Sustainable Flower Arranging, Part One: Frogs
We successfully weaned ourselves off of flower foam over at Lola Event Floral & Design. It’s not been easy. The green yuck (floral foam) is just so efficient and when you’re in a bind, it’s easy to revert back to what’s easy. (Isn’t this addict talk?) You can hear more of my whining about it in this previous post. I discovered (though I hate to admit it) that my short term anxiety over time restraints during event production, delivery, and setups trumps my noble desire to run a more sustainable operation. But thanks to the waggling fingers and stoney resolve of some of my employees, the interwebs, and some colleagues, I’ve been kept on the straight and narrow. Hopefully I can be that motivation for you. If I can build some new greener neural pathways, you can too. It’s definitely a different way of approaching arranging, but we’ve developed some new processes that we can be proud of. So proud, in fact, that we’d like to share them with you.
(And by the way, I documented this tutorial with On-Site Reporter, an app that facilitates this sort of thing. Read more on that at the end. And as a bonus, it just happens to be created by the most wonderful man in the world (hubby)).
We’ll start with what’s easy. Flower pin frogs. Little metal pucks with pointy ends to grip your stems. They are great for securing a few stems as you make a stem cage support for the rest of the arrangement, or for use in a low dish where there isn’t much room for support. I make sure my frog and bowl are dry and secure the frog to the bowl with some floral clay.
I’ve got a potted azalea that doesn’t have a home so I cut off a piece of the mini shrub and secured it to the frog. Woodier stems like this will have to be jammed in. Careful you don’t impale yourself! I also want to add some pussy willow but the stem’s too thick for me to jam it on with all these other plants in the way so I go ahead and add some clay to the end to give it a bit more adhesion. This stem is dried so I’m not concerned with it actually being under water- just in there enough to stay in place.
Next I’ve got some monstrous ranunculus, a hellebore plucked from my yard, and a few more bits of foliage. And that about does it. Don’t need much.
So cute… so healthy… Loooove. If you deliver this you’ll just have to remember to water again when you get there.
Now for some glamour shots.
We’ll be going over a bunch of different methods for getting interesting foam free looks, so follow us to keep up to date. And if you’re thinking about going foam-free, do it. Hesitant? Of course, but do it anyway. You’re a freagin’ MacGyver, you’ll figure it out.
AND if you want to know more about On-Site Reporter, check it out. It basically allows you to document any site visit or process with steps by matching photos with dictated or typed in notes. Chronological photos and notes are then sent to you. No more confusion wondering what you did when- BOOM. It practically puts your tutorial together for you. At the time of this article, we’re (ehem, I mean) THEY are still working on some quirks with the android version. But i-phone is good to go. Let us, er… they know what you think.
I consider myself and our business to be pretty ecologically considerate. Partly because we love happy organisms (slugs and seaweed are exceptions) but mostly because waste is so unnecessary. Sustainability just makes sense, especially when it comes to floral and garden design.
Composting? duh. Recycling? Um, yeah. Reuse? Why would I buy a material twice when it’s right here staring me down? Local materials, flowers, and plants in season? Yes. Let’s celebrate what we’ve got here. Toxic substances? Hmmmmm. Wellll, seems like a no-brainer, but here’s the thing… they’re so useful.
I’ve recently become aware of a soft spot in my shiny green shell. I’ve been suffering from a self sown affliction called artistic ignorance. This is the state in which adherence to any ecological values is ignored in pursuit of a creative endeavor. It’s the idea that the process of making something new is so exciting and noble that any talk of ecology is a buzz-kill. After all, what about all the useful adhesives, foams, and coatings that could improve our designs? (sigh)
This has been something I’ve allowed myself to believe since I was in art school. Something I keep to myself within the walls of my studio and has made its way with me into the walls of Lola Event Floral & Design. When the part that taps me on the shoulder and says, “Um, hey, isn’t that stuff bad?” (This part of me wears a hand knit sweater and barefoot running shoes.) But, the part of me that likes to make cool stuff belts out, “Why never you mind! We are making something out of imagination and raw materials. We are amazing! Muah ah ah!” (This part of me wears feather eyebrow extensions, a cape, and shiny boots.) Recently however, I’ve found myself having to explain why we use these harsh chemicals to my employees. The more I have to explain it out loud, the less and less it make sense. Like a kid who has fabricated a reality only to feed her own selfish habits. My explanation starts out confident then, as I continue to babble on, my people’s eyebrows furrow, they start giving me the slow blink, and my voice gets weaker. Pretty soon I’m just squeaking out some sort of sheepish response only mildly better than, “Because. So there. Now grab your gloves and respirator.”
The truth is, I haven’t really worked too hard to find better alternatives because the toxic materials that I’ve gotten used to using are so convenient and efficient- my kryptonite. Add to that the ‘everyone else is doing it’, and ‘we are sustainable in other ways’ phrase and you’ve got the number one lame excuse to hold back the pursuit and dispersal of greener technologies.
So, after throwing a full on “I don’t wanna” grown woman tantrum, I’ve concluded that we’ve just got to alter our way of approaching our designs. I don’t want to be in contact with this stuff and neither do my people.
The first and perhaps biggest offender? Floral foam. It’s everywhere. Nearly every floral designer I know uses this stuff, us included. Floral foam is that green squishy, weird substance that holds water and provides a structure in which stems are inserted. It’s such a staple in the industry that it’s accepted as a necessary evil. From a functional standpoint it’s awesome. It’s fast, cheap, and allows for secure delivery and gravity defying creations. Friends, the green foam is grotey. Not only will it stick around in a landfill for all time, it’s full of nasty substances like formaldehyde, and gives factory workers the floral equivalent of black lung. The fumes have been fatal when burned and the dust makes you want to scratch your eyeballs out. At the age of 29 I started to get arthritis in my hands. Coincidence? Maybe not considering how much of this stuff and pesticides I’ve come in contact with.
While this realization was bubbling up, we met Studio Choo out of San Francisco- a chemical free floral design outfit with a great new book out. They don’t use the green monster and are thriving. After speaking with Jill and Alethea in May, we concluded that we should attempt to revise our summer’s events to eliminate green foam. We were pretty happy with our success. In many cases, we feel the looks were better than if we had used foam. As we go into a new season, we’ll be able to approach all our events differently.
We’ll be sharing our exploration with you in the coming weeks but for now, here’s some eye candy from some of this summer’s foam free arrangements!