Blooming Times – Feast For Your Eyes
by Flo Whitaker
A simple arrangement of fresh flowers will always bring cheer – and a little bit of fakery can help too.
There’s nothing nicer than a floral arrangement to lift the winter gloom and if you supplement shop-bought flowers with foraged material from your garden, it won’t cost the earth either.
Be sure to condition your materials before arranging. Remove the bottom third of foliage, cut a few centimetres off the stems, then stand your flowers in deep water overnight to enable them to take up plenty of moisture. In a warm environment, bacteria can quickly build up in the vase water. A teaspoon, (no more!) of bleach added to the water will deter bacteria and prolong the life of your arrangement.
For a classic Christmas combination that’s hard to beat, arrange deep red carnations with evergreen foliage. Spray chrysanthemums are back in vogue – and rightly so. They last for ages in a vase and come in warm wintery shades. Mix them with golden foliage to make their colours glow. Long-stemmed white freesias look elegant and smell divine. Add silver fir and white hypericum berries for a cool, sophisticated arrangement.
I’m a recent convert to artificial flowers. Gone are the waxy plastic monstrosities of the past – artificial blooms are so cleverly made nowadays. I often use a combination of real materials mixed in with artificial elements – there are advantages to doing this. Faux fruits and berries can be confidently deployed with the happy knowledge that they won’t turn into a messy pulp and damage furnishings.
Real amaryllis and hellebore flowers are expensive and often hard to find. Good quality artificial versions aren’t cheap either, but will last for years, assuming the cat doesn’t wage war on your decorations. Speaking of cats – they are seriously allergic to lily pollen. Silk lilies arranged with natural foliage will solve the problem. They look (almost!) as good as the real thing. Also, not everyone enjoys lily’s heady fragrance – another reason why faux flowers can sometimes be a good choice.
Zero flower arranging skills? Float some pansy flowers, ivy leaves and tea-lights in a shallow dish of water to make a perfect table centrepiece in less than 5minutes!
If you have a real Christmas tree, its care requirements are much the same as for flowers. Freshly-cut trees have plump needles and springy branches. A tree that appears dry or is shedding large quantities of needles should be avoided – however temptingly cheap. Saw 5 – 10 cms off the trunk and stand the tree in a bucket of cool water for 24 hours before bringing indoors and securing in a container – ideally a purpose made stand that has a reservoir for water. Position the tree away from direct heat, check the water reservoir daily and your tree will survive the festive period – felines permitting.