All About Party Flowers
Flowers are one of the more fun parts of a shower. You'll want a nice centerpiece for the table, a tiny bouquet for the bathroom, and maybe a nice flat arrangement for your coffee table, if you're doing this at home.
The most obvious choice is to pay somebody to make these bouquets for you. But if you don't want to spend an extra $50 on flowers, take these tips I learned from Tess Kenna at Winslow Floral in Winslow, Arizona. You just might find you have a real knack for it!
First, decide what colors you want. If your party colors match the wedding colors, you can probably figure out flowers that match all by your lonesome. Or stroll through a couple of flower shops. Some better grocery stores sell blooms “by the stem,” which is how loose flowers are purchased.
Pick out the kind of flowers you want a few days before the party, but don't buy them until the last minute (that day). You can buy them in the morning for an evening shower if (a) it's cold in your house, (b) you have room in your fridge to store the bouquets/arrangements, or (c) you have no other choice.
Look for flowers without browning edges, and roses that are firm when you squeeze them. Check the base of the flower for tears: This is how florists make roses look younger than they are—they tear off the dying petals from around the outside. You can tell if you look closely. Get the freshest flowers you can. Buy with them a bunch of “leather,” those wonderful glossy fern fronds you see in flower arrangements, and some baby's breath (gypsophila) unless you have great, hardy yard flowers at home.
From the florist, ask for a brick of Oasis, which is the green stuff they poke flowers into. (You can also get this at a crafts store.) The florist will probably charge you a buck or so. Ask also for a piece of florist's wire (long, skinny green-coated wire, any size will do fine). If the flowers don't come with a longevity agent, ask for some. This is the powder you mix with the water to make the flowers last longer.
When you get home, put the flowers in the fridge and put the Oasis in a bucket or sink full of water to which you have added the longevity agent. Oasis floats, so weight it with a pot or something. It will fill with water in a while. Give it thirty minutes to soak.
Next, select a pretty, low dish or flower pot or two. Get a sharp knife, your cutting board, and some veined packing tape, duct tape, or florist's tape. Take your wire and use it to cut the Oasis to fit into your pots or dishes. (Cut it like you see them cutting people's necks with wire in gory guy movies.) Stuff little bits of Oasis into the pockets around the sides so it is totally full of green matter—nowhere is there air between the pot and the Oasis. Now tape the Oasis into the pots or dishes with your tape. Two strips in each direction for a pot 6 inches or more in diameter is plenty.
Repeat three times, “This is fun, this is fun.”
Take the leather fern and “green the bowl.” That means, poke the fronds into the dish or pot so that they leave little spaces, or whorls, where a bloom would fit perfectly, foiled by the dark fern. You will use all the bunch of leather fern on two 6-inch flowerpots. Snip the ends of the fern so the part where the leaf begins is the part resting on the Oasis.
Now, go run around your yard with a pair of pruning shears, picking any wee leafy branches (young lemon or orange branches are lovely) or other interesting plants or flowers you see. Try to avoid garden flowers, except hardy roses, marigolds, hollyhocks, delphiniums, and purple statice, because others will wilt quickly. Stick them at once into a pitcher of water.
Now get your refrigerated flowers out of the fridge. Quickly cut their bases with the paring knife and immediately poke them into the whorls you created with the leather. (The longer you leave a flower's stem exposed to air, the less time it will live. Imagine an air bubble in a diver's bloodstream, and you get the idea. Real florists try to cut it to seconds between snipping the stem and arranging the flower.) Add your yard plants.
Fuss a little if you must, but remember, flower arranging is like geometry—everything in balance. You cannot put six white roses left of center and three right—it will look funny. A simple idea is imagining the bowl cut in half. Put half your blooms on either side, far enough apart so you can enjoy looking at all their petals. Add some filler (either gypsophila from the florist or your yard plants) and you're nearly done.
If you have to pull out the flowers a few times, that's normal. Even professional designers modify their works of art. Mess around with it, have fun, and in a few minutes, voilà! You will have a worthy and attractive centerpiece and a wonderful table spray. Take a few of the extra blooms, slip them into a vase (with treated water in it), and put it in your bathroom.
If you want, tie a balloon or two to small sticks and poke them into the bouquet, too. Stuff in a bow or two, or something else interesting. Maybe you've wired some of the leftover wedding-favor supplies (like little champagne glasses and tin wedding rings) to long skewers and you can poke them in, too.
Congratulations! You're a florist! And you just saved at least $50.
Things you'll need to create great floral arrangements
One or two pretty, low bowls or baskets lined with plastic, or perhaps a pretty flowerpot.
One big hunk of Oasis (florist's brick), about twice as big as a building brick.
A length of florist's wire.
A bucket of water.
Some sort of floral longevity agent—Sta-Fresh or other brand (available at the florist's).
Sturdy tape like duct tape, cut into thin strips, or florist's tape.
Six to eight nice blooms per arrangement.
A bunch of baby's breath (gypsophila), unless you have some nice flowers in your yard. This serves as filler and offsets the primary blooms.
A bundle of “leather,” the leafy, glossy fern leaves florists often use.
A sharp knife and cutting board.