How To Make Hand-Tied Table Decorations

photo 2Image 23Rachel’s sketchbook drawing illustrates how the design for this table arrangement began.  We had forty round tables to decorate and not much set up time at the venue, so we came up with the idea of a flat bouquet that could be laid on the table and taken away  afterwards to be hung on a wall.  No vases or water involved.

We wanted to echo the circular table form within our arrangements  so we encased each bouquet within a stem of curved flax and finished them off with an extravagant bunch of flowing coloured raffia.

First things first.  Materials.  You may not find the exact same materials we have used here but that’s kind of the idea – find materials that inspire you, bearing in mind texture and colour as you go. The materials that you choose need to last well and look good once dried and hanging.  Work out the size of bouquet you want in relation to your table dimensions and cut your materials to roughly the right length as you gather.

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You’ll need 2 stems of eucalyptus, 1 stem of red beech, 1 stem of gum nuts with full foliage, 2 stems of berried ivy (foliage removed), 1 stem of varigated flax plus raffia to hand tie.

1.  Prepare your materials.  Remove the lowest leaves from all stems.  Soften the flax gently using the back of a knife so that it becomes more pliable.

2.  Starting with a base of eucalyptus arrange all your materials (except the flax) into a flat bouquet.  Look carefully at the materials and work out which way they naturally arch and let their shape dictate the direction the bouquet will flow.

3.  In the absence of flowers we used gum nut sprays as our main focus,  so ensure they are clearly visible.

4.  Hold one end of the flax on top of the bouquet and take the other end and wrap right around the outside edge of the materials (this is best done flat on a table), drawing this other end back onto itself.

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3.  Secure all stems (including the flax) by tying together neatly with coloured raffia.  Keep the raffia lengths long as this will accentuate the flow of the design too and give a sense of glamour to the gathered materials. Tuck any wayward foliage stems into the flax structure so you retain the bouquet’s shape.  And voila!

Choosing a festive floral theme

Christmas Leucospernum Wreath copy resizeLeucospermum and Pohutukawa Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

Rather than buying expensive Christmas decorations just wander into your garden and see what’s around that might work instead.

Leucospermum are abundant at the moment and offer a contemporary alternative to the traditional holly and berries, much more relevant in the southern hemisphere at Christmas time.  Long-lasting and dramatic in appearance,  leucospermum  contrast well with most leafy green foliage.

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Add these stunning flowers to garlands of trailing foliage dressed over mantelpieces or along dining tables.  Anticipate flowers lasting about a week out of water, which can be extended if you wire some wet moss around the bottom of their stems.

Using only one focus flower throughout your home displayed in alternative ways (door wreath, arrangements & garlands), will create a dramatic and tight theme.  Styling and decoration doesn’t need to be complicated to achieve impact.

Simple styling with flowering echeveria

Coloured Echiveria wallpaper blog resizeEcheveria wrapping paper design Rachel Thornton

Flowering echeveria are prolific at the moment so if you’re stuck for a simple way to brighten up and style your home just gather a few long stems of this hardy succulent and arrange them in a vase.  With their extraordinary water-retaining properties echeveria last for ages but when you eventually tire of them and want to reclaim the vase,  simply re-cut each stem and plant back into the ground.  In my experience, replanting in this way seems to work well for most succulents.

Flowering Succulent & Pumice

The bright yellow echeveria flowers look stunning as a table arrangement when contrasted with deep plum-black tree aeonium and maroon-coloured akeake foliage so if you’ve got an old wreath base handy (and if not, now is the perfect time to weave one from ripe muhlenbeckia vine, keeping the circle as flat as possible) follow these simple steps ….

* You’ll need a vine base which is not too tightly woven.

* Gather 3 aeonium & 3 echeveria.  Keep stems as long as possible as you’ll be weaving them into the wreath base to secure.  Cut about 9 stems of akeake foliage and strip the bottom leaves away.

* Imagine that you are making three small bouquets which you will position evenly around the wreath circle;  each will look similar and use the same ingredients.

* Starting with the akeake foliage, weave a couple of stems into the vine base.  Then add a stem of flowering echeveria and an aeonium nestling them amongst the akeake stems.  If succulent stems are quite thick you might need to use some florist wire to secure them in place and camoflague the wire using more akeake foliage, but ideally wiring shouldn’t be necessary as this is a table arrangement and not to be hung.

* Always keep materials (stems) flowing in the same direction, clockwise.

* Repeat process making two more bouquets and place around the wreath circle equi-distance apart.

You could use the flowering echeveria on its own.  See how the long stems in this wreath emulate how they naturally twist and tangle amongst native scrub.

Flowering Succulent WreathSucculent Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

The Lilac Girl

The Lilac Girl clean & resize blogThe Lilac Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

Lilac is a wonderfully-romantic old-fashioned flower which stirs spring-time memories for me of afternoon tea in a rambling garden in Dorset;  the sweet, intoxicating scent of lilac wafting in the air and a sense that summer is well on its way.

Rachel discovered lilac growing at the side of the road in an abandoned property;    the bush obviously hadn’t been pruned for years making it quite leggy but ideal for the natural type of arrangement we love.  Normally we’d strip the leaves off as they don’t really last well, but in this case we opted to leave them on so we could enjoy their beautiful heart-shaped form.

