Category Archives: floral design

Faux, the New Real


I used to be a real stickler for everything in my home being real, genuine. I had an unbreakable rule: Real fruit in the fruit bowl, even if no one ever ate it. Real flowers artfully displayed, even if we weren’t expecting company. If it wasn’t real, I didn’t display it or arrange it. Years went by, and it became an almost full-time job keeping ahead of the rotting, wilting, uh, expense of it all. The real fruit rotted in the fruit bowl before it was time to go to the food store again. The real flowers wilted and died halfway through the week they were guaranteed to last.

Keeping one step ahead of the rotten and dead took up too much of my psychic energy and free time after a while. Week after week, it was a choice between either eating the last apple or making something out of it. And how much fruit can one family eat anyway? Or flowers. I’d spend an hour or two arranging flowers only to have them kick the bucket after a couple of days. I wanted to change, but I didn’t know quite what to do. I mean, fresh fruit and flowers make a home feel more homey to me and I hated to give that feeling up, but the plasticky flowers and jeweled fruit I grew up with didn’t seem like viable alternatives.

Then in walked my girlfriend Ginger. When she lived close by (now she lives in St. Louis <sniff>) we visited back and forth pretty often. One afternoon I walked into her kitchen and exclaimed over the new rosemary topiary sitting on the kitchen counter. She smiled as I walked over to rub a leaf and catch a whiff. When I got thisclose I realized the rosemary topiary was faux. It was fake and it didn’t look fake or gross! It was a revelation!

Another time soon after I walked into Ginger’s dining room and saw a very pretty tree. It looked like it needed watered, though, since a few curled up brown leaves rested on top of the pot. Ginger smiled. Faux! It was faux!

Ginger sold me on faux. She coached me: Start with a high-quality faux plant, add a few “real” elements to the tableau (the dried up leaves, for example) and you can fool most of the people most of the time. Now I use faux in my home, selectively, and to great effect.

Quick! Real or faux?


Well? All real? All faux? A mix??



Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Food

Flower Design Competition Today!

Today was my garden club’s final in-house floral competition for the 2010-2011 club year. As an Intermediate II designer I signed up to create a “Traditional Vertical Design placed on a table on the stage 42″ from the floor; allotted space 24″ deep x 24″ wide.  Background and underlay optional.” Yes. Indeed I did.

As usual, I purchased flowers on Friday afternoon, clipped them and put them to “condition” in my cool basement then I went about the business of having a productive and fun weekend. Sunday afternoon arrived and I brought the flowers up from downstairs and stared at them. And stared at them. And stared at them some more. Not really convinced I know what a traditional vertical design is, I Googled it and studied the results, then I grabbed my trusty “Designing By Types” book that I purchased at our club’s December tea; it inspired my topiary design last month. This month, however, I didn’t see what I needed. That said, I did my best and submitted my design this morning, as required.

Here is my traditional vertical design. I value the constructive criticism I received.

Fast forward to this afternoon and I saw my design earned a blue ribbon. Wow! I really appreciated the judges’ constructive feedback. I received two positives: (1) strong vertical lines. (2) scale and proportion of material good. And I received two constructive criticisms that are well deserved: (1) Proportion of the container to design is too great. (2) needs more transitional material between vase and design. Okay. I can look at my design and see what the judges mean.

Other designs today were lovely. I was able to photograph a few before I had to leave. Take a look!

My friend Cynthia created this Advanced I masterpiece: "Creative Line Design placed on a round black pedestal 42" from the floor with a 14" square top."

Two “designers submitted the following based on these instructions: “Intermediates will do a Parallel Design, Handbook, p. 206, staged on a table 30″ from the floor, allotted space 24″ deep x 24″ wide.  Background and underlay optional.”


Our club president Karen did this blue ribbon design.

I can always pick out Fran's designs as they are rich in color, creative and just plain fun to view!

One design I missed photographing was the table centerpiece. My friend Celia designed it. Maybe you can picture it if I try to describe it: From a distance you saw baby birds’ mouths peeping out of a bird’s nest with spring flowers tucked in around. When you looked closely, you saw the “birds” were white calla lilies (with the stems clipped short and tucked in low and tight they looked like little open mouths), a coil of grapevine represented the nest and spring blooming flowers were tucked in along the edges of the “nest.” In all, it was whimsical and clever and very, very spring!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Flower Shows, Garden Club

N.J. Flower & Garden Show 2011

Juan Lee gave me a free return ticket!

This magnolia bloom is stunning; one garden had three of these trees in it!

