Note: some of the pictures (those with a purple border) here are clickable, so you can view larger versions
I am a member of the Raleigh Rose Society,
and on May 29, 2001, we had our annual
The theme was A Tribute to the Victorian Age, and, in addition to showing
some roses for horticulture, with my friend Renee's help, I came up with
designs to enter a traditional and a modern arrangement.
You can see the evolution of my design ideas, our results, and some thoughts I have
for the future here.
Do visit my rose page
for more about my roses and organic gardening practices.
The traditional theme is Silk, Velvet, Satin and Lace, Textures of the Victorian Age.
It is further described by: The fabrics of the Victorian age were rich in color and texture.
The colors of evening wear ranged from black, to dark blue, to deep purple, to garnet and brown,
trimmed with lace and accented with diamonds and other brilliant ornamentation.
The second theme is What happened to Grandmother's Corset?. I'm thinking of using
something which is hoop-like or which suggests broken springs as an important part of the
arrangement. The description goes on to say, This era marked a sense of freedom in lady's
undergarments. It was no longer fashionable to wear the corset. Though this sparked much
debate in what was proper, the young women adopted the new fashion to the consternation of
the older ladies.
Initial Design Ideas
A week before the show, I had design ideas for both entries.
My friend Kathy had a delightful suggestion for the traditional arrangement,
involving not using a vase or oasis, but rather a hat with vials inside the hatband.
It sounds modern, but in fact the arrangement would still be a line-mass, so would
be traditional. I had thought of using a Victorian purple background, painting the
hat purple (slightly different shade of the fabric, but blending in to the background
to give the roses the focus), and perhaps using pink roses or white ones like Moonstone,
which has a light pink edging.
However, my "partner in crime" Renee, who usually is
kind enough to help especially with my traditional arrangements, verified my doubts
about being able to work through this design.
We're now thinking of painting a glass vase an old sterling silver-like color, perhaps
with a darker shade inside and a light silver outside.
If the weather cooperates, I hope to have almost a dozen of my Big Purple hybrid tea
roses ready for the show, and we would use these lovely (and quite fragrant!)
purple roses to make a line-mass design. I am thinking of picking up additional
dried line material and spray painting it silver, and using fresh plant material
like ferns and maybe rose buds. We're thinking of a deep navy blue background.
For the modern one, I took inspiration from an arrangement
my friend Sue made at the Sept. 1999 Greensboro rose show (a modern one with the topic
of speed - as in rollercoasters), in which she used soft copper tubing.
I went to Home Depot and bought 10 feet of 1/2" tubing, the kind used to run water to a refrigerator's
ice machine. I bought an unfinished wooden "treasure chest" from Michael's craft store.
My thought is to gently uncoil the copper and anchor it within the chest. I would glue
several vials, after painting them copper-like, onto the coil. The idea is of an abstract
corset, uncoiled after years of not being used, and popping out of a treasure chest in
the attic. I had been thinking of a deep navy blue background to contrast with the copper,
painting the chest verdigris (the green patina that weathered copper acquires) to match the
tubing and give an impression of age (or maybe grey for age and to match with the blue),
and using red roses. Later, I'm leaning toward a lovely violet-purple fabric we picked up as
background and maybe leaving the chest as unfinished wood or painting it dull black with
light strokes of copper to simulate age, and still using red roses.
First Try at Layout - Modern
Here is what it looks like as I am just starting to layout the design Tu night (5/15).
The color may not be clear, but the fabric is violet-purple.
I would affix bronze colored vials for two or three roses, probably red ones,
along the copper tubing. Issues I'm trying to decide on:
Should I coil the tubing so it starts off from inside rather than beneath
the chest? If so, I'll have to secure the tubing by pouring pebbles into the
chest or by stapling the tubing to the chest. The coil would start off tight
and get looser in wind as it gains height.
I have a lot of lovely old rose petals; would that make a good addition
to put into the empty chest,
or would that distract the judges from the fresh roses and fall prey to
being too literal to interpreting the theme?
Should I leave the chest unpainted as the natural wood looks good, or
should I paint it black with copper glazing?
It is a modern arrangement, but is it still too sparse? What kinds
of peripheral material can I use? According to the
I can use "fresh, dried, or treated plant material" - and of course
inanimate props like the copper tubing.
