Category Archives: Flower Arranging

While the Forsythias are Blooming…

It was standing room only when members and friends of The Garden Club met recently to enjoy a demonstration by floral artists Miko Akasaka and her husband Yusuke of Seasons On The Hudson, Irvington’s local floral design and accessories shop. Miko was a wealth of new information, including advice on how to incorporate stems purchased at the florist with flowers from your own garden. She began with tall branches of forsythia, the yellow shrubs now in bloom everywhere—some in full bloom, others she called “really tight,” to open later and give the arrangement longevity. She then added branches of curly willow and pussy willow and stems of delphinium, clematis, bells of Ireland, and orchids. “We don’t force nature. We let nature do its thing,” she said. “This is English Garden style, not too symmetrical.”

Among Miko’s other advice: Use Japanese clippers to split-cut the base of hydrangeas and of other flowers with woody stems. Put the stems in a vase of hot water. Let the water cool a bit before adding other flowers.  Use hairdressers’ gloves to protect your hands. And “Go bold! It takes courage, but do it.”

It’s always a pleasure to watch artists at work. Here, Yusuke is demonstrating how to fold leaves to line a simple glass vase and make it special.

Seasons On The Hudson is located at 45 Main Street, Irvington, NY 10533.

Filed under Flower Arranging, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY

Make Your Own Holly Days Arrangements

Each year, members of the Garden Club of Irvington hold a workshop where we make “Holly Days” arrangements and decorations, which are auctioned at a fund-raising event, raising thousands of dollars to support conservation and beautification organizations and projects in the Hudson Valley.

These popular arrangements range in size from under a foot high to masterpieces that can make big statements on mantelpieces and dining tables. Our workshop co-chair graciously agreed to share instructions and tips so you can make your own. “The results are impressive and dramatic,” she says, “and it’s really easy to do.”

You’ll need:

• An assortment of fresh greens. Good choices are fresh evergreen boughs (long-needle pine, cedar, boxwood) and decorative branches of holly, eucalyptus or magnolia. These are widely available at supermarkets, florists, and maybe even your front or back yard.

• A container. It could be anything from an elegant silver urn or porcelain cachepot to a weathered cement trough, a pottery vessel, a mossy  terra-cotta pot, or a basket of any shape and size (baskets need to be lined with plastic).

• Decorations and/or flowers of your choice. These could include pine cones, clusters of berries (real or fake); flowers like paperwhites, amaryllis, orchids and roses (fresh, dried or silk); and whimsical elements like holiday ornaments or miniature birds.

• A cutting tool for the greens, like a Felco hand pruner; floral foam (which is available at craft stores); and a serrated kitchen knife for cutting the foam.

Then, just follow these easy steps:

1. Soak the floral foam in a sink or bucket for an hour to drink up as much water as possible. Add some floral preservative — the little envelope of granules you get with cut flowers — to the water. You can make your own by mixing l/4 tsp. liquid bleach, 1/4 tsp. sugar, and a crushed aspirin tablet into each quart of water. This solution should keep the greens fresh for weeks.

2. Cut your foam with a sharp kitchen knife and fit it snugly inside your container. The foam should be at least 2″ taller than the rim of the container.

3. Start putting in the greens. Give them a fresh cut — it helps them take in water — and insert the branches or stems firmly into the foam. Start with the tallest stem; establish the height of the arrangement by putting it right into the middle of the top.

4. Establish the width of the arrangement but putting in four horizontal branches at the four sides of the foam at the container rim.

5. Keep filling in from there. The general rule is that the arrangement should be 2 l/2 times as high as your container… but do whatever you feel looks right.

6. Once you’re pleased with the shape of your greens, Cover any foam that’s showing at the bottom with moss (available in packages at craft stores) or small cuts of evergreen. Then add whatever decorations you like that will make it special. Red or white flowers or berries are always a nice contrast to the greens. Dried hydrangea flowers look great tucked in. So do clusters of artificial fruit.

These arrangements will look wonderful on your table or mantle (just add water every few days to keep the greens fresh).
And they make very special gifts.

Filed under Flower Arranging

GCI Makes Good Showing at ‘Country Life’ Show

"June in the Country," the Cut Specimens class, included perennials, biennials, bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, roses, woody plants in bloom, and plants grown for foliage.

The Millbrook Garden Club, a member of the Garden Club of America, held a GCA Zone III Flower Show at the Interlaken Inn in Lakeville, Connecticut, June 21 to 23, 2011.

The purpose of a flower show—entries are judged by expert teams and various prizes are awarded—is to set standards of artistic and horticultural excellence; to broaden knowledge of horticulture, flower arrangement, and conservation; and to share the beauty of a show with club members and the public.

The theme of the Millbrook show was “Country Life,” and each of the classes, or entry categories, had its own specific requirements related to type of plant(s), growing conditions, ownership time, and size of arrangement or container.

Garden Club of Irvington members entered and won prizes in a number of classes.

Cut specimens from the garden of Barbara Defino included a Hosta 'Big Daddy.'

