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Late Summer Flowers – Cockscomb

Cockscomb, also called Brain Flowers,  Feathery Amaranth or Wool Flowers bloom from late summer through the fall.  There are about 60 species of Cockscomb and they differ quite widely in appearance.  The variety to the left has long feathery like flowers and the variety below is actually shaped like a brain.

Cockscomb has a long stiff stem and bloom in vibrant yellows, ,reds, golds and pinks.  They can grow up to 30 inches tall and the dwarf version reaches about a foot in height.  This plant is frequently used in parks and other large scale planting areas such as roadsides because it requires little attention.  They are also commonly found in China and other areas as an ornamental flower in gardens.

Cockscomb is an excellent addition to any floral arrangement.  It not only has a great vase life, lasting anywhere from 5 – 14 days, but it also has no scent.  So it can be used almost as a filler flower and will not detract from stronger scented flowers.  Cockscomb also makes an excellent dried flower choice, holding it’s shape and color through the drying process.

Summer Blooms – Black Eyed Susans

Black Eyed Susans are a wonderful bright splash of summer color.  These vividly yellow flowers with their distinctive dark centers are the state flower of Maryland where they can be found growing along roadsides and in open fields.   Actually considered a wild flower, these yellow daisy like flowers can grow up to 2-3 inches wide and have a sturdy stem with oval leaves.

Black Eyed Susans can actually have centers that are red or green in addition to the dark purplish brown one.  Also known as Brown Betties, Brown Daisy or Gloriosa Daisy.  They are available from July through the end of August.

Members of the sunflower family,  this brightly colored bloom is perfect for any rustic or country themed flower arrangement. Because of their sturdy stems, they work well in any arrangement style and will provide support for other flowers around them.    They also have a great vase life anywhere from 6 -10 days.   They are native to the United States and grow east of the Rockies.

The Fragrant and Lovely Lavender

Did you know that Lavender is actually a member of the mint family?  This lovely flowering herb is extremely popular.  In addition to being known for it’s heavenly scent, the Lavender plant is also very lovely.  There are over 36 varieties of Lavender that are available and they are generally broken down as English and Non-English varieties

Non English varieties of Lavender include Yellow lavender and the French Grey blooms along with the more traditional purple color.  The blooms of these varieties are generally pineapple shaped.  Traditional English Lavender varieties have much more delicate blossoms, tiny flowers on stems and tend to be in the light lavender to dark purple color families.

All lavender varieties are scented and are used in everything from soaps to oils and even in teas.  Dried Lavender retains it scent and can be used in sachets as well as floral arrangements.

Flowering Evergreen – Heather

One of the most recognizable flower symbols associated with Scotland is Heather.  This lovely flowering evergreen is a great addition to any flower arrangement.  The tiny flowers are generally available in purple, but also can range in color from white to pink and all the way to red.

Heather is basically a shrub that is made of up of stems covered with tiny leaves.  The flower spikes range from 6 to 10 inches tall.  Heather blooms starting in late July through November.

Heather is said bring good luck.  And Queen Victoria is credited with the introduction of carrying white heather in wedding bouquets for good luck.

Exotic Blooms – Bird of Paradise

This beautiful flower adds an exotic touch to any summer flower arrangement, making it a favorite with designers.  Also known as the Crane Flower, the Bird of Paradise actually appears to be a brilliantly colored bird in flight.  The flower symbolizes joy and paradise and is actually the 9th wedding anniversary flower.  It is related to the banana plant and the foliage does not drop off the plant so it makes a great outdoor landscaping plant as well as being used in flower arrangements.

The foliage resembles little banana leaves.  The rich glossy green color of these leaves forms the perfect frame for the blooms.  Leaf blades average about 6 inches across and can be up to 18 inches tall.  The plant itself averages about 4 feet tall.

The Orange Bird of Paradise include a bright blue, sunny orange and bright yellow.  These are formed inside of bracts that hold 2 or more of the actual blossom.  The bracts which form canoe like structures can be green, purple or even red.  The White Bird of Paradise is larger, growing up to 18 feet tall.  The flower is basically white, but has a light blue tongue and the bract is usually purple.  The Giant Bird of Paradise can reach 30 feet tall with a trunk up to 20 feet wide.  The flowers of this variety are also white with a bluish tongue, but the bracts that it sits in are reddish in color.

Creating with Floral Foam

Last time I talked about how to prepare your floral foam so that it is ready to use to create your arrangement.  This time I want to share with you some great tips on how to create the base plan for your arrangement with floral foam.

Securing your foam to the base of your container is a must.  After all, the floral foam itself is what will be holding your beautiful flowers in place.  if you are using a vase, a jar, or any other relatively tall container, as long as you cut your foam to the right size as I talked about last time, you should be fine.  If you are using a shallow container, you will need to secure the foam down with something called a florist prong that you will need to secure to the bottom of the container with some floral adhesive clay.  You will  need to make sure that your container is dry before applying the clay.   Then press the florist prong into the clay securely.  Afterwards you will be able to mount the floral foam into the container and it should stay firmly in place.

