In this fifth installment of the flower tutorial series, we’ll be going through the steps of creating a large, but technically simple, foam arrangement.
You will need:
- 2 dozen carnations
- 2 dozen roses
- 2 dozen stems of leatherleaf fern
- 1 block of wet (NOT dry) floral foam*
- A rectangular container
*When buying or ordering foam, make sure you have foam for live flowers (wet foam) and NOT foam for fake flowers (dry foam). Dry foam is like Styrofoam and you will not be able to use it for live flowers–you won’t even be able to get most flowers into it. Oasis is the most well known brand of floral foam, and you get get it any online floral supply retailer. Regarding craft supply stores, in my experience A. C. Moore only carries dry foam, while Michael’s carries both.
Wet Floral Foam
Working with floral foam allows the designer to place flowers in an arrangement exactly where they want them to go, without other support structures. It was invented by people trying to make life jackets, and the floral industry was significantly changed. Before this, florists used wire, frogs, built supports, and used many other methods of controlling flower placement. It is easy, but there are some tricks to know, which we’ll cover throughout this tutorial.
I used a whole brick of foam for this arrangement, as it fit right into the container. You can, however, make this type of arrangement as long as you have a square, rectangle, or other shape of 4 straight sides. If the container you have is smaller than the foam, cut it to size/shape first.
Before arranging, use a large tub or very clean sink to soak your foam. Wet foam is very fragile and dents extremely easily, so always treat it gently.
- fill the tub or sink with enough water to submerge the foam
- place the foam in gently on top of the water (do not push it down)
- wait for it to sink into the water
- let it sit a few more minutes to ensure that the water has reached the very middle of the brick
One the foam is ready, carefully remove it from the water, let the excess water drip off, and place it in the container. Some people prefer to tape their foam into place, but that wasn’t necessary here. If you wish to do so, or are worried about movement, use waterproof florist tape as shown here:
The first step to working with foam is to ensure that the foam will not be viewable. The best way to do this is with greens that provide ample coverage. Ferns are a good choice here because it will be large.
When using leatherleaf, which is incredibly common in the floral industry, breaking a stem into smaller pieces is a normal practice. Just size them appropriately for the size of your arrangement. Start with main placements on the four sides, followed by corners. All these placelments should be from the top of the fern stem with the nice triangle shape. Then fill in between with lower stem sections until the rim of the container is covered.
The lowest row of flowers is carnations. Cut these flowers so that the stem is only a few inches long–usually this will be just above the first joint in the stem (right). Insert them into the front of the foam so that the flower heads sit on top of the fern. Be sure they extend past the foam on the sides. It is important to note that, when using foam, one should avoid pulling flowers out and then reusing the existing hole in the foam. If you do not put the stem in further, there will be an air pocket between the end of the stem and the foam containing water; that flower will not be receiving water.
The second row of flowers is roses. Cut the stems a few inches longer than the row of carnations in front, and insert just behind the first row so that the bottom of the rose sits at the top of each carnation.
Using the same technique of cutting each row longer, and “stepping” each row up by the height of 1 flower head, alternate each row between carnations and roses. Rows 1, 3, and 5 should be carnations, and Rows 2, 4, and 6 should be roses. If you are using other types of flowers, I recommend using the showier flowers for Rows 2, 4, and 6 for higher impact.
The next step is to fill in the sides with carnations, this time stepped, but not a much as the main rows. The aim here is to cover the mechanics (foam) on the side of the arrangement where the rowed flowers rise up and do not cover it. In retrospect, it might have been better to do an odd number of rows, but the arrangements I do are commissioned and I want people to feel their arrangement reflects the cost.
Note that the back of this style of arrangement usually looks rather bare and unfinished; this is fine if no one will really see it. If you prefer, you can add tall ferns and other foliage at the back, as I did below in the finished arrangement.
I definitely chose the flowers that day by color. As you can see here, these light green roses have a pinkish tinge which I thought worked very well with the carnations. The delicacy of the roses with the color and ruffles of the carnations was very pleasing.
There are several design styles in which rows are very effective, such as pave, an arrangement style where the flowers are all even on a level, effectively “paving” the surface of the container). This is a stepped version especially allows for two different sized flowers to be used. Alternating the flower each row can provide large impact for a centerpiece, or even on a much smaller scale.
Covering the Mechanics
One of the most important things to do in floristry is to cover any unsightly structural mechanics you’ve used, such as foam, wire, or tape. While there are some supports designed to be seen, in most cases they should be hidden. This is usually done with greens or flowers with very covering foliage, and you should plan accordingly when buying your flowers. Larger basket-style arrangements and very large containers often require the most greens, while very small, tight arrangements may not. When unsure, by something just in case. If you end up not using it in an arrangement, you can always do a greens display (with other leftovers, as well) in a suitable container–I tend to use a white vase.