The N.J. Flower & Garden Show draws me in like a bee to a lily every year; by February, I’m starved for flowers, green shrubs and the scents of spring. Typically, six or seven “gardens” are set up inside the huge convention center by talented landscapers and I get my spring fix wandering up and down cobbled paths, listening to the various water features burble and trickle, reading plant tags and taking photos of things that catch my fancy.

In addition, I carefully study the flower show entries, trying to learn by looking at these excellent examples how to become a better floral designer. Last year, I entered the state show for the first time; you can read about my experience here. This year I didn’t enter a design, but two local garden club members did. Do you remember me mentioning Debbie, the professionally trained chef who demonstrated the “Cooking with Herbs” workshop this week? She finished the cooking demo and immediately drove to the state show to set up her floral design entry, which received a yellow ribbon.

At well over 6 feet tall, Debbie's design is impressive and the flowers are beautiful!

In addition, Florence entered a design in the state competition that received a white ribbon.

At about 4 feet tall, Florence's design was colorful; check out the bird of paradise!

Both women are talented designers. Last year they entered floral designs in the Philadelphia Flower Show. I’m talking talented!

After I’ve breathed my fill of witch hazels, magnolias and mulch and snapped my last photo of well-done floral designs I wander up and down the aisles to see what the vendors have brought to tempt me. Some return year after year, like the Amish baker; I always buy a dozen whoopee pies from him, unwrap one immediately, wolf it down, and lick my fingers. It’s what I do.

Juan Lee's designs are finely crafted and beautiful.

This year I found Juan Lee of “Art on Tiles”; he paints the most beautiful free-hand art on tiles. I must have been in his booth for 30 minutes or more, checking out the different sized and themed tiles, from whimsical cats to pastoral vineyards in Italy. I purchased two tiles, but it was difficult to settle on just two. The artwork is very well done and his glazes are gorgeous.

This scene reminds me of Italy, where my good friend Anna lives.

Another scene that reminds me of Italy. It will go behind my stovetop where I can look at it often.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Flower Shows, Garden Club, NJ

February Garden Club Flower Show: The Blue Ribbon Designs!

Yesterday I showed you how I created a “Small Design” topiary that I entered in my garden club’s February flower show. As an Advanced II designer I was awarded a blue ribbon for my topiary; the judges loved the juxtaposition of the “perfect arrangement in an imperfect pot.” That made me happy!

My small design is a floral topiary.

My friend Cynthia is a truly gifted designer; I showed you one of her “creative” designs in December (Garden Club Flower Show Results: Surprising!). Cynthia is an Advanced I designer, and yesterday, her ”Parallel Design, staged on a table 30” from floor; allotted space 24” deep x 24” wide. Background and underlay optional” was awarded a blue ribbon. Cynthia’s design is a stunning example of a parallel design! I always learn something from studying Cynthia’s designs.

See how the three elements are closely related to create the parallel design?

Susan, another friend, is a Novice designer and her “Traditional S-Curve Design, staged in front of a backboard panel 36” high x 24” wide provided by committee, staged on a table 30” from floor” was simply beautiful; she was awarded a well-deserved blue ribbon for her white and green design.

Susan's S-Curve design is a good example.

Each month our garden club has a flower show, a gifted designer is invited to showcase a design style of her choice. This month’s “Invitational” designer showcased a unique “Creative Design.” I aspire to this level of skill and imagination!

This "Creative Design" is contemporary, complex and clever!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Flower Shows, Garden Club

Topiary Sunday for Flower Show Competition Monday!

Almost every month October-April my garden club has a floral design competition. This month I signed up to compete; I’m an Advanced II designer this year and was required to create “A Small Design not to exceed 8” in height, width or depth, staged on a 9”x9” white cube provided by committee, staged on a table on stage 42” from floor. Believe it or not, that’s a pretty broad design category!

Wanting to do something “different” than a traditional design in a vase, I created a small topiary. It took me three hours to complete from clipping the branch I used for the topiary stem to adding the last flower to the oasis ball. The design, as small as it is, used a lot of flowers. I really enjoyed the process and by the time I showed my husband Mike and daughter Tory the finished design I told them it didn’t matter if it won a ribbon because I enjoyed the design process so much. And I meant it!

Would you like to see how I did it? Take a look!

First I cut a stick to length, carved dampened oasis into a right-sized ball, joined the two and inserted them into a small terra cotta pot I "aged" for a previous design last year.

I purchased the fresh flowers on Friday and had them "conditioning" in my cool basement until I needed them.