If the arrangement you are creating is large, the addition of florist tape will help to insure that your arrangement will stay in place.  Attach one of the tape to the foam and secure it to the opposite end on the container.  Repeat this process on the other side so that you have formed either a “T” shape or a four square shape depending on the shape of your container.  Then all you need to do is add your flowers!

Floral Foam Preparation How Tos

One of the best things out there for creating arrangements is Floral Foam.  It’s great for holding stems together and retaining water to help keep your flowers fresh.

Floral foam is generally sold in blocks, is soft and has an almost clay like appearance.  It should not be confused with the Styrofoam product that is used for holding artificial flowers in place which is a lighter green color, porous in appearance and hard to the touch.


You are going to want your floral foam to fit snugly into the container.  You can shape your foam by either cutting small sections away at a time or by pressing the foam to the opening of your container and then trimming it to fit.  Floral foam should extend about an inch over the top of the container.

Once you’ve got your foam in the right shape and size, you will need to soak it in water to prepare it for use.  A good rule of thumb for how much water to use is to fill your bucket or sink with enough water so that you have 2/3 more the amount of water to the height of the foam.  For instance, if your foam is 5 inches high, you should have about 8 inches of water in your bucket or your sink.

Place your foam carefully into the water.  It is important to remember to not push down.  The foam will sink as it absorbs the water, turning a darker green.  Once it is completely saturated, it will bob back up to the surface.  This whole process shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes depending on the size of your foam box.

Featured Bloom – Stargazer Lily

Would you believe the lovely and fragrant Stargazer Lily is actually related to the every day ordinary onion and garlic plants? It is indeed.  This lovely hybrid gets its name from the fact that the flower look upwards.  It was developed for and is grow specifically to be used as a cut flower.

The sturdy stem of the Stargazer Lily can grow up to 30 inches tall and is wind resistant. Each stem carries clusters of the big brilliantly hued crimson blossom with bright white tips.  The Stargazer is one of the best selling lilies available and makes a stunning statement in any arrangement it is placed in.  The striking blooms can measure anywhere from 12 to 16 inches and have 4-5 blossoms per stem.

In addition to adding a splash of exotic color wherever you use them, these oriental lilies are easy to care for and bloom for two weeks or more.  The pink and white Stargazers symbolize prosperity.  There is actually a pure white Stargazer although it is not as popular as the better known pink variety.  The White Stargazer is considered a sign of purity.  Combined together, these two varieties of Stargazer lilies can create an incredible bridal bouquet rich in color and meaning.

One note of caution:  Stargazer lilies are toxic to cats, so please keep this in mind if you are planning to use them in arrangements if you have cats in your home or you are creating an arrangement for a friend that may have cats.

The Right Tools For The Job

Each profession has it’s own special tools of the trade and floral design is no different. You have got to have the right tools to do the job or the most gorgeous arrangement designed will not work if prepared with the wrong items.

First and foremost, you must have the right cutting tool. Pruners and Stem cutters created specifically for florists, not your every day kitchen shears or worse regular household scissors should not be used. Pruners, stem cutters and floral knives were created to do one task, work with flower and foliage stems. They were designed to give exceptionally clean cuts through any kind of stem material, from the soft delicate stems of the  daisy to the hard woody stems or Roses, these shears and cutters will give you the perfect cut every time. And they will not bend or bruise the stems creating the chance for bacteria to get in and ruin your arrangement.

The same holds true for removing heavy foliage or thorns.  You do not want to just snap them off with your fingers or use a table knife.  Both of these actions will damage the stem, possibly preventing it from drawing water up properly along with leaving bruises on the now exposed stem.  For flowers like this, you should use a florist knife to remove any foliage or thorns.  This will provide a clean cut that will not invite bacteria to enter or to cause unsightly bruises to form.

Not sure where to get the right cutting tools for the job? Check out our FA101 Starter kit.  It has all the tools that you need to get started on making flower arrangements right away.

Balancing Act

We’ve all been here.  You’ve just created a gorgeous arrangement, taken your time, bought the perfect flowers, cut your stems, put everything in place the way you imagined it.  You take a step back to admire your handwork and it happens, there is just no zing.  The arrangement you saw so perfectly in your mind’s eye just doesn’t have the pop you were looking for.

But before you toss in the shears and walk away, let me give you a simple quick fix that will help put that sparkle into your arrangement.   Most of the time this happens because the overall arrangement is too light or too dark.   Adding in a little contrast to your arrangement will help to balance the colors you’ve chosen.  For arrangements that appear too dark, try adding some white flowers.  Right away the arrangement will brighten up and the white flowers will add great contrast, making your darker blossoms stand out the way you had imagined they would.

If your arrangement feels too light or washed out to you, add some dark purple.  Dark purple booms help add the needed contrast in an arrangement that is too light.  They give that added contrast and frame out the lighter blooms to create that much needed focal point.

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