A primer on arranging flowers

Can it be the begining of September already? This has been a summer to remember. We really did set some records for days above 90 degrees as well as days without rain. Overall, it has been a pretty good season. Just walk through the Auburn Farmer’s Market on State Street and look at the fantastic array of locally grown vegetables being offered. Last week, Ben Vitale told me that it has been an exceptional year because of the quality of the produce and because having State Street blocked because of the construction has made it easier for shoppers to get in and out of the parking lot.

With good caretaking and a bit of luck, your flower garden must be very colorful right now. If you have been successful, now is the time to enjoy those flowers even more. Take them indoors and fill the house with color. I am luckier than most people because throughout the year there are flowers in the store that are past a certain date so I, and some staff people, get to take them home to enjoy. That allows me to always have a few flowers on the table. Even though we will not sell them, we invariably get six to eight days out of them.

So, let’s talk about arranging flowers in the home. This will be a two-part topic. Today I will mostly talk about the materials you may want to have on hand to make professional looking arrangement. To be sure, you can simply cut flowers, stick them in a Mason jar and they will still brighten the room. But, I always like to look around the house, the attic and garage to find a fancy basket, watering can, interesting pot or even an old colander to make that arrangement special.

The very first thing you need to get, especially if you are going to arrange in dishes or low bowls, might be a couple of blocks of Oasis, that water holding foam. It does hold a lot of water. As a matter of fact if you fill a pot to the brim with water and drop in a block of Oasis, it will gradually sink to the bottom when full of water. The overflow will be less than a cup. It really does become a block of water. Before Oasis, florists would crumple a piece of chicken wire fencing and cram it into the vase.

A roll of waterproof tape is necessary to hold that block steady in the container as you arrange your flowers in a low bowl. Adhesive tape might do in a pinch. I still might do that if I wanted to use it as a decorative accessory. Flower food is important, too. It is available from your florist and most often comes with any arrangement you might have received. That food has sugar in it to feed the flower, an acidifier to get the water to the right acidity for the flower to thrive and a germicide to get rid of mold and bacteria. Mixing a can of non-diet 7Up with an equal amount of water will work just as well.

I think that it is time to make that first arrangement. We will start with an easy one, a simple centerpiece for your table. Why don’t you use one of your soup bowls, one that is perhaps seven to eight inches across? Begin by soaking 2/3 of a block of Oasis. Drop it into a pot of water, holes up and let it sink on its own. That may take three or four minutes. That soup bowl will need a piece about 6 inches across. So take the block, holes down and cut one third off for later use. The blocks are measured out in thirds. Center it in your soup dish and tape it into place with florist’s waterproof tape, or adhesive tape if that is all you have.

So, next Thursday pick some fresh flowers from the garden and put them in a vase of water with flower food so they will be properly “hardened” by next Friday, when I continue with this arrangement.

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