I started by inserting flowers near the top, remembering I had a maximum height restriction.

I worked my way around the ball, alternating flowers by shape and size as I went. Carnations are not the best flower to insert into a design ball this small!

It gets challenging the more flowers you add. And I didn't read any how-to instructions before I started. Duh!

Almost finished. It was a challenge to keep the carnations stuck firmly in the oasis ball!

Here's the finished design, which I photographed then took to my cool, cool basement to sleep overnight! The cooler you keep the arrangement the better it looks for the next day's competition!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, floral design, Flower Shows, Garden Club

Garden Club Flower Show Results: Surprising!

A Blue Ribbon, Wow!

I didn't think I had wrestled my plant material into blue ribbon form so today's ribbon was a wonderful surprise!

I submitted my “small” floral design this morning at 8 a.m.; small-standard flower show judging began at 9 a.m.; and results were publicly available at 1 p.m., when the garden club’s Annual Holiday Tea and Flower Show began. When I dropped my design off I saw one other “small” designer, my friend Kathleen, but not her design as it was neatly tucked away to protect it from the cold. Neither Cynthia nor Nina, two other friends and fellow competitors, had arrived yet. The four of us were competing in the “small” category. Typically, Kathleen and I compete against each other as we are on the same “level,” while Cynthia and Nina are one level of experience and expertise higher. All three designer friends are very talented and all four of us bring a different design esthetic to the table. I was really looking forward to seeing how each woman interpreted the theme in her design!

Imagine my surprise when I heard I had taken a blue ribbon today! I was delighted. . .and amazed, considering my talented friends. Take a look at their designs and you’ll definitely see what I mean:

Today was my lucky day!

My design, which I showed you yesterday.

A gorgeous "creative" design; I aspire to start doing creative designs; it's a big leap (for me) from the "traditional" style designs I do.

Kathleen's wreath! I'm in love with it!

Nina's design is so evocative of the season. Boxwood rocks!

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Christmas Decor, floral design, Flower Shows, Friends, New Jersey

Flower Show Competition Tomorrow

“Small Design” Is My Category

Waaay back in October, while I was sunning myself in Bonita Springs, FL, I received an email from my garden club offering me an opportunity to prepare and show a design in a small standard flower show in December. Relaxed and calm, I smiled to myself and thought what a great idea it would be for me to enter. I immediately emailed the consultant in charge of design and asked her to sign me up.

Fast forward to this week .You should have seen the look on my face when my calendar peeped me a reminder that the flower show – and my arrangement – is on Wednesday, this Wednesday. Suffice to say, I gathered my design supplies this afternoon after I got out of work: down to ShopRite to purchase fresh, inexpensive “small” flowers, then over to Jerry’s to purchased some mat board in a color that would complement the flowers I purchased and the container I chose from my home stockpile. That was the time consuming, but easy part. The time consuming, but hard part was coming right up!

I dropped my daughter Tory off at work and knew I had three full hours to plot and execute a design, cut and piece together the background and underlay, and fill out the required paperwork before I had to pick her up from work. Easy peasy, right? Uh. Not really. I’ve been too busy this fall to enter a design in my club’s monthly competitions; therefore, I’m rusty, really rusty. The last design I did for judging was waaay back in April. Gulp.

On a whim I gathered freeze dried carpet roses, euonymus berries, sedum flower stalks, astilbe stalks and lavender from my yard. Why? I really don’t know since I already had fresh flowers conditioning in water. And it was cold as heck outside when I was snipping away at dead stuff. Anyway, for whatever reason, I created a design using only the freeze-dried plant material from my yard. Here’s the design.

Freeze-dried floral design. Is that a category?

Kinda creepy isn’t it? My friend Adelle can gather bits of stuff from her yard and make a blue ribbon arrangement. Me? Not so much, at least not in the dead of winter. After I got the goth design thing out of my system I went to work on my “Have Yourself a Merrry Little Christmas” design. Here it is.

Here's the design I'll submit for judging, although I'd love to submit my goth one!

It isn’t the best work I’ve done, but I’m not going to be too hard on myself (Carole, do I hear you gasping?). After all, it’s my first design of the club season, and second of all, I took a look at what I submitted last year as a small design and this one is a heck of a lot better! Even if it’s not a blue ribbon, it’s still progress and growth from where I was last year at this time. I’m proud of that!

P.S. I’ve been driving around in my Audi today. I feel like a new woman! I LOVE my car and I’m so happy it’s back in the driveway, and my life!


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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Audi A5, floral design, Garden Club, Perfectionism