Creativity with Spathes

Spathes are the bracts, often large and coloured, that enclose cluster or spike of flowers. They can be hard as with palms what we would consider part of a flower as with an arum lily or anthurium.

Creativity with Spathes

I have used a date palm spathe as the base container with some foliage to lift the colours. This is placed on a silver baseboard to help with reflection of the design but not be an absolute mirror. (These boards are used as cake stands and can be purchased at a reasonable cost from packakging suppliers. They are very useful to keep with you in the event you need to lift your design slightly from the display bench.)

Over the top of the design are two free standing bangalow palm spathes. These were thoroughly soaked in water until they were pliable enough to turn inside out to show the richness of the red and gold colouring on the inside of the spathe. Twisting through the design are my flowers/spathes of arums as well as some spot colour of gerberas. This design relies on strong colours and simple lines for its effect

This design placed second – the judge feeling that the foliage or flowers needed to be brought through the design as there was a gap on one side in the overall finish when viewed (as it was judged) all around.

Autumn Deights – Over The Edge

This design style, although bench based, allows (and expects) the design to extend beyond the bench towards the floor. In some competitions the display bench is purpose built, however for this one we were to use a hebel (aerated concrete) brick.

A new style for me – using a hebel brick that can be placed in any direction as the base for the design.

Autumn Delights

I decided to have the brick angled upwards and have my design trailing over the edge of the brick and the display bench. Most other competitors placed the brick tall with their designs coming down the face of the brick.

I have previously made an autumn leaf covered container (see technique here) that forms a perfect cone for the foliage and flowers of the banksia that are abundant in autumn here. I selected branches that already had a few twists and turns so that the placement would indicate that they were tumbling out of the container and down the side of the brick and bench.

No placing for this design but the judge was impressed with the different approach and the plant material used. He suggested that the container made him think of a cornucopia which would have needed an abundance of plant material cascading from it.

A good effort for a first attempt.

Colourful Creations

This is a floor design, judged from front and sides, contemporary and a State Championship class.

My idea was to have the design look like a colour burst – as though the colours were being created in a cloud and dropping down flowers to the base.

Colourful Creations

This was a design that came together on the day from various elements I had thought about but not tested. This is not an approach I recommend – I actually ran out of time and failed to bench another design in this competition.

The base one of my all purpose heavy duty ones – a large slice of gum tree with a copper rod inserted to a height of about 1 metre. I have made a hole in the palm spathe into which this rod was inserted to give some strength and stability to the spathe so it could be freestanding.

This was the first challenge as the spathe kept spinning sideways to balance itself. I resorted to heavy gauge decorative (“heritage”) wire to hold it in place, curling the ends so that it became part of the design.
On top of the spathe I have placed a wonderful dried spent flower head from a palm. It has been wrapped in multicoloured wool as have the spheres suspended from it. Bundles of spear grass have also been wrapped at various points along their length and four of these are joined as an abstract “frame” in the centre of the design. Purple statice has been placed in the spheres and the top section of the design with flax wrapped randomly throuh the top section.
At the base of the design is another sphere from which a single strelitzia stem emerges. Behind this and from inside the base of the spathe are two more strelitzias and some leucospermum foliage. My choices of plant material were to highlight the bright, bold bursts of colour we can use to create our designs.

This design placed second. The judge said he just looked at it and felt the colours all swirling round, being mixed together and bursting out. Exactly what I had in mind!!

The design that won this class was a perfectly executed one – not a mechanic out of place, every cable tie facing exactly the same way, every piece of wire neatly finished off. It is vitally important when competing at this level to get your mechanics perfect – it can mean all the difference to the outcome.

Suspension – Lines and Leaves

A suspension piece of floral art should look as though it is “suspended” in mid air. The Class title helped to form the idea of the structure for my design – lines of larger plant material with leaves interwoven against the lines. For some added interest I decided to introduce some circular lines, not just straight or parallel ones.

Suspension-Lines and Leaves

The top of the suspension is a piece of dried gymea lily stem – this is a strong fibrous stem often growing to 3 metres on top of which is a large red flower and seed head. I have cut some old stems into lengths that I use instead of bamboo or timber for structures in my designs – keeps the ratio of plant material high.
Holes have been drilled into the top horizontal bar and fishing lines is suspended to hold the two smaller lengths of stem. This gives me three very clear horizontal lines in the design. For a vertical line I have suspended three pieces of cork (cut from a cork placemat). Two of these have conifer foliage held on with diagonally wrapped jute string whilst the middle one has the diagonal lines made with a thin ribbon of flax.

Wire detail

The higher horizontal bar has decorative wire wrapped around through which more of the conifer foliage is woven. The lower horizontal bar has curls of the same wire with the conifer foliage.

This design did not place – there is far too much negative (or blank) space in the design. The proportional size of the gymea stems to the foliage is not a good scale for this design. Its always good to write these posts as I can be critical of the design without being negative!

Roses, Thorns and Prickles

A challenging title for this Class – Thorns and Prickles (must have some roses). The judging interpretation usually places the most emphasis on the first word so thorns would need to be predominant in designs for this Class of competition.

Thorns & Prickles

I wanted to use thorns other than rose ones so cut some bougainvillea branches and stripped the foliage, leaving just the thorns. I then bent them to a loop shape and wired this to allow the branches to dry and hold their shape. This was about a month before the competition.

Quite by accident I discovered that pine cones have a pointed end to each of the separate sections, making them prickly to touch – enter the filler for the centre of my design.  I have a beautiful old green glass (probably designed for a martini) with a cactus as the stem so knew this had to be the container for my design. To match the container with my design I have used a small piece of cactus as the centrepiece.

