Thursday, May 28, 2009

Arranging Orchid Flowers

Nothing is more elegant than orchids in a flower arrangement. They’ve always represented the pinnacle of good taste and sophistication. The key to using them for such purposes is to keep it simple and not to let the elegance of the orchids get overwhelmed by too many other elements.

A super-simple homemade orchid flower preservative
Here’s an easy recipe for making your cut orchids last longer. Combine one 12-ounce can of a lemon-flavored soda drink (like Sprite or 7-Up), an equal quantity of water, and 1 teaspoon of household bleach. The sugar in the soft drink serves as food for the flower, the citric acid lowers the pH (increases the acidity), and the bleach kills the bacteria in the water that can plug up the water-conducting network in the flower stem.

Understanding the three basic flower-design elements
When it comes to flower arranging, flowers and greens comes in three basic shapes — line, mass, and filler. All of these play a key part in the construction of an attractive flower arrangement:
  1. Line flowers are tall and are used to give your arrangement height and width. Various branched orchids with buds (for example, oncidiums and cymbidiums) are used to create this effect.
  2. Mass flowers give your bouquet weight or mass and are generally round or full-faced. They’re usually the focal point of color and interest in a bouquet. Examples are cattleyas and their relatives, as well as paphiopedilums and angraecums.
  3. Filler flowers have stems with many little flowers and usually have fine textured foliage. Examples are miniature oncidiums.
Here are some tips on how to make simple, yet elegant, arrangements:
  1. Line flowers, by themselves, can make a striking arrangement in a tall, cylindrical vase. Select a vase or container that is in proportion to the flowers. The vase should be about one-half to one-third the size of the total arrangement. For instance, 3-foot-tall spikes of cymbidiums or oncidiums need a vase 12 to 18 inches tall.
  2. You can arrange mass flowers by themselves in a low, wide vase or container (see Figure 4-4).
  3. A small arrangement of filler flowers by themselves can add a light, elegant touch to any room. Many of these filler flowers are well suited for drying.
  4. Some flowers can be used as more than one element. For example, phalaenopsis sprays, especially the multifloral types, can be used as line elements, while large single flowers can be used as mass flowers.

Supporting the orchid flower stems
Having some method of supporting the stems of orchids in an arrangement, so you can arrange them to face the direction you prefer, is usually a good idea. Here are several methods and materials you can use:
  1. For a clear vase, add marbles or rocks.
  2. Crossing the top opening of the vase in a tic-tac-toe pattern of florist’s tape works well.
  3. Frogs (pincushions on which the orchid stems are impaled) work well in shallower containers.
  4. Florist foam is most popular with professional arrangers because it’s easy to use, effective, and retains water well so that the flowers last. It’s usually used in low containers.
Don’t cut the orchid flowers until they’re fully open. Otherwise, they may never have their proper shape or complete color.

Making your orchid arrangement last longer
To make your cut flowers last longer, follow these suggestions:
  1. For cymbidiums, wait about ten days to two weeks after they’ve flowered before cutting; for cattleyas, wait several days. Cut the orchids only when they’ve fully opened.
  2. Before you put the orchids into a vase, their stems should be recut at an angle under water. To keep them fresh, recut them every several days.
  3. Condition the orchids first, before arranging them. Place their stems in warm (180°F/82°C), fresh water and let them sit somewhere cool (around 50°F/10°C) overnight.
  4. Make sure all leaves that will be submerged under water in the vase are removed.
  5. To use orchids’ short stems (like cattleyas) in taller arrangements, insert the flower stem into orchid tubes (waterholding test tubes, available at your local florist) and then tape the tubes to a wood stake for more height.
  6. Add a commercial or homemade solution of floral preservative (see the nearby sidebar) to the warm water containing the flowers. Change this water and solution every three to four days.
  7. Place the arrangement out of the direct rays of sunlight and in a cool room.
  8. Double the life of your orchid flowers by placing the arrangement in the refrigerator at night or when you’re away from home.

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