Lilac is one of those flowers seldom seem in florist shops.  It doesn’t last long once cut so I guess commercially it just doesn’t make sense.  What a pity though to miss out on so many similarly fragile flowers just because they won’t last as long as we’d like.  It occurs to me we just have to lower our expectations and be realistic.  Unless flowers are treated with chemicals and cultivated to last, nature has its own idea of a flower’s shelf-life and we just have to go with that and enjoy these precious blooms while we can.

Taking advice from a reliable internet source suggests that you should sink stems straight into lukewarm water when cut,  crush the end of each stem to expose a larger surface area for the water flow, add a little sugar to the vase of water, keep out of direct sunlight and  remove spent florets regularly.

Lilac arrangementLilac in shoes

NZ House & Garden

Twig Vase with Forsythia resize blogTwig Vase with Flowering Forsythia as seen in October’s NZ House & Garden.  Photographer Rebecca Bijl.

Check out this month’s NZ House & Garden in which Rachel and I talk about simple and unusual ways to display flora in your home, alongside more information about The Fete at Culverden coming up on Thursday 31 October.

This twig vase is available in different sizes and can be made to order for a specific occasion.  All you need to add is a small glass jar to put at the bottom.  Contact us for more information.

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The Flower Wall Installation

The Flower Wall Side ViewCarousel Flora Design Flower Wall

We’ve just designed a wire version of a Flower Wall with our friend Giulio Sturla and his wonderful restaurant Roots in mind.  More about him in a moment.

Inspired by stylist Pia Jane Bjkerk’s visual collection of dried flora and  images of elegant ancient herbarium that we love,  our Carousel Flower Wall displays gathered flowering herbs hung from tiny loops within a delicate black wire structure.

These wire structures are made to order and can display flowers, foliage or herbs to suit a specific space in your home or garden.  You can change the arrangement of materials as and when you feel like it, as seasons come and go.  Contact us to discuss further.

Back to Giulio.  A passionate forager, Giulio was trained at Mugaritz, the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in the Spanish Basque Region but now luckily for us, is creating thoughtful and beautifully-styled degustation menus right on our doorstep here in Lyttelton.

He has spent the last year sourcing local suppliers for ingredients to introduce to his ever-changing seasonal recipes as well as  fine-tuning his extensive wine list.

Always keen to share his expertise and knowledge, Giulio is currently running a series of culinary workshops, for adults and children.  Check out his schedule and book in early to ensure you get a spot.

Keep checking into our blog as Giulio will be sharing some recipes with us that I know you’ll love.

An exquisite backdrop

photo copy 2A dear friend living in Bondi sent me this image she snapped at one of her favourite cafes there.  It occurs to me it’s not the flowers that produce the wow factor in this case  (although I love the simplicity of the arrangement), it’s the beautifully-distressed and worn concrete wall that steals the show.  Check out Porch if you ever take a trip to Sydney.  The interior looks stunning and apparently the coffee is great!

The Spring Blossom Girl

The Spring Blossom Girl rev clean & resizeThe Spring Blossom Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

Revised spring blossom in vase resizeA favourable characteristic of spring blossom, particularly for the less confident flower arrangers amongst us, is that a single stem standing alone in a glass vase can create a bold statement and bring drama to a space without too much difficulty.

Select your arching branch carefully.  I estimate the branch length should be at least twice the height of the vase – and choose one in bud rather than flower so it will last longer. Buds will literally burst open in front of your eyes and the display should last at least 10 days.

The selection of varying flowering and tonal stages of blossom around at the moment means we are spoilt for choice. So think about the look you’re after and the vase you will be using;  then go gather….

To contrast the single stem of plum blossom in our glass vase, Rachel cut a large bunch of leafy,  flowering blackcurrant  for this more natural, handpicked arrangement displayed  in a rustic, ceramic vase.

Flowering Blackcurrant resize

Flowering Blackcurrant

Long branches of blossom look stunning framing an entrance or doorway for a special event or celebration.  The flowers are fragile but even if you lose some petals along the way, don’t worry as these will give the rather lovely effect of scattered confetti underfoot.

Branches, blossom or otherwise,  standing tall in urns either side of a window can give the impression of hanging curtains framing the view outside.  Saves spending money on drapes with the bonus of being able to change the look as and when you choose.

White blossom in Twig Vase resize

This twig vase that Rachel designed is an alternative rustic way to present spring blossom. Check out next Monday’s Make A Twig Vase Project and create your very own re-usable container.  Or come along to a workshop and we’ll teach you how.  Contact us for more information.

This homage to blossom wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of a springtime wreath image.  See how the blossom looks like it’s almost growing amongst the tangled vine.

Spring Blossom Wreath resize

 Spring Blossom Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

Wild Flowering Quince

Japonica in Teena's Vasephoto copy

I am frequently faced with a rather moral dilemma.  Should I to drive to Diamond Harbour for a meeting with Rachel or hop on the ferry from Lyttelton which only takes 5 minutes and supports an essential local public service?  The journey around the winding coastal road however,  offers greater inspiration to me than whizzing straight across the water, so carbon footprint aside I hop in the car, music on and off I go.

I pass ripening muhlenbeckia vine, buddleia trees laden with lilac flowers and wild flowering quince self-sown and  scattered in farmland paddocks.

The shrub variety of flowering quince, not to be confused with the tree which produces those majestic downy yellow fruits in Autumn time,  is one of the first hints that Spring is beckoning and  flowering bulbs will follow shortly.

It is great to have a break from my laptop and get down to the therapeutic business of actual gathering rather than writing about it!  By the time I reach Diamond Harbour I am brimming with ideas and images to share along with cuttings that I have taken. Rachel sketches as we work on some new styling ideas.