This is not an interpretive design. In this competition the design must incorporate an actual musical instrument – trumpet, violin, drums etc.
Some of the entries used the instrument as the container for their arrangement, others used it as the backdrop for their arrangement. My entry really incorporated the instrument by using part of the real instrument (that can be used on its own) to help construct a replica of the whole instrument in horticultural material. Bagpipes!!
My bagpipes are resting on a styrofoam box covered in a tartan scarf that is also draped over a tall glass vase for a backdrop. At the top of the backdrop is a small group of thistle type flowers (actually known in Australia as Pattersons Curse-a pasture weed).
The “bag” is made from tea tree sticks highlighted with protea leaves and sea mist gypsophila. All of these materials were chosen because they can remain out of water for the duration of this Show.
Coming out from the bag is the bottom half of a chanter. A chanter is used for practice when you don’t want to inflate the bag and use the pipes.
The pipes are constructed from coloured bamboo sticks with cotton string highlights and topped with a gumnut. Woven raffia is used to connect the pipes to one another and for the decorative trail, which also has gumnuts and seed pod decoration.
This design placed second. Once again the judges wanted more height in the design so that the instrument could be standing almost upright. Their other comment was to be careful of draping material that has straight lines in it as these must appear straight in your design or the judges will subtract marks. Apparently along one side of the base the tartan was not straight – I think the base was actually cut crooked!
The most important thing to remember when a specific colour has been mentioned in the Class title is that everything must be that colour including the container. A very useful tool to have in your kit is a colour wheel. This will give you the shades of a particular colour and also show you what are tints and tones of that colour. The tints and tones may not be used unless the schedule includes them.
Although its a bit hard to see in the photo, the green bottle inside the glass vase(clear glass can be used in any “colour” design) is actually an empty Asian beer bottle featuring a character on the front. I decided this lent itself to a bonsai style placement if foliage.
In the base of the outside vase is a kenzan (or wire frog) which holds the pieces of conifer foliage in place. This is covered by water and then some green glass buttons. To ensure I didn’t lose marks in the judging I have covered the brand name on the bottle with a decorative placement of a section of agapanthus leaf (wrapped around the neck of the bottle.
This design placed second. The judges felt it need more height. By placing another branch of foliage at the back of the design, stripped of the foliage except for a top knot, the bonsai theme would have been continued as well as giving the design the height it lacked.
Landscape as a design style is part of the group of “European Influenced” designs. Here is the current definition from our Manual – “It is a design resembling a larger dimensional view: trees, bushes, flowers and soil are represented. Seasonal flowers can provide a more authentic look. Stones, mosses, soil and gravel may be used as part of the foundation. In landscape design there is little staggering of stem lengths within the same group. Instead staggered heights occur between the groups of material. European influence techniques such as terracing and layering can be used.”
We don’t often have a design style specified in competition and I have a tendency to be confused by my understanding of a word versus the floral art definition of the design style e.g. Contemporary v Modern; Landscape v Naturalistic. This is where your local organisation’s design style manual is important. You should always check the definition of a design style where it is specified as part of the competition class title as this is the style the judges will be looking for.
So, you guessed it, I failed! My design, whilst a popular favourite with all who viewed it, is not a “Landscape” design – it is a “Naturalistic” design, by definition a snapshot of a section of the garden. It could have been a landscape design with placement of some tall stems or varying the heights of the two types of shrub I have used.
Another good lesson learned!!
This recent competition was predominantly interpretive designs so I did not have too much trouble visualising a “distinctly different” exhibit for the bench. The problem, for me always, is taking the drawing of what I want to do and making it actually happen with plant material.
As an exercise in preparation, drawing or sketching your idea is very good practice. It doesn’t matter how you sketch it so long as you transfer what is in your head onto paper (or screen – I have a great one finger painting program on my tablet!). It is particularly useful when you start planning an exhibit well before the competition and may have a few breaks from it before serious preparation begins.
Now to this design:
I have a bright plastic geodesic sphere that I have always wanted to use somewhere in a design. This Class title seemed appropriate. The sphere is resting on the top of a glass candle holder. My original plan was to then create a cascade arrangement from the glass up over the sphere but when finished it hid too much of the sphere and looked like a standard cascade arrangement – not different in any way except for a few spots of colour showing through.
Back to the drawing board. Waxing is a trend in floral art at present (February 2014) – how to use this in the design? I have dribbled bright orange wax over the glass and also place a small glass dish at the base of the candle holder. The dish has some yellow wax and yellow kangaroo paw set into it. There is a darker succulent standing in the dish and reaching up into the sphere. yellow kangaroo paw is threaded through the sphere.
In the top glass are some variegated roses (Oranges & Lemons), agapanthus head minus flowers but with seeds, shredded flax and split aspidistra leaves.
The Judge acknowledged how different and distinct this design was but felt the green was too fussy and the sphere, because of its bright colour against the green, more dominant than the plant material. I should have placed the roses and a small amount of succulents or manipulated leaves inside the sphere. This would have taken your eyes past the bright colours of the sphere to the plant material, thus making the plant material the dominant feature of the design.
