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.

All Green 2

This is another take on the one colour design. Remember that when a colour is nominated for competition the container must also be this colour. You can see an alternative “All Green” design by clicking here.


The watering can is the container for this collection of foliage and a single green banksia flower (it looks yellow in this photo). My design idea was to make it look as though they had all just been collected fresh from the garden.

I have kept similar plant material together in a type of modern mass arrangement with some material coming down over the watering can to break up the expanse and therefore dominance of this non horticultural item. The head of the spout has been unscrewed so that agapanthus seed heads can be placed there. The head is suspended at the back of the pouring arm by wedging a foliage branch in it then draping this across the arm.

See the aspidistra leaf at the front that has been looped up into itself? I did this because it was touching the bench if left hanging down and you must not have any horticultural material “supported” by the competition bench. This design placed third and what did the judge say? The front of the design was too stark and I should have had the aspidistra leaf hanging down………I pointed out it would touch the bench and we both just laughed!

Point to remember: unless the schedule defines what horticultural material must be used, the choices are broad. For an all green design I could have used beans, asparagus, celery, peas as well as green chrysanthemums. However if the schedule had said  All Green: Foliage Only, I would have had to consider some succulents for additional texture in the design.

Interpretive: Incorporating a Musical Instrument

In another post I have talked about a design that incorporates a musical instrument. For this design I have taken the interpretive route. This means I don’t need to incorporate an actual musical instrument but rather my interpretive design of a musical instrument.


The “drum” is made by covering a plastic cylinder with paper then gluing the strips of bark in place. The top is dried moss again glued in place.  The drumsticks are seedpods attached to bamboo skewers.

Some of you may recognise the palm spathe used as the base for this design. I try to use this when I need some rhythm in my design. By placing it this way on the bench I can use the height as well as the shape to help the design. The succulent pigface has been used around the base of the drum and is repeated at the top of the spathe. Tortured willow, stripped of foliage, and weeping grevillea are wound around the kangaroo paw flowers and foliage to create a jungle effect. A seed pod with whole hazelnuts (as the “seeds”) is suspended from the tip of the spathe.

Confession time: This was actually entered in the same competition as the other design (bagpipes) however it was not judged as the Schedule did not say you could enter an interpretive design. The judges commented afterwards that they both loved this design and would have placed it first had there been an allowance for interpretive design.

Please read your competition Schedule again and again to ensure you understand what can and importantly what cannot be entered. Check with the Show Secretary if you have any doubts.

Incorporating A Musical Instrument

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!

All Green Arrangement

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.