Barbara’s Blog – End of Summer

I used left over flowers from last weeks symposium and Saturdays workshop don’t blow or all the petals will fall off.
An autumn grouped mass design using new “flame” variegated bell peppers, chili peppers, sunflowers, several mum cultivars and garden herbs. Placed on kitchen cabinet with my homemade green tomato chow-chow. I used wet floral foam in a metal container lined with plastic wrap since these tin containers often leak. I like the rusty patina on the tin for casual garden flowers. When using fruits or vegetables use clean wood skewers then fruit can be washed and eaten after the event; use 2 picks like legs otherwise if use only one then fruit may spin around. Cut artichokes or wedge of purple cabbage are great in kitchen designs  If using cut fruit/veggie, then best to avoid discoloration by dipping in lemon juice or products used in canning such as Fruit Fresh.  What container to use? You probably have 3 handy – your canister set. Belles fleurs and Bon appetit!

Barbara’s Blog – February 2018

“Freedom to explore the world of creativity with plant material and design…”



I subscribe to The Flower Arranger, a publication of NAFAS, National Association of Flower Arranging Societies, England. An idea from a 2010 issue continued to intrigue me – it is contrary to our NGC design trends of open space, penetration of space, depth and within the bounds. The design is called Montage and is defined as a shallow, three-dimensional design with distinct but individually linked layers.

The Montage has a unity of plant materials (and optional components) arranged closely and built into layers. Visual depth can be achieved by loose placement, openings in the layers, use of light and dark. Rhythm from color, forms and texture.

The Montage layers are created by the exhibitor but it is not a Low Profile with dimension requirements, nor a Collage – which must be Abstract, nor a Plaque – which must be realistic. And NAFAS allows this design to extend beyond the edges of the shallow container. May be staged flat or sloped on table or hung on a background.

The new Exploration class in the 2017 Handbook offered me an opportunity to create my Montage at the Instructor’s Symposium.

Instructor Penny Decker used blue painted fresh orchids “there is no restriction on what can be done to the plant material” – in the Exploration Class.

Barbara’s Blog – January 2018

Winter is a great time for flowers in the home. Our garden flowers may be gone but we can use our evergreen foliages, branches and even leaves from our house plants. Add a few flowers and start planning for spring!
Hydrangeas are dry packed and shipped from overseas to the wholesaler then distributed to florists and grocery stores. Rehydrating must be immediate.
a. remove all foliage
b. make a fresh cut with a knife or very sharp siceteurs
c. dip cut stem into alum (spice used in making pickles)
d. submerge in tap water about 30 minutes
e. may need to submerge flower head only to revive a wilting flower
f. place in deep container of water with nutrient additive
Ideas that work well for me
a. I pat all flowers in the store package…do they feel crisp not limp (I also pat broccoli)
b. keep floral foam sopping wet to assure enough water for hydrangeas, they are heavy drinkers
c. insert small jar of water into the foam just for the hydrangeas, refill water using a turkey baster
A monochromatic design using unusual all-green hydrangea with garden foliages: yew, aspidistra and ligularia chosen for textures, shapes and forms.
A monochromatic design using unusual all-green hydrangea with garden foliages: yew, aspidistra and ligularia chosen for textures, shapes and forms.

Barbara’s Blog – December 2017

These are examples of “artificial plant material”. They were created from plant material but made to look like natural plant material.

 Q. Flowers constructed of pine cone scales were used in the Designer’s Choice Section of the Design Division of a Standard Flower Show. One judge said yes, that they were “contrived flowers”. Is that permitted?

 A. No. Flowers or foliage that have been created from plant material such as pods, teasel or pine cone parts either by the exhibitor or purchased that look like plant material are considered as Artificial.

Artificial was defined in the 2007 HB and again in the 2017 HB. The Flower Show School committee covered this more in depth in The National Gardener. The committee also referred to a “fantasy flower”…a form constructed that does not resemble an actual flower or foliage known in nature. Using silk artificial plant material or contrived material is against NGC policy and would be faulted under Conformance, Selection of Components and Distinction.