For this competition the interpretive title was “Centre of Attention” If you are organising a floral art competition, I can recommend this title as it can be interpreted in so many ways and does not necessarily require a lot of flowers – in most of the entries there was only one!
This was a last minute design as I had intended to do something else but found out the night before that another competitor had interpreted the title in the same way. Normally this would not make me change my design but I felt that there was another way I could interpret the title (and we shouldn’t make it too easy for the judges, should we!)
My twisted vine is secured to a round timber base with a screw through the base into the vine. The single “medium” dahlia is in a small vial wired to the vine as the flower head is heavy enough to tip the vial forward if not properly secured. In front of the flower is a single piece of bark with a convenient hole through which your eyes are directed to the dahlia – my centre of attention. The bark is suspended from the vine with some “heritage” or “grape vine” wire, just wire covered in either green or brown fibres.
All looking great so far………..
Then I looked at the base. Where the vine meets the base some paint had come away leaving a bright white spot. I knew I had to cover this up or lose valuable marks in this close competition. Fatal mistake: I cut an agapanthus flower head and placed it on the base to cover the mark. Whilst this might have worked for many other designs, here it takes away from the complete “centre of attention” created above with the dahlia. Lesson: always carry a set of felt tip markers in the colours of your bases/paint work for repairs!
This tutorial is not strictly about flower arranging but rather a technique you can use to make simple embellishments for your floral work.
Remember to keep these embellishments to a minimum in competition work – your plant material must pre-dominate or you will lose precious points.
You will need some decorative/pearl head pins, sequins – shaped and flat, beads and small solid balls (often sold as party favours in toy stores). I find it best to use a small edged tray or handtowel to work on so I don’t keep losing beads and sequins on the floor.
Take a pin and thread onto it a shaped sequin, followed by a bead, then a flat sequin. Push the loaded pin into the ball. Keep this up until the ball is completely covered.
You can do this with larger shapes in either plastic or foam but remember the larger the base, the heavier the final item will be.
Some of my shop customers also become friends, so I was delighted to receive an invitation to a 40th birthday party being held at a local restaurant. I knew the best present I could give would be an arrangement that the birthday girl could have on display at the party and also enjoy for some time afterwards at her home.
I know the restaurant well, so it was easy to decide on a long low arrangement that could sit on the bar and then be easily transported for a coffee table at M’s home.
My friend has Dutch heritage which led me to design an arrangement incorporating boats and the colours of the Netherlands – it wasn’t the right time of year for tulips but she loves roses as well.
Using a palm spathe as the base, with two short timber supports nailed underneath to keep it stable and level, I have filled each end with Australian native foliages and some bright kangaroo paw to make it look festive.
The centre section has orange roses tightly packed together with an arch of white ones above (for the birthday candles). A stem of weeping grevillea is draped over the “candles” to accentuate the arch.
It was a hit at the party and lasted for almost 3 weeks at home afterwards.
There are lots of ways to use decorative beads in your designs.
The simplest is to thread one or two onto thin grasses for a subtle effect within your design. Here I will show a couple of other methods I have used in a variety of designs.
Beads as the Endpoint of a Twig
1. Line up your twigs or dried material – here I am using the spent flower spikes from a date palm.
2. Select some beads that will complement your design either interesting shapes or colour combinations. In this example the finished design is part of a “Fireworks” theme so I have chosen small stars to resemble a firework’s burst.
3.If your twig is large enough, dip into glue then touch the bead. Otherwise us a toothpick to place glue on the twig, then place the bead on top. Use some discarded floral foam as a drying base to keep your work upright.
Pinning Beads to Succulents
1. Using decorative dressmaker’s pins (or decorative beading pins which have a shorter pin section), thread a bead (or many) onto the pin.
2. Push the pin into the succulent. You can add a spot of glue if you are concerned about the pin slipping out, especially if you have to transport your design.
For this interpretive design with the title “Stripes” I wanted to practice a horizontal rather than vertical approach.
My container is a flat china serving platter painted black under which is a folded sheet of striped cellophane. (This poor platter has been painted every colour of the rainbow in its illustrious career!).
Extending either side are long stems of fishbone fern and alstromeria which has a striped petal. This gives me the long horizontal line of a strip with the fishbone fern giving a narrow vertical stripe using the space between the foliage.
A central slightly domed mass of alstromeria fills the container. Three “candy stripe” roses rise from the centre of the massed alstromeria with the central rose wired to a horizontally placed thin bamboo stick.
Remembering that an interpretive design should tell the judges what you think when presented with the class title, I am happy with the finished work as a practice piece. For competition I would need to have some more definite horizontal lines.
In large scale contemporary designs it is common to make your structure and this twig circle has served me well for a few years. It took some trial and error to master a workable technique – here it is.
1. Initially I tried to glue the twigs to themselves around the wire circle. This did not provide a strong enough base to attach any further plant material. My preferred method now is to wire thick twigs onto the base wire circle as though making a huge wreath. Cover the base wire circle to a two finger thickness then glue on thinner twigs for texture and coverage.
2. When doing a large circle, hang it from a sturdy hook or pole so that you can see any gaps. Work a section at a time until complete.
The final circle with be sturdy but flexible so take care with transportation.
Plant material, glass test tubes and other items can be glued, wired or threaded through the twigs for your design.