Should I skip the vials and take the roses, after they've been sitting
in a preservative, and simply hot glue them? The arrangement has to last
several hours (from when we're done - around 9a? - till judging is over, around
noon), and ideally till the show ends (5p or so).
Should I have anything besides the "sprung corset", perhaps a rose, coming
out of the chest?
Design with Painted Chest - Modern
It's Thursday, two days before the show, and last night I painted the
chest. It's walnut brown inside, and the outside is mainly an antique
copper, with some brown and flat black brushed in.
It looks okay, but I may still paint it more black. I found a
verdigris copper antiquing paint kit, but think the green may draw
attention away from the roses. I'm not so sure that it looks better
than when it was unpainted. My current thoughts are to:
keep the coil coming from beneath the chest
not use rose petals, alas. It would be perfect, and I could even put fresh
rose petals on the bottom left, but apparently in rose shows, any roses used must
be fresh and petals are discouraged. Maybe I could put some other material emanating
from the trunk?
maybe put another design element to give balance to the bottom right - another rose
sitting on a pedestal, an abstract shape made out of wood or stone, or some dried
use two large white, pink, or red hybrid tea roses (maybe white with pink lined
Moonstone or maybe red Mr. Lincoln?) on the tubing loops pointing to the top right, with
maybe one bud at the top end of the coil ... or, with the Victorian theme, use
old garden roses! I have a lot of pink roses blooming (Jacques Cartier), but
they don't hold up as cut flowers for long.
My Garden the Day Before the Show
We've had heavy rain at times and overall overcast and cool weather this past week. My garden
was looking neat and well groomed, but I am lucky because it still has a lot of blooms, though
they are a bit weathered.
I am thinking of using my Big Purple for the modern arrangement (see the first two shots below).
For the modern, I only want two
(just maybe three, but I think two would be just right for aesthetics and balance) blooms, and it
looks like I'll have two nice Big Purples, and maybe 10 just opening buds. I had originally hoped
to use Big Purple in the traditional, so didn't disbud the bush to give me a few large flowers.
I still may end up using Big Purple in the traditional arrangement. The rules allow for any
privately grown rose, so I may use somebody else's roses for one or both of the arrangements,
maybe large pink or white roses, or
even red, which looks great against copper (people bring a lot of roses to show for horticulture
and at the show decide which to actually enter, so there's always extra roses).
My Alec's Red rose, the third shot below, has lovely huge buds. They may look great in the
traditional with other reds, or maybe even as the flowers I use in the modern, if I gently
open the buds up a bit with Q-tips. I'm excited for the show!
As you can see on my main rose page,
I've summarized the results of the show. My modern won best-of-show in large-flowered
modern arrangements, and garnered not just a blue ribbon, but also the ARS Artist Award, a Gold
Arrangement Certificate, and a nice oval plate as a prize! My friend Renee helped,
especially for the traditional arrangement, which won us a green ribbon. In horticulture,
I won three blue ribbons, one red ribbon, and a yellow ribbon in a challenge class.
I think the color of the chest worked out great. Renee
had the good idea of moving the chest so it isn't against the back corner of the niche,
but in a bit, helping to fill up the niche.
She also rebent the copper slightly to make the curves more graceful.
It was delightful being able to use my
own roses in my arrangement - and getting such lovely results, and a nice award!
Ideas for the Future
What did I learn and what are some thoughts for future arrangements? Here are some ideas:
Copper is a great material! The judge said he had seen copper used before
but not always so effectively - in our case, he liked how the chest anchored
it and gave it context. I'd like to use copper again with red roses, as red
against copper is striking. I wonder if I can buy flexible copper tubing
in smaller sizes or easily cut it, and maybe experiment with multiple
smaller coils. It's fun doing modern arrangements and the challenge is
thinking "outside the box" and finding alternate materials to really form
a sculpture. I loved using PVC tubing in last May's show, and am sure
I'll use it again. I certainly don't want to overuse either material -
especially copper, it seems to me, used too often can dull (tarnish :-) ?)
I have a "flower aquarium" where you build an arrangement and seal it inside
a glass ball. I'd love to integrate it into a future modern arrangement.
I also would love to have a hanging arrangement at some point, maybe with
some thin PVC or other support painted to match the background fabric and
with stiffened clear wire of some sort, or thin copper wire painted the
background color, holding roses in mid-air. Another
idea for a modern arrangement is to have some roses partially underwater;
I'd have to test to make sure that the variety I use fares well at least
for a few hours underwater.
