Town Crier Correspondent
Flowers play an important role in making weddings wonderful - their color, scent and pure beauty lingers in memory, summing up the excitement of the day.
One way to maximize the flower budget, and also to involve family and friends in the creation of the event, is to make hand-tied bouquets for the bride and her attendants. In France, the bride herself often goes to a flower market the day before the wedding, chooses her favorite blooms and simply bundles them together, ties them with a ribbon, and carries them to the registry office and church.
The French call the hand-tied bouquet a "Parisian" bouquet. But you don't have to wait for someone to get married to make one - it also makes a wonderful hostess, graduation or get-well gift. Men or women of any age love receiving one and appreciate that it can be placed immediately into a vase of water, as is, without further arranging.
The three bouquets illustrated here were made from flowers purchased last week in Los Altos, at DeMartini's Orchard, Safeway and Draeger's Market. Of course, you can make a hand-tied bouquet from your own garden flowers as well, but it's nice to know you can put together a handsome and unique bouquet from a supermarket, whatever the season and wherever you are.
For example, the night before my daughter graduated from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, I went to a supermarket about 10 p.m. and bought a bunch of small, deep-red roses, a bunch of deep-blue statice and a bunch of green leaves. After soaking all three in the motel ice bucket, I made them into a hand-tied bouquet to give to my daughter as she marched into the ceremony. (As a flower-arranging fanatic, naturally I had packed blue ribbon and flower clippers in my suitcase.)
What about the bouquets of mixed flowers sold in most markets? While any combination of flowers is better than no flowers at all, the store-mixed bundles usually lack color coordination and present a mishmash of whatever is cheapest and most abundant. You can do much better than that.
Look over the available flowers and create your own color scheme on the spot, appropriate to the person and the occasion. For instance, before I went into each local market to purchase flowers, I knew I wanted to make a certain kind of bridal bouquet: one in deep jewel tones, one with a tropical twist, and one in traditional white and pale pastel pink. While I had a specific mood in mind for each bouquet, I was flexible as far as exactly what flowers to use. Everything depends on which flowers look good on any given day.
At DeMartini's, with the jewel tones in mind, I was tempted by deep maroon carnations, but there were no red roses available (you can make roses look twice as numerous by combining them with a similar shade of carnation). Then I spotted deep purple/blue irises with yellow throats ($6.99) and a bunch of yellow tulips (5 for $11.99) - voila, a perfect combination, especially when combined with deep yellow alstroemeria ($6.99), a lilylike "filler" flower. Total cost: $25.97.
On to Safeway, with a tropical theme in mind, I bought three stems of orange Asiatic lily ($4.98), deep yellow solidago, a feathery "filler" flower ($4.98), one orange pincushionlike protea ($4.98) and a bunch of assorted greens, including eucalyptus and several other foliages ($4.98), which I divided up among all three bouquets. Total cost: $19.92 (although some of the greens went into the other two bouquets).
At Draeger's Market I wanted flowers for a more traditional bridal bouquet, and had many, many wonderful blooms from which to choose - this is the place to go for flowers of outstanding variety and quality. My final choices included a bunch of 10 small pale pink tulips ($13.99), a bunch of ruffly white carnations ($5.99), a bunch of dainty white wax flowers ($5.99), a bunch of mahogany red berry stems ($5.99) and a bunch of three chartreuse green calla lilies ($9.99). Total cost: $42.05.
As soon as I arrived home, I cut down the stems on all of the flowers and placed them in deep pitchers of warm water for a few hours. Then, for each bouquet, I followed the same simple method:
Lay out all of the flower and foliage stems you will be using for the bouquet on a table, removing extra leaves and overlapping stem material (as with tulips and irises). Of course, leaves should remain on foliage stems, but remove the bottom leaves.
In your left hand, place the central flower or bunch of flowers for the bouquet. Then, slightly rotating the first flower/s, place a stem of foliage, then another flower or bunch of small flowers, then another stem of foliage, and continue in this manner, alternating flowers and foliage. This allows each flower to stand out and look important against the greenery. Place some flowers so they protrude and others deeper in the bouquet for visual interest. Keep turning the bouquet as you place each new stem.
The trick is to place each new flower or stem of foliage diagonally against the previous stem, so that you gradually build up a spiral of stems that stick out from the bottom of the bunch. The place where you hold the bunch in your left hand, the "waist" of the arrangement, remains narrow. Each new stem, on the diagonal, can nestle against the previous stem, thus creating a tight, controlled bouquet.
Finish the bouquet with ferns, galax leaves, citrus foliage or other greens around the outer edges.
Cut off most of the bottom lengths of the stems, leaving enough length so the bouquet can still be held. Slip a very wide and strong rubber band, from the bottom up, around the "waist" of the bouquet. Then place the arrangement in water (a wide-mouthed jar is fine) until you take it to the bride or other lucky recipient. If you want to tie with a ribbon handle, place a sandwich bag around the bottom stems, fasten with a rubber band, wrap with tissue paper, then put a ribbon and tie in a bow or tuck flat with a corsage pin.