Flower Power

The art of arrangement


What: Flower Festival and Flower Bouquet Contest

When: 10:00 am Sat., Aug. 24

Where: Depot Market Square, 1100 Railroad Ave.

Cost: Free


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I’ve long been of the opinion that flower arranging is an art form.

Unfortunately, it’s one I’ve yet to master. My problem isn’t with growing flowers, it’s with what to do with them after I’ve cut them and brought them inside. Typically, I just stick like with like in a vase—red dahlias with purple and orange dahlias, humongous sunflowers with smaller sunflowers, clusters of white hydrangeas—and call it good.

However, a Flower Bouquet Contest happening during Bellingham Farmers Market’s inaugural Flower Festival Sat., Aug. 24 at the Depot Market Square got me thinking about how to bring elements from my garden together in a more creative and cohesive fashion.

Perusing websites on the topic helped me see I was already doing some things correctly. I always trim an inch or more off stems to help them better absorb water, strip off any leaves that fall below the water line, add large blooms first to ensure even placement, and attempt to leave enough space between the stems so the individual flowers have room to show off.

But I also learned that height matters. Apparently, you’re supposed to make your bouquet taller than its container by about one and a half times, and make the width balance the height. Additionally, I found out it’s perfectly fine to use similar colors in an arrangement, but adding different textures in a monochromatic bouquet will make it more interesting to look at.

For a simple bouquet using a variety of different flowers, I read to place each stem in the vase spread evenly around the rim. Start arranging with the type of flower that has the highest quantity, and crisscross stems while arranging them to help create volume. Flowers with the least quantity should be arranged last—like an attractive accessory.

This information was all well and good, but since the Flower Bouquet Contest calls for all materials to be sourced using locally grown blooms from Whatcom or Skagit counties, I wondered specifically about what works best for growers in our region.

I called upon the internet gods again, but in this case it was specifically to visit the Whatcom County Gardeners Facebook page, where I recalled seeing a recent thread about the topic from a member who was looking to be more intentional when it came to adding flowers or greenery to bouquets and arrangements.

Per usual, the advice she received benefitted the group at large.

One woman noted she uses camellia, Sambucus, azaleas, rhododendrons, ferns, hydrangeas, dahlias, lilies, roses and dogwoods in her bouquets. Others included crocosmia, sedum, sweet William, gladiolus, specialty zinnias, bear grass, scabiosa, salal, forsythia, black-eyes Susans, lilies, larkspur, ferns and daisies on their must-have lists.

“Red lettuce leaves are dramatic with mums,” someone else opined. Other suggestions included using hosta leaves for foliage, gladiola and sunflowers for large church arrangements, adding asparagus plants to the mix from June through September, and incorporating salal in arrangements on a year-round basis.

The advice kept coming, and I realized while there are rules to follow, people around these parts tend to be intrinsically inventive when it comes to what they gather from their gardens. I read of bronze oregano being added to dill and other herb greens in arrangements featuring dahlias and hydrangeas, and those who stick Solomon seal in their creations. Ornamental grasses with striped blades and the glossy foliage of camellia trees were also mentioned.

“Although customers may typically think of ‘flower season’ being in spring, there are still many local flowers blooming toward the end of summer and into fall,” Flower Festival organizers say. “In fact, late August and early September is peak dahlia season. Other flowers in bloom are sunflower, goldenrod, daisy, rudbeckia, lilies, aster, bee balm and hyssop.”

Visitors to the Depot Market Square on Saturday can look for these particular flowers in bouquets at booths displaying the “In Bloom Featured Vendor” card. Vendors will also be using edible flowers in items like as baked goods, teas and beverages. Furthermore, flowers can be found on crafts such as ceramic cups, hats, note cards, paintings and more. Kids activities and flower-bouquet-making demos will also be part of the festivities.

If I manage to put together a worthy bouquet, I’ll stick it in a sturdy vase and deliver it to staff between 10am-10:30am in front of the market pavilion. It’ll join other entries that the public can vote on between 11am-2pm, and I can either pick it up or donate it shortly thereafter.

By Monday, I’ll know if I was one of the recipients of a variety of prizes. But I’m not really in it for the accolades. For me, the flower power is all about knowing I can make magic from my backyard bounty—one dahlia or hydrangea at a time.

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