Roses with foliage and thorns in place have been used sparingly in the design along with a few thorny stems without flowers.


Sadly, as I benched this design I broke the glass. The repair was too obvious for the judges so it was marked down accordingly. There is a lot to be said for always having a back up container for every design!

Pot et Fleur

Pot et FleurThis is a particular design style that I know creates some confusion in the competition world. The definition from the Australian Floral Art Association manual is
“A design of growing plants, foliage or flowering, in or out of pots, with cut flowers in a suitable container.” The most important thing to remember is that cut foliage should not be used.

pot et fleur preparation

Here we have a Coleus still in its pot to be placed in the centre of a pottery container. Around the outside of the pot and on one side of the container there will be some floral foam ready for the placement of the cut flowers. On the other side of the container, outside the pot will be some miniature ground cover daisy plants still in their potting soil. The cut flowers to be placed into the design are dahlias. The placement of these flowers is to resemble natural growth so that the whole design appears to be a “snapshot” of a natural garden setting.

Plants in this type of design should be chosen for their similar cultural needs, to provide a variety of heights, growing habits, shapes, textures and colours. Driftwood, interesting branches (without foliage) and stones may be used.

Pot et Fleur - before covering the soil

I have added a twisted branch into the design and covered both the floral foam and soil with coconut fibre.

This design placed second. I was very happy with this result as it is a design style I have had no success with in the past!

Pot et Fleur 2

Movie Title – Casino Royale

Many Show competitions have a Class that is interpretive by nature – Song Title, Movie Title, Book Title, Nursery Rhyme etc. You need to be careful to remember that always, in competition, plant material must predominate your design. It is very easy to be swept away by the use of “embellishments” to help tell the story but you will lose marks and be disappointed if you forget this advice.


My impression of Casino Royale (and Bond movies generally) is a feeling of elegance…..must be the dinner suit he always wears!

This design is based in a tall glass vase covered with black leather. A very tall strelitzia leaf is the backdrop for three protea flowers with small ribbon and “diamond” bead ties around the base of the flowers. A man’s necktie with casino chips, cards and dice is draped around the base of the flowers and the vase. More “diamonds” are scattered at the base of the vase.


This design placed third. The judges (and I) felt there was just something not quite right but none of us could put a finger on what it was. Eventually we turned the vase to one side and draped the tie a bit higher through the design. This did improve the appearance of the design.

Tip: Try looking at your design from slightly different angle when it is on the bench and choose the one that best highlights your interpretation of the Class title. Too many competitors place designs flat facing on the bench to the detriment of their hard work.

Weaving with Flowers 2

This is another version of the Class title Wallhanging: Weaving with Flowers. If you missed my first one you can read about it by clicking here.

As sometimes happens, I had two very different designs in mind for this Class. Luckily at this particular Show there is not a limit on the number of entries you can have in each Class. It is always best to check in case you need to make the difficult decision of which design to enter.


This design is based on a fan. The framework is made with thin coloured bamboo sticks woven into shape then glued at a few structural points. Agapanthus leaves are then woven through the structure to highlight the woven nature of the design.

A glass vial is secured to the back of the fan and contains three stems of roses for a bit of colour in the design, matching the colour of the bamboo sticks. The stems are woven through the fan before going into the vial.


This design placed second. The judges felt it was a little out of proportion or had been placed on display at the wrong height. Another good tip is to check the eye level of your design when it is on display for judging. I have seen one tall competitor completely forget to fill in the base of a design because she couldn’t see it from where she was looking!

Weaving with Flowers

Wallhangings are an interesting design area for competition. They provide another way for the public to see flowers displayed. The current definition from the Australian Floral Art Association manual is “Any design which hangs against a vertical surface e.g. collage, swag, wreath, garland, plaque, decorative panel.”

Weaving with Flowers

My approach was to have the design incorporate the weaving being done by the flowers themselves, so I first needed to choose some plant material that didn’t require water during the competition.

Proteas are a very hardy flower that comes with useful foliage and a good strong stem. My first task was to weave the individual strands from the palm flower head into itself, giving me a good woven background as well as ensuring it remained within the size restrictions for the class.

Next I wove the protea stems through the palm in both vertical and horizontal directions to again emphasize the “weaving” pattern.

The importance in this simple and effective design is to keep the balance and harmony between the elements in place.

This design was awarded first place (happy face!!). The judges would like to have seen a few more proteas at the back of the design to give it more depth.


Roses in a Pumpkin

At one of my recent competitions, the judges group debated for us the importance of the wording of a Class Title. In the case of the debate it was centred around the words “rough” and “smooth”. For this title, however, the importance is contained by the phrase “in a pumpkin”.

It was interpreted two ways by the entrants – some using the hollowed out pumpkin as a vase style container for their rose arrangement, where others, like me, interpreted it literally to mean the roses should be “in” the pumpkin.


My original plan was to cut a piece out of the pumpkin (at the back), hollow it out and then place my arrangement completely inside the pumpkin. After replacing the cut piece at the back I had intended to cut narrow slit windows all around the front and sides so that you could see the arrangement inside.

The plan had to be adjusted when I couldn’t find a large enough pumpkin in time for the competition. Instead I have cut a section out of the pumpkin, cleaned it and used it as the stand for the rest of the pumpkin. This has also been cleaned out and the roses placed inside to fill the gap.

This entry was unplaced in the competition. The judges liked the interpretation but felt there were too many flowers in the pumpkin – either some space around them or the use of smaller roses would have improved the design.