Floral Design

Challenge Class 101

“The most important thing is that you enjoy doing it. And that you free your creativity.” Those were sage words of advice from master flower arranger Rev. Richard McKeon during his recent workshop. The principles he follows have helped him win many ribbons for arrangements at GCA flower shows. Among his tips:
• Assemble a kit with your tools: frogs, tape, wire, clippers.
• For long life, condition flowers according to directions available on many web sites. Just enter the flower name to find out the temperature of the water and what to add (crushed baby aspirin and drops of liquid bleach are common conditioning elements).
• Don’t cut stems until you’re sure of the height you want.
• A good rule of thumb is that the arrangement is twice as high as the container; or of the overall composition, the container is one-third of the height/mass and the flowers are two-thirds.
• Three is the magic number: no less than three of each flower or element.

With those words of advice, and under Richard’s guidance, it was amazing what members were were able to do. The workshop, organized like a “challenge class,” gave members the opportunity to design instantaneous arrangements with provided materials: a moss ‘purse’ container and a selection of flowers including white roses, carnations, and calla lilies; green eucalyptus and love-lies-bleeding; and hot pink gerbera daisies. Richard then (gently) critiqued the results the way GCA flower show judges might, evaluating composition, line, eye-appeal, and workmanship and overall creativity.

Choosing Components

by Rev. Richard McKeon

“Component: That which is used in a design—plant material, container, mechanics, background, base, accessory, etc.”

—The Garden Club of America Flower Show and Judging Guide

Chair of GCI’s Exhibition and Judging committees, the Reverend Richard McKeon, explains how to use components in a successful flower arrangement

It seems logical to begin the discussion of flower arranging with a look at the physical foundation of arrangements, called components. Often a component, such as a branch, a piece of driftwood, or a container, that inspires a winning design.

Here are a few pointers:
• Keep in mind the rule of thirds: the arrangement should be twice as high as your container.
• Consider contrast: an angular arrangement will look good in a round container, and vice-versa.
• If you are creating an arrangement for a GCA flower show, consult the schedule, which will describe the lighting, background, and what’s allowed or not allowed. If in doubt, call the class consultant.
• Mechanicals—what’s holding the arrangement together—should not be visible. Floral foam is often preferred, but frogs can work well and all the flowers to take in more water
• The container should not overwhelm the flowers. Don’t use anything too elaborate or too shiny.
• Accessories like tablecloths should be simple and not distract from the flowers.
• Be flexible and play until it looks and feels right.
• If it catches your eye, it will catch the eye of judges and the public.


A Winning Arrangement

Blue-ribbon winning arrangement at 2010 GCA Annual Meeting, New Brunswick, NJ

Judging at GCA flower shows is based on the principles of design: balance, contrast, dominance, proportion, rhythm and scale; and the elements of design: light, space, line, form, color, texture, pattern and size. Creativity is important, as is distinction, conformance to and interpretation of the class and schedule. All entrants are encouraged to carefully read the show schedule and to read and follow The Garden Club of America rules (in the “Yellow Book”).

2 responses to “Floral Design

  1. Maura

    I am interested in learning more about the garden club, as I have recently moved to Irvington after many, many years of city life. After all of these years of wishing for a garden, I don’t have much of an idea of how to go about creating and maintaining one… I am looking forward to putting the the time in to learn.

    • GCIrvington.org

      Hi Maura,
      Welcome to Irvington! Come to one of our public events and meet our members. Especially Rose Day and the Garden Fair and Plant Sale in the spring. Watch this site for days and times. Looking forward to meeting you. Also, Sprainbrook and Rosedale nurseries in the area can be very helpful to you. In the spring you will see magnificent displays at Rosedale with many ideas for plant combinations and arrangements for this area.

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