I have some "crazy technology" ideas I probably will never use, as they would
really be more a novelty and take away from the roses. I love
Sonique, software which plays and visualizes
music into lovely designs. It would be cool to have a laptop with rose imagery
in Sonique (which has a "liquid" plug-in that shows images in turn as if they
are underwater), playing quiet music, and maybe even have a second display, a
small 1.5" or 2" screen attached with a black cable that could be bent
artistically and snake up toward the top of the niche. I believe that electronics
are not out of bounds, especially for modern avant-garde arrangements!
A much further-out idea is to use technology that is being developed for
electronic paper. I could have a series of rose images and use the "paper"
as my background, and have it slowly change over time.
Rose petals would have been great in this modern arrangement, but rose society
arrangements require fresh roses - and intact, I believe. Maybe I should
try some garden show arrangements, maybe at our annual fall state fair, and
play with ideas like using petals.
I used to have the "problem" of being too literal in my interpretation of
themes, but have come to realize that, especially for traditional
arrangements, the theme may - or, apparently, may not - be simply a guide
for the kinds of colors and line material used. The theme is still, at least
to me (if only parenthetically, it seems, to the judges), helpful for
designing the modern arrangements.
Rosemary makes a great line material, and herbs symbolically go well with
roses, anyway, especially in a traditional arrangement. Rosemary ends
flop and droop, so we cut the ends off. I would like to try tightly
winding wire around
rosemary, and shaping it for the basis of a line arrangement perhaps as
a flowing S-shape
Hogarth curve. We could do this the day before a show.
It would be fun to read some books on flower arranging, especially for more
background on traditional forms.
I'd like to do more line arrangements, as they typically use the fewest
roses of all traditional (line, line-mass, or mass) types. I'd like to also
be self-sufficient in doing our arrangements and not rely on extra roses
others have brought in (unless I start trying my hand at mini arrangements,
since other than Gourmet Popcorn, I don't grow any minis), so perhaps next year
at pruning time,
may very well pick a few hybrid tea bushes and not prune them severely to get exhibition
quality roses, but prune them moderately to get flowers sooner and more in bulk,
even if not all to exhibition quality - but still good for arrangements.
It takes longer in the morning to cut your flowers, even if you have few to
show, than might be expected. I woke up at 5:30a and got to the show by 7:20
or so (it is about a 25-minute drive away), but we always rush to get our roses
ready for horticulture (and I never end up with time to really groom my entries)
and make two arrangements by 10a. Next year I will aim to wake up 30-45 minutes
earlier; there was enough light for me to start cutting roses before 6a.
One thing which did help is for me to get a bit better organized. The week before
this show, I bought
a nice craft supply box, and stocked it in an organized way
with items to groom roses (cotton balls and small pieces of panty hose
- and even a small container of water - to
wipe away any stains, Q-tips to help pry open blooms that are too tight,
wedging material like foam pellets to help specimens to stand upright, and
deckle-edged scissors to naturalistically cut away any leaf blemishes;
I need to add a small pair of straight scissors, too, and maybe an exacto
knife), put together
arrangements (a glue gun with glue sticks, floral wire - uncoated and
wrapped in green cloth both, floral clips to help stake materials into
oasis if they become loose, rose shears, and vials - both painted to match my
arrangement and some clear), and make entries in the show (I didn't have
entry tags, but now do for next year; I also stock pens, address labels
and rubber bands for the entry tags, a booklet like
ARS' annual Handbook
for Selecting Roses to make sure that rose names are spelled
correctly and entered in the correct classes; and even have some business
cards so people who ask can
find me and my rose pages on the internet).
(There is a nice article available online, A Peek Inside My Grooming Kit written by Kitty Belendez of the
Los Angeles Rose Society.)
I separately store dried line material, spray paint, a variety of vases
and materials like PVC tubing, oasis (remember to soak it in water
overnight before using!), and clean buckets to transport roses.
What helped the most this time, and reduced stress, was having much
of the work - picking out color choices for fabric and materials,
getting painting done, and getting the modern sculpture essentially
done, including gluing on the vials - done several days in advance.
I wish there were more we could do for the traditional arrangement
in advance, but I'm afraid to start assembling it before the show,
as it raises transportation and freshness concerns.