I’ve always been jealous of my crafty friends who treat the holiday season like one festive art project. It seems that I lack this genome. The good news is that at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, we have horticulturist Angela Yuele. When she showed up in the office one afternoon carrying a cornucopia basket filled with masterfully arranged autumn flowers, we implored her to teach us. You’ll be the one to impress the crowd this Thanksgiving with this absolutely stunning centerpiece that will leave you’re guests asking for the name of your florist. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.
What You’ll Need
- A cornucopia basket
- Clear Floral Tape
- An Oasis Cube (the green spongy thing that holds the flowers together). Soak it in water for 5 minutes and then place it in the plastic tray that comes with it in the bottom of the basket.
- Ribbon in your favorite autumn color.
- Greens – we used Baker Fern and leaves we cut off the flowers.
- Filler – we used Princess Lily, Goldenrod, and St. Johns Wort seed pods.
- Accent flowers – we used two colors of Mums.
You can get these items at a craft store. For the flowers, you can go to a florist or even purchase an autumn flower arrangement at your grocery store and use those. Angela suggests standing while you arrange the flowers to give you a better perspective.
Secure the Oasis
Use the clear floral tape to secure the oasis to the basket. Go ahead and wrap the tape all the way around the outside of the basket – once all the flowers are in you won’t see it. When wrapping the tape around, make sure to create space between the strips of tape on the oasis so that you won’t have an area where you can’t insert flowers.
Cut Down Your Greens
Use your scissors to cut the green leaves into smaller pieces. You want a variety of shapes and sizes. It can help to pull away some of the lower leaves so that you have a nice stem to put into the oasis.
Start on the Sides
Start by working the greens along the side of the oasis, allowing them to spill over the edges of the basket.
Cover the Mechanics
Place the fern leaves in various sizes in the oasis cube so that you cover the cube and tape completely. Put the majority of them into the oasis at a horizontal angle so that you get good coverage. Angela recommends putting one large fern piece straight out of the front to balance the length of the cornucopia basket. The arrangement will look best if it appears horizontal because of the shape of the basket. Use a couple smaller ferns at the top sticking straight up so that the greens will appear to surround the flowers once they are placed.
Put in the Filler
For the Goldenrod, Angela suggests using two larger pieces – one at the front of the arrangement and one at the top – and then breaking the Goldenrod down into smaller pieces to be put in along the sides. As you add the more colorful elements it is important to maintain balance. “Don’t just work the top of the arrangement,” says Angela, “work the sides as well.”
I started to get intimidated when it came time to put in actual flowers. Angela assured me that while there are approaches that tend to be more appealing to the eye, there’s not a wrong way. “The nice thing about flower arranging is that it is open to interpretation,” she says. She suggests beginning by placing a few flowers near the center of the arrangement and then moving out to the sides. “Allow the flowers to spill over the edge,” she encourages. Cut the leaves off the stems before you put them in. I found that the flower stems were less rigid than the ferns, so it works best to hold the flower stem at the very bottom against the oasis to give it support and use your other hand to push from just under the petals to insert it.
I loved the use of the St. Johns Wort seed pods with their friendly pink hue, but berries would give you a very similar effect. Make sure to cut away all the leaves and break the plants down into smaller pieces before you start placing them.
Your accent flowers should be a hearty, bright flower. We used two different colors of Mums. Remove all the leaves and break the flowers down into small groupings before you place them. Angela suggests creating a central cluster of three or so at the front of the arrangement and then using the rest of them to balance the arrangement. Don’t forget the sides! Remember that if you place this on a table, your guests will see it at all angles.
The Final Touch
There are a million ways to tie or shape your ribbon. For this one we looped the ribbon three times (trying to vary the size of the loops a little) and held the loops together at the base.
Use a piece of wire to wrap around the base of the ribbon loops and secure.
For a nice detail, you can make what Angela calls “fancy tails” at the ends of your ribbon by cutting little triangles into the ends. When you’re done, place the wire into the oasis at a place in the arrangement that could use a little something extra.
Congratulations – You’re Done!
Congratulations you flower arranging genius you. Now you have a beautiful arrangement to serve as a Thanksgiving centerpiece or a hostess gift. And when your very crafty friends ask where you got it you can say – “I made it, no big deal.”
The arrangement should stay fresh looking for about a week. You can water it every couple of days, though it is best to do it over the sink since it will leak through the basket for a little while.
Kathleen Gaines is a Development Associate at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Now if she could just learn how to cook!
Please consider supporting the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in its mission to improve the quality of life for the people of Pittsburgh by restoring the park system to excellence in partnership with the City. You can donate here!
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