I suggest that if unsure or judges disagree, call over Classification and refer to the actual HB page/s 25 and 81.

This would be considered a “fantasy flower” although constructed from reeds, jute and wood slices it does not resemble known plant material.
Q. But portions of the HB state that artificial may be used??
A. HB 25d “There must be an emphasis on FRESH plant material. No artificial plant material is permitted in any exhibit in any division.”

HB 80-81 is more detailed even referring to metal foliage such as a fountain.

But HB 140 glossary clarifies that “Artificial plant materials are only permitted in the Exploration class in the Botanical Arts Division of an NGC Flower Show.” But not stated on HB 94 with definition.

But HB 95-4a states that “Trees featuring decorations…Tree may be real or artificial depending on local regulations” (fire marshal, historic building). In a symposium lecture a limited amount of astro turf was suggested only in staging such as show entrance or temporary garden ”..but I haven’t found that in HB.

I expect there will be more clarifications.

Barbara’s Blog – November 2017

Q. How best can I use the wet floral foam for my flower arrangements?


A. Wet floral foam bricks are easy to use especially for beginners-
  1. wet floral foam manufactured by Oasis-Smithers is available in different densities: Standard is most practical. Maxlife holds most water. Springtime is lower density for thin or softer stems. Deluxe is higher density for woody stems.
  2. soak foam in water fortified with the additive packet; this flower food provides nutrients and deters bacteria
  3.  float foam (lettering side up) and allow to absorb water until bubbles stop; don’t push foam underwater or try to wet under running faucet or it will have dry spots within brick
  4. cut stems at an angle to easily pierce the foam
  5. create a “pilot hole” with a skewer to enable inserting thin or wimpy stems
  6. foam was created to form a seal around stem to keep out air; if remove stem, do not reinsert into same hole
  7. creating too many holes will weaken the foam; so rather than remove big stem, you may cut it level and leave it
  8. for heavy drinkers, in addition to foam add more water so vase is filled to max with water
  9. floral foam purchased at hobby store does not hold as much water as the Oasis brand so foam and flowers will dry out faster; you must be diligent in adding water – treated with flower food – to the arrangement
  10. to make it easier to add more water to container, cut out a notch in foam in the back of the arrangement
  11. add water to an arrangement with a turkey baster from dollar store
  12. once dried out the foam will no longer absorb water; store extra in poly bag in the refrigerator
  13. local florist will sell you a brick or two or a club can split a case from a wholesaler or online source


Barbara’s Blog – October 2017

Q. In our last flower show the container in a design was dominant. Is that allowed?

A. Yes and No. In an American Traditional Design, there is a general ratio of 1:3, container to plant material. But in a Creative Design “Allows any part of the design to be dominant, including the container”. HB 72

Q. I judged in a flower show where the schedule required shoes in a class offering the Designer’s Choice Award. Was that correct?

A. No. “Schedule may specify the design style and/or specific design type by name. Exhibitor has freedom to choose other components within NGC policies.” HB 42 Study the schedule in advance so you can be of help to the host club.

If you are interested in membership or have any questions please email Isabel Olsen, Director

This fall floral design is a Grouped Mass of sunflowers, mums, lilies, solidago, and mixed fillers that came with the 3 small grocery store bundles. Cattails and cinnamon sticks (for fall fragrance) were added for rhythm.
The square tin container has a plastic liner and was chosen to contrast with the rounded flower shapes and repeat the tin watering can and antique gardening tool collection used throughout the family room. The warm colors contrast well with the blue drapery.

HB 78 Grouped Mass: a mass design of only plant material with radial placement. Plant material emanates from one point of emergence. Like material is grouped and placed next to other different grouped like material. Additional plant material may be included but proportion of groupings dominate the design.
Notes: only plant material; more plant material than space; the material is massed so depth needs to be added; does not specify Creative Design; materials may be abstracted or may have some abstraction within the grouping.

Differs from Creative Mass which does not require groupings, one point of emergence nor only plant material.

Hint: use the powdered additive for the cut flowers and to soak the wet floral foam for nutrients and anti-bacteria.