“It’s all about the drama,” answers Chris Norwood AIFD, PFCI and vice president of Tipton & Hurst in Little Rock, Arkansas. “I’d rather sell one great design as the focal point of a room than make 10 smaller ones to spread around.”
Trend-savvy brides agree: they’re asking for something more interesting than a typical centerpiece sitting on the table.
“When you place arrangements low on the tables and then the room fills up with people, you can’t even see them,” Chris explains. “ We want all of our party work up high to be seen, so we use elevated features that showcase our flowers.”
Which floral mechanic and technique works best?
Which floral mechanic and technique works best for creating these high-flying designs?
The best option depends on your space, variety of flowers, style of arrangement, type of container, budget and the time allotted for installation. That’s a lot to consider!
Here are four elevated floral design styles Chris recommends and how he creates them.
1. Designed and delivered in a tray
“I usually don’t have the time to create designs on-site,” says Chris “so nine out of 10 of our designs are made in Lomey trays.”
“It’s just easier to design and transport them for installation in Lomeys. We can then add the draping and cascading flowers once the design is in place.”
Once in place, a 6-inch Lomey tray sits well atop the rim of a vase with a 4- or 5-inch opening. If the diameter is wider, a 9-inch or larger dish can be used. Choose a clear dish for clear vases and a black dish for black vases.
To create the illusion that the flowers were actually arranged in the vase, tuck wisps of vines, stems or branches into the vase water.
Incorporate branches and silks
Chris suggests saving last-minute design time by creating light-weight structures using branches and good quality silks as the foundation of a design.
“This design features Manzanita, fresh hydrangeas, a layer of silk orchids and then layers of fresh delicate Phalaenopsis orchid stems are added over the silks onsite,” says Chris. “You can’t tell a difference from a distance.”
2. Designs elevated on stands
Chris frequently creates elongated table designs in brick trays filled with wet floral foam. These can be used for table and elevated arrangements.
Cascading floral materials are added to the elevated designs onsite after the arrangements are secured on a long suspended wood plank. The underside of the board is typically covered with fresh ti leaves or preprinted leaf ribbon for a finished look.
At the AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) Partner’s Event in July, Chris picked up a new floral trick.
“Erik Witcraft AIFD had added a plexiglass mirror to the base of his Partner’s Table design and I loved the look of it,” says Chris. He now covers the base of his board with mirror to reflect the arrangements below.
The challenge with some two-tiered tablescapes is keeping the elevated designs from becoming top-heavy, especially for outdoor installations. One simple solution is using wet floral foam for arrangements on the bottom tier to anchor the upper tier.
“Rather than custom build our supports, we like to play with the flower and plant stands we have on hand like tinker toys and find new ways to use them,” says Chris.
“We typically turn the cap of a stand upside down on the table since it’s heavier, anchor the base with flowers, and affix the brick trays to the feet of the stand in the air.”
Visual weight becomes an element of balance with these designs. Visual weight added by the row of magnolia branches at the base of the glass cylinders in this photo helps offset the dense look of the upper row of magnolia arrangements.
Interspersing fresh white roses and hydrangea into the designs on both tiers helps lighten the look. The flowers tucked into the foliage on the table are water-picked to provide a water source.
3. Designs in glass vases
A very popular look this season is a series of tall cylinder or pilsner glass vases filled with flowers lined up down the center of an event table.
A challenge for creating this look is that while the vases offer good height, the mouth of the container is often small, making it difficult to create an expansive design in the restricted interior space available.
“I still like to use the old ‘Joe Smith cherry branch and orchid trick’ in this design,” says. “It’s a Ralph Null favorite, too.” Joe Smith was a beloved Southern stage designer with a knack for making something out of nothing look easy.
Lacing the stems
The design technique used here for securing these stems and expanding the space is called lacing.
Lacing (crossing or interweaving stems to form a framework that can hold floral materials in place in a design) offers a base structure as seen in this photo.
Be cautious of using floral mesh in long-term designs as it can rust underwater after a period of time.
Creating a floral tape grid
Another way to help secure the flowers is to form a floral tape grid (a network of tape lines that are secured to the edges of the vase and cross each other in squares or rectangles creating a framework to support floral materials) across the top of the vase.
This allows you to insert stems at angles to create an open-balance form (flowers radiating outward in different directions from the central root of the design).
4. Fresh flower hanging panels
“While chandeliers and other forms of hanging flower décor have been very popular with our brides, recently they’ve begun asking for a more solid panel of hanging flowers,” says Chris.
“The challenge is to get all of the flowers to hang at exactly the same length so the design looks visually even across the bottom of the design,” explains Chris.
Surprisingly, the support for the design pictured above is a shelving unit from IKEA.
“These designs are for short-term events like this recent tulip chandelier we did for a chef’s table,” says Chris. “Even if the flowers wilt a little they are still hanging straight down just like we designed them so it doesn’t show.”
“We began this hanging design by draping fresh greenery, like smilax or another vine product, over a pipe and drape rod that formed our frame.”
Branches were then attached to the rod and hung vertically creating a panel of natural materials. Votive candles were wired to the branches and simple flower arrangements added below on the table for a cohesive look.
Playing with your tinker toys
While this may seem like a plethora of dramatic ideas for the one concept of elevating your floral designs at special events, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg!
There are so many ways you can create elevated designs. The best place to start is to evaluate the design space and then look for what you have that you can re-purpose to support a design in that space.
As Chris suggests, “It’s a lot like playing with tinker toys!”
What interesting ideas can you share for creating dramatic elevated designs?