a great combination with a ceramic kitchen floor the recycling of jars is a pragmatically prudent compromise. Of course a stumpy mustard jar is a tad limiting unless on has a penchant for dandelions or daisies (of the lawn variety).
So with these two lists in one’s head (the locations and the vessels) you are good to go! The colour scheme is a potential issue but darlings if you are of an anxious disposition to the extent you are inclined to attempt matching nature with the decor there are other ways to soothe yourself! A bouquet of red roses may be flexible enough to cover both Valentine’s Day and a funeral but the memories conjured may simply be too painful; my advice is to avoid anything that risks plucking the heart strings. If in doubt select any white bloom – you can’t go wrong (as long as the ratio of height of flowers; height of the vase is right of course).
Sophistication is simplicity; nothing too busy and absolutely nothing artificially enhanced. The flowers on display in some supermarkets are the plant equivalent of genetic modification – in fact that’s precisely what it is; however in this case the outcome is decidedly not an improvement! Garish gaudy blues and mauves clash with violent Sunny Delight orange finished off with a nasty lime green. I shudder just thinking of these crimes – there is no place beyond the garage forecourt for such ‘bouquets’; so suitable they are for this location it is a crime to remove them from it!
In a nutshell less is more; give the individual faces the space to shine i.e. avoid overstuffing the vase to vomiting proportions reminiscent of the voluptuous cleavage spilling from a size too small lingerie. It’s a fine balance between a hint and a big fat clue! We’re aiming for a discrete tip off; a pleasantly full vase with hints of daylight. An Albert Hall audience not a Glastonbury crowd. If you’ve inherited an elaborate crystal horror, that on occasions you feel it politic to employ, choose a single colour and or a single flower thereby complementing without drawing attention to something you have a strong suspicion was ‘purchased’ with greenshield stamps. Don’t you just hate the emotional bond with memory laden tack? (And believe me these goodies are immune to my poor spacial awareness; I swear one in particular has the capacity to leap out of the way!)
The proportions issue is more problematic with tall lilies or Gladioli (should you for some unfathomable reason be drawn to this curiously intrusive species that only comes in ‘mother of the bride’ pastels). The flowers should be at least as high as the vase if not 1 ½ times, whilst it is a matter of one’s personal aesthetic, aiming for balance usually results in happiness.
I personally favour a single species in the vessel as I don’t have the eye for detail that nature has; wild flowers look perfect without arrangement. Elaborate pick ‘n’ mixing is a high risk strategy; one I prefer not to employ myself- again it’s a personal choice but for heaven sake don’t assume that the self assembled bundle is going to work once released from the plastic wrapping. How many times have you received ‘flowers in a box’ on a special occasion only to find someone has been conned on your behalf when the package has been discarded and you find yourself wondering if there’s space in the dolls house for the minuscule offering!
And finally my secret weapon; the dried flower. Not the everlasting ones your mother used to buy but the ones that dry out gradually as the water evaporates. I discovered this by forgetting to top up the water in roses; the colour fades gradually, the heads bow and a certain elegance is revealed. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to convey this habit to the woman who helps me in the house; on a Friday if there is even a hint of decay they are swiftly dispatched to the green bag without drawing breath! OK I admit my eccentricities are particularly Edwardian spinster but then said lady seems to have an affinity for cobwebs and dust. We two collide where the dried hydrangea flower heads gather dust forming a perfect resting place for the web spinning spider.
If one finds oneself on a limit budget a modest bunch of tulips (£1.75 in Morrisons), displayed in a drinking glass by the kitchen sink is a little bit of heaven.