Floral Design

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Preparing for a Flower Show: Tips from a Pro

LauraHaleyLaura Haley is a 23-year member of the Little Garden Club of Rye (NY) and is currently serving on the Executive Board of the Garden Club of America as a vice president. A longtime Floral Design exhibitor, judge, teacher and mentor, she was also the coordinator and editor of GCA’s online Flower Show & Judging Guide, aka The Yellow Book.

“The single activity that best satisfies the mission statement of GCA is a flower show, which focuses on a love of gardening and is the most significant way to recognize members’ talents,” she says. At a joint meeting with the Little Garden Club of Rye and the Garden Club of Irvington—both of which have Flower shows coming up this spring—she gave a presentation on how to best design and prepare Floral Design entries. Here are some of her slides:


Laura Haley shows a miniature arrangement, a frequent Flower Show class, in scale next to a dime.

Even the Queen enjoys flower shows, it seems.

Even the Queen enjoys flower shows, it seems.

Pot et Fleurs

Slide demonstrating a Pot-et-Fleurs, a class that combines rooted plants and cut flowers.

Here are highlights of her presentation.
Make sure to:
• Carefully read the schedule, which defines the requirements for each class, such as its maximum height and the criteria by which the arrangement will be judged.
• Consider the scale of points. Check the yellow book on the GCA website, as all old hard copies are obsolete.
• Follow the elements and principles of design. Useful PDFs including book list and a photo library of design styles are available on the members-only section of the GCA website via the sidebar  “Planning and Entering Flower Shows.”
• If you have a question, ask the class consultants.
• Construct a mock-up of your arrangement. Create it at the height it will be judged. Practice different ideas.
• Check for invasive species, which may not be used.
• Do not over-interpret the theme.
• Condition your flowers so they last the duration of the show. If you Google the term ‘conditioning flowers,’ you will find many tips, including YouTube videos that demonstrate techniques.
• Let your design stand overnight to assure stability.
• Floral Design, unlike Horticulture, is passed in place. Arrive at the show venue early if you have a preference of spots, and don’t forget to bring extra flowers!
• Think about how you will transport your entry to the show, even if you are going a short distance.
• Enjoy, and enter often!

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Challenge Class 101

“The most important thing is that you enjoy doing it. And that you free your creativity.” Those were sage words of advice from master flower arranger Rev. Richard McKeon during his workshop. The principles he follows have helped him win many ribbons for arrangements at GCA flower shows. Among his tips:
• Assemble a kit with your tools: frogs, tape, wire, clippers.
• For long life, condition flowers according to directions available on many web sites. Just enter the flower name to find out the temperature of the water and what to add (crushed baby aspirin and drops of liquid bleach are common conditioning elements).
• Don’t cut stems until you’re sure of the height you want.
• A good rule of thumb is that the arrangement is twice as high as the container; or of the overall composition, the container is one-third of the height/mass and the flowers are two-thirds.
• Three is the magic number: no less than three of each flower or element.

With those words of advice, and under Richard’s guidance, it was amazing what members were were able to do. The workshop, organized like a “challenge class,” gave members the opportunity to design instantaneous arrangements with provided materials: a moss ‘purse’ container and a selection of flowers including white roses, carnations, and calla lilies; green eucalyptus and love-lies-bleeding; and hot pink gerbera daisies. Richard then (gently) critiqued the results the way GCA flower show judges might, evaluating composition, line, eye-appeal, and workmanship and overall creativity.


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Choosing Components

by Rev. Richard McKeon

“Component: That which is used in a design—plant material, container, mechanics, background, base, accessory, etc.” —The Garden Club of America Flower Show and Judging Guide

Chair of GCI’s Exhibition and Judging committees, the Reverend Richard McKeon, explains how to use components in a successful flower arrangement

It seems logical to begin the discussion of flower arranging with a look at the physical foundation of arrangements, called components. Often a component, such as a branch, a piece of driftwood, or a container, that inspires a winning design.

Here are a few pointers:
• Keep in mind the rule of thirds: the arrangement should be twice as high as your container.
• Consider contrast: an angular arrangement will look good in a round container, and vice-versa.
• If you are creating an arrangement for a GCA flower show, consult the schedule, which will describe the lighting, background, and what’s allowed or not allowed. If in doubt, call the class consultant.
• Mechanicals—what’s holding the arrangement together—should not be visible. Floral foam is often preferred, but frogs can work well and all the flowers to take in more water.
• The container should not overwhelm the flowers. Don’t use anything too elaborate or too shiny.
• Accessories like tablecloths should be simple and not distract from the flowers.
• Be flexible and play until it looks and feels right.
• If it catches your eye, it will catch the eye of judges and the public.


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A Winning Arrangement

Blue-ribbon winning arrangement at 2010 GCA Annual Meeting, New Brunswick, NJ

Judging at GCA flower shows is based on the principles of design: balance, contrast, dominance, proportion, rhythm and scale; and the elements of design: light, space, line, form, color, texture, pattern and size. Creativity is important, as is distinction, conformance to and interpretation of the class and schedule. All entrants are encouraged to carefully read the show schedule and to read and follow The Garden Club of America rules (in the “Yellow Book”).