My inspiration for this structured but organic design is the color green. Here in New Orleans the verdant hue is a signature of our favorite holiday—Mardi Gras. Festivities carry straight over to Saint Patrick’s Day with parades and celebrations, so the crisp color is a common theme this time of year. It’s vivid in nature, but I consider it a neutral because so many materials I use as a floral designer have a green component.
For a true monochromatic arrangement, this is the way to go. The deeper shades bring to mind the foliage of winter, while the lighter greens evoke new growth and spring’s welcome return. Texture, which is as important as color, really makes it all come alive.
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MATERIALS & TOOLS
- trailing ivy
- ‘Moonstone’ roses
- ‘Lemonade’ roses
- ‘Super Green’ roses
- parrot tulips
- mature hydrangeas
- ‘Green Mist’ Queen Anne’s lace
- berries stars of Bethlehem
- gardenia buds
- bells of Ireland
- magnolia leaves
- young hydrangeas
- floral foam
- floral knife
- watertight vase
For a container this large, you’ll need either one grande brick or two regular bricks of floral foam (see note below for floral foam alternatives). After soaking the foam in water, use a floral knife to cut it so that when placed in the vase, the foam fills the entire inside about halfway up. It’s important that the short stems are able to reach it. Then fill the vase with water, and begin the arrangement by placing stems of salal, which will act as a grid. It’s the same concept as chicken wire, but the leaves provide the background for a really lush arrangement. Just clip the stems and shove them in. I like my greenery like a military haircut—high and tight. Continue by adding stems of green gardenia buds around the outer edge so they’re really visible. I like that they curve outward and have especially shiny leaves.
Editor’s note: When Flower magazine photographed this tutorial with Margaret Ludwig in 2016, she used floral foam. Since that time, Flower has moved away from the use of floral foam for environmental reasons. You can achieve similar results using one of the following methods.
- Florist frog adhered to the bottom of your vessel with florist putty, chicken wire, and tape grid: See Rowan Blossom’s technique.
- Streamline your mechanics with the Holly Heider Chapple Pillow—a reusable floral cage that rests in your container and even allows you to transfer your arrangement to a different vessel. Flower magazine gave the pillow a try in this video.
Next up are the hydrangeas, which will help define the overall shape. We’re using two types here—large and small. The larger ones are more mature, and the smaller ones are younger. (In lieu of the smaller hydrangeas, you could substitute with viburnum.) It's OK to tear off some leaves, because they drink up so much water. We're already using a lot of foliage with the salal, so we don't necessarily need all of them.
Now it’s rose time! Start with the biggest of our three varieties and finish with the smallest. ‘Moonstone,’ the biggest, is classified as cream, but it has a green tinge on the guard petals so it’s perfect for this arrangement. I don’t mind the guard petals, but if they look rough, just gently pull them off. Keep the rose stems long so that each reaches deep into the foam. Then add the ‘Lemonade’ roses, and finish with my favorite, the ‘Super Green’ variety. I love the color; it’s a true lime. And they have a fun, frilly head. Some of the roses will be hiding, which is fine because it brings depth to the design. I like to use a high stem count of roses to give a luxe look.
The hypericum berries and stars of Bethlehem are for added texture, which is the key to bringing a monochromatic arrangement to life. Group them together to create little vignettes within the design. The stars of Bethlehem remind me of asparagus. All of the buds will eventually open to white flowers, but I love them green like this. Something good always happens when you use things that are out of the ordinary.
Now it’s time to add the ‘Green Mist’ Queen Anne’s lace, bupleurum, and bells of Ireland. Place the ‘Green Mist’ and bupleurum throughout the arrangement at a midrange height. The bupleurum acts as a veil, and the ‘Green Mist’ is rich with texture. Then add the bells of Ireland so they seemingly float above. They make up the highest layer and give movement to the entire design. Place each one at an angle, so they all look a little swirly.
Next up is the magnolia foliage. The bigger leaves can be cumbersome, so I prefer to use stems with a cluster of smaller ones. Place them throughout the design so that they become little frames for some of the roses. I like the brown underside to peek out because, although it technically breaks up the true monochromatic look, it gives more depth.
The tulips will go around the outside of the arrangement, but first gauge where the waterline is before cutting the stems. Make sure they can reach the water. Mimicking the gardenia buds, they will drape out, which I love. Add the hellebores in the same fashion around the outer rim, in and around the tulips and gardenia buds. Amaranthus tends to look droopy if the stems are left too long, so cut them on the shorter side before tucking them in the arrangement. They should be bowing over the edge of the vase like a dress with fringe. Finally, it’s time for the last element—the ivy. Tuck one end inside the edge of the vase, followed by its trailing end a few inches away so that it forms a little loop. Continue this around the perimeter of the arrangement, and voilà!
Produced by Abby Braswell | Photography by Eugenia Uhl