Creating Floral Fireworks

Drawing on his theater background, event and floral designer Bob Vardaman creates dramatic arrangements worthy of a standing ovation.

Behind the Scenes

Bob Vardaman proudly stands next to his flower arrangement with inspirational Fragonard-style mural behind him.

As a young boy growing up in Columbus, Georgia, Bob Vardaman had two passions: theater and gardening. When he wasn’t performing for an audience at the local community theater, he was in the kitchen gabbing with his aunts as they arranged foraged flowers and cooked fresh vegetables harvested from the backyard.

After Bob graduated from high school, his craving for culture took him to New York to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He then held various posts in theater management until returning to the South to take the role of company manager for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery. There, the success of his on-stage productions placed him in the spotlight, and he quickly became the go-to guy for innovative, extravagant private events for some of the most celebrated hosts in the city’s social and philanthropic circles.

“Thirty years ago, ‘event planning’ wasn’t a widely recognized profession like it is today,” Bob says. “There were floral designers and caterers, but very few of them tackled both the fine details and the moving parts in between. Coming from a theater background, I realized the impact of a thematic design that incorporates lighting, drapes, props, furnishings, culinary arts, and floral design.”


“Flowers at an event are like characters in a play— they help tell a story,” Bob says. The story of this floral arrangement began with the Fragonard-style mural by New York artist David Braly. The handpainted canvas was originally commissioned as a backdrop for a garden-themed event, although it now steals the show in the dining room of Bob’s Garden District home. Placed atop a modern acrylic pedestal, the floral arrangement appears to pop out of the pastoral scene and bring fantasy to life in 3D. “Its grand stature has a striking presence within the room, but its simple ‘fresh from the garden’ composition exudes humble elegance,” Bob says.


Green tea roses, purple hydrangeas, allium, fatsia leaves, fantail willow branches, and johnson grass lay on a cement countertop.
  • Square tin container
  • Mache liner
  • Coated chicken wire
  • Floral tape
  • Green Tea roses
  • Purple hydrangeas
  • Allium
  • Fatsia leaves
  • Fantail willow branches
  • Johnson grass
“Flowers should steal the show—not blend in like the chorus.” —Bob Vardaman

Step-by-Step Instructions

Bob Vardaman puts chicken wire in a mache liner.

Step 1

Form a loose ball of chicken wire that fits snuggly into the mache liner and secure it with waterproof tape.

Bob Vardaman puts fatsia leaves inside chicken wire.

Step 2

Insert fatsia to create a collar that covers the perimeter of the mache liner.

Bob Vardaman stuffs purple hydrangeas into chicken wire.

Step 3

Create a handtied rose bouquet, and secure stems with floral tape. Slide the bouquet into the mache liner at an angle so that it rests at the front of the arrangement. Add hydrangeas to fill empty space.

Bob Vardaman puts the finishing touches on a dramatic arrangement of hydrangeas, green tea roses, alliums, and grasses.

Step 4

Place fantail willow branches in opposite directions depending on the movement of the branch. Add three allium stems in the center of the arrangement at staggered heights. Add Johnson grass to compliment the willow branches.

Purple hydrangeas, green tea roses sit perfectly in their finished arrangement.

Step 5

Place the mache liner in the tin container.

By Margaret Zainey Roux  |  Photography by Jean Allsopp

For more information on Bob Vardaman events visit his website and follow along on Instagram.