There’s a saying that April showers bring May flowers, so it’s interesting to recall that May 1 has been associated historically with the tradition of the May Basket.
This quaint custom of gathering flowers to hang in baskets on the doors of friends, neighbors, and loved ones isn’t widely celebrated today, but it should be. We’re so charmed by the very thought of this tradition that we’d love to see even more blooms year-round.
And so would Janice Morrow of Newport Beach, California, who writes about her love of flowers on her blog, Fig and Twigs, and on Instagram. Floral design is Janice’s passion, and gardenias are her favorite flowers, because their fragrance brings back childhood memories of the gardenias that her mother planted in a long row beneath a living room window. Today, Janice grows many of her own flowers (including her own gardenias), makes weekly pilgrimages to local flower markets, and creates beautiful designs for her clients. She’s also a big fan of MacKenzie-Childs and often incorporates our pieces into her creations.
Janice believes in taking the intimidation out of floral design. She wants you to know there aren’t hard-and-fast rules and that your floral creations should reflect your personality. But that said, she also offers several helpful hints that will enhance your finished creations:
- Consider more than the standard glass vase for your floral arrangement. How about a galvanized bucket or a watering can to give the flowers an abundant, farm-fresh look? Or try an old teapot or even the center of a wreath. If you’re uncertain that the container you’ve chosen is watertight, create the arrangement in a plastic container and put that inside of the display container. If you use a low container, a few pieces of waterproof tape across the top in a grid pattern will help to keep the elements of the arrangement in place.
- Start with cold, fresh water and add one tablespoon of FloraLife ’s Flower Food 300 per one quart of water. This additive (available online and in floral shops) keeps the water fresh longer by inhibiting bacterial growth.
- Don’t use floral foam products, which can clog stems, preventing water absorption. Look for old-fashioned metal flower frogs or use a little chicken wire if the arrangement needs support. Janice also recommends that you make a fresh cut on every stem that goes into the arrangement to ensure water absorption.
- Begin with your biggest piece of green fill to create a base for the flowers to lean against. Then add a few more pieces of fill to develop the shape of the arrangement. Fill, by the way, can be everything from boxwood clippings to flowering branches to leathery ferns.
- Next, add the largest flower so you know how much space you have for other flowers. Janice doesn’t subscribe to the notion that flowers have to be added in odd numbers, but she does like clusters of blooms. “It’s a very European way of adding color,” she says. The final floral elements should be the delicate flowers such as tulips or spray roses, which Janice tucks into the arrangement’s openings.
- Consider the setting for your arrangement. If you’re designing for the dining table, keep the arrangement no more than 12 inches tall so you can see and speak with your guests. It’s OK to have a few twigs or blooming branches sticking up to add a little interest to the arrangement.
- Change the water about every four days to help the arrangement last longer. If you can easily lift the stems out without changing the structure of the design too much, trimming the stems is another way to increase the length of freshness. Additionally, if you have a warm home, it’s a good idea to place your floral arrangement outside in the evening (weather permitting, of course); the cooler air will help to keep the flowers fresh longer.
Finally, relax and have fun with the flowers. “Do your thing,” says Janice. “The vase becomes the page, and you’re the author.”