GCI president Barbara Defino showed several outstanding cut specimens. Her ‘Red Sentinel’ Astilbe (above left) won a First Award, or blue ribbon, as did her achillea milleforium ‘Paprika’ (not pictured), and her Hydrangia x macrophylla ‘Penny Mac,’ (right) won a Second Award.

The lipstick on the glass was a conversation-starter .

GCI Flower Arrangement Chair Richard McKeon received an Honorable Mention for his interpretation of “Breakfast in Bed,” required to be staged on a tray in front of a square European pillow. In addition to the flower arrangement, the composition included props related to the frustrations of designing such a display. The note at the bottom right says, “Before the show… thus fortified…”

All photos are judged according to a number of criteria and must be 100% the work of the exhibitor.

In the “Locally Grown” class of the Photography Division, GCI member Doreen Ruff garnered an Honorable Mention for her portrait of a white anemone (lower left — see a close-up on the Photography tab).

GCI's contribution of spireas for the Plant Exchange, propagated by members under the supervision of Hort Chair Nora Galland.

The Plant Exchanges at Zone Shows give different clubs the opportunity to swap plants propagated by members.

Each entry in certain Horticulture classes must be accompanied by a key card with propagating information

A Live Oak propagated from an acorn by GCI member Bunny Bauer (center, in square green pot) received an Honorable Mention.

Each club was required to enter one tree propagated by a member in the “Walk in the Woods” class.

Guests enjoyed the outdoor display of "Milking Time" mixed container plantings.

Ellen Shapiro of GCI got an Honorable Mention for this "Milking Time" entry of at least three white flowering plants of different genera in a 16-inch terracotta container.

Filed under Flower Arranging, Garden Club Flower Show Categories, GCA Events, Zone III Events

GCI “Gilded Cage” Flower Show a Success

"Anna's Hats in Bloom," a design complementing a hat in Lyndhurst's costume collection.

The Garden Club of Irvington-on-Hudson’s GCA Flower Show last spring honored Lyndhurst and the Victorian era. The show was held at The Carriage House at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, and was open to the public on Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17, 2010.

The theme “THE GILDED CAGE,” a play on “The Gilded Age,” was inspired by the Gothic arches of Lyndhurst and its greenhouse, built by railroad tycoon Jay Gould, who made the Tarrytown landmark his family’s country estate in 1880.

“A GCA Flower Show is a competition judged by the rigorous standards of the Garden Club of America and exemplifies artistic and horticultural excellence,” said show chairman Nancy Stoer. “Our members worked for a year to present an outstanding show that included elaborate flower arrangements and horticultural specimens judged against ‘perfection’ as defined by GCA judging standards. Entries were prepared by members of our own club, who live in the River Towns, and GCA garden clubs throughout the tri-state area.”

Visitors enjoyed the "Victorian Wedding" arrangements staged on pedestals. The arrangements were designed as if for the 1913 wedding at Lyndhurst of Helen Gould, daughter of railroad tycoon Jay Gould, to Finley Shepard.

Floral arrangement exhibits included designs using flowers that were grown in the original Lyndhurst greenhouse (now restored and used by the Garden Club to cultivate plants for its annual plant sale in May); large arrangements suitable for a Victorian wedding; table settings for a card party on a Lyndhurst’s terrace overlooking the Hudson; and designs complementing hats in Lyndhurst’s extensive costume collection. Village of Irvington schoolchildren ages 8-12 made an exhibit of “tussie-mussies,” small hand-held bouquets expressing “the language of flowers.”

Cut specimens: Flowering trees and shrubs in bloom

Pot-et-Fleurs featuring Neomarica caerulea (Fan Iris), Phyllitis scolopendrium ‘Undulatum’ (Hart’s Tongue Fern), Lysimachia nummularia ‘Goldii’ (Creeping Jenny), Oxalis triangularis (Purple Shamrock), and three kinds of zonal and scented Pelargoniums.

Horticultural exhibits included “Lord & Burnham Presents: Nineteenth Century Favorites,” which featured orchids, ferns and palms and cut specimens of locally-grown nineteenth-century favorites such as rhododendrons, magnolia, prunus, and blooming stems of narcissus and tulip bulbs. The challenge class was to grow from seed a Victorian favorite Pelargonium, ‘Black Velvet Rose.’ “Pot et Fleurs: In the Victorian Style,” featured large containers planted with with a minimum of three different species or cultivars reflecting the Victorians’ love of carefully planned excess. Special classes included topiaries and “glass houses” or terrariums.

Vistors viewed an exhibit of landscape and horticultural photography and a conservation/education exhibit that focused on the London Plane Tree or Sycamore, and showed how this magnificent tree has contributed to the ecology of the lower Hudson Valley.

Filed under Conservation, Flower Arranging, Garden Club Flower Show Categories, GCA Events, Irvington Garden Club Events, Irvington NY, Nature Photography, Rivertowns Westchester NY, Tarrytown NY, Zone III Events