Place a few blades of local grasses, variegated pittosporum cuttings, and sword ferns sprigs in bud vases, and you've created a host of simple bouquets. Cut the woody stems on an angle, then slit or mash the ends so they can best soak up water. If cut straight across, the stem base will rest on the vessel's bottom and water intake will be impaired. Typically, when Heather creates a bouquet, she works her way around a vessel, placing the larger stems around the inside edge to fashion a natural grid that can support and anchor more delicate stems. In some cases, floral foam is needed because the stems are short or the vessel shape is too odd to hold a liner. When that happens, she soaks a foam block in water till it's saturated, cuts the brick to suit the vessel's cavity, and then "plants" stems in the hydrated foam. On average, arrangements anchored in foam last only a day or two, depending on the hardiness of the blooms, but you can try to extend the life of such bouquets by watering the foam.
Shaping the bouquet
Once Heather's base grid—the one she's created like a lattice around the inside of the vessel—is in place, she works her way around again, this time placing showpiece blooms in key spots. Once the arrangement has taken shape, she fills in blank areas with greens and non-headlining flowers. Always, she's varying textures, silhouettes, shapes, and shades of color. And as for volume, it depends on where the bouquet will eventually go and what is proportional to the vessel. As for density and style, formal, showy bouquets are generally more tightly packed, and natural, organic looks are a bit more airy, a little less symmetrical and free-flowing.
Heather says there's an innate sense of knowing an arrangement is done: "When it looks right," she says, "I know it's ready." Till that sixth sense kicks in for the rest of us, we can fall back on spinning bouquets around to seeing if there are any gaping holes. In the end, Heather says that—beyond welcoming the outdoors in and basking in its beauty—working with flowers constantly reminds her that it's not us but Mother Nature who is in charge.
Excerpted from Southern Bouquets by Melissa Bigner with Heather Barrie Copyright © 2010. Excerpted by permission of Gibbs Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.