by Deborah Rogers –
There’s nothing better than a fresh arrangement to add instant decoration to your house: a centrepiece for the dining table or stunning standalone display for an entrance way or mantle. Nurseries and florists, even the grocery stores, seem to be packed with green arrangements, but perhaps you want to make one yourself? Flower arranging seems like a pastime truly from the past. I know my grandmother used to take classes, and was very skilled at making the simplest collection of blooms from the garden look like an exquisite bouquet. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about myself though. I seldom buy fresh flowers for the house, but each December I do like to bring some of the greenery from our garden in, and fill vases with cedar, fir and holly.
To up my game in the display department I took up the offer of a Holiday Floral Workshop at Kildara Farms. Hosted by award-winning floral designers Kristen Owen and Sarah Hughes, it’s part instruction, part night out. There’s a festive vibe on a Friday night and a lovely mixed age range gathered in the event space, a converted barn dressed with paper lanterns and soft lighting. Stations were set for us all with the tools we needed laid out. Oh, and there were drinks and appies too!
Arranged on the table at the front of the room were buckets and vases, each containing fresh flowers; foliage of all sorts of shades and shapes; as well as apples, and pinecones. My class was specifically for holiday décor centrepieces, so there were also ribbons and baubles in Christmassy colours. Kristen and Sarah are good friends and a pretty hilarious pair. We could choose to make either a table centrepiece or a three-sided display for a mantle or sideboard, and they demonstrated one each. To hear Sarah talking about table scapes and how to manage longer table settings made me realize that I don’t host large or grand enough occasions!
They emphasised shape – the shape of your table and the shape of the vessel. With an oasis base – soaked in water – you can use almost any container. All the time the instructors were talking they were also snipping stems and adding foliage to their displays. Teaching through example, there was no sense of a right or wrong way to do things, just the requirement that you start with the greens and build up. It’s almost like you’re sketching out the shape with the first greens. There was a bounty to choose from: leatherleaf, eucalyptus, snowberries, skimmia and even freshly pruned Japanese Maple. At home you could use things from your yard or forage locally, and there’s florist spray that can be used for covering fruit or foliage too.
With some beautiful, but totally different, examples for inspiration we were free to explore the materials ourselves. Sarah really emphasised that this is not a “paint-nite” style activity – we weren’t there to imitate, but rather to be inspired and follow our own creative leads. And although it’s holiday décor, you don’t have to be tied to green and red for Christmas – peaches, purples, pinks, there are all sorts of shades that work. The room took on a quiet hum as we each went back and forth between our stations and the selection of greens and flowers. We weren’t looking at what each other was doing, just focused on our own creations. Sarah and Kristen wandered the room giving advice and suggestions.
It doesn’t take long to build up the base, then the real fun comes from choosing which are the standout blooms to define your centrepiece. I loved the white roses in different sizes, and a few sprigs of lavender to add some height. I discovered that everyone had something totally different at the end. Some were more symmetrical, some asymmetric. Several had gone for just two colours while others had taken a whole range of shades and blended them. The elements that carried through them all though were blooms of varying sizes, occasional baubles, bows and spray-painted branches, and of course, unique creativity.
I am utterly thrilled with the arrangement I brought home. It looks quite unlike anything that I’ve managed to put together before. This is partly because of the variety of materials I had to work with, but more, I think, because I had my mind and expectations freed up. With regular watering the display is holding up well, and I’ve been eyeing up the trees and shrubs in my yard, thinking about more spectacular decorations for my house this holiday season!
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What do you want to see Deb do next? Send your ideas or invitations to email@example.com. Photos by Nunn Other Photography.