Thursday, March 22, 2012

Color Combinations using the Color Wheel

A flower color wheel (photo credit:

There are many factors that play a role in creating a beautiful piece of living or silk art.  Size, shape, texture, form, and others.  But perhaps one of the more obvious factors is color, which is probably noticed by the untrained eye before most other factors.  Color has the power to relax or excite.  Sometimes we can be bothered by looking at something, or by being in a particular location, and not realize that we're bothered because the colors we are viewing or are surrounded by are arguing with each other.  Who wants to get caught in the middle of that argument?

By being aware of a few basic color principles, it becomes much easier to put flowers together that get along with each other.  So get ready for your science lesson for today!

(graphic source:

Here are some examples of the above principles shown in arrangements I've made.  Notice that you can use a hue or tint of a true color shade and still have the colors work together, such as using a shade of purple instead of true blue, or a darker orange to go with yellow.





So where does the color white fit in to all this color wheel talk?  You may have noticed that white isn't on the wheel.  White can be a color that intensifies the other colors placed with it, or it can be a total distraction.  Although it can technically "match" any color, sometimes it's best to use a shade of cream rather than a pure white.

White used to intensify

No white used

That's probably enough science for one day.  But here's two more pieces of free, unsolicited color advice.  One:  if it's a color combination you wouldn't be caught dead wearing, chances are it's not going to look good in a flower arrangement either.  Two:  if you're having a hard time choosing colors for an event such as a wedding, go stand in front of the paint chips at a paint store.  You can mix and match to your heart's content until it looks and feels right to you (and the color wheel is happy).  Then you can give the final choice paint chips to wedding party members or planners so they don't have to guess just exactly what you mean by "soft blue".

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ugly Bouquets--Okay, Interesting Bouquets

Thought I'd have a little afternoon detour and find some pictures of what I will call "interesting" bouquets and arrangements.  I realize beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but maybe sometimes the beholder needs glasses.  I readily admit that some of my own creations would never win the blue ribbon at the county fair.  However, a peek at some of the pictures I came across didn't exactly make me think..."Awe, the art of flower arranging!"  Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes, and apparently so does personal interpretation of beauty.  (And just so there's no question...NO, I did not make any of the arrangements pictured in this post!)

Latest trend to keep bouquets looking fresh; use metal every color
 When all else fails, use all of Grandma's jewelry when you can't find the right flowers

 Not sure what happened here

Greenery, greenery anyone?  How about at least some water?

Blue roses are bad enough, but cupcake blue roses are even worse

That's quite the little arm sculpture there

Careful...careful...don't trip on the ribbon...move over everyone, here comes the bride's bouquet!

Did the cake really have to have all the leftover wedding flowers on top of it?

It's a spider, it's a creature, it's a bouquet that fell on it's head, it's a...well, I'll just leave it at that

Friday, March 9, 2012

Silk Vs. Fresh Flowers

Silk versus fresh flowers.  It's an ongoing debate.  Both sides have their die-hard loyalists.  And like most debates, you can probably find equal numbers from both camps.  My opinion?  Well, it depends...on a lot of factors.
  • Are the fresh flowers desired available?  
  • How long will the flowers need to last?  
  • Is there a wedding with reception and open house in two different locations that both need flowers?  
  • Does one have access to wholesale, quality silks (or permanent botanicals as they are sometimes called)?  
  • How many stems of the desired varieties are needed?  
  • Can you find the colors needed?  
  • If it's a DIY attempt for an event such as a wedding, is the person arranging them going to have time to be working with fresh flowers the day before or morning of the event?  (I once heard a horror story of the mother of a bride arranging flowers, in tears, at 3 a.m. the morning of her daughter's much for looking your best for family pictures!)

I frequently get asked, "What about the cost difference of silk and fresh?"  It's been my experience that silk is often more expensive, if you're using high quality brands of flowers that are usually only available through wholesalers.  But it also depends on how many stems are needed.  If you only need 3 lilies, and the fresh wholesale lilies only come in bunches of 10, well then, fresh might be more costly.  So like I said, there are many factors to consider.

Now here's another issue people are worried about--how will the silk flowers look compared to fresh?  You decide after looking at a few pictures below:

So what's your vote?  Fresh or silk?  They're both silk (trust me, I made them).  Now here's a thought for about combining fresh and silk?  Sometimes that can be necessary depending on availability.  

The photos below are of a combination bouquet I made.  The red roses are real and all other flowers and greenery are silk.  The decision was made to make it that way due to availability issues, and it was less expensive to use real roses rather than quality silk ones.

Lots of options.  I've used special spray paint made for fresh flowers to create the needed color, and I've used craft paint on silks to tweek them into usefulness.  In fact, the white anemone flowers in the above picture came with yellow centers and I needed paint and a small paint brush.  

I made an arrangement years ago that used silk red roses and fresh greenery.  I happened to see a lady at the event bend over and "smell" the roses.  She was unaware of the fact that I had made the arrangement or that I was watching her.  I looked on with curiosity as to what she would do.  I was quite surprised to hear her say, "Um, they smell so good!"  I knew silk flowers could fool the eye, but I underestimated their ability to fool the nose as well!

So silk versus fresh?  You decide!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Flowering Branches in Spring Bouquets

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she witnessed someone cutting flowering branches from a tree in the yard of my friend's neighbor...without the knowledge or permission of the neighbor.  My friend was rather appalled, and rightfully so!  Though I've been known to cut foliage from some strange places, I don't attack the neighbor's trees and bushes.

But my friend's comments have turned my thoughts towards flowering branches, and spring--which definitely hasn't sprung yet here in the Rocky Mountains of Utah where I live.  Unfortunately!  Here's a couple of thoughts regarding using flowering branches in arrangements.

Often times, a vase filled with just branches is the most effective way to show off the delicate flowers.  It makes a statement and it doesn't require much arranging.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that due to the woody stems, it can be difficult for the branches to take up water. It helps to scrape 2-3 inches of the outer layer of bark off of the branches with a paring knife to allow for improved water circulation in the stem.

Flowering Cherry Blooms
(Photo by Bridorama)

Flowering Cherry Blooms 

Flowering Forsythia Branches

Flowering Dogwood Branches

But don't be afraid of incorporating branches into arrangements that include other flowers as well.  They can be a stunning addition.

An arrangement I created that includes flowering California Redbud blossoms, purple lilacs, white daffodils and purple English iris. 

Flowering Pear blooms with a spring mix.  All of these flowers came from my yard in Northern California several years ago.  I had thousands of daffodils...mainly because the gophers didn't like them due to a toxic gas the bulbs emit.  I love the little clay pot filled with fresh flowers in the bottom of the glass vase.  Just something different!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leftovers again. Yeah!

As a child I hated leftovers.  My mom probably cringed whenever I asked if we were having "scraps" for dinner. For some reason, she tolerated me calling our dinner "scraps"...guess she had bigger battles to fight.  But as a mom, I LOVE leftovers, scraps, day-two foods, whatever you want to call them.

I now have come to appreciate the value of leftovers in flower arranging as well.  I like to save the bits and pieces that are unused at the end of an arranging project with silks.  Sometimes it appears that there isn't anything worth saving...a little flower here, some leaves there.  But you might be surprised what you can do with some little things--and a few big things as well.

I have a room with a few shelves of vases of different shapes and sizes.  The little painted pot above was one of the items in my collection...who know from what, when or why...but it's been sitting there quietly for several years.  After deciding to make a miniature arrangement for a friend's birthday, I chose this cute but lonely little pot and noted the colors painted on it.  I then explored my "extras" bins, which are all organized by color--a bin for the pinks, a bin for the blues, a bin for the yellows.  You get the idea.  I found a few little pieces here and there that matched the pot's colors, and within a few minutes, I had a little flower arrangement that consisted of things that were too small for a big project but just right for a 4" pot.

Here's another leftovers project.  I had used this container for some fresh flowers and was in the process of putting it away when I decided it would be nice to have a red arrangement in my living room for the month of February.  So I went to my red bin, checked out my options, and voila--a red arrangement.  A few stems of this, three of that, some random grass and leftover sticks.  Some of the items had been previously cut, so I inserted them into spots that worked well with their pre-determined height.  

You just never know how useful those "scraps" are going to be someday, so quit complaining and be grateful!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is it still Winter?

A few brides struggle with ideas for winter wedding decor.  Most want red, which can be a little...well, ordinary.  However, red does make a great wedding color for the cold, snowy days of winter.  Red offers great contrast and boldness against a sometimes dreary backdrop.  One way to handle the issue is to embrace the elements already present in the season and incorporate them rather than fight them.  Use the winter gifts from nature...pine boughs, pine cones, berries, sticks, tree branches (I'm surprised I haven't been hauled away for "pruning" wild trees in various groves) and even some snow (well, okay--fake snow).

Here's an example of a winter wedding centerpiece using many of the elements listed above.  The bride really wanted to incorporate red roses, but wanted to have it look wintery at the same time.  The bottom of the vases contained rocks, then water and cranberries were added with a floating candle on top. 

This is a similar version of the same arrangement, but made for smaller tables for the reception.

 Another winter centerpiece--again the bride wanted red roses, but some berries were added to acknowledge the winter element.

It's not the greatest picture ever taken, but here is a simple arrangement of gold spray-painted oak tree branches set in a tall clear, crystal vase with gold Christmas ball-ornaments to fill in the empty space.  It is then set up on a plant stand with a spot light under it and covered with a gold fabric overlay.  

A similar oak tree branch arrangement (hey, the branches are free) from a different Christmas event.  Silk ivory poinsettias were added to the rim of the vase for a different effect.  Due to the extremely tall ceiling in this room, this type of arrangement can be quite tall to create a dramatic effect. I love the glow created by the spot